Land of Confusion
June 28, 2007 3:27 PM   Subscribe

How do you cope when you seem to be surrounded on all sides by ineffectiveness and apathy ?

I'm generally a pretty energetic, creative and passionate person who is full of ideas. I like to get out there and accomplish things and "make a difference". However lately I've noticed a growing trend that I'm surrounded by ineffectiveness and apathy --- to the point that no matter how hard *I* work.. or no matter how many great ideas *I* come up with... it doesnt make any difference because the combined weight of all the apathy around me smothers my efforts and means that I've wasted my time even trying.

For example, I just started a new job.. with a seemingly small innovative tech company.. but after a month or so of working there..I've accomplished very little. I've done alot -- but various projects I've worked on either got cancelled, put on hold.. or voted down by management which basically means I've wasted my time. I come up with new ideas almost daily.. but no one listens or takes them seriously.

I see a similar pattern in my personal life. Whether I'm out shopping or paying bills or hanging out with friends. People just dont seem to care about doing quality work. They only do whats barely necessary to "get the job done" and sometimes not even that. Nobody seems to think of how their actions might effect those around them.

So I'm not sure how to reconcile my inner desire to "make a difference" and "go above and beyond expectations".. when it seems like A) nobody else is.. and B) when I do, it ends up being wasted time because others are doing more harm than good.

(PS - I'm not trying to pat myself on the back.. nor am I depressed or trying to be "emo"... I'm just trying to figure out how I can live by my principles (make a difference, think of the other guy)..and not end up wasting my time and effort because the actions (or inactions) of others negate mine. )
posted by jmnugent to Society & Culture (44 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
I become ineffective and apathetic.

(Psst: Find a better job, finder cooler friends, etc.)
posted by LordSludge at 3:29 PM on June 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


So do I.
posted by popcassady at 3:33 PM on June 28, 2007


I can relate. I work with fools. My short-term solution is to go out and have a cigarette. Just for spite.
posted by wafaa at 3:33 PM on June 28, 2007


figure out how I can live by my principles

Just do it. Live by your principles. But do realize you cannot control the actions of others. And you cannot really control what happens. Second finding other situations that suit you better. Do you inspire others or are you so far out in left field that no one understands you. Are others really doing more harm than good, or are they just not going along with your ideas?
posted by DarkForest at 3:40 PM on June 28, 2007


Such is the burden you bear. You can keep working hard with the hope the one day you will be rewarded for your efforts which you only might. Just don't become entitled because then you'll get even more of a negative response.
Most of us are apathetic and only do enough to get by because we think that the odds are against us for ever getting any actual recognition or making major accomplishments because we know there are many other things outside of our control that determine whether or not we succeed.
Or well, at least that's how I am. YMMV
posted by greta simone at 3:41 PM on June 28, 2007


DarkForest:

I dont want to control the actions of others. Frankly I dont care what other people do, as long as it doesnt negatively effect me. If it does, then my first impulse is to find creative ways to NOT have their actions effect me, and if thats not possible, then work with them to try to find a better way that doesnt effect me.

I think that I do inspire others ( I receive compliments almost weekly about how passionate and creative I am)... but thats about all I get is compliments. Its like people react and say "Hey, thats a cool idea!".. and then go back to whatever it is they were doing and forget about it.

Its not that I think I'm super genius and I have the greatest ideas in the world. I just feel like the "status quo" has gotten so low.. and that people seem to mindlessly just go about doing boring normal everyday things simply because "thats the way it is" and "it wont ever change".

It may seem like I'm "way out in left field"... but all I really want is to make a difference and improve the world. Most people seem like they'd rather sit around and get in more credit card debt, and watch reality TV and worry about when Paris Hilton gets out of jail.
posted by jmnugent at 3:48 PM on June 28, 2007


well, you can't just put stuff out there, you have to follow through. maybe at work you have done all you can do, but perhaps in your personal life you can find more ways to reward your efforts. you might try volunteering your skills for a nonprofit (like taproot, or united way) or teaching.

there are passionate, creative people out there. you might need to just make new friends, take a class, switch careers, go back to school, or move to where the energy is.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:01 PM on June 28, 2007


Most people seem like they'd rather sit around and get in more credit card debt, and watch reality TV and worry about when Paris Hilton gets out of jail.

It's true. Most people are pretty pedestrian, probably because they haven't found anything that interests them enough to be passionate about it. Or their everyday concerns - feeding their kids, dealing with the bills, etc. - is enough to keep them busy. In my opinion, pretty much everyone can be creative and passionate. But it's something that has to be nurtured and worked at, and most people just simply don't feel the need to do so. It's a fact of life.

