Yesterday, I was looking at my Alexa Rankings and was pleased, as ever, that people spend time on my blog. My style of writing is on the heavy-side; so that is pleasing. I am not frightening people off all together!
Noobes! Find a richer set of questions than whether the big, cool kids like you
Alexa Rankings have also taught me an important lesson about being a noobe generally. We have to find a rich mix of questions to guide our adaptation in a new place.
The general question, “How am I getting on?” won’t help us at all. It only draws us into a cul-de-sac of a pecking order. Do the big, cool kids like me?
It’s a funny thing. The big, cool kids will never like a noobe. But they have a good thing going making you think you should be liked by them. This is how it works.
Noobe Fail #1
Big, cool kids stop being big and cool when they hang out with noobes. So they will never hang out with noobes. Big, cool kids are going to ignore me anyway. Their reputations depend on that
Noobe Fail #2
The other noobes probably don’t get point #1 and they think I am cool if they think the big, cool kids like me. That tempts me to pretend that the big, cool kids like me. Instant path to fame and glory? Or a total waste of time?
Noobe Fail #3
If this is how the world works, why do we care? Can we all be fooled so easily? Surely, everyone can’t be wrong.
The sociologists have a big word to described what is going on : hegemony. Hegemony is when the big, cool kids have persuaded us
- they are big and cool
- we can’t define something else or some one else as big and cool
- we all go along with it
AND we don’t benefit, even though we go along with it.
Hegemony. Genius. You believe you are right and I am wrong. And you persuade me of that too!
Yup, we can be fooled. The world works like that.
Noobe Fail #4
The difficulty with challenging the hegemony is that we take on a lot of people. We are going to cut in to the ‘bigness and coolness’ of the big, cool kids. And they are going to sort us out!
It is a bit like telling the Emperor he has no clothes on. The only person who will shout that out is a three year old boy. Anyone older is wiser – not because the Emperor will get mad. He is only one person after all. We don’t say anything because the mob will get mad. They will look pretty foolish too and they aren’t going to like it.
That is how the whole system works. The big, cool kids, the emperor’s with no clothes, don’t have to do their own dirty work. They will have many willing helpers who will get suckered into it. Yet, the noobes who beat us up won’t gain any respect from the big, cool kids – far from it. They’ll be seen as suckers. But there will always be plenty of volunteers hoping for a quick ascent up the pecking order.
Another term sociologists use to describe this system is “masculine culture“. Now we all know girls and women who play this game much better than guys. It is not a guy thing. It’s a label. When the culture is all pecking order, when the Emperor has no clothes and no one is going to say anything, we say it is a masculine culture. It is just like teenage playgrounds that have nothing going for them except the pecking order.
So how do we break out of senseless pecking orders?
#1 Solution One. Go along with it, if it is worth it.
Join up to playground which has such attractive toys that you can be bothered with the pecking order antics. Most of us feel that way about good schools, good universities and good workplaces.
But choose wisely. Don’t forget the pecking order game is a con trick. Don’t join a queue just because it is there. Ask people in the queue how long they have been there and what they have got out of it!
# Solution Two. Go round it.
Spend more time learning the rules that lead to gain than worrying whether you are in with the big, cool kids. They’ve done a fine job persuading you that they control the goodies. The truth is they have done a find job persuading you . . . the rest of the sentence is in our imagination.
But you will have to control your panic. We are scared of being excluded or beaten up. Rightly so. That’s how pecking orders are maintained. Fear. Justified fear of getting beaten up. It’s your job to learn how can you get around the fear.
Learn the rules by asking richer questions
In the blogging world, the rich information of Alexa Rankings helps us learn what the rules really are. I am not as big as the A-listers who have been around much longer. But people spend 5x times a much time on my site and my bounce rate is 1/3 of theirs. I have points of leverage that go beyond begging them for attention.
But where can we find rich information in other worlds?
I thought I would test myself by writing down the rules of networking.
Let’s imagine ourselves at a networking event and let’s compare the typical networking tactics, which I can The Fail Method, with tactics that acknowledge the power dynamics between the ‘big, cool kids’ and the ‘noobes’, which I’ll call The Tortoise Method.
The Fail Method: Most people at the networking event are judging us by whether we can lead them to the ‘big, cool kids’. The big cool kids aren’t going to speak to them anyway; but they are convinced there is some magic to it. So what do they do?
