You're a dork

by Pascal Rettig posted Jun 01, 2010

At least I hope you are. If you aren't you're going to be at an undeniable disadvantage to those who are.

My wife and I recently went to see Josh Ritter at the Orpheum. When he came out on the stage it was odd because he was smiling. I mean really smiling. I had assumed that he was of the angsty alt-country mold I was used to (along the lines of Ryan Adams pre-marital bliss) so it was unexpected that the guy on the stage belting out soulful, intricately-worded Midwestern gems was grinning ear-to-ear.

"Oh wow," I thought "Josh Ritter is a real dork."

After being startled by this fact for a few songs, it sank in that this wasn't an act and he was genuinely excited to be there on stage singing. His excitement and enthusiasm overwhelmed the audience and we quickly became dorks right along with him. When the lights turned off and he sang a song, minus microphone or any amplification, just him with an acoustic guitar strumming and belting out to the hushed crowd, we ate it up. When mid-concert one of his bandmates mothers came out and recited the poem 'Annabelle Lee' on stage, none of us jaded Boston yuppies in the crowd batted an eye.

Passion is intoxicating. Watching someone do something well that they are passionate about is an enthralling experience.

And passion is Dorkiness. It's the kid back in high school who was a little too excited about model trains and took a lot of abuse for that fact. But no matter how many times he got made fun of for responding seriously to a question asked in jest he continued to answer in earnest when someone asked him about his newest locomotive.

While that passion might get you a wedgie in high school, it's a recipe for success in real life.

Jesse Schell has a section in his "The Art of Game Design" called "The Secret of the Gifted" that speaks to this:

Well, here is a little secret about gifts. There are two kinds. First, there is the innate gift of a given skill. This the minor gift. If you have this gift, a skill such as game design, mathematics, or playing the piano comes naturally to you. You can do it easily, almost without thinking. But you don't necessarily enjoy doing it. There are millions of people with minor gifts of all kinds, who, though skilled, never do anything great with their gifted skill, and this is because they lack the major gift.

The major gift is love of the work.[ Pg.6 ]

Love will keep you working at that skill, keep you growing at it. As Schell writes: "And your love for the work will shine though, infusing your work with an indescribable glow that only comes from the love of doing it."

Being across the table actually interviewing people, I finally understand why interviewers always say they look for candidates with passion.

Being across the table actually interviewing people, I finally understand why interviewers always say they look for candidates with passion. When I first heard this, I called shenanigans. Passion above IQ, Resume and Schooling?  But now speaking from personal experience, passion is really is what you look for as a prospective employer. Most important is whether the candidate would be overall be a good fit in the office. The next most important thing by far is what gets them fired up, what makes their pre-interview nerves melt away as they go-off on slightly too long of a tangent regarding something work-related they love. Someone with a limited skillset but a passion to learn your business beats a learned automaton every time.

Me, I'm a Web dork. If you want to get into an uncomfortably animated discussion, ask me about anything related to current web technologies (I'll get extra excited if you mention the word "Rails") and you'll be in for at least a 1/2 hour discussion for how HTML5 is going to cure cancer and bring about world peace. Make the mistake of asking our designer (and my wife) Martha about typography, you'll learn far more than you ever wanted to about Kerning and Serifs.

So like "Nerd" and "Geek" have morphed themselves from insults to badges of pride, we're reclaiming "Dork" too. In fact I wouldn't ever imagine hiring someone who didn't give me a "Wow, they are a dork" moment.

Oh, and go buy Josh Ritter's Albums. We need more dorks like him in the music business.