The Champion & Confidence Dilemma

I wanted to share today something I’ve been dealing with for a few months and inspired by shares from others.  For those of you who don’t know the IBM Champion program, in short it was set up to acknowledge the work done by people who contribute to their Community outside of their regular jobs.

When I started as a business partner in the mid 90s the IBM community I was introduced to was full of people interested in IBM technology, wanting to learn and wanting to share what they knew with others for no reason other than they were excited about it and enjoyed seeing others doing the same.  In the past 20 years a lot of that has changed and I miss those days.  There are still lots of people who share and want to learn but the days of not wanting credit or taking a back seat are often (not always) gone.

I was encouraged and inspired for 20 years by people many of you will have heard of and many of you wouldn’t.  Without Andrew Pollack to tell me I was smart enough to learn this stuff and present, or Chris Miller offering to present wtih me or Rocky Oliver encouraging me to write, or Ben Langhinrichs asking the tough business questions about why I don’t charge more, or Carl Tyler giving me no leeway to make excuses, or Paul Mooney who was as enthusiastic about educating as I was and happy to work with me - without those people and many more in Penumbra and further afield I wouldn’t have chosen the path I did.  The path that led me to be an IBM Champion and 3 years ago one of the first (along with the amazing Theo Heselmans) IBM Lifetime Champions.

That should have been it right? Validation. The pinnacle of achievement.  Confirmation I was doing something right.

I hadn’t allowed for two things.  People’s misjudgement and their need to tear you down. Those two things in the past few months have brought me near to walking away.

I’ve learned to trust my judgement and my judgement says when people isolate me and ignore me it’s because they want to cut me out, and I assumed because they didn’t like me. I don’t consider myself that likeable so that’s a reasonable, although sad, explanation.  However I have realised in the past few weeks that apparently I am in some sort of competition that I was unaware of:  “Don’t let her get involved, she has enough credit”,  “Don’t get involved in ideas she has, she has enough credit”.  Little comments people have said in passing in my hearing serve to destroy my confidence daily. There have been many of these incidents, all small but incemental.

In a group discussion a few weeks ago I was trying to encourage someone I respect to put themselves forward to be a champion.  Another person in the group asked of the group, “Who thinks they deserve to be a champion?” and I, along with the other couple of champions there, put up my hand thinking we were supporting the discussion. This person said, “I don’t. I don’t think any of us do”.

I felt blindsided

I felt awful.

I still feel awful.

Maybe that person was right.  In which case the validation I had been accepting and working to deserve was just ego.  I didn’t think I had much ego but maybe I do. Maybe that’s what puts people off.

So this is to say to all of you out there:

  • Don’t project onto anyone a motive for their actions. Least of all your own.  Someone once said to me “well we all present for the applause don’t we”.  No. No we don’t.  Some of us do it to learn and to help others learn. That’s it.
  • Don’t project confidence where none exists. Don’t assume how you see someone is how they see themselves.
  • If you’re jealous, own that as your problem. I will put my hand up and admit to in the past being jealous of successful friends (Paul, Rob, Stuart) but that was my problem about where I felt I fell short and I truly hope they never felt the effects of it.
  • Don’t try and tear people down to make yourself feel better.

Your comments hurt. your actions or in-actions hurt. You cause hurt.

I wish it was still the mid 90s and we could still be that community that recognised the success of one is the success of all, but that was pre a lot of things and this is where we are now.

I’ll keep doing what I do because that’s the only way I know how to work and because presenting, blogging , sharing, learning, teaching make me happy.


9 thoughts on “The Champion & Confidence Dilemma

  1. “when people isolate me and ignore me it’s because they want to cut me out”. Different pov here: maybe they are too shy to come and talk to you, you’re almost a legend and people may feel intimidated, though you do nothing to make them feel like that.
    “Don’t let her get involved, she has enough credit”, “Don’t get involved in ideas she has, she has enough credit”. Whoever said that is just a piece of sh*t. Period. This is not a game where who has more credit wins. This is about helping others.
    “Maybe that person was right. In which case the validation I had been accepting and working to deserve was just ego. I didn’t think I had much ego but maybe I do. Maybe that’s what puts people off.” You’re plain wrong here, believe me

    • I hope people aren’t intimidated by me.. I hadn’t thought of that because I don’t see myself that way. I don’t know how to fix it if that’s the problem. I wish I were more charming / easier maybe. Ah well.