It's great that you want to be creative and passionate and make a difference. When you feel frustrated by your surroundings, think about how lucky you are that you have the drive that so many others don't have. Count yourself lucky, pat yourself on the back if it makes you feel better.

Then find yourself something that is worth being passionate about. If work isn't it, change jobs. Find a smaller office where you can inspire your coworkers, be that person that everyone else wants to be - the creative one, the one who gets things done. Life is what you make of it, don't let the frustration of dealing with people take your passion away.

If you don't want to change jobs, find something else to do that allows you to be happy. Instead of spending time with your downer friends, go volunteer somewhere, take a class and learn painting or music. There are lots of ways of being the real you.
posted by gemmy at 4:04 PM on June 28, 2007


Improving the world is not what most commercial ventures are about. You may have to look outside of your employment for a group of similarly inspired people to work with, or put your energy into 1-man projects.
posted by DarkForest at 4:05 PM on June 28, 2007


I come up with new ideas almost daily.. but no one listens or takes them seriously.

Come up with new ideas weekly instead, but make them seven times as good.

Maybe your ideas aren't as good as you think they are. Maybe they are, but you're pushing so many of them so fast that people have stopped listening. Maybe you're just trying to move too fast in too many directions at once: change has a cost. (And if you really are coming up with new ideas every single day, that suggests you're not following up on any of them very much.)

It's possible that you're just in a company full of apathetic people. It happens. Every business has its own culture and habits; if the one you're in doesn't fit, move.

But the fact that you're seeing this everywhere -- your job, your friends, random people at the grocery store -- suggests that maybe it has less to do with them than it does with you.

Its like people react and say "Hey, thats a cool idea!".. and then go back to whatever it is they were doing and forget about it.

Well, what do you expect them to do? Drop everything and start working on your idea? How about you take one of those cool ideas and actually build it?

the combined weight of all the apathy around me smothers my efforts and means that I've wasted my time even trying.

This is, to be blunt, whiny bullshit. You want to make a difference? Find a project you can do yourself, and do it. If it works, people will use it. You've made a difference, and not wasted your time. If it doesn't work, or if it works but people won't use it, learn why. You still won't have wasted your time, because you'll have learned either how to come up with better ideas, or how to implement them better.

Quit worrying so much about what other people aren't doing, and start focusing on what you're not doing.
posted by ook at 4:18 PM on June 28, 2007 [5 favorites]


Ook just saved me several minutes of typing. Though I would have been a lot harsher. In particular, ideas are a dime a dozen. What matters is having the skills, patience and resource to make even one of them a reality. I know I would never want to get involved with someone who gets all jazzed about "their" new idea instead of finishing (or even starting) the one from yesterday. Or the day before etc...
posted by Riemann at 4:30 PM on June 28, 2007


I started writing. And writing alot. Blogging is good because you spew your ideas to friends and non friends as well and if something is a good or bad idea you'll hear about it. I've recently come to this conclusion but from the little time that I've been doing it I feel a million times better.
posted by thecrypto at 4:38 PM on June 28, 2007


Kids! Kids haven't gotten the chance to get jaded and, thus, apathetic. They get excited about the little things. Go find yourself some little kids. They make you feel better about the world.
posted by rhoticity at 5:17 PM on June 28, 2007


OK, let me get this straight. You've been at your job how long now? A little over a month? And you've spent the entire time shooting out new ideas instead of shutting up, learning about the environment, and understanding why things are the way they are. Please. No wonder nobody takes you seriously --you must spend all of your time talking and none of your time listening. Listen more. Learn more. Respect that other people have things to teach you.
posted by crazycanuck at 5:17 PM on June 28, 2007 [4 favorites]


Start your own company. Take the risk on your own back.
Prove to yourself that once the obstacles are cleared away (and as an owner, you can clear away apathetic people) you can do what you say. If you succeed in this challenge, you will very likely find a more interesting social life of people with similar entrepreneurial and creative energies to your own.
posted by extrabox at 5:19 PM on June 28, 2007


Go join the Coast Guard. Go rescue people for a living.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:24 PM on June 28, 2007


It is very unlikely that all the people around you are fools (yes, that was wafaa's word, still). Much more likely, you just don't understand their issues.
posted by Chuckles at 5:28 PM on June 28, 2007


Ook:
"This is, to be blunt, whiny bullshit. You want to make a difference? Find a project you can do yourself, and do it. If it works, people will use it. You've made a difference, and not wasted your time. If it doesn't work, or if it works but people won't use it, learn why. You still won't have wasted your time, because you'll have learned either how to come up with better ideas, or how to implement them better."


I have done that. I spent the last 3 years working as the only IT person for an entire school district. I kicked major ass, and implemented alot of great projects that the teachers loved. I never got so much as a "thank you" - actually all I got out of that job was worked into the ground and told to leave when the network grew so big that 1 person (me) couldnt hold it together any more (which I warned them about many many many times). So I am good about finishing projects.

