Sunday, April 14, 2013

Don't Bring Me Down

The inevitable always seems to happen. I attend an empowering and uplifting conference where I learn, participate, and contribute to the community of like-minded visionaries and creatives. For several days I am in company of strangers, acquaintances, friends, and kindred spirits with whom I share a passion for pushing the boundaries of my professional interests. I become engaged with the possibilities of changing the world, one document at a time--my euphoria over the recent Write the Docs conference is aptly captured in my peer's impressions of the event.

Then the harsh reality sets in. I return to work. The daring spirits of the peers and the community who pushes the boundaries of thoughts are replaced by a jarring work life full of inert clock-watching atmosphere and reactionary mentality. My hopeful spirits and drive collide headfirst against the attitude of "business as usual," "communication is other people's job," "you don't have permission to do this," and "it can't happen here." I'm surrounded by an atmosphere of cynicism towards transformative ideas and where some folks show up just to put in the hours. The progressive and the passionate are few and far in between (disclaimer: this is not an indictment of my employer, but rather my current situation--many former team leaders have invested in my curiosity about my professional trade and have introduced me to new ideas, networks, and communities).

So what are the possible strategies for coping with the brick wall of inertia and resistance? Here are couple of things that I'm going to focus on and see if they make a difference. After several previous experiences with The Big Letdown, I figured that it's time to take the "Dude, Let's Try This!" approach.

1. Share the enthusiasm of new experiences and knowledge learned with my various tribes: There is some crossover between the new tribe that I formed at the Write the Docs conference and my existing tribes--peers from my annual academic IT support conference (SIGUCCS), the pockets of progressive peers and departments at work, like-minded tech friends in the local community, my mentors, and friends in my social network. Instead of trying to win over the perpetually resistant, I'm going to put my finite energy towards sharing ideas with those who make a difference.

2. Strengthen and nurture new relationships: I made at least a dozen new connections at Write the Docs. Those folks who showed interest in connecting with me have found something interesting about how I carry myself and/or my thoughts. It's high time that I continue to engage the new tribe and nurture relationships throughout the year instead of disappearing into cyberspace for the next twelve months.

3. Take what I've learned at the conference and apply them while making small bets: There were many beautiful attitudes and approaches that I learned last week (including the beauty of conciseness, taking a novel-like approach to documentation, falling in love with various aspects of the writing processes, including documentation as part of the change process, and so on). When I want to be inspired and motivated, I just want to watch the videos from the conference presentations--evocations from the awesome conference will fill my consciousness, inspiring me to make awesome. I also want to read the words of wisdom from one of the event organizers, who wrote a very insightful article about transforming a culture of documentation.

Facing the stonewalling reality of resistance and inertia is frustrating. I've had several moments in the past week when I asked myself, "Why do we continue to do things over and over in stupid ways?" But maybe this time the outcome will be different. By focusing my energy on strengthening and enhancing my new and existing tribes with whom I share common passions, and not giving a flying shiitake about the culture which continue to perpetuate roadblocks, I will be in better position to contribute to lasting change. Focusing on my tribe of transformative culture clubs is a greater return on investment than spending energy on closed-loop information society.


  1. Right on. Closed-loop information societies don't really want to know what you're thinking, but transformative culture clubs create positive karma rather than rivalries!