The Four Most Valuable Lessons I Learned in 2010

Inspired by Justin Hoenke’s great post I decided to make my own list of libraryland/professional things I learned in 2010.

1. Not everyone is going to like you

This was probably the most important and the hardest lesson I learned. I was having a conversation with a friend in April when he said these words to me, and I’ll admit at first I was pissed. Easy for him to say I thought, then I cut the conversation short and went right back to feeling slighted.

But the words stuck with me and as I thought about it, I realized the truth of them. There are plenty of people I don’t care for, some for very good reasons, others just rub me the wrong way. I try to be professional and courteous to everyone but I’m sure at some point these people have felt slighted by me. Of course if I don’t like everyone I certainly can’t expect every to like me. And I don’t want them to. I’ve always believe that if I’m not rocking at least a few boats I’m doing something wrong. If I have done all I can to connect with someone and they don’t like me I need to stop wasting my energy whining about it and move on.

I felt even better when a few months ago I stumbled across an old post of Karen Schneider’s How to be “famous” (wink wink, nudge nudge) in which she writes:

Some people will resent you no matter what. I’ve had to get comfortable with the fact that some people really do not wish others well. Some will badmouth you publicly, and even worse, some will badmouth you sotto voce. I hesitated about even writing this post, which I’ve been thinking about for close to a year, because in my head I hear a voice making snide remarks about so-and-so thinking she’s hot stuff (hence also the cautiously qualified title). But hence the next piece of advice:

Own up to your own feelings. I spent years whining that “so-and-so doesn’t like me” before I got honest with myself and acknowledged that the feeling was mutual. Likewise, boycotting an activity because another famous so-and-so was invited is also not cricket (yup, seen it happen, thought about doing it myself). Be an adult, please. You may not think highly of this person, but someone does, so put on your best public face and do what needs to be done.

If someone I admire and respect as much as Ms. Schneider has struggled with these feelings I must not be so horrible after all. Which leads me to my next lesson:

2. Admit you are human.

A year ago I wouldn’t have written a post like this, admitting my flaws so publicly. Fortunately I know some amazing people. Every time I see a post like the one by Justin that inspired this post or the one previously linked to one by Karen I am awed and slightly jealous of the comfort they feel being open and honest. I’m not sure what I expect to happen when I open up, but when I do I amazed at the reaction from others. People, for the most part, are kind, compassionate and want to connect to and help others, even me!

While I feel I have learned this lesson this year, this area will no doubt continue to be a work in progress for me.

3. Don’t take things so personally.

For years I have hated this advice, to the extent that person offering it was risking a swift kick in the shins. I mean really, it’s happening to ME how am I supposed to take it? This year I’ve come to realize that the problem with taking things personally is it negates your ability to calmly, coolly, and effectively deal with the situation. Taking it personally activates your fight or flight response neither of which works today’s world. (Unless you actually are being chased by a lion, then in that case, by all means, FLIGHT!)

A lot has happened this last year: transliteracy has grown amazingly quickly with both the blog and the Interest Group which has made the word a big target, and sometimes me along with it.  People have quit group projects they started with me, abandoned articles, publicly called me rude and condescending after repeatedly being rude and condescending themselves, declared my work and effort a waste of time, a joke or a ploy for attention, these things have been said publicly and occasionally privately when they thought I wouldn’t find out about it, then I did anyway.

I’ll admit it, I ranted or swore or cried or all three, occasionally at the same time.  But in the end I really only have two choices: I can either accept that I have no idea what is happening in the lives of these people an assume they didn’t intend to be mean or spiteful or petty or cruel. Or I can:

4. Ignore the assholes.

I know I don’t usually swear on this blog, but I love the book The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t. I think a great deal of improvement would be seen in libraries if every manager from the director on down had this book sitting in their office, proudly on display and more importantly subscribed to the practices it talks about.

Some people are just assholes, they are unhappy, miserable, and petty, and find great joy in spreading this around. Ignore them. Find away to remove them from your space- don’t read their blog posts or their Twitter feed, filter their emails to the trash so you never have to see one again.

Don’t misunderstand I’m not advocating never acknowledging someone who disagrees with you. It is possible to disagree or to argue without being an asshole. But the assholes are out there with their drive-by-snark, their flip comments, name calling, juvenile attempts at humor. I know some people think there is value in engaging with these individuals I do not. I find every time I give into the temptation and engage these individuals I came away feel dirty and am reminded of the words of George Bernard Shaw:

I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.

4.5 Haters Gonna Hate – Edited to add about 30 minutes after hitting publish, this is what I get for not sleeping on it.  But its so closely tied to four I’m ok with sneaking it in here.

Have I mentioned how awesome my friends are? They are. A different friend than I mentioned in number one said this to me earlier this year. He’s right. They will. The real power is in letting it go. It may sound cliche and maybe juvenile but the truth is those people, the Haters, they are gonna hate nothing you or I do will stop them.

Some visuals on haters from two of my favorite blogs. Above a very recent drawing from Indexed:

Below: An older drawing from The Gaping Void

What did you learn this year?