CrazyCanuck:
"....And you've spent the entire time shooting out new ideas instead of shutting up, learning about the environment, and understanding why things are the way they are."


And you assume this why?... actually in the month I've been there I've passed a major test (19page test), and been only the 2nd person to be hired directly into the 4th level support team that I am on. So with all due respect, you can "shut it". ;P..... I learn everything I can. I work the night shift and most nights spend hours upon hours learning, reading and playing with the network so that I understand the environment I'm in.

Extrabox:
Start your own company.


I already have. I work a night job (as stated above),..I also have 2 day jobs (my own self-employment and co-working with another friend of mine who does tech-consulting projects.) AND on top of that working on my own side project to build an interactive city-map project for the city I live in, and afternoons on thursdays I volunteer my tech services to a local non-profit. I like the variety and challenge of 4 jobs.. it keeps my on my toes and teaches me new things every day.


It always seems like when I post questions like this people accuse me of being a cocky overachieving snotty bastard,..and thats just simply not the case. Any of my friends that know me in person would tell you that I'm as far as you can get from that. I just get frustrated that I put all this effort into all the things I do.. but other people who slack, (or clueless management) can render most of my time useless.
posted by jmnugent at 5:38 PM on June 28, 2007


Maybe I'll try to be more clear with examples of a couple websites that really and truly inspire me

www.ted.com
www.worldchanging.com (especially the book)

How do I get involved with THOSE types of people?
posted by jmnugent at 5:42 PM on June 28, 2007


TED is essentially a big networking meeting. The only way to get involved is to be famously and unquestionably great at something (or at least famous, depending on your opinion of clinton and gore), so the best way to get involved with those kinds of people is to keep doing exactly what you're doing and make sure people know you're doing it. Learning, thinking abstractly, working hard are all great strategies.

You should also try to just email them directly. Find a TED guest who's in your area of expertise and ask them something, anything honest to just open up a dialog. Call up people who do a lot of work with highly motivated entrepreneurs, like Paul Graham (paulgraham.com), and ask them what they think you should be doing as far as networking.
posted by sandswipe at 6:09 PM on June 28, 2007


I'd suggest that a new idea a day is unwelcome. I would suggest that you expect an environment in which the sequence goes like this: You suggest an idea; the people around you recognize how good the idea is; they put it into action; they come to you for more ideas.

This never happens this way. In college your teachers are paid to recognize your gifts, point them out and celebrate them (not that they always do). But in the workplace no one wants to hear your idea. If you do it, and it works, and it makes their lives easier and more interesting, then they'll be interested. But suggestions? No thanks. I wouldn't want them either.

Yes, seek out interesting people and collaborate with them. But don't come at them with your ideas. Learn, patiently and carefully, the gestalt of what they do -- learn it from the inside. If you feel that you can help them do it more fully, then help them -- but try, as honestly as you can, to find what is good or great about what they do, not your own ideas or a notion of the future.

Example: I'm an elementary school teacher. A lot of what I do in the classroom is inverted, re-engineered, hugely different and rooted in TED-type stuff about swarms and emergent systems, etc. Not once have I gone to anyone I work with and shared my ideas -- I've just worked my ass off and done it. If my fellow teachers like the results, I'm happy to lend them the bits of what I do that most matches their concerns. But they damn well don't want to hear a bunch of talk from me, nor should they. Mostly I (try to) listen, gather, take up the practical wisdom that each veteran teacher has built up, and use it as I can, even if that means tweaking it for my own purposes.

Am I surrounded by TED types? No. Most of my fellow teachers are fairly conservative. But they each have a profound understanding of teaching from the inside, and they have utterly unique gifts that they'll never shove at me with PowerPoint shows. I have to seek it out.

I guess my two points are: The gifts of other people are never going to leap out at you; and no one wants you to leap your gifts out at them. Try to honestly dig what each person is about, work with some humility, and you may find something more profound than "ideas" (which are very cheap in the long run).
posted by argybarg at 6:14 PM on June 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


If it seems that people here often get the wrong impression about you, I think you would do well to try and figure out why because it strongly suggests that there is room for improvement in your written communication skills, and perhaps, more generally, in the way you communicate with people you are not familiar with. I think that doing so will only help you be more effective in your endeavors.

As for the examples you give, I suggest you try contacting the people currently or formerly involved (at least one of whom is a member here). Tell them you really admire their work, and that you would like to find a way to do similar work in your life. I would bet you that at least a few of them will be happy to talk to you, and that you will find the exchange fruitful.
posted by Good Brain at 6:19 PM on June 28, 2007


How do I get involved with THOSE types of people?

