Thursday, May 7, 2015

My commitment to never being "that guy"

An anecdote came to mind this morning in dealing with a work situation:
Back when I was in college in San Jose, I moved into a small apartment building where the entire, HUGE yard was dirt. No grass--just weeds and dirt. I asked the landlord if I could garden. 
He said, “Sure! Do what you want”. 
The people that had lived there for years never did anything with it. So I picked out all the rocks, amended the soil, and started planting: flowers, vegetables, a little sunflower forest, butterfly garden, morning glories that covered an ugly fence…20 kinds of herbs. It was so lush and beautiful that people walking down the street would stop and comment. There were humming birds, butterflies, lady bugs…in a yard where there was previously just dirt.
What happened? Some residents in the building got angry and started complaining that I was “taking over the yard” and that they wanted to plant things too but felt like they couldn’t because I was. They never said anything or commented to my face about what I was doing, but went to the landlord as if I was some sort of problem. My response to my landlord was kind of “Whaaaat?? Nobody was doing anything with it before, but there’s plenty of room for every one. If you want to garden, then PLANT!”
So everyone started gardening and I was excited that the action I took inspired others to garden too. But one guy insisted I kept maliciously knocking down his corn. Never mind there were a bunch of feral cats and opossums in the neighborhood — and cats like to climb things. He was insisting I was getting up in the middle of the night to knock down his corn and even vandalized something I had left on the back stairs one evening in retaliation.
Thankfully, one other neighbor who became my friend, finally had a talk with him and told him, “You know, I don’t think Mary really cares if you plant anything or about anything else you do”, and he finally mellowed out.
Some people don’t like to be challenged. I never purposely try to challenge anyone, but I’m a doer, a thinker and an idea person. My experience is that, unfortunately the people who can’t bring themselves to do the same thing and are not confident and passionate about what they do, complain that the doer is not “playing nice” or is somehow cheating, or has an unfair advantage. People who are confident and passionate about what they are doing are inspired and step up to the challenge.
I hereby commit to never being that guy, but I am also not going to let that guy drag me into not doing my best and my most creative. I will gladly help and support people who ask for guidance, but I refuse to do mediocrity and half-assed just so someone feels better about themselves.

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