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Posted on: Wednesday, 10 June 2009 by Rajiv Popat

That Is Exactly What I Want To See.

"But She is going to Fail." --- for the last hour; Fred has been on the other side of my cell phone; convincing me; wanting, expecting and demanding me to interfere and pursue Jane to use technologies out there rather than the self-made component she is planning on using for the project.

He wants to hold her hand and guide her to a safe and successful completion of the project. Jane on the other hand doesn't seem to care about safety. She doesn't seem to need any hand holding either. Offer her your hand or some safety and she shrugs.

She seems to know what she is doing.

Like a genuine builder, she is walking without a safety net of lame excuses. She is taking her own decisions; sometimes succeeding; sometimes failing; and most of the times recovering gracefully out of her failures. She has been doing a great job in the last couple of months since she was promoted. 

"Do you want to see her fail?" --- Fred questions.

I cringe.

It is a spontaneous response - "Actually, Yes; that is exactly what I want to see."

The statement is followed a long silence from the other side of the phone making me feel like I just turned into an alien with five eyes.

I explain - "She is entitled to her share of successes and failures. We need to give her a fair chance."

Long silence.

The sound of a click.

Fred is a Bozo; or at-least he is acting like one.

Builders And Bozos.

Genuine Builders don't sit around whining about external factors or giving lame excuses.

Genuine builders ship.

Continuously; shamelessly and consistently.

If there is one thing I've learnt by observing genuine builders at work and around the world it is that they have thick-skins, short-memories, the minds of a child, scarred careers which are full of new or remarkable failures and very little respect for status quo. They walk on the fringes, waiting to risk it all for remarkable results and for the sake of testing their limits along with losing their fears or insecurities.

All these qualities apart; there is yet another critical quality that forms a genuine builder.

Genuine builders know when to turn completely deaf and not give a rat's ass about what 'the crowds' in general and 'the bozos' in particular think or say.

Every dent in the universe; small or large; is an example of genuine builders gone deaf.

Builders are highly opinionated and picky when it comes to beliefs and ideas. Once the beliefs and ideas survive their idea-test however; most builders turn a deaf ear to the crowd or the bozos who tell them they should stop. From that point on they have the spine to follow their own convictions and beliefs.

If you are reading this; chances are that you have been through this moment of clarity in your project; your work or your life where you knew what you had to keep doing irrespective of what others told you to do.

From the folks at Apple refusing features in the iPod to the folks at 37Signals refusing more functionality in Project Path and all their other products, builders work by entertaining all thoughts but accepting only the ones that they want to accept.

Most builders out there are not just thick-skinned or stubborn; they often turn deaf and sometimes even rebellious to what the crowds or the bozos have to say.

Meet The Bozos

Bozos are usually your so called well-wishers.

They can be your distant relatives; your colleagues; your acquaintances; your bosses; your organization and sometimes even your clients or followers.

They mean no harm.

All they want to do; is keep themselves; and you; in the safe territories of --- mediocrity.

Writer Elizabeth Gilbert explains the phenomenon in her classic presentation at TED:

They come up to me now all worried and they say, “Aren’t you afraid? Aren’t you afraid you are never going to be able to top that? Aren’t you afraid that you are going to keep writing for your whole life and you are never again going to create a book that anybody in the world cares about at all? Ever; again?"

So, that’s reassuring, you know.

But it be worse except for that, I happen to remember that over twenty years ago when I first started telling people; when I was a teenager; that I wanted to be a writer; I was met with the same kind of; sort of fear based reaction and people would say, “Aren’t you afraid that you’re never going to have any success? Aren’t you afraid the humiliation of rejection will kill you? Aren’t you afraid that you are going to work your whole life at this craft and nothing is ever going to come of it and you are going to die on a scrap heap of broken dreams with your mouth full of bitter ash of failure?”

Long story short, Bozos want you to be 'normal', 'good' and 'safe'; just like everyone else. If you think about it Bozoism-Through-Genuine-Concern-Of-Well-Wishers dates back to pre-historic days when Little-Jack-The-Cave-Kid was living on trees with Uncle-Freddy-The-Cave-Man. That was when it was Uncle-Freddy's responsibility that Little-Jack does not do something stupid; like get down of the trees and get himself killed.

That is when Little-Jack's mistake would have ended up costing him his life and Uncle-Freddy was supposed to teach Little-Jack the 'normal' route to survival; which was to stay up on the trees.

But then a weird thing happened. Someone got down off the trees; no-body was killed and then the entire human race followed. 

Today, we live in a world where all a mistake will usually cost you is a minor slap on your self esteem and a little bit of humiliation.

In today's world your professional mistakes will usually not kill you. They will just make you stronger.

Here is the sad part however --- The Uncle-Freddy-Attitude still exists amongst the Bozos who walk your planet; in the form of distant relatives, colleagues, acquaintances, bosses, organizations, client and followers. 

Long story short; just in case you didn't look and notice already; the Bozos are all around you.

Bozos In Action - Gentle Nudges Towards Mediocrity.

Experiment One:

Go and announce to your personal friend circle that you are quitting your job and are going to be an independent consultant. Tell them that it means a lot to you and that you really want to do it.

Observe.

The Bozos will kick in trying their best to nudge you back to the safe and established territory of your job life.

Experiment Two:

Suggest a radically new and different corporate website for your organization.

Observe.

The Bozos will kick in trying their best to nudge your back to the safe and know path of a simple, safe looking corporate website.

Experiment Three:

Have a slightly different hair style or follow a slightly different dress-code to office.

Observe.

The Bozos will kick in trying their best to nudge your back to the safe and know territory of the 'old you'.

Do you understand exactly what it is that is happening here? If you don't --- understanding the Bozos around you might help.

Understanding Bozos

Bozos aren't bad people. They aren't whiners. Just 'normal' people living a 'normal' life and having 'normal' fears of failures along with a lot of preconceived notions.

What they feel; is a subtle and indescribable fear of change. If there is one property that describes their behavior the best it is - Homeostasis

Bozos usually have a 'fear' that you or your organization might make a fool out of yourself.

To be fair to them; some of them might be your genuine well wishers.

In a few cases the fear may be a result of 'genuine concern' for the organization or for you as a colleague.

There is just one tiny little problem in listening to them however.

Listen to them and you will remain safe in the realms of mediocrity for the rest of your life. A realm which builders leave as quickly as they can in search of remarkable outputs and results.

Every single genuine builder that I have seen has thrived, not by confronting or trying to convince the Bozos but by turning a deaf ear to them.

If there is one secret, builders know as a part of their very nature or as a lesson acquired from a difficult experience it is that what ever you do, if you want to build something that makes a big or tiny dent in the universe, you do not let the Bozos grind you down.

If the Bozos get louder; all you can do; dear reader; is turn deaf.

Look around you, how many Bozos do you see in your professional life?

How many of them do you think are your well-wishers?

Do you have stories connected to Bozoism, dear reader?

Discuss.