Well, you won't do it working in IT support. You do it by doing something really fucking amazing, or (especially in TED's case) by being really fucking rich; preferably both.

A friend of mine goes to those conferences and hangs with those people; he did it by founding GeekCorps. There's absolutely nothing holding you back from doing something like that. Got a great idea? Make it happen. More power to you.

other people who slack, (or clueless management) can render most of my time useless.

You keep coming back to this. If you really want to make a difference, go out there and do something that makes a difference. Stop blaming other people for holding you back -- if anything, their apathy and cluelessness should be making it easier for you to get ahead. Less competition.

Yes, sometimes good projects get shut down because management doesn't know what it's doing. Sometimes they get shut down because management does know what it's doing: because the project isn't a good fit for the company, or it's not going to be profitable, or any of a hundred other reasons that aren't necessarily going to be clear to the people working on the project. That's life: not all projects succeed, not even all the good ones. This is not because everyone around you is an idiot, it's because life is complicated, and you don't necessarily have the whole picture.

If the projects you're working on keep failing, maybe you should put some effort into finding out why they keep failing, instead of just blaming management.

If it's not obvious, I'm being harsh on you because you sound to me exactly like me, ten years ago. You sound like you're really smart, really young, and really inexperienced. You sound like you believe that being bright and ambitious is all it takes. Know what? It isn't.

It's just possible that if people keep calling you a cocky bastard, it's because you are a cocky bastard. That's not necessarily a bad thing; most great ideas come from cocky bastards. But they come from cocky bastards who make something happen, not from people who say "Hey! I've got an idea!" and then wait for praise and support to just flow in.

It's not up to them.

It's up to you.
posted by ook at 6:22 PM on June 28, 2007


argybarg:

Thanks for the helpful and inciteful advice. I appreciate and understand what you are getting at. But let me see if I can further clarify my frustrations:

In the jobs where I work with other people (such as my night job)... I'm fairly limited in authority to do things. There are approximately 5 levels of "management" above me that proposals have to go through before even being started. From what I've learned in talking to other employees who have worked there for 3+ years... projects tend to take 6 months (minimum) before even being started. That just seems outrageous to me. By that time, most people have lost interest.

On the other hand... the other jobs I have (self-employment, freelance contracting and volunteering at non-profits).... I have tons more freedom to do whatever I want.. however I also have next to no resources to accomplish anything. Working the last 3 years in the school district made me pretty resourceful.. however I have alot of clients who expect miracles ("someone donated computers to us..can you set them up??".. - /me looks at them and realizes they are Pentium2's with 64meg of ram and 4gig hard drives)... :(

So...I try to do what I can to pull resources from any/all areas of my life.. and to "find the gifts people have" and share mine without being overzealous. However I continually have this sinking feeling that society is getting worse and worse because there are "to many people , making to many problems" and the small amount of change I am trying to make is like being the only person stacking sandbags againest a hurriicane.
posted by jmnugent at 6:26 PM on June 28, 2007


all I got out of that job was worked into the ground and told to leave when the network grew so big that 1 person (me) couldnt hold it together any more (which I warned them about many many many times). So I am good about finishing projects.

This doesn't sound like you finishing a project. This sounds like you getting fired for losing control of a project.
posted by ook at 6:28 PM on June 28, 2007


jmnugent:

You don't understand the environment and you are not even trying. The workplace is not about technical skills. It is about people skills. You don't know whose toes you are stepping on by showboating on your puffed up credentials. You know nothing of office politics and that is to your detriment. You will not get anywhere until you learn to play nicely with others.

You have a lot to learn. You need a mentor to help explain this to you. You are making many, many career limiting moves.
posted by crazycanuck at 6:31 PM on June 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Thanks Ook

For the record..I actually just turned 34. :P

I also appreciate your feedback/sharing. I understand what you are saying that ideas dont make the difference (by themselves) that you have to actually get out there and DO IT. I seriously do.. ( I was brought up on a ranch in Wyoming, so I do know the value of hard work )

I've been working on my city-mapping idea/project for about 6 months. I had several meetings with the local city government and the Chamber of Commerce, both of which really loved the idea and gave me alot of lip service, but offered no assistance to help me get it done (I'm not rich). So now i've decided to just simply do it myself which is going to take a while since I dont even have a laptop.

So I am working concretely on implementing some of my ideas. I think part of the problem is I live in a city that is fairly backwards and conservative (read = not innovative)
So I'll be moving soon.
posted by jmnugent at 6:35 PM on June 28, 2007


Okay, my last post was snarky and uncalled for; I apologize.

You need to get out of support, it's not the right environment for you. Support is not where change happens; that's the opposite of what it's for.
posted by ook at 6:37 PM on June 28, 2007


I'm not trying to be snarky here-but do you sleep?

