There Be Trolls
By Joel Lund
Smart businesses routinely use surveys to obtain feedback and learn what’s working with their audience and what’s not. Otherwise, all of the company’s effort could be misfiring, resting on a foundation of hopium. So, trying to be smart about growing our business, we sent a simple survey out to our e-newsletter recipients. After waiting for a notification that people were taking the survey, we finally realized that because we used the free version of SurveyMonkey we wouldn’t receive alerts when people used it (OK, note to self). So I logged onto our account to see if anyone had.
Sure enough, a few people did. Yay! Really good feedback and engagement greeted me. Or so I thought. Skimming through the graphical analysis, my eye was drawn to the bottom of the page, where the comment section was. One person had opted to leave a comment and titled it, “May God continue to bless your efforts!”
Except that’s not what they meant. At. All.
Which makes this the most difficult blog I’ve ever written.
Please Fasten Your Seatbelts.
The commenter had nothing positive to share. But they did have a lot to communicate. We sought out people we respect to get their feedback before taking this next step: we’ve elected to share the comments (deep breath!) completely and without any editing.
Why would we do this?
Because there is so much at stake. You’ll see why in a moment.
One friend described the words this person wrote as akin to tossing “a turd in the punchbowl.” Except he used somewhat more colorful language.
Obviously our intent is not to enlist you unwittingly in a game of hot potato with, well, not a potato. We also don’t want to be the source of unnecessary upset to you.
The reason we share it with you is because the viewpoint expressed by this person is exactly why we created Prepare For Rain.
Before you read this person’s anonymous comments, a few comments from me are in order.
Launching a start-up company automatically prompts a few people to impulsively offer their unsought opinions to the intrepid business owner. More than you might guess, these opinions come not from outside their circle of support—i.e., from complete strangers—but from within their circle. It’s one or two friends and family that have these opinions that can’t not be shared. By now you’ve guessed that their opinions don’t sound like “Awesome!” or “Good for you!” or even “Good luck!” Their opinions run along a very different line of emotion.
This is not new. To us. Or to anyone. We all know it’s true. Instinctively.
Because friends and family know the intrepid business person. They know them. Their history. Their habits. Their dreams. Often, their fears.
So, back in the day that I chose to enter the financial planning industry I didn’t get much support outside of my house. Most of our friends and family at that time knew that my “sales experience” was, to be charitable, thin. I’d worked in 1) an office supply store for about a year, 2) plus a couple of bicycle shops for another year.
“Right! Combine your extensive experience in sales with your career in youth ministry and it’s inevitable. Like a preordained roadmap! You’re meant to be one of those financial guys. How could it be otherwise?”
No one knew better than I did that my work experience prior to making the biggest career shift in my life was based on virtually no evidence that I could succeed in a commission-only, low-retention sales position. Quite the contrary. All of the evidence screamed, like a garish, massive billboard on the freeway of my life:
ARE YOU INSANE?
There was only one problem. Despite the massive evidence stacked against me, I did succeed. Turns out that a background in bicycle sales and youth ministry were exceptionally empowering for my new career.
I didn’t bomb out in my first year, like most people expected me to do (including me). Because most people do. Most people bomb out. But I didn’t. Instead, I exceeded my this-income-level-can-never-happen-for-me goal. And as a result of a lot of blood, sweat and tears, I got promoted to District Manager early in my second year. Four years later, another promotion: Managing Principal. Until I stepped away in 2012. If you want to review more of my business background it’s available on our website (About), LinkedIn and elsewhere.
It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Fast forward to now. But we all know that even a career that has the markers we typically look for that indicate success don’t equate to happiness in it. The stress of my position was enormous in a good year. During the Great Recession few career paths were less fun to be in than my chosen profession: financial, investment sales, recruiting, leadership. The evening news cycles didn’t provide any evidence that a career path in that industry was brilliant.
Sleep was ephemeral. There was the blood clot. There were the 80 hour weeks…for more than 80 weeks. There were the 50+ professionals to supervise. Thousands of clients to serve. Hundreds of millions of assets to monitor. Compliance reviews. I was responsible for all of them.
Then something happened that was so egregious it finally required intervention, at my request, from the state’s Department of Finance. The state sided with me. The firm did not. I stepped down. The culture had changed into something at odds with my ethics and value-system. It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t desired. In a word, it was devastating.
However, it wasn’t without blessing. With an unexpected and unplanned change in my work status, here was a perfect opportunity to take stock of where my life was at and how congruent it was with what I wanted to be.
How many of you experienced an unexpected and unplanned change in your work status during the wonder years of the financial meltdown? How many people who you know and love went through this?
Janet and I had already started Prepare For Rain before this career break happened. We’d been making baby steps. She had an album out. My first book was published. We felt called to go deeper with these passions. Recruiters called me from other firms in town. That was nice, and I met with them, but their offers meant going back to newbie financial professional. That had zero enticement.
