Free-Loading

Many years ago when I feigned interest in the technology industry I had a well-seasoned friend spend ample time with me teaching me the ins and outs of DOS shell scripts, syntax, leveraging system resources and the like. He took me into the COBOL client-server world with him that eventually led to a myriad of other languages and platforms thereafter. I ate everything in sight as fast as I could be fed; and then everything else I could find even when not with this more experienced bloke who was taking the time out of his life to teach a new puke how to survive. Then as I kept moving, I made another friend who threw me into the Unix pools we were using at the time and he upped the ante with shell-scripting languages, flags, man pages (which I read for fun without fail even today), system processes and so on. These paths later prepped me for discussing disk and system utilization, environment architectures, language to system utilization symbiosis (and antithesis) and I was, and am, forever hooked. It is because of people smarter than me who took time to teach a kid who needed his arse kicked through the wall frequently that I improved. Every time I thought I knew something I would get smashed by the senior again. It proved to be a relationship that worked for me. Learn or die. I loved the binary behavior.

One day I received something I didn't expect in the form of feedback. "I already told you how to figure that out, go RTFM and come back to me when you think you can keep up!" What happened to the love? What happened to the "I can't get it please show me" thing we had going? What happened?

Here's what happened...

These mentors that I've mentioned above aren't the only ones I've ever had. I've been amazingly blessed with outstanding, professional, very intelligent people with the patience, kindness and consideration to take a know-nothing, should-have-had-my-arse-kicked-more-often-than-I-did puke kid and turn him into something that was useful -- and eventually autonomous. In every single case, the people that knew how to mentor usefully gave me just enough information to head in a particular direction without telling me the next step. In every single situation I received just enough feedback to get me back on track without giving me the answer to the problem at hand. In every situation I had been coached and guided on 'how to learn' without being told 'how to think'. Their goal was for me to learn and lead. In every situation that I can remember, I've had mentors who knew when to talk and when to shut-up. And in every situation the end-state expectation was that I'd been shown just enough and it was hereafter time to RTFM and self-evolve or leave.

Each person only gets so much mercy and grace in the mentoring relationship. After you've been coddle, loved, coached, shown, hugged and kissed you get graded. You get graded on how well you capitalize on the investment given you. You get graded on how well you learn, evolve, apply, adapt and improve upon that which was given to you as a gift -- a gift that was crafted by the hands of the person sharing it with you. After such a gift has been handed down to you, it is your job to make it more than it was through careful, daily attention. Anything less than this makes the investment in you a waste. You owe it to the people investing in you to be a rockstar. Otherwise you're nothing more than a free-loader looking for the next relationship from which to leech and move on after host-death masking your lack of knowledge, experience and ability to rock.

You owe to each person who has ever believed in you, invested in you, coached, mentored or otherwise taken you under their wing to bring you up in the way of the warrior. You owe it to yourself. You even owe it to the people who taught the person who taught you. You owe. What you've been given is a privilege.

So please don't be offended when I tell you to go RTFM. I'm not dissing you. I'm reminding you of your debt to all the people who came before you so that when you're successful you'll better understand why its your job to mentor the next puke kid that shows up thinking he/she knows everything. There is a right of passage that needs to happen ensuring that each tenured craftsman out there in our ranks went through the knotholes that make a salted, autonomous, problem-solving technical craftsman. Being a g33k is an earned-right that only happens through purposed diligence.

So I'm telling you right now, "Go RTFM and be worth the time someone invested in you."