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Awkward

Seth Godin, the genius web marketer, offers this wise posting:
Seth’s Blog
Seth Godin’s riffs on marketing, respect, and the ways ideas spread.
Awkward
By Seth Godin
My new favorite word is “awkward.”
It’s awkward to talk to your boss (who has way more experience than you do) about teaching her agile programming.
It’s awkward to call a religious or political leader on their intolerant comments.
It’s awkward to bring up pre-need burial services with an older person. (What a great oxymoron, by the way).
It’s awkward to challenge a co-worker who has a negative attitude, or is constantly surfing MySpace.
It’s awkward to ask a new lifeguard recruit at the beach to prove she can actually swim.
It’s awkward to ask the owner of the restaurant to turn off the TV behind the bar.
It’s awkward to create a product that changes the status quo.
It’s awkward to demonstrate your amazing insights when it might threaten those that are looking for stability instead.
The reason we need to be in search of awkward is that awkward is the barrier between us and excellence, between where we are and the remarkable. If it were easy, everyone would have done it already, and it wouldn’t be worth the effort.”
I’d add some library spin to Seth’s list:
It’s awkward to talk about money for investing in library services in the public sector when times are tough and money is tight.
It’s awkward to talk about the huge diversity in our communities – race, age, nationality, education, language, gender, thinking style, learning abiliities, economic opportunity, and more. In the age of political correctness, it’s awkward.
It’s awkward to chat across the generations and throughout our communities when we are just one small part. It’s awkward to build formal alliances and partnerships with new people and institutions.
It’s awkward to try new things in the face of competition and disagreements about priorities. It’s awkward to stand up for new things like portals, gaming nights or IM when others try to polarize the discussion and remove any shades of grey.
It’s awkward to choose to focus and prioritize effort in a public sector institution. Can’t we just serve everyone, equally and never actually excel at certain programs? It’s awkward to choose excellence.
It’s awkward to hire for talent and attitude. It’s awkward to ask those probing questions. It’s awkward to choose the best and not settle.
It’s awkward to really delve into a user’s needs during the reference interview. It can be done and is done but it’s often awkward. It’s awkward to truly understand and articulate a community’s needs on a community level. Can we really talk about high illiteracy levels, or poor healthcare knowledge or underperforming student test scores without feeling awkward. Can we address them without talking about these issues?
It’s awkward to do our jobs on a day to day basis. Committing to organizing the world’s knowledge and answering every question is setting the bar high. Every question, every user interaction, every management event, provides opportunity for awkward feelings.
It’s awkward but it is necessary. Has anyone ever learned something new without feeling awkward first? It takes courage. We have it, let’s do more.
Stephen

Posted on: August 29, 2006, 10:24 pm Category: Uncategorized

5 Responses

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  1. awkward: lacking grace or skill in manner or movement or performance; “an awkward dancer”; “an awkward gesture”; “too awkward with a needle to make her own clothes”; “his clumsy fingers produced an awkward knot”.

  2. Stephen said

    Other definitions, not so narrow, are:
    Definitions of awkward on the Web:
    – causing inconvenience; “they arrived at an awkward time”
    – lacking grace or skill in manