Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Passion or Poison?

Hubbs and I got into a nice deep conversation last night about having passion for one's work; we were discussing a particularly vitriolic rant that some developer (who isn't important enough for me to link to, sorry) has posted on his blog. He apparently holds passionately strong opinions and convictions about his work, his industry, and 'inspiring" good quality developers, according to Hubbs. This, it is reasoned, is why he felt the need to post a scathing write-up about others in his industry who he feels to work for glory without substance.

I am not sure that his "passion" is what I perceive from reading his post, however. Don't get me wrong - the article is well-written, uses complex sentences, and contains enough multi-syllabic words to convince me that he is an educated person; I'm sure this was his intent, and in that he succeeds.

That said, the post is also incredibly damaging on many levels. There is an air of superior condescension to the tone of the writing; this person obviously feels that those whom he writes about (either generally or specifically, we cannot be sure) are inferior to him; his post thereby insults and alienates many in his field whom he purports to want to inspire or challenge into change. There is also a distinct anger that resonates through the text, that many would be able to detect "between-the-lines" without this person overtly saying, "I am very very angry! Grrrrrr!" Generally speaking, any argument made reactively in anger loses some measure of credibility and logic and reason, in my humble opinion. Finally, the comments field, which contains feedback from both anonymous and named contributors offering some valid counter-arguments, is rife with the blogger's childish retorts that amount to little more than "I know you are, but what am I?" comebacks and "your mama"-style personal attacks aimed predominantly at the anonymous posters but sometimes addressing the identified ones as well. To me, the inability to address the counter-points in a calm and rational fashion, coupled with the use of mud-slinging techniques that only distract from the issue at hand, further reduces the inspirational value of the post.

Passionate, eh? I say, poisonous. How does such an article inspire people to passionate professional development? I would argue that it cannot, because people do not respond well to hateful angry messages, even if at the heart of the message is the desire to light a fire under these folks' metaphoric bottoms. Add insult to injury by throwing in a few tactless personal comments, and the very populace one wishes to inspire will likely turn and walk away in disgust.

Rather, I propose that if one wants to make their passion contagious, that they approach things from a proactive stance; encourage those who are doing things well, and spotlight those who live the example of what is being preached. Be a builder of community, of good form and best practice, and be the first one to praise and to offer, "How can I help you do that even better?" Bring others up to standards of excellence instead of merely pointing out how far off the mark they are; positive change happens most effectively when servant leaders are willing to come alongside those who need some extra support, and show them how to be great. Real passion is borne out of action by those wishing to inspire; it is not created by reaction to those whom one feels to be inadequate.

Hubbs has shared with me of some of his personal heroes, including one very notable and inspirational developer, JP Boodhoo; now this is a man who models with integrity what it means to work passionately and to inspire others to greatness. It is a model that I know Hubbs tries to emulate. Take a look at JP's blog; he isn't angry and
he doesn't put others down, but he does share ways to help people do things even better.

The great discussion Hubbs and I had is really not limited to the field of development. It's life, folks. In each of our industries, be it education or nursing or managing a store or delivering pizzas or enforcing the law, we make a choice each day and each moment to either inspire passion in those around us, or spew poison to weaken resolve and destroy morale.

What will you choose to do? Inspire, or insult? What will you choose to be? Passion, or poison.

You decide.