Risk and Reward (Or How I Learned To Love Hate)
Seth Godin, marketing philosopher, posted yesterday that everybody isn't going to get the joke.
It doesn't mean that whatever someone has to say is right, or his song is sweet, or his painting is beautiful. Godin glosses over the downside a bit, but no matter how brilliant one's work, somebody is going to be critical of it. If you can't handle this, the blawgosphere is going to crush your soul.
And just about every blog post and book listing collects a trolling comment from someone who didn't like it, didn't read it or didn't agree with it (or all three) and isn't shy about speaking up with a sharp tongue.
For those people, the message from the creator of the work is clear: "It's not for you."
Unanimity is impossible unless you are willing to be invisible. We can be unanimous in our lack of feedback for the invisible one.
For everyone else, though, the ability to say, "It's not for you," is the foundation for creating something brave and important. You can't do your best work if you're always trying to touch the untouchable, or entertain those that refuse to be entertained.
"It's not for you."
A new guest poster at PrawfsBlawg, a Touro lawprof, yesterday wrote a post that mentioned an Electronic Frontier Foundation amicus brief on the standing of passengers to challenged GPS data. It sounded quite interesting, but never said a word about the case, issue or argument. She murdered words for nothing, and I told her so, prompting Orin Kerr to apologize for my bad manners. I was (and am) unapologetic, responding to Orin that someone had to tell her.
Orin was probably concerned that my less than polite rebuke would prove less than welcoming to the blawgosphere, as it obviously would. I was concerned that her post was vapid and awful, but didn't have to be. If her fly was down, would anyone say something? I would without hesitation, because that was the case. This is the blawgosphere, and her fly was down. I told her and Orin did not.
Keith Lee at Associates Mind write about my old pal Dan Harris at China Law Blog. While business transactions in China don't tend to be of interest to readers here, Dan is worth reading because, well, he knows that he's talking about.
And if no one reads you, then you're a tree falling in the forest with no one there.
I remember being a panelist at a Shanghai event a few years ago when someone in the audience asked me if I was ever concerned about offending people with this blog. My response went something like this:
No. In fact, I worry about not offending people. If we are not offending someone, we are not taking a stand. And if we are not taking a stand, we are not interesting. And if we are not interesting, we will not be read.
One of the advantages to being a founder of a small firm is that I do not have to worry about offending some people, I just have to make sure at least some people love us.While Dan's focus is more on the side of garnering love in the sense of retained clients (the beauty of a very niche practice), his point is the flip side of Godin's, that no one can avoid being hated, the ideas expressed are for those who get them, not for those who either don't or disagree.
Yesterday, I also received a few emails from people who expressed their appreciation for things I've said here. Some appreciated the discussions about the practice. Some about discussions of law school and new lawyers. Some wrote about criminal law issues. Each said I helped them in some way. It's good to know that I've helped others in some way. Maybe this explains why Tony was hanging in the Valhalla parking lot the other day. Maybe I have more karma points than I know.
There is no shortage of things happening in the world that merit mention and discussion, that wouldn't benefit from a decent airing. Anyone who tells me there is nothing to write about is clueless, as I can almost always find a dozen things to write about everyday, my biggest problem being to pare it down to the time I have available.
And whatever it is that makes it to the screen, someone will inform me is wrong, stupid or sucks. So what? No one can write to please everyone, and if pleasing everyone ever becomes the concern, then there is no point to writing at all. The point is to express an idea, no matter whether someone hates it or likes it, that evokes thought and, if I'm really lucky, meaningful discussion. On a really good day, the ideas influence discussion and perhaps produce a better outcome than what would have happened otherwise.
Risk is the nature of the beast. Put an idea into the stream and see where it goes. The tone may be more harsh than many are comfortable with, whether it's called snarky or douchy, but trying to be polite so as not to offend risks obscuring thought. It's a risk I am unwilling to take.
Take the risk. Call me out if you think I'm a fool, evil or rude. More importantly, if something moves you to the point of putting fingers to keys, make it count. Take a stand for yourself. Someone, whether me or another, may think you wrong and not love you for it. So what? Be a big boy and take the punch.
If you are afraid that someone will hate you, will be offended by you, and it stops you from expressing a thought, taking a stand, then you don't exist. No one will hate you, but no one will notice you either. You will suffer no harm for being nonexistent, but you will also do nothing to ever help another person to beat a case, make it through a day, decide what to do with their life.
Stand for something or stand for nothing. People will hate you for it. Get over it.