Do people ever tell you you are too loud or that you talk too fast?

I don't mean to sound like there is a bipolar behind every bush but if you are working four jobs and have ideas EVERY DAY you just might be a little ....manic.
posted by konolia at 6:46 PM on June 28, 2007


CrazyCanuck:
"You know nothing of office politics and that is to your detriment."

Actually..I think I have plenty of experience with office-politics. I just choose not to follow them. (I've worked (and excelled) at large companies such as Hewlett Packard (for 5 years) down to smaller companies of 100's to 10's of employees)

And I dont think that I lack people skills. At the school district I had to deal with everyone from janitors who barely spoke english all the way up to the Super Intendant, and I was often complimented that I had a great ability to adapt my speaking, tone and delivery to make sure my audience (be it 1 person or a whole auditorium) understood what I said.

Have you seen the new book "The World is Flat" by Thomas L. Friedman. This book sums up how i feel about the typical pyramid style of management. Its no longer appropriate or useful and needs to be scraped in favor of a flat "hive" style structure that closer matches our newly developed technological information sharing culture.

Thats one of the things that frustrates me so much about the night job I have. There is no collaboration. Departments pretty much keep to themselves and only do what their bosses approve for them to work on. Nobody shakes the boat or goes "above and beyond" with innovative ideas that might actually make the company money. I just finished reading the book "Good to Great" about how companies make the transition from mediocre to outstanding. None of the examples in the book follow the normal traditional "only do what your boss tells you to" model.
posted by jmnugent at 6:46 PM on June 28, 2007


Konolia:
"I'm not trying to be snarky here-but do you sleep?
Do people ever tell you you are too loud or that you talk too fast? I don't mean to sound like there is a bipolar behind every bush but if you are working four jobs and have ideas EVERY DAY you just might be a little ....manic."


HA! :P.... +1 funny ...

I told you I had lots of drive and passion :P

Yes, it has gotten very busy for me lately, and sleep has been difficult to come by.. but I am finding enough time to sleep. (sometimes I go for stretches for 24 or 48 hours without.. but not continually)

I actually had a co-worker compliment me about a week ago, when he said something to the effect of: "You know what I like about you - I cant listen to you "peripherally"... I have to stop what I'm doing and pay 100% attention to you because your verbage and vocal information is so rich and full of information that it cant be fully absorbed any other way."

so .. yeah.. I guess "manic" is a label that would probably fit. I dont think I'm bipolar (atleast not officially diagnosed, and one of my best friends is a Masters Psych graduate, so I would think she would know)... I just am pretty intense. :P
posted by jmnugent at 6:54 PM on June 28, 2007


Konolia:

one more thing "for the record"... I do try to keep some type of notes/journal with me so that I can sketch and or write down ideas as I have them (cause I'm getting old and the memory isnt what it used to be :P.... )

Most of the time I end up throwing most of the ideas away.. the good ones get torn out and stored in the "keeper" journal .. so I can go back later and further develop them.
posted by jmnugent at 6:56 PM on June 28, 2007


It sounds like you work in a rather bureaucratic, top-down environment. That doesn't sound like a good fit for you. Bureaucracy is famous for favoring consistency and lack of risk over quality -- it reinforces and rewards the very behaviors you're complaining about.

And I don't mean this in an insulting or judgmental way, but you do come across to me in this post as being rather full of yourself -- a lot of hot air and narcissism. You may not be full of yourself at all. Or maybe you are, but you actually deserve to be. I don't know, because all I have is your words on the screen to go on. But I say this because if the people you're trying to communicate your ideas to feel like you're either full of hot air and/or consider yourself far superior to them, they're going to dismiss whatever you have to say as noise. And you can be the most outwardly friendly person in the world -- but if people don't feel you're being real, they won't care about what you have to say. Again, I don't know if this what's actually happening, but based on the tone of the post, it seems like it could be a possibility.
posted by treepour at 7:13 PM on June 28, 2007


jmnugent:

Simplify, listen, absorb. Who gives a shit about hive models? You work where you work. Be there fully, be receptive and get what you can out of it. Your work will bloom if you stop pushing so hard.
posted by argybarg at 7:17 PM on June 28, 2007


jmnugent:

I am not telling you to only do what your boss tells you. I am saying that you need to establish trust with your coworkers before they will take you seriously. Until you establish trust, you are not credible. And you do not establish trust by making end-runs around the pecking order on the first month on the job. First you learn the pecking order, then you befriend one of its members, then you turn it on its head. It's the slow infiltration that will get results.

