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Posted on: Friday, 12 June 2009 by Rajiv Popat

Don't Let The Bozos Grind You Down.

In my previous post we introduced you to Bozos. Bozos are individuals who out of genuine concern or an unstoppable spontaneous funny little itch want you to walk the lines they walk and remain in the realms of 'normality'. The one thing they forget however is that normal is boring. The problem in surrounding yourself with Bozos is that if you let them grind you down, they will.

Given the fact that not listening to the Bozos is such an important characteristics of genuine builders around the world, I thought it might make sense to bring to you, dear reader, a few genuine builders or amazing trouble makers on the web and present to you, their thoughts on how they deal with the Bozos trying to grind them down.

Guy Kawasaki, an evangelist, an entrepreneur and a venture capitalist, explains why you should not let the Bozos grind you down rather articulately in his video on Evangelism at Comdex:

You cannot let the bozos grind you down; because I tell you; the bozos will grind you down; especially if you have something revolutionary.

Now, I wish I could tell you that, if somebody says you'll fail it means you'll succeed. It's not that simple either; but if somebody tells you you'll fail and you listen to them and don't try, for sure you will never know.

Guy's idea is simple. Don't Listen to a Bozo and don't be one yourself. At best --- ignore the Bozos when they try to grind you down. You can literally hear the same thoughts resonate in how veteran blogger Jeff Atwood addresses the issue of Bozoism in his post dedicated to criticism of blog posts. He explains:

If you think something sucks to the extent that it's actively harming the world and you want it to go away, leaving comments to that effect is not the way. I know, because I bear the psychic scars of a million online flame-wars, dating all the way back to 300 baud dialup modems and BBSes. I've been doing this a very long time. I've seen what works, and what doesn't.

One of my favorite books as a child was the Great Brain series, the story of a family in rural Utah, set in the late 1800s. In these books, there was a strange punishment the parents doled out to their children when they seriously misbehaved. For a period of a week, or longer -- depending on the severity of the misbehavior -- nobody in the family would talk to, acknowledge, or address in any way, that particular boy.

It was called "The Silent Treatment".

This didn't seem like much of a punishment to me. In fact, as an introverted kid who loved solitary activities like computers and reading more than anything, it seemed kind of like a .. reward. I couldn't reconcile this feeling with the semi-biographical reality depicted in the books. To the Fitzgerald boys, the silent treatment was the worst possible punishment, far worse than a physical beating. They would go to incredible lengths to avoid getting the silent treatment. As punishments go, it must have been a doozy, though I couldn't quite wrap my geeky, socially maladjusted young head around exactly why.

The silent treatment was a punishment I didn't fully understand until years later in life. That's how you change the world. Not by arguing with people. Certainly not by screaming at them. You do it by ignoring them.

And if you feel strongly enough about me and what I do here, you can begin by ignoring this.

Seth Godin, a renowned marketer and author, explains the phenomenon of ignoring the Bozos and not letting them grind you down much more articulately in his post where talks about why you should ignore your critics. He explains:

If you find 100 comments on a blog post or 100 reviews of a new book or 100 tweets about you...

and two of them are negative, while 98 are positive...

which ones are you going to read first?

If you're a human being and you're telling the truth, the answer is pretty obvious: you want to know which misguided losers had nasty things to say and you want to know what they said. In fact, if we're being totally truthful, it's likely you're going to take what the critics had to say to heart.

That's a shame. The critics are never going to be happy with you, that's why they're critics. You might bore them by doing what they say... but that won't turn them into fans, it will merely encourage them to go criticize someone else.

It doesn't matter what Groucho or Elvis or Britney or any other one-name performer does or did... the critics won't be placated. Changing your act to make them happy is a fool's game.

Scott Hanselman, a veteran builder and story teller rolled into one; describes his take on Bozos trying to grind him down in one hilarious tweet that made me roll over laughing as I read it.

The tweet: --- "@shanselman I learned that some people don't like my sense of humor. Poop on those people. #standup"

Jokes aside; consider anyone out there who has shipped anything to the world --- an open source product, a paid product, a blog post, an article, an opinion --- anything. If you have or are shipping anything what-so-ever that is worth noticing, it's usually easy to Google yourself or what-ever-it-is-that-you-are-shipping and see some flames being thrown your way by random Bozos or critics out there. 

Even with this little blog that is visited by just three people, my mom, me and you dear reader, I have had my share of grinding from random criticisms here and there from both; well-wishers and random commenters.

My criticisms have raised from; simple difference of opinion from colleagues or acquaintance where someone thinks I am seeking heaven on planet earth;  to slightly personal remarks from absolute strangers where someone thinks I am soft skill retard.

Every once in a while, a couple of individuals; ranging from a well wisher to an anonymous commenter; will have a general passing remark; starting from an email or a remark on the lines of your-blog-is-becoming-boring going all the way to leaving a comment on the lines of I-am-not-going-to-read-your blog-starting-today.

To be honest, this is not about maintaining a live inventory of flames being thrown my way and linking to them.

Neither is it about how boring, stupid, odd, wearied or evil I am.

This post, dear reader, is about builders.

If there is one thing I've learnt by observing genuine builders for years; it is this --- The bozos out there are supposed to grind you down and nudge you to the safe boundaries of 'mediocrity'. Listen to them and you are going to practice safety by 'doing nothing'. After all, it's easy being a leach, shutting up and contributing nothing --- the problem with that however; is that it's boring.

This is serious stuff; you can go from a contributor trying to share his ideas, perspectives, products or stories to a non-existent non-participant just by listening a couple of Bozos. 

Most genuine builders that I have observed in my very own personal life; and the ones I've observed through their work and web presence follow three simple steps when it comes to dealing with Bozos trying to grind them down. The three steps are really simple:

  1. Ignore. 
  2. Move on.
  3. Do it anyways.

Once you've done step three and have decided to do whatever-it-is-that-you-were-doing anyways --- push a little harder than you did last time; get louder and do it in ways that are bolder than the ones you have used ever before.

If your idea or message is sufficiently strong and you have started with conviction, ignoring the Bozos is easy.

Most genuine builders do it every day of their life. They don't just ignore the Bozos; sometimes, they even listen to what the Bozos ask them not to do; and then they go out there and do just that.

You'll never be able to shut the Bozos up. What you can do however can be summed up in two simple words --- "don't listen" --- and if they go out of their way to make you listen --- "don't care".

Like most genuine builders; indulge in strong opinions weakly held; entertain all thoughts; but accept only the ones that you genuinely agree to and believe in.

I wish you good luck. 

How many examples of the Bozos trying to grind you down have you witnessed?

How many times have you proved them wrong by not listening to them?

What do you do when you encounter Bozos trying to grind you down, dear reader?

Discuss.

Note: This article is a part of a Work In Progress Book. To Read connected articles read the Builders At Work category of this blog.