Celebrating a New Vision with a New Lens: transcending differences to see farther and achieve more

Merry Christmas! Ideas had been piling up for this post for some time and they came pouring out after Midnight Mass (who can go to sleep after that!) so I’m putting them together this morning before we head over to relatives this afternoon for the big family Christmas dinner.

Our next door neighbor for many years, growing up outside of Bastrop, was Gene Crick, who led a firm focused on bringing internet capacity to the most rural parts of Texas for whom broadband was and is a distant dream. Yes, Virginia, there are places today without pervasive 3G wireless access. Gene was one of the first people I personally knew, to use the phrase “celebrate our differences” in ordinary conversation. Gene also sponsored me to speak at a tech conference in Austin many years ago, so I’ve thought about that phrase a lot over the years.

This Christmas post is intended to be provocative, so if it riles you up, you’re welcome! However, it will be provocative not with vice but with virtue. Because fools rush in where angels fear to tread, this fool thinks he has something to say about the so-called gender gap. Reading Nicole Sullivan‘s long post about the challenges of being a woman in computer programming, well, frankly, I’m shocked—shocked I say! that discrimination could be

occurring in a social milieu where the dominant reward (lots of money) is for focusing on mental and logical gymnastics rather than effective personal interaction. The dog you feed is the one that grows.

Some examples

Attorney and shoe maven, Leigh Macdonald, gives an ideal segue with her Play Dumb post on Nice Shoes, No Drama, to the rather esoteric points covered in part 2. (Yeah, I did that just to tease you. Rotten, huh?)

Talent is Never Enough

is a book by John Maxwell (Buy the book and support us). He lays out in detail of what I’m summarizing here, drawing on Leigh’s experience. While I agree with her completely, “penthouse counsel” was an arrogant jerk, my direction in this post is to go to the next level of understanding about her initial upset, that she couldn’t believe that he’d said lawyer barbie. Hollywood’s version of the PC’s attack on her is right out of Laws of Attraction in the “do you remember your position?” courtroom dialog.

Not recognizing men’s competitive nature (often portraying general meanness and arrogance) seems to be a basic disconnect in many of the professional women who’ve written or spoken about the all-too-real discrimination. It’s not just in tech, it’s probably in any field you want to examine. People in the status quo rarely respect newcomers or anyone they consider a threat to their established way of doing things.

That said, how many role models does a champion need? Just one. If you’re in computer programming, you can look to both Countess Ada Lovelace and Admiral Grace Murry Hopper. Finding discrimination isn’t news (hence my Casablanca clip). Expecting NOT to find it is truly naïve.

Whoever told you life was fair? To be mislead that we live in a meritocracy where good always triumphs and the white hat cowboy always wins is to be stuck in a make-believe world. So what do we need to do to change the status quo? (The “real world” by the way, is mostly a product of personal perception.) People from Malta to Manchester have told me that my persistence, tenacity and drive is what has brought me through all the messes I’ve been in. Certainly wasn’t brains, charm or good looks. 🙂

Patti Card Smith and I recently had the amazing opportunity to discuss this “transcending discrimination” topic at the December meeting of the UT-Austin Chapter of Women in Communications. As a broadcasting major, at UT, Patti had straight A’s in a course and received a B, because “women don’t belong in this business and it’s about time someone made you aware of that.” Yeah, it was that blatant. One of the reasons Patti Smith is an industry champion is that she chose to fight strategically. She has a string of firsts because she basically outworked—and outsmarted—those sniveling bobos who wanted to stand in the way of her success. (Oops! Was that my outside voice?)

Patti transcended discrimination because she chose to make her work speak for itself and to make her standard of excellence the “road to be on.” It takes internal discipline, drive and self-confidence to achieve what she has, yet what truly astounded me about Patti was that in just a few seconds I felt like this is someone I’ve known for years. That kind of charisma isn’t just for the anointed, it can be learned. In a phrase, Patti became better, not bitter. The dog you feed is the one that grows.

[Continued in Part 2] Thanks for reading. If you like this, sign up for the RSS in the upper right. Merry Christmas and as always, Carpe Diem!

Matt

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