If you don't have the patience for that, do everybody a favour and quit. And think seriously about konolia's manic theory. I think she's right.
posted by crazycanuck at 7:19 PM on June 28, 2007


Thanks Crazycanuck,

Actually..I think I do have their trust, because of several long conversations I've had with several co-workers on my team.

Its just that their response is usually something like: "Yeah, those are great ideas, I'd love to see it happen cause it sure would make our job(s) eaiser... but it'll never happen."

The other 5 guys on the team I work on have all been there for 3+ years or more.. and most of them have been burned by putting alot of effort into projects for months on end to only have the project cancelled or have someone in management take all the credit.

I'm just trying to figure out how I can help my team, without falling into the same trap and at the same time hopefully help the company make more $$$ and increase profit sharing. It seems like management would WANT to be open, receptive and engaging of those kinds of ideas. Apparently I need to find another place to work (which is sad, cause there are alot of people there with potential thats being wasted)
posted by jmnugent at 7:33 PM on June 28, 2007


Hey, maybe these guys are just bad at managing up. You have only been there a month. You don't know the whole story.

You refer to them as "the management". "The management" are people too, and you need to get to know them. They have a story to tell too, and you need to be patient enough and receptive enough to hear it.

Remember: these people failed at their projects and they are still there. Obviously they are not the sharpest crayons in the box. So, you need to figure out why they failed (and not just take their word for it).

It takes time to build trust. It's great that you're talking but it's no substitute for being there, seeing, and doing. You also need to know who to talk to besides your team.

If your company is profitable and hiring there is one person there that must be successful, even if it isn't somebody on your team. Find this person. You need a mentor. Good luck
posted by crazycanuck at 8:02 PM on June 28, 2007


My job to a T. I do side projects, or tell local librarians ways to do kickass things in the community.

Sometimes I drink at lunch.
posted by SirStan at 8:45 PM on June 28, 2007


I dont think I'm bipolar (atleast not officially diagnosed, and one of my best friends is a Masters Psych graduate, so I would think she would know)

Maybe ask her about ADHD?
posted by occhiblu at 9:37 PM on June 28, 2007


It always seems like when I post questions like this people accuse me of being a cocky overachieving snotty bastard,..and thats just simply not the case.

If people here perceive your questions this way, how can you be sure that's not how your ideas and suggestions are being perceived? Your friends are not the best judge of your workplace persona, they think you're great no matter what.
posted by hermitosis at 9:53 PM on June 28, 2007


Here's a general answer to your actual question: I cope by doing what thinkingwoman suggested -- I move to where the energy is. I do a cost-benefit analysis (am I making enough in this job to justify the frustrations? is the good I'm doing for the community with this volunteer gig, worth the timesuck of the administrative side? etc.), and then alter whatever I can -- whether it's less exposure to the people who frustrate, or more involvement in the activities that I find rewarding and positive.

And I seek out new opportunities in other places, to balance the negative; maybe it's a new short-term creative hobby project, or a spurt of writing, or a class. I don't try to change people to think or behave more like me, because it's exactly like the old cliche about trying to teach a pig to dance: it just frustates you, and annoys the pig.

Some other observations:

and at the same time hopefully help the company make more $$$ and increase profit sharing.

Is the company's bottom line your job in some way? (and don't say, "yes, it's every good employee's job." I mean, literally, do you get paid to worry about high-level management issues like company financials and employee bonus structure and product direction and best use of personnel.)

Because, if not, then get over yourself. That might sound harsh, but you just don't seem willing to accept that you -- a self-proclaimed creative, resourceful, passionate, energetic, ass-kicking, well-loved renaissance man, full of accomplishments and the ability to follow through, skilled at design, urban planning, internet research, and IT, who inspires others to do better AND compliment you every day -- still happen to be in what is basically an entry-level support position.

I'm not trying to knock your gig. A job is a job. But why do you feel that you deserve to be given the keys to the castle already? Why do you assume that the people who are rejecting your ideas can only possibly be doing it because they are backward, narrow-minded and averse to creative brilliance?

people accuse me of being a cocky overachieving snotty bastard

That's because it's how you come off. People are giving you good, straightforward advice here, yet you continue to respond to each bit and say, "No, that's not exactly the right answer because [insert more evidence of your own greatness]."

Is the right answer someone who tells you what a rock star you are, how you're the next visionary genius that the world never knew it needed, that those guys at work are douchebags, truly, for not appreciating that you could singlehandedly save the whole company and with chocolate sprinkles too? I think there's still a lot of "instant gratification ethic" going on here.

I can't agree more with all the people who've gently, kindly suggested that maybe you could try your hand at improving your verbal and written communication skills, before you go try to rub elbows with Al Gore and Bono and Steve Jobs, and people in the world who have actually paid their dues, and invested a lot of time and hard work to make big important things happen. "Brilliant visionary" is not actually a job title.

