Geeks have a lot going for them. They’re curious, intelligent, focused, passionate, and persistent. Put a geek on a problem and he or she will live and breathe that problem until it is solved. Their minds work in a very unique and special way. They often have a savant aspect to their thinking where they can visualize the inter-relationships between complicated often disparate things. Temple Grandin, the noted animal behaviorist and author on autism and Aspergers syndrome, can look at a two-dimensional blueprint and literally fly through the three dimensional virtual world in her brain. She can actually see it as if it were a real space in her head!
Many scientists, technicians, mathematicians, computer programmers, engineers and the like, have some or a lot of these special abilities. For the sake of this book, lets lump them all together and call them “geeks”. And, if you see yourself as geek, “geek like”, geekish or even “geek curious,” allow me to address you directly: You’ve probably spent your life studying, analyzing, quantifying, modeling, understanding, visualizing, mastering an extremely precise, nearly unfathomable world.
You and your brethren are responsible for much of our world today because our world is based on the technology that you invented. The internet, the highways we drive on, the computer and the network you may be reading this on, the cell phone, the satellite that delivers data throughout the world, the medical devices that are responsible the survival of millions.
A feature film released in 2004, called “A Day Without a Mexican,” imagined the catastrophic consequences for Californians if every Latino were to disappear. Life, culture and economy, as presented in this film would come to a screeching halt. If we made “A Century Without a Geek”, the scenario would be far worse. Our way of life, in fact our very lives, would be in peril. We’d be hunting rabbits with our bare hands because, of course, there would be no guns or even spears. And without shoes, we’re only going to be able to attempt the hunt for a few minutes before our feet are bloody messes. And what about those of us we now-correctable vision problem? Glasses? We don’t have no stinkin’ glasses in the century without a geek. If you aren’t 20/20 or better, you’re lion feed. You get the idea. Geeks are important.
But still, you get no respect. You derided, made fun of, scorned by “civilians” for your lack of “cool”. But is it a lack of cool for which you’re disrespected? Or that you haven’t mastered the art of relating to humans?
It’s little wonder you had time to learn to relate well to people, to learn people skills. You were too busy learning the technical skills to help save the universe. And perhaps you learned early on that you didn’t have a knack for people, that your mind just didn’t work in that way, and that your energies were better spent working on what interested you. It didn’t help that “civilians” rejected you, perhaps made fun of you. Maybe you had friends, usually other techies like yourself who understood you and shared your interests.
But what about those “cool” kids in high school? Not the ones who may have given you a hard time, just the normal, fun, popular kids. How did they know how to act, how to get along so well, exactly what to wear, what to say in social situation to gain respect? Did they have a book or a cool older brother or sister who passed down “cool”? Maybe or maybe they just knew. Maybe it was in their genes.
It probably wasn’t in your genes and there wasn’t anybody around to teach you and even if there had been, you wouldn’t have listened because you really weren’t interested. You were interested in gaming and Star Trek. (Note: don’t worry, most of the “cool” kids weren’t able to parlay cool into anything because, unlike you, they had no passion other than “cool”. And adolescent cool, thank the good Lord, isn’t cool anymore. The super popular quarterback of my high school’s football team became a hair dresser. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a hair dresser but it’s not rocket science.)
As you get older and move up in your career, into different stages of your life, you may be seeing that perhaps certain avenues are not open to you because you’re not a “people person.” You might have noticed in your own company that there are “geeks only” floors. All the folks with great suits and gleaming conference tables are on 18 and you’re seldom allowed up there. You’re a maligned class.
Or maybe you want to start a business with an application that you’ve invented but you can’t get people interested in it because you’re just not that good at attracting and impressing people. Perhaps you want to move into management but it’s hard to get a hearing because your boss doesn’t see you as “management material”. Perhaps you’re having difficulty finding a job because the economy is in tough shape, much of the tech work is being sent to Bangalore or China and you just don’t have a lot of other business skills that elevate you above the rest.
Or perhaps you just want to be heard in your company, you want your ideas and opinions to be taken seriously, you want to have influence. Maybe you want to develop better rapport with co-workers or your boss or work more effectively on a team. Or perhaps you want to move into marketing or sales in your company but you have difficulty presenting the benefits of your product because you get too caught up in the intricacies of how it works rather than how good it is.
If you’re experiencing any of these issues, this book is for you. This is the book you wished you had had in high school to learn about cool. But this isn’t fake, adolescent “cool”, this is adult, mature, respected cool.
If geeks were to improve their interpersonal skills, a whole new world would open up to them. They could break through that invisible “geek ceiling” that limits them from their full potential. You can learn to relate better to everyone, to present yourself and your ideas effectively, to meet people and form a powerful professional network.
Now there are interpersonal skills and there are interpersonal skills. I don’t want to teach you just how to make eye contact and to shake hands with a firm grip. Important? Yes. But not nearly as important as the underlying principal of interpersonal skills and that is how to effectively form relationships with others, especially with others who don’t share your particular techie bent.
I’ve met literally hundreds of business types who, on the surface, seem to have mastered all of the social graces: They look you in eye with then talk to you, they remember everybody’s first and last name, they smile and they nod at appropriate moments, they ask the right questions they butter up the right people. But when you look in their eyes, you can tell that there’s nobody home. It’s all an act.
If you’re a true geek, you’re probably not a very good actor and you’re probably not very good at faking anything so that’s not going to work for you. You’re a human being and you want to connect with others you’re going to have to do it as yourself. Luckily, the great “people people” do just that. They’re well liked, are effective leaders, work well in groups all the while being themselves.