So we kept at it. Learning more every day. Experiencing setbacks every day. Like almost all new businesses. We made it through year one. Then year two. And here we are. Year three. Hundreds of blogs later. Two albums on iTunes. Three books on Amazon. Writing awards. Columnist to an uplifting magazine (that had real editors). Radio interviews. TV interviews. Coaching clients. Concert gigs. Speaking engagements. Two coaching certifications.
Evidence that we’re serious and committed to our mission statement: Prepare For Rain is a transformation incubator.
We get up everyday with the intention of helping people live into their life’s purpose. Because they matter. Their dreams matter. Their authentic contribution to the world matters. And the world—all the rest of us—need what each other brings to the world.
But the truth is that most people never bring themselves—their dream, their purpose, their calling—because they know deep in their soul they will have to fight for it. They know from experience there will be haters. They know there are some people who will do everything they can to knock them down.
How do they know? Junior High. From our 15 years of experience of working with kids and their parents, we know that most adults can’t remember much about junior high. Because they blocked it out of their memories. They got knocked down. You’re not smart enough, fast enough, tall enough, strong enough. They got bullied.
They encountered black crabs. Kids who, like the mass of seething crabs in a bucket that drag any escaping crab back in, would rather see no one else succeed…because it made them feel small.
They slowly began developing into a dream vampire, sucking the life out of their own childhood aspirations and ready to do the same to anyone else.
It Seemed Like A Good Idea
This year we got serious about developing a newsletter as one means of communicating with our tribe. And in October we included a survey. We sought input from “our people.” What do you like the most? What do you want to see more of? Is there anything you would like to share with us?
And, BOOM, we got one comment. Anonymous. Here it is, lock, stock, and double-barrel:
It sickens me to see such foolish arrogance that is consistently displayed in these poorly written newsletters. I am embarrassed for your daughter as she does not have a good example of how responsible, hard-working, Christian adults act during difficult times. You shamefully ask for money for an extremely poor and useless product. Joel, honestly, why would anyone want to take career advice from you? I once thought you were successful but I can now see that you must have been ineffectual in your job and forced out. That can only explain the train wreck plea for help that comes into my email with these ‘newsletters.’ The naivety in thinking you could support your family on this ridiculous endeavor is disgusting to watch. You are not a man. You are not a Christian but a glorified beggar posing as an entrepreneur in order to seek handouts. I suggest you swallow your overinflated pride, roll up your sleeves, and do honest work like the rest of us. Until you do, you will never see a cent from me. God help you.
OK, then. Please don’t hold back. Tell us (me) how you really feel.
What is crucial to understand is that we created Prepare For Rain for people just like this anonymous commenter. But before I explain what that means, let’s get a few hanging chads out of the way:
- No, we’re not masochists.
- No, we don’t know who wrote the comments. It doesn’t matter.
That said, we have found this to be an excellent opportunity to write about the challenges of reaching for something new, leaning into your purpose and living your calling. Real change happens at the edges of our comfort zone. So we’re guaranteed to feel weird, uncomfortable and a little naked when really going for it, regardless of what the “it” is.
When someone decides to grant you a large dose of their uninvited “wisdom,” the natural discomfort that already comes with taking a considerable risk, becoming vulnerable and exposing ourselves to change, can quickly accelerate to misery and defeat. Unless you are able to recognize what is happening, why it’s happening and how to neutralize their toxins.
Here we go.
The 5 Ways that Black Crabs, Vampires and Bullies Try to Kill Your Purpose
- Presume to know what they are talking about and to possess godlike knowledge…of what’s best for you
- Feel entitled to tell you whatever is on their mind
- Tear you down with words only intended to inflict the most damage, not to enlighten you
- Pretend to care about you enough they couldn’t not tell you
- Sanctify their hostility by bringing God onto their side
Maintenance To Aisle 7! There’s Been A Spill.
Let’s assume for a moment that every single word they double-barrel shot at me has merit. What then? Does that somehow sanctify their delivery? Does it validate them and invalidate me? Not so much.
If you were to apply an emotion embedded in their busted-glass words, what emotion would you use to describe their tone? And if we agree that it would fall under the broad theme of anger, how often have you come to deeper understanding and fulfilling harmony with someone who expresses only unveiled and caustic anger at you?
Yeah, me too. Never.
When we factor in the anonymous component, it immediately becomes clear that the actual person this writer is furious with, hell-bent on pulling back into their crab bucket and eager to sink their vampiric canines into, isn’t me. They leave many clues all over their diatribe. They clearly have some experience with me, but not nearly enough to know anything about my backstory, my current story or any chapter in between. Even though all of that is easy to find online. Or by phone. So they don’t know me. They know of me. They have some experience with me. They’ve clearly drawn many conclusions about me. But if it isn’t me, then who are they angry with?
Of course you have already asked yourself, Dude, if you hate him so much just hit “unsubscribe.” It’s not hard. Truth be told, there is a part of me that hopes they do.
