Lines and Sand — 14

This post is part of Project: Inception, written ~8 years ago. It has been untouched from its original, pseudonymous, form. It is also part of the larger “farewell” tour and countdown as I turn-off this blog and head to the metaverse where I will live out the rest of my wonderful days. I hope to see you there!

Of Lines and Sand

A significant irritation of mine is the fact that most people cannot resolve to act when given obvious facts and information. Because of my Aspergers I am prone to simple do – there is very little deliberation.

As a result, I can easily draw lines in the proverbial sand and let you know what I can and cannot do as well as what I will and will not do. This has caused much heartache for some as I’ve been seen as pigheaded and incredibly stubborn. I don’t see why it’s a big deal when clearly my way is vastly superior.

But I have learned that just because I am unmoving in my opinion doesn’t make others’ perspectives less valid or as important – I have learned through social conditioning that I can fare better relationally when I listen and attempt to interpret, as best as I can, what others are saying and try my very best to “walk a mile in their shoes” – but ask me to walk 2 miles and I’m done!

What I have discovered though is that individuals who have a backbone when it comes to decision-making are typically applauded for their solidity and their perseverance when challenged. They have been able to draw lines in the sand and they know which side of the fence they sit. Great organizations and businesses seem to do this too – they believe in one perspective and build great products and services to those end.

Their culture, their mantra, and their mission demands it. What happens, as a natural result, is that they also hire people with backbone as well, people who have a stance and are unwavering. Technology companies are particularly good at this as it’s their point to be disruptive in some form or fashion. It is almost fashionable at times to be so bold.

But fortune truly favors the bold and the brave and someone who stands strong is very attractive. I know even for myself since I’ve found social engagement very confusing over the years that there have been people that I have been attracted to who wer obvious in their stance. As a result, I would follow them, work for them, and serve them well. There was no guessing games about motivation, no maneuvering or jockeying or politicking – just action and good work to be done.

These people would also defend me after some time and would go before me and vouch for me when times would get tough – I can remember more than one time when most of my colleagues were ready to abandon the project (and me more specifically) because of my “strange” habits this advocate came to my aid and saved me from public humiliation. In return, I defended him when the time came for him to be chosen for a career advancement and I knew where he stood, and where he would stand, in the future.

This created unbelievable confidence because I knew what he would do and what he would not do. Aspies are particularly adept at this as we know what we will do and what we will not do. NTs call this integrity of character and although that is true I believe it is simply being authentic. How rare a quality that is in the world, isn’t it? Sadly I have found that to be sorely true.

Aspies aren’t hypercritical nor are we demeaning – we just draw our targets and shoot towards them with what we’ve been given. To us the choice is obvious and there are very few options to choose from. In fact, most of the time, if there is an option there is only one and it is the one we choose!

These strong opinions aren’t without cost as it can be difficult to win people over and to build relationships well. We can be accused of being arrogant, or ignorant, or both and we can upset a lot of people along the way. We may even, without management, be a bit childish at times. I’ll admit it, I’ve thrown a tantrum or two publicly and it has never been pretty. But hell, no one would ever call me boring!

We may be despised and disrespected but we can be acknowledged and rewarded in different context and with different groups – it is our job to make sure that we are both honest and truthful about our opinion and position at all times (it’s not hard for us) and do our very best to work in environments where our honesty and unmoving perspective is rewarded.

You see, serious organizations who want to do serious work in the world will ultimately have open-minded leaders who need our expertise. Captains at war do not need a bunch of kiss-ass lieutenants who will be yes-men when the situation is most dire – they need men with the courage and gut to give tried and true advice. In the same way, managers need aspies with the courage to give them the truth, straight and to the quick. We know how to do that really, really well.

What happens is that decisions become obvious, opportunities become easily apparent, and there is very little wasted argumentation. In the world of business and especially the world of startups and entrepreneurship, every moment is literally money being wasted or earned; there is no middle ground.

When you know what you want and what you believe then decisions are easier to make.

My wife shops at Whole Foods which costs us much more in our monthly food bill than shopping at our local joints. I didn’t grow up with Whole Foods or even organic food so it took me a long time to “understand” why we needed to pay 200-300% more for what appeared to be the exact same product.

But what I eventually learned to appreciate was their unswerving dedication to providing the highest quality foods and organic products that customers could buy. There isn’t any deliberation about what kinds or quality of foods that they provide on those shelves as that question has already been answered: The highest quality. Organic products.

As a result, we’re willing to pay for it and the customers have responded well (and the stock price too) – everyone’s happy and after some convincing, so am I.

The most important thing for you to do, as an aspie, is to identify not only your strengths but also the things that you’re not very good at. This can help formulate what you can and what you cannot do. It will also guide your decision-making about what you will and will not do as a career. You now have not only a rubric for what you should be doing but also a rubric and understanding of what you won’t be doing – or, what you refuse to do.

Your career and success vitally depend on it. If you do this well then your employers will benefit more as well.

Here are some questions to consider:

  1. We often have a clear picture of what we are not willing to do. What are some of those things?
  2. Does your employer, your team, and the organization that you’re currently involved with know about these things?
  3. How often are you in a place of compromise? How have you managed this historically?
  4. How can you leverage your strengths and your unique interests in a way that’ll pave a way to greater success in your career?