There are dreamers, and doers. I say this as a dreamer, a girl with a notebook of her own, full of ideas, who wanted people to just hand it all to me because clearly, I had something special which should be recognized. I've thrown away more good ideas than some people will ever have. But I figured out a while back (right around the time I turned 30 and realized I had plumb run out of fucking-around-with-my-life time) that what Riemann said is the painful truth: "ideas are a dime a dozen. What matters is having the skills, patience and resource to make even one of them a reality." You have to put your time in as a doer to earn the luxury of playing dreamer.

You seem to feel that you have already paid your dues, that you have already followed through enough. Where's the reward for all that work, right?

Where is the reward, indeed.

If you feel that strongly that you deserve, by sheer dint of the quantity and quality of your ideas, to be in a role where people listen to and act on your every word without question, and pay you for the privilege... then you're going to need to go out there and bust your hump to find that particular organization. It might not be in your town, or even your state, but somewhere there's someone willing to drink your Kool-Aid. Start looking for that organization, and don't stop until you find it.

But stop trying to dance with the pigs.
posted by pineapple at 11:23 PM on June 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty similar to you. I too come up with all sorts of ideas, and some of them get turned down, which frustrates me. I am also very passionate and creative, and get noted for that, but am also frustrated at apathy. Here's my story.

I come from Malaysia, a country juggling the balance between liberal and conservative. On the one hand, it is not as repressive as Muslim countries have the reputation of being. There are people doing great things here, and there are support systems for the alternative ones amongst us if you know where to look (not that hard; once you find one you end up finding them all eventually). On the other hand, there is still a lot of politics and strife that prevents a lot of work from happening - GLBT rights, youth rights, racial issues, apostasy, etc - and even the most passionate amongst us, the people who REALLY bust their asses to make a difference in the country, are getting frustrated and often feel they should high-tail it out of there.

A lot of people would agree with them - after all, there's only so much you can do for the country, but eventually you have to think of yourself. Indeed, a lot of passionate people end up leaving Malaysia because there just isn't enough to sustain them anymore.

My particular passion is youth and alternative education. Long story short, I felt that Malaysian youths weren't given enough opportunity or respect, and that the focus in school was too much on grades and too little (if any) on personal development and passion. I started out by looking out for any opportunity available to me that had anything to do with youth or alternative education. I joined a young journalists' program, and through the program I got to meet other young driven people, write about various issues, and participate in community projects. I got to interview the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition - which was pivotal, as we basically had free reign to ask them anything without worry of being tossed out of the country or whatever. I took on more opportunities like these as I entered uni, and the more things I did, the more people I met, who then led me to more opportunities. Moving to a different city did help; there were more things in City Of Action, Selangor than in Middle Of Nowhere, Johor.

There was still some apathy and old useless beliefs that I wanted to combat, and I scouted out all my options. I went back to my old school to talk about life after school and how it doesn't always have to be "go to uni to do medicine" - they LOVED it. I write a blog about alternative education and receive plenty of hits and references every day. I still write up about it in the press. I moved to Australia last year, and I'm lucky that in Brisbane there are more obvious opportunities to explore my passions, so I'm taking on as many as I can. In the past month, I've been nominated for an award and have been interviewed for the press about my passion.

But you know what? It hasn't been easy. I receive SO MANY brickbats from people saying that I was a "spoiled rich kid" and had no right to talk. I had people telling me that I was stupid, that I didn't know what I was talking about. I tried setting up an NPO for it but it didn't succeed. (The blog is an offshoot of that.) I'm working against a ingrained mindset here, of which I was one of the very few people speaking up against it: how quickly can things change when it took decades to get to this state?

Yet there are changes happening. I do get people coming up to me saying "hey, you've got a great idea". There are people taking up opportunities I've presented. I'm now getting press attention. Heck, even the Ministry of Education has now declared that they won't be as focused on grades as they used to be! (I don't think I'm solely responsible for that, but I'd like to think I had a hand.) There is change; it just takes a while.

You asked about how to get involved with passionate people and how to get your passion taken seriously. Here's what I've learnt:

Take every opportunity, follow every lead. The thing about opportunities like those is that once you find one, you end up finding a million more. Follow the links from those websites and see where they lead you. Read the local papers and see if there are interesting seminars/activities/etc happening near you that are relevant to your interests passions. Subscribe to magazines and check out the Events section. Use Google to the fullest. Join mailing lists. Visit Facebook groups and MySpace profiles. Click on Wikipedia links. Search for blogs. Do WHATEVER. You'll be surprised with what comes up. Thanks to a serendipitous travail through a few blogs, I am now signed on to be part of a UN Youth Assembly - a lifelong dream that wouldn't have happened if I just waited for someone to notice me.