Mostly, though, I hope they stay. It would be nicer if they called to share their thoughts, like between two people with names. Better still, to grab a cup of coffee together. But even if they continue to carry on like a wounded, enraged troll, I hope they stay. Because when we say our mission is to be a transformation incubator it includes helping transform people who are in just such a horrific spin-cycle as this writer. Scathing personal attacks on someone you don’t know well are not born out of inner peace, confidence, or valuing yourself and others for who they are right now. It absolutely doesn’t come from righteousness. Consciously, repeatedly and almost gleefully belittling another human being comes from deep anger and inner darkness. To do so anonymously is the path of a coward. A bully’s path. In this case, an adult bully propping up their brash, toxic and unfounded assertions by invoking the God card.
Our challenge at Prepare For Rain? People.
There are more than a few people who will never understand what we’re doing and will never support our mission. That’s fine. They should just unsubscribe because we’ll continue to sound like static on their radio and who wants to listen to that?
But before we leave this group, let’s reveal why they will never understand. And God be with them because of it. They’re held captive by their perverted worldview.
If we are the kind of people who “don’t do vulnerability,” there’s nothing that makes us feel more threatened and more incited to attack and shame people than to see someone daring greatly. Someone else’s daring provides an uncomfortable mirror that reflects back our own fears about showing up, creating, and letting ourselves be seen. That’s why we come out swinging. When we see cruelty, vulnerability is likely to be the driver. When I say criticism, I don’t mean productive feedback, debate, and disagreement over the value or importance of a contribution. I’m talking about put-downs, personal attacks, and unsubstantiated claims about our motivations and intentions. ~Brené Brown, Daring Greatly
There are people who have decided to not pursue their dreams, to not live into their calling, because they capitulated to the belief that doing so would not be a “real job.” Hey, we get that. Because we were that. We had also de-cided. Before we move on we need to stop and unpack this word:
late 14c., “to settle a dispute,” from Old French decider, from Latin decidere “to decide, determine,” literally “to cut off,” from de- “off” (see de-) + caedere “to cut” (see -cide). For Latin vowel change, see acquisition. Sense is of resolving difficulties “at a stroke.” Meaning “to make up one’s mind” is attested from 1830. Related: Decided; deciding.
Do you see it? To “decide” is “to cut off.” It is therefore the opposite of “to choose.”
And we can testify that it requires a massive mindset shift and even more massive amounts of courage to pursue one’s calling. One chooses it. Every day, one chooses it. Yes, it is risky. But it’s not as if there’s no risk to keep slogging away at a “real job.” That requires courage, too, especially now when people have little confidence they’ll keep their “real job.” (And, let’s just say it—whatever “real company” is providing the paycheck for that “real job,” at some point in the past, someone crazy enough to launch that company out of nothing didn’t cut off their options. To choose that untraveled path they, too, had to face down their share of black crabs, vampires and adult bullies slinging poo at them, too.) Deep down, and even though it’s really a tough audience, these are the people we hope to bring into our tribe. They’re operating their lives on a false premise. They never had to de-cide (a word that shares the same root as homicide). Regrettably, they believe the world is not abundant. The truth is, it’s not a physical law that it must be one way (get a “real job” like the rest of us) or the ridiculous and disgusting other way (taking a crazy, insane path to certain ruin, worthy of only the harshest ridicule). The path towards fulfilling your calling is not insane. It is extremely challenging. But it is easy to de-cide it is nothing more than insane, because then you cut off any other way to see it. The world looks scarce to one who believes it to be. Every time. That’s the lie making these people angry at the world and why they choose to behave like black crabs, vampires and bullies to those around them.
And there are some people who desperately want to lean in, balancing the responsibilities of their lives with their passion and purpose. They want to no longer feel crushed by those responsibilities. They want to wake up energized, excited about a new day to make their dent in the universe. But they don’t have the knowledge or the tools to keep the one going while developing the other. They’re nervous but they’re ready. Or maybe just ready to get ready. This is our audience.
This Isn’t a Dress Rehearsal
We only have one life to live. No one else can be assigned the responsibility for living yours. It’s on you to choose what yours will be.
We choose to pursue something that matters so much to us that we’re taking daily risks. We open ourselves to ridicule, shaming and misunderstanding. It stinks when it comes, but it’s part of the deal. We knew that. We experienced the same black crabs, vampires and bully behaviors back in our youth ministry years (it’s what inspired my first book). We were again on the receiving end when we set out on the dubious career path in the financial industry. So it’s not a jaw-dropping surprise that it has come, like a bad rash that won’t go away, with this endeavor of ours.
Though the Comment-Giver-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named-By-Remaining-Anonymous wanted to shut us down HARD, we’re empowered. If they leave our tribe (or left), we wish them well. We hope they get their anger dealt with. We pray they finally get honest with themselves and start taking positive steps for growth.
Maybe, just maybe, they’ll stay. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll suspend judgment. Maybe, just maybe, they will dare greatly. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll choose to fight their way out of their mental, emotional and spiritual crab bucket and rediscover a world of compelling opportunity.
And God will still be there with them, but in a fresh way they could not have seen before due to the blindness of their eyes and heart.
Prepare for rain.
If you liked what you read here, share it with someone you care about. If you want to understand more about this syndrome, begin here.