Friday, September 14, 2007

Being a protagonist

I had a thoroughly enjoyable conversation with my boss today (hi Ray!) wherein he asked me what I felt best characterised the sentiment of my blog.  Without hesitation, I answered: "Antagonistic!"  And... I was momentarily taken aback.  How valuable are my rants?  Is that really what I want to share with the world?


At the risk of starting another rant, I would like to share my thoughts from this evening on being a protagonist...

What I want

I am a very passionate individual.  More than anything I want to be a force for goodness, balance and positive change.  Sure, part of achieving that goal requires thinking critically about the world and recognizing opportunity and means for improvement.  But it is a very small part.

I believe that the larger part of the challenge is to play an active role in making a difference.  Sometimes that means playing a minor supportive character assisting others who are engaged in a great epic.  Other times it means playing the humble protagonist who stands up and gathers others to uphold what is right and make the world more beautiful.  (Cue the Lord of the Rings soundtrack.)

Nobody likes a backseat driver

I could natter on endlessly about all sorts of software engineering p-r-o-b-l-e-m-s. *ahem*  Who asked for my advice anyways?

It makes no sense.

If I am not a protagonist and I am not acting like kindly Tom Bombadil to support others on their own quest, then what is my role?  There are two possible answers.  I could be a nobody whose only purpose is to contribute local colour to the story.  Or... I could be an antagonist who is distracting or perhaps even actively interfering with the major players.

Neither option is very satisfying!

Leadership, not Wizardry

Gandalf was not a good leader.  Sure, he set the story in motion but then he foolishly abandoned those he had rousted at their great peril.  In his arrogance, he assumed his own objectives were of such great importance that he neglected those he had gathered so that he could personally undertake his mission.  Consequently he very nearly failed to achieve his role in helping to fulfill their Great Purpose.  Thinking great thoughts is not enough!

Ok, so Gandalf was an idiot.  Not the only one...

I confess I have acted like a Wizard too.  I have falsely assumed the countenance of Great Responsibility.  I have meddled.  I have not dealt the cards fairly among those with whom I have shared responsibility.  I have upheld ludicrous ideals that ultimately accomplished nothing except to frustrate others who were better grounded in reality.

Pure foolishness.

Being a protagonist

I am working on MbUnit Gallio with a great team of people.  I add value to the team with architectural insight, programming skills and friendship.  However, I fear that I have also held us all back while I sat in a corner settling "complicated design issues."  That is not leadership; it is arrogant bullshit!  I am certainly not the only visionary.  I am not the only one who can finesse details.  Besides, sometimes my methods are crude and clumsy.  I make mistakes.

That said, I believe we are building a great product!  We are innovating.  We are discovering surprisingly natural solutions to nagging problems.  We are deeply invested in quality.  We care.

I am a protagonist but not the only one.  I must do my part to help keep the team on track and moving forward at a sustainable velocity despite my own weaknesses.  My personal opinions and ideals matter only insofar as they enable us to achieve our common goals.  We share responsibility in different capacities but in equal measure.

We are in this together.

P.S. For the record, I did enjoy the Lord of the Rings... even Tom Bombadil.

1 comment:

wamber said...

hey there, just found your blog. I agree with your "leader vs. wizard" distinction... "don't meddle" is a hard lesson to learn, maybe because we got a bad example from our parents who were always intruding on our lives (or at least mine were :)