Question from a reader -
Wanted to let you know the timing of your Anonymous Troll post was perfect. I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one affected in my being by people online who want to take me on/down. I have an ongoing struggle with online interaction because I used to get into similar kinds of situations and got extremely riled up and fueled for days on end.
Anyway, your post was encouraging and helpful for me; even just to see that other people--people I really respect--are stirred up by online conflicts. If you have any more insights on how to handle this in a balanced life, I'd love to hear them, or hopefully read about them on your blog. I'm still wrestling with the issue.
Good email here. Glad you wrote.
You know Sun Tzu? Art of War? One of his principles is very relevant here -
"Win before fighting."
If you go into battle uncertain, you wind up getting your ass kicked sometimes. That's bad. Rather, it's much better to build up your defenses, your training, your intelligence, etc, before the fight starts, and be guaranteed victory. The fighting is just a formality.
Clearly then, getting into arguments online is violating that principle. It's much better to build a structure where you're highly respected and well-known among your friends and cohorts, and then either get into discussions as equals, or be in a position to just smash someone who antagonizes you unfairly.
So yeah, I gave up with online arguments for the most part. The most recent post was after an unprovoked assault on me - I wanted to cover the topic since I think it's relevant, and also make the guy who wrote those things look like the joker he is. Not because I care about him very much, but just so ideally there's a few second pause of hesitation before someone else tries similar nonsense. Going overboard occasionally - rarely - ideally causes you to not need to fight at all going forwards.
So yeah, I'd recommend -
1. Don't get into any discussion or argument unless you're already in a good position.
2. Win before fighting. You should ideally already be in a position to smash whoever does wrong by you if they do. And then make an example out of them.
3. But, for now, you probably want to disengage from that until you've built up a bigger everything. Jumping into a fight that isn't already decided by virtue of your training, timing, and understanding of the situation is no good and can be distracting.
I've tried to get away from arguing with people online. It solves nothing. Better to build. But occasionally, it's called for. Really, really smash on those occasions.
Hope some useful thoughts in there, cheers,
Useful advice in certain situations, but note that all three numbered suggestions presuppose an adversarial interaction and are positional (counter to Harvard Negotiation Project advice, as in Getting to Yes, for what it's worth).
The anonymous troll case notwithstanding, many times another person who seems to be looking for a fight isn't, they just have poor rhetorical skills. Or maybe they're looking for a fight but would be pacified by someone framing the interaction as not a fight.
For example, I've gotten a lot of use from adding a phrase like "... but I could be wrong. I'd be happy to change my mind if shown a better perspective or evidence to the contrary." I've found a phrase like that reframes the interaction as we are both looking for a resolution, not a fight. Sometimes asking questions to understand their motivations, independent of the views or positions they're supporting helps.
Sometimes winning and fighting aren't the best metaphors.
I think it is a whole lot easier to tear things down than it is to build them up. I think this is great site you have here empowered with great ideas. I certainly couldn't do better myself and I doubt trolls that try to tear at the tapestry could either.
Act I: The Discovery of Conflict Invigoration
I recently discovered a phenomenon common among many highly successful people. I'm calling it "conflict invigoration" - this is a personality trait, a mixed blessing and curse. It's the kind of person who can move heaven and earth when inspired, but doesn't do as well when they aren't... and who is always invigorated by a fight.
I first noticed conflict invigoration among a number of the most successful people I knew personally. See, I don't think this is an entirely new observation, but a lot of the people that reach stratospheric levels of success are kind of deranged. You almost have to be, to keep going after you've "won" by every conceivable measure, to work yourself to the bone at the expense of your sanity and longevity and vitality, to neglect so many of the basic human needs and pleasures and comforts.
I saw this trait in lots of successful people, and then I started paying attention to biographies and histories. Indeed, many of the most expansive people in our generation and previous ones are conflict invigorated - they've perhaps always got a baseline of creativity and striving, but it really comes out when a fight breaks out.
"Competition is always a fantastic thing, and the computer industry is intensely competitive." - Bill Gates
I'm always amazed at just how much happens in a year. At the end of each year, grateful for a gimme topic to write about, I sit down to write this post. And each time my first thought is, "Yeah, but not that much happened this year." Then I go through my archive for the year and look at the titles of my posts, and I realize that the previous year's farewell post seems to have been forever ago, and that tons has happened since then.
Some quick highlights of the year:
1. I bought an island with nine great friends. I've already written about this ad naseum, but it's one of those ridiculous life goals that you hope might actually come true, worry that it might be too farfetched, and then is every bit as good as you had hoped when realized. I'm really grateful to all of the people bought in and trusted me to make it happen, and for the sellers who were great to work with. This upcoming year is going to be an exciting one for the island.
2. We made some huge progress on Sett. We opened it up to the public and now have over 4500 blogs hosted, growing at a steady 10% per week. We're still in our infancy, but I'm really proud of the platform we've built, and I'm humbled every day by the great blog posts people host with us. Even if your only interaction with Sett has been reading my blog, you've been a part of the process, and I'm grateful for that.