  2. Hi Gab - I’m saddened to hear about your experiences, and sadder still that I’m not surprised that some folks would act that way. I’ve been part of the Lotus community since late v3.x, I was a business partner in the Domino space for years, and still advocate for & use this technology. On a more personal note, I’ve been to more Lotuspheres than I can count and sat in on many of your sessions where you presented. You made a great (and positive) impression on me with your depth of knowledge, passion to share it (just for the sake of sharing, not for kudos), and your really cool accent!

    Please do keep up the great work from which we all benefit and share your passion for. It’s not easy taking hits like the ones you’ve received, but you need to know that the silent majority, myself included, see you in a positive light.

    • Thank you. Worried I’ve turned this into me asking for people to say nice things 🙂 Honestly your comment means a lot to me and is much appreciated.

  3. I’ve never felt anything wrong in you behavior, so please continue to do what you have done in last year’s Gab, you are great !

  4. “Don’t try and tear people down to make yourself feel better.”

    Amen. I have seen this behavior from people I respect, and it hurts me when I see it. It saddens me that this happens.

    I’m a firm believer in complimenting people (ESPECIALLY my “competitors”) on their skill and expertise. When you see somebody do something well, tell them so. Attacking others hurts only ourselves.

    Recognizing greatness, helping people, and inspiring others is the sign of a TRUE CHAMPION; all of these things describe you Gab perfectly.

  5. I deserve to be a champion. You, Gab, deserve to be a champion. A number of others do as well. I’m not always sure IBM deserves our championing, but they are the date we came in with, so I suppose we need to make the best of it. As for people who want to either cut you out or tear you down, they’re either intimidated or jealous. If the former, all we can do is be as relatable and accessible as possible. As you do that a heck of a lot better than I do already, I have no advice. If the latter, they ought to grow up and realize you don’t succeed in a collaboration world by isolating, but by collaborating better.

    I know I am a bit of a Pollyanna, but I tend to model my thinking on Puddleglum and follow Aslan even if there is not Aslan to follow.

  6. Anyone who has been involved in published documentation knows writing redbooks, like you have, isn’t done from ego. It’s done out of a desire to put in the significant effort required to learn and share in a way that helps others avoid the painful lessons you’ve gone through. Anyone who’s presented a session knows you don’t just turn up. There’s a lot of personal time spent up front. And it’s not done out of ego, it’s done to help others avoid reinventing a wheel built from more painful lessons that someone - many people, no doubt - have already been through. Blog posts don’t just write themselves. But we want to ensure end users have a good, solid platform that does what they need. We want to ensure those developing and administering it have a happier day job. We want to ensure customers stay on a platform that we believe is strong. That’s why we share, that’s why we go beyond. The irony is that the critics, unless they’re in the job of migration, also believe the platform is strong. So they’re criticism is - quite frankly - self-defeating.

    One question I would have for that person who doesn’t believe you and others are worthy of being champions: name someone they think is and give the justification. Name someone they think IBM should celebrate as doing good things for their platform. If they think no one is, they are saying IBM shouldn’t care about this community and the people who go above and beyond. That is something I - and, I believe, IBM - would fundamentally disagree with.

    You are valued more than highly by those who know what you do. I would encourage anyone looking to get involved in the community to grasp eagerly any opportunity to work with you, to watch carefully and learn, so that as a community member they too can avoid painful lessons we’ve all had to learn from.

  7. This community has helped me as a developer my entire 20 year career. It has been reduced in number in recent years perhaps but I’d like to think those who have remained tend to be stronger in their convictions. I would like to add that I believe this community has a great deal of respect it deserves and has earned. The interactions I have had online and directly have always been positive. Please don’t let the voice of one cynical person dampen your spirit.

    @blanghinrichs & @PaulSWithers & @Spanky762: Well said!

    I’d like to give my thanks to all of you.

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