I'm with you. Beth's point about knowing a lot of the other members doesn't apply to me and is one of the reasons why I haven't attended any of the A2K Get-Togethers
There are a few people who frequent this forum that I would actually like to meet in the "real world," but I don't know that they attend the gatherings. Besides, if I really want to meet them (and they me) we can arrange it out-of-forum
. The rest of the folks break into three groups relative to the possibility that I might somehow run into them and discover they are an A2K member:
1) A fairly large number with whom I'm sure I would get a kick out of sharing conversation and a few drinks, like someone you meet for an hour or two in an airport bar on a plane.
2) Another fairly large number who I might exchange pleasantries with for a few minutes and then move on.
3) A very small number of people who are so unpleasant, so stupid, or so crazy that I not only have no desire to meet them, I would avoid them if I could. The pleasure of telling the nasty ones what I thought of them would be miniscule and not at all worth it.
I've toned down my rhetoric over the last few months, but this has nothing to do with preserving or protecting an image
. I'm sure, like everyone else, I have a general image which everyone will agree upon, and more specific and different images that people who generally think alike will tend to agree upon. It really doesn't matter though, because since I am truly anonymous to everyone, I have no reason to care about an "image," and that's why I appreciate and maintain my anonymity.
I have spent decades in a career where I couldn't always say what I've wanted to, and I like to come to a place where I can, literally, say whatever I want. If I piss someone off I usually don't care. There are certainly no ramifications to it beyond some nasty words, a thumbs down and perhaps being put on "ignore." Big deal.
Early in my career I spoke more freely. In part because I thought everyone did, and in part because of arrogance. I spoke my mind enough that I developed a reputation for it. At certain times and in certain places this wasn't a problem, but I soon learned that it was more a matter of luck than my ability to judge people, or my ability to employ tact that determined the results. I found that there were a lot of co-workers who relied upon me to say what they would not. At first I took it as a compliment when they would say "You'll say the things that need to be said, but that no one will," but then I realized that while some of these folks might have actually admired my "courage," most of them really just wanted to use me to get something out on the table, and with zero risk for themselves. When you're a coward, it's very helpful to have someone around who will be "brave," and take the shrapnel.
I worked hard and was very good at what I did, and I was lucky that not all bosses like sycophants, but as I climbed the ladder I discovered a type of person that can be very successful too, and avoid the blow-back from shooting straight: The passive/aggressive personality. Early on I thought that when someone, who I knew disagreed with me, kept silent during meetings on how to proceed in some area, that they had been rhetorically defeated by my superior and more forceful argument
. That was the arrogance. What I learned was that while they had been "defeated" in the meeting room battle, they hadn't given up the war, and that there was a whole other way to successfully fight that war; a way I found distasteful and was no good at. Saying what's on your mind, in the presence of such people is often providing them with the weapon they need to hurt you.
So, I had a choice, adapt or die. I adapted. I still was more willing to say what was on my mind then others but I applied it far more strategically and with much greater care so that it was always an asset and never a weapon for my enemies.
Now I own my own business and the opportunity to say what's on my mind is greater than ever, but it doesn't take any real skill or courage to do so with the people who work for you, as employees or suppliers, and as most business owners eventually discover, there is always someone with whom you have to watch what you say; to keep your opinion to yourself, and resist the urge to tell them that their idea is the stupidest thing you've ever heard. They're called clients.
I remember a meeting I had with a lawyer with whom I had worked for years, and with whom I had struck up a personal friendship. That day he brought with him his new associate, a very bright kid right out of law school. During the meeting he told some of my people in no uncertain terms that what they had done and wanted to do was, for lack of a better term, stupid. He was right, of course, but that's not the way lawyers deal with clients, and especially young associates who are supposed to attend the meeting to take notes and keep quiet. The partner and I had a good laugh about it and he obviously agreed when I told him he needed to take young J.P. aside and straighten him out: He was right out of school and making close to what my experienced guys made, the price for that success was to never tell the client when he has been stupid. Years later, J.P. made partner, not only because he was so bright, but because he learned the lesson my friend gave him after that meeting, and he learned it well.
In any case, there are no such considerations here. You are free to act as you feel on any given day and for any reason you have. You have to be awfully, awfully ignorant, obnoxious, crazy or cruel to have the only punishment available in this forum meted out to you: total ignoring by everyone, and I don't think that sentence has ever been carried out in all the years I've been here. Even some of the people I would like to have ignore me won't.
So there remain reasons to "watch what you say" here but I create them, and no one else. That's a unique place to be.
Besides, you’re one of the last people in this forum who should worry about “image.”