Put yourself out there. You do need to blow your own horn. My blog is one main way I do this, but I also get active by pursuing my opportunities mentioned above (trust me, it works). Write articles in the papers. Be a prolific Letter to the Editor writer (there's a guy here that's developed a positive rep for doing just that). Nominate yourself for things or get your friends to nominate you (get the friends that would have nominated you anyway, the folks that go "oh you should have won that!"). Sign up for things. Get noticed, basically.

Just sign up/just do it. Even if it looks like you missed the due date or might not be eligible. I actually missed the sign-up date for travel package registrations (accommodation, leadership training, etc) for that Youth Assembly trip because I found out about the event on the last day. However, I emailed and called them to explain my situation, and they let me in. If it's something you REALLY want to do, just try anyway. At the worst, they'd just say "sorry, no"; even if that's the case, a lot of them will provide suggestions on other ways to get involved if you ask them. Also, sign up for everything and see what sticks. You never know.

Take care of yourself. The most common danger I've seen with passionate people like ourselves is that we're so caught up in the passion that we neglect ourselves in the process. I became so exhausted a few months back that I fell into a breakdown and had to go back on treatment for depression. You can't give anything to anyone if you don't have anything for yourself. Look after yourself.

Not everyone is as passionate as you about your issues; that's fine. People have passions in all sorts of things, even things we normally wouldn't consider "passions". My sorta-boyfriend is passionate about computing and Magic cards. He would study deck-making, game strategies, art information, all sorts of stuff. I don't have much interest in the game, but I see how getting involved it in makes him happy, and I support him for that. My friends and I don't need to share passions to be friends. We're friends because we like each other and support each other. Do get friends with similar passions, and friends that are just driven in general; they will give motivation and lead you to opportunities. However, don't just pick friends on the basis of passion. Having a variety of friends is great, as it helps you understand different points of view and helps you consider your own perspective. As long as you're mutually supportive and respectful, that's great. Also, you never know which of those "non-passionate" friends would be the greatest asset to your passion.

Expect the unexpected. You never know what opportunities will come up. I got offered a job at one of the main human-rights organizations in Malaysia just for speaking up at a conference. The best time of my life (a tour with Up with People) came from a suggestion on LiveJournal. You never know what will come from where.

Is it about the passion, or about you? Do you want people to be interested in IT like you are, or do you want people to recognize your genius? There's nothing wrong with wanting to be recognized for your capabilities - hell, if I didn't want that recognition, why would I accept award nominations and interview requests? But at the same time, think about which you feel is more important - you or your passion. Would you be fine if people got inspired by your passion and became passionate themselves, but didn't thank you for it? Or must you be recognized for it all the time? For me, if someone wants to take on my plans for an alternative education NPO and run with it, great! I don't need to be recognized as the "founder" (though that'd be cool); I just want something like it to exist, and am doing all that I can to make it happen. Eventually, though, my passion takes precedence, and if I end up being anonymous, then so be it. As long as I still get to pursue opportunities, that's fine.

There's more to it than just "they didn't like my ideas!" Not everyone's going to warm up to them. The trick is to not let that get to you.
posted by divabat at 3:24 AM on June 29, 2007


Ha, I like how pineapple's linking to a past question of yours (unless that's the point). She is absolutely correct in that you have to WORK to find that job/org/company/etc that suits your needs and passions. It may take a while. But starting the process isn't that hard - just attack every resource you have available (the Internet already gives you plenty, and being in the US you are in Opportunity Heaven) and follow on from there.

One more thing I forgot to mention: Ask! You say you want to get involved with TED and WorldChanging. Contact them (or whoever they profile) and ask how you could get involved with them and their organization. Look up who links to them and who they link to, and ask them. Ask your coworkers/friends/family/contacts/whoever for recommendations, even along the lines of "uncle's girlfriend's sister's grandaunt's hairdresser's psychiatrist's second cousin". Chances are you'll get at least ONE reply that leads you in the right direction. But if you don't ask, you'll never know.
posted by divabat at 3:35 AM on June 29, 2007


Thanks Pineapple and Divabat,... I appreciate your straightforward advice and practical personal story sharing.

I'm going to take Divabats advice and not give up.. and keep working to find the people like me who will listen. That will probably mean moving far away from here (to someplace like Seattle or San Fran or Chicago) and/or going back to school (I'd like to be an architect, or city/urban planner).

I thank you all for your feedback/advice and thoughts, I really do appreciate it and I will certainly stick around Mefi and update you on how it all shakes out. (not because I want to prove you all wrong, but because if theres one thing I refuse to be perceived as, its as a "windbag" who is all talk and no action)
posted by jmnugent at 5:42 AM on June 29, 2007


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