Turn Your Weaknesses Into Superpowers, by Noah Gibbs

Pitch (300 chars)

How can you get better? Be weirder. And suck more, but suck at something
in particular. I can't tell you how to be weirder. That's on you. But I can tell you how to turn it into a superpower!
You could say, "oh man, I'm not weird enough. I suck." That, too, can be a superpower. Come learn how.

Description (seen by attendees maybe, orgs defn)

Major topics, very roughly in order...

Finding Your Benefits:

  • Strengths and weaknesses always come in groups
  • A "weakness" often is a strength
  • Nothing is as sincere as naming a problem someone already knows you have
  • Your weakness is a character you know, standing next to you in every conversation
  • Facing weakness is a show of humanity, which is more powerful than competence any day of the week
  • Pick how somebody feels about your weakness by naming it first

Dodging Your Disadvantages:

  • When to be careful about acknowledging your weaknesses
  • Many weaknesses can be hidden, lampshaded or straight-up lied about if necessary (https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LampshadeHanging)
  • Mining your weird characteristics for character, honesty and power
  • Disguising a weakness as a similar, but more socially acceptable, weakness
  • You can't not suck, but you can pick a lot about how people think you suck
  • Like a comedian, you can be a genre-savvy character in the movie that is your life
  • Learn to be brave and honest by pretending to be somebody else who is

Anticipating Your Objections:

  • "But My Weakness is Being Too Honest!": No. Let's talk about which ones might actually be your weakness here.
  • "But My Weaknesses Aren't Weird": like Woody Allen, you can use common weaknesses distinctively.
  • "But This Seems Insincere": all communication means what your listener thinks it means. Managing other people's perceptions is trying to communicate yourself more accurately.
  • "What If I'm Not a Public Speaker?": Do you speak to people in public? You don't need an actual stage for any of this.
  • "Does This Work in Software?": meet the Haskell community. Also Go. And Ruby. Actually, wait, is there anything besides this in software?
  • "No, Really, Does This Work in Software?": most of a software job is communication. We'll talk a bit about the equivalent in code. But mostly it's for communication. And code, too, is communication.

Quirks to Cultivate:

  • Love something most people don't love. Atul Gawande, who loves checklists.
  • Hate something most people don't hate. Gary Bernhardt, the programmer who hates software.
  • Do something most people don't do. Gary Vaynerchuk, who yells about wine.
  • Don't do something most people do. Mister Rogers, who doesn't do 'Mean'.
  • If you must be utterly unremarkable, do it loudly. Woody Allen. Tim Allen. Every "lovable loser" cartoon. Every "look, I'm a stereotype!" cartoon.

Notes (seen by organizers): tech requirements, why I'm the right person to give this

Why am I the right person to give this talk? Whew. Well, I turned a long series of unsuccessful programming jobs into an
amazing programming career (maybe that'll be a different talk.) I'm assertively, insistently social in order to turn my introversion
and Aspie tendencies into a career-defining benefit. That's how you do that, right?

My willingness to overshare at work and my talent for speaking the subtext as text somehow got me a job as a sort of "P.R." developer with broad latitude to speak for my large public company -- for whom I work remotely, from my garage. I sell an expensive skill-building book to arrogant developers by convincing them they can already do it and don't need me.

You may have already seen my other CfP submission about how to advance your career by joining a dying company.

Overall, I feel that my utter confusion on the subject of "good" versus "bad" characteristics isn't just my
greatest professional asset - it's also why I'm so qualified to give this talk!


Noah works as AppFolio's Ruby Fellow. As a trained hypnotherapist and parent of three, he uses his powers of evil for good. Noah writes about Ruby performance at engineering.appfolio.com. His book "Rebuilding Rails" about understanding Rails as "really just Ruby." His accent sounds foreign no matter where you're from - feel free to guess where he grew up!

How is this "Keeping it Weird"

Mostly this is "benefit from your weirdness." Plus "cultivate your weirdness."

Now I really want to give both of these talks. So thank you for running Keep Ruby Weird - it got me to write up a couple of CfP submissions I really like :-)

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Keep Ruby Weird 2018 - Rejected [Edit]

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