#1 Stand with a bunch of cool looking people
Fail: No one is going anywhere! Yep, it looks momentarily as it this group has cracked the code. But hang on. The same guys have been talking together for a good half-an-hour. They are just too scared to talk to anyone else.
#2 Have a great looking card and a great elevator speech that is recited no matter what
Fail: I am going to ask you whether you know someone who can help me and what are you going to say or do? I am going to find you out in 5 seconds.
#3 Tell everyone how successful you have been
Fail: How come you are in the noobe corner? If you were successful, you would be in the successful corner. You’ve no more idea of what is going on than I have!
#4 Tick off your successes loudly
Fail: Some of the people listening have done some of the things you mention and know how they work. They ‘suss’ your inexperience in a flash and tell others. Try some genuine conversation. They they might give you the answers you desperately need!
The Tortoise Method of networking
The Tortoise Method: I’ll call this the tortoise method because the tortoise really does win the race. Yes, the hares look down on the tortoise, initially, but that is a good thing. Because if they realized the tortoise would win, they would get a bit mean and nasty.
#1 When someone is snooty or domineering with their elevator speech or other bragging, cool. Find out what they know.
Once you have your bearings, you can loop back and include them on your team in roles they can perform. But can they perform any at all? The trouble is all the noobes are swanking about hoping to be taken for a ‘big, cool’ kid. The only thing to do is to be kind and notice they don’t really understand power dynamics.
That is the thing to notice. Those who swank and swagger are going to need management. A lot of of it. They don’t have skills and they don’t have smarts.
#2 Figure out the essentials of being a noobe.
The things we need to know right now are rather basic. Where are the ‘loos’? Where is the food? What is everyone’s name? Who are the bullies to be circumvented? What are the rules and which much be followed and which can be ignored? What are the signals (bells, notices, etc) that mean something? What are the hacks?
Make a list of the essential questions. Ask them. When someone can answer them, say thank you, trade some information you have, and remember them as a person whose feet are on the ground. They are your future team-mates.
#3 Listen to the stories that non-noobes tell
The stories are probably about pecking order – take that for granted. The stories might not even be untrue. That’s doesn’t matter. What matters is who are they trying to impress and how they understand (or misunderstand the rules).
By the way: Maybe you are only meeting noobes. Open our eyes. Listen to bartender, the room cleaner, the door man. Stop looking past people who aren’t the ‘big cool’ kids! Listen up to the people who have something to offer. Swagger is only intended to defraud.
#4 Who is really successful in the system?
They probably won’t talk to you, but watch them closely. How do they spend their time? And are they telling?
In pecking order systems, successful people often do their work behind closed doors.
- First, they don’t want to say who helped them.
- Second, they don’t want to admit who didn’t help them.
- Third, they don’t want to admit in public that working hard is more important than the people who are throwing their weight around.
- Fourth, many would rather tell you to do the wrong thing so they don’t have too much competition.
Paranoid – am I? We just joined a system based on pecking order. There is no generosity here -this is peck or get pecked!
Watch closely and take any opportunity to get behind the closed doors to see what is happening. Fetch the coffee. Become a “gopher”. Do the printing and photocopying. Keep your eyes and ears open, and your mouth shut. Firmly shut. ‘
#5 Don’t ask people to introduce you to the ‘big cool kids”
In asking for that favor, you show you don’t understand anything at all! Don’t follow the big, cool kids around. You perpetuate the system. You learn nothing. AND YOU SHOW EVERYONE THAT YOU DON’T GET IT!
Do your own thing, with other noobes. I am not contradicting #4. You help a big cool kid, if and only if, you get behind close doors – if you see him in his underpants so to speak. If you get to see how things really work. If you get to see the action not the polished, spun version of the action. Otherwise, don’t follow them. Stop being such a burke! Do your own thing.
Does The Tortoise method work?
Well, not fast. But you weren’t going any where very fast anyway. That was just in your imagination! You were going along with the con job. Remember, what is too good to be true, is too good to be true.
The tortoise is a wise animal. They look dumb but
- They know which race they are running, where it ends, and whether they want the prize
- They know the route
- They know what to look for along the route
- They put one foot ahead of the other, quite calmly
- They ignore the hares hopping along (and sleeping along the way).
Of course, if you are hare by nature, then this story is not for you! If you like the rough-and-tumble of the pecking order, go for it.
But get out of the noobe corner. Showing off to noobes is taking you nowhere. If you stay, help your fellow noobe with something concrete. Or shush up. Some of us see right through you!