27 thoughts on “The Four Most Valuable Lessons I Learned in 2010

  1. I learned (again) that I can not be everything to everybody and that I can not do everything that needs doing. I constantly take on too much and each time I say yes when I am already overextended is actually detrimental instead of helpful.

    2010 has been a very challenging year for me at home as a member of the “sandwich” generation who is simultaneously caring for a 2nd grader and an elderly mother-in-law. Some things have really suffered (mainly my chance to blog over at Library Garden) and others have been given minimal attention so that I could accomplish properly a few of the major goals that I set myself in late 2009 (mainly, organizing and hosting a successful TEDx conference at the library).

    You know, I think I might go with this meme and finish off 2010 with a meaningful blog post since my comment is turning in to a post…


    1. Janie – I have that problem every year, I think its cyclical. I realize I over commit, I take steps to do better, I over commit, I realize I over commit…..

      Can’t wait to see your list!


      1. Agree with all the comments about over-committing. My expression is “pace yourself.” Pick and choose your areas of excellence.

        It’s possible to learn an lesson and still have trouble executing it, by the by.


  2. I’m struggling to learn #4 (which is really tied to “not taking things personally”) and I seriously want to write it down and stick in my drawer at work…a mantra perhaps? Seeing it written down here helps articulate something I have been trying to put into words for awhile. Usually I end up saying “I am so sick of crazy mean people!”, which doesn’t really help or make me feel better. “Ignore the assholes” has way more power in it. Thank you.


    1. Leah – I definitely struggle with it too, some days more than others. There seem to be so many crazy mean people around lately, it was bringing me down and I find that only be letting go could I really be free of their negative influence.

      I probably should have included a 5th or more like 4.5 – Haters Gonnna Hate, which is something else a friend said to me this year and it sound cliche and maybe juvenile but the truth is those people the Haters, they are gonna hate nothing you or I do will stop them. Best to let it go.


  3. Bobbi,

    We’ve had our disagreements this year, to be sure. We’ve both probably taken it more personally than was really necessary. I like to think it’s because we share an important similarity: a passion for what we believe in.

    I just wanted to tell you that I admire the work you do on your blogs. It’s great the way you highlight important issues to libraries and bring many voices together to discuss them.

    I also want to apologize, unconditionally, for anything I’ve said that was personally hurtful. It was not my intention to hurt your feelings.

    All the best in the New Year!


  4. I love the series of lessons learned in 2010 that is appearing in blog posts, reminded me of the popular stream on “learning from failure” at Internet Librarian in Oct. But your discussion and Janie’s about doing too much really resonates with me. Over 25 years ago, maybe even closer to 30 years ago when I was a relatively new librarian (and 12 right?), my boss (a VP, Admin in a bank) told me I needed to learn to say no. I have been struggling with that ever since, but probably am a little better at it than I was then! It’s all about priorities, what’s most important, and I wish you well in your learning journey — I’m still on that journey.


    1. Jane
      I considered adding Say No to my list, it is something I have really taken to hear this year but since I still over-commit I can hardly call it a lesson learned. I think it will always be a work in progress. But I don’t feel so badly about that if someone like you is still working on it.


  5. Awesome and inspiring post Bobbi.

    I’m really inspired by your “Don’t take things so personally” section. I think this year (THE DREADED YEAR I TURN 30!) was the year that I tried to understand that the most. Maybe it’s because I listened to Weezer’s “Pinkerton” too much as a teen or that I’m just naturally inclined to be this way, but taking things so personally makes life so tough. I feel like we could spend SO much of that energy making more positive steps. This year was a good year to learn how to do that.

    Like your transliteracy blog, sort of took off in ways I never thought it would. The ride was amazing but it was a whole new experience for me. So I totally get where you are coming from there. I wish I could have a beer with you and chat.


  6. Bobbi…wow! This was a pretty intense post. I’ve been around the block many times in this profession and I have a couple of observations to make: 1) You are a talented writer with great ideas and a concern for the disenfranchised. We need more people with your skills and your compassion. 2) Don’t take the snark too seriously. Yes, it hurts personally. I know because I have been the victim many times over the past 40 years of writing. But look at it this way: people don’t criticize you if you have nothing to say. They ignore you. Being attacked is actually in a weird way a sense of validation that what you are saying or doing is making a big difference. Keep up the great work. You are the future, and no one’g going to stop you.


  7. Bobbi, you post has inspired me to remix from my normal Year End T is for Training show. This year we will talk about the two things we each learned this year. Great post. And I say that not just because I say things like you say all of the time.


  8. Bobbi, a wonderful post, and not because you quote me (o.k…. maybe a little? Owning up to that… 🙂 ). I have been struggling to find time to write a post about people who always go to the Dark Side in any situation (who seem to ENJOY that space, too), and “haters gonna hate” may sum it up anyway.

    I for one adore the whole transliteracy movement, and I’m tangential to it. You have nailed the experience of the Big Project: the initial rush of enthusiasm, followed by a wake-up to the essential flaws in anything human, followed by adjustment to something good and something difficult coinciding.

    Anyway, a great, honest post.


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