Angus: You cannot stereotype passion

Yesterday, someone said that there are few people with as much passion for IBM i as myself. Definitely, there are few people who are as noisy and in-your-face as I am, so it may appear that way. It is, to put it bluntly, not true.

Humans are funny creatures. We are a product of our own environment, our parents, our friends, our relationships, our children, our schooling… the list goes on and on. Each one of us is a unique combination of individual, like no one else, with a unique contribution to make to the world. Yet, we often are lumped into categories and stereotypes that, on the surface, may appear to apply to us. This seeming disservice will not change, since it is the means by which most people interpret and understand the world around them. And yes, that too is a stereotype.

In my Survivor session, I talk to some stereotypes. One being a stereotype in our industry about the state of the average RPG developer or IBM i resource. They appear to be sitting on their behind becoming older and more redundant. I maintain that each and every one is a genius at what they do, but are limited to what they know – a genius in a bottle, if you will. They all seem to be waiting for retirement, and have become complacent about the world and about the change that is happening around them. This is manifest in many ways, one being their constant use of the name of the platform that was en vogue during the last century. Their passion for IT, their passion for their platform, their passion for their job, has stagnated.

I use this stereotype when presenting, to stir the audience, to make a call to action for their future and the future of their platform, and to have them restore their passion that seems currently dormant. In Orlando, I suggested that a great way to indulge in passion is to mentor an intern or graduate, teaching them your business experience and learning more about the platform in the process. I mentioned, but in passing, some peers of the aforementioned genii-in-bottles who still have their passion. However, I truly did not showcase them as shining examples of people whose passion is endless, visible, and infectious. I emphasized the stereotype, and that truly was a disservice.

My next door neighbor in the presentation rooms was Larry Bolhuis. Before the session was scheduled to begin, my conversation with the arriving audience had reached quite a noisy level. We were laughing and giggling, and it spread down the corridor. Larry came into the back of the room, and threatened to bring all his attendees to my session if we were going to continue that level of fun. Later, Larry and I joked about the events, and how he could tell when I was serious – my crowd was quiet – and when I was silly – my crowd was loud. Most presenters would have grumbled and moaned to their friends, their audience and to random strangers, but Larry was energized. His passion may not spill as effusively as mine, but it is strong. Engage him in a conversation about IBM i, and you will also leave energized. The stereotype does not apply, but in a crowd, it just may not be visible.

Here is the exciting part about passion. No matter how much you have, it can grow. If your passion for something is dormant, you can tap into it, reenergize it, and indulge. Passion is infectious. And, it can be spread.

The story of the YiPs in South Africa is compelling, to say the least. When I first met the YiPs in Johannesburg, I wanted to bottle up that passion and bring it back to the US to release into the wilds of the IBM i community. With Richard’s visit to the COMMON Annual conference, I think that goal was over-achieved. Let me explain..

During this conference, I experienced an overwhelming positivity, and my passion was engaged and stirred. I was thanked numerous times for my contributions to the platform, to COMMON, and to the community. This was rather overwhelming, and while I stuttered a “thank you” and felt very humble, I was still unsure how to respond. One volunteer told me that something I had said triggered a call to action for him, and he asked me how he could help with evangelizing the platform and its future. We talked and he will now be contributing to some initiatives that we have. I received emails from several people in response to the articles about Richard, asking how they can support this project. The passion is spreading.

The passion Richard brought with him raised everyone’s spirits. When Richard spent time helping Larry set up the labs for part of a day before the conference, his own curiosity and willingness to learn was obvious. By the end of the day, even Larry’s natural passion for the platform was overflowing. The combination of mentor and student was something incredible to behold. Walking down the corridor later that day, you may not have seen it overflowing, but it was there.

For me, I know Larry’s passion, I know Richard’s passion, yet when I applied a stereotype to IBM i people, you may not have thought they were any different. A good friend of mine helped me understand that stereotypes are simply that, and truly do not apply to each and every individual 100 percent. Her passion means that mine also grows, and every interaction we have means that I learn and grow. Passion is not determined by its visibility, but by the actions of those who have it.

It seems to me that the simple answer to maintaining your passion is to indulge in it. Read blogs that approach the platform with the stories of success and achievement, solutions and resolutions, challenges and creative approaches. Attend conferences where you know the energy level will be high, the positivity flowing, and the passion engaged. Contribute your voice to the world, hold people accountable for their promises, stir, tease, play and make some noise with gusto. It has been recognized that a large portion of discussion on the web about IBM i tends to have a negative flavor. Can you do your part to respond positively? Can you encourage your friends to contribute? Can you tap into your passion?

I have three important questions for you, related specifically to our platform. If you have the inclination (the passion?), comment on this blog with your answers. In any case, consider them as you spread the word.

Who else do you know that has a strong passion for IBM i, manifest in their words, noise OR actions?
How does your passion for IBM i manifest itself?
What will you do this year to indulge in your passion?


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Trevor SeeneyMay 8th, 2010 at 3:02 pm

A very interesting commentary and I would add, very accurate. Keep it going.

Lepolesa TikoeMay 8th, 2010 at 8:50 pm

1. My first time mentor on the IBM Academic Initiative Mr Ernst Coetzee has an overflowing passion for the i platform, thanks to him for instilling it in me as well, and I’m proud to say Marinus Van Sandvyk CTO of Tembo is adding more petrol to the burning fire on an hourly basis, I thank him for that.
2. I indulge into finding more and learning more about the i platform and take pleasure in it on a daily basis.
3. Attending conferences related to the platform will boost my passion, working on it at all times and telling those who know nothing about it what it is and how it changed lives of people I know very well.

LarryMay 10th, 2010 at 9:13 pm

Hmmm. Sometimes Trevor makes me think. I first met him at COMMON in Minneapolis some time back when my friend Chris introduced us. I had never heard of him but it didn’t take long to figure out that he HAS passion! Having worked with him at COMMON and speaking to him many many times since, I have often wondered why my passion is not the same as his.

Then the light goes on. It’s not that my passion has a different Level, it has a different FOCUS! This is why not everyone ‘gets’ Trev. Certainly not everyone ‘gets’ me. So I will endeavor to spread my passion to help infuse the few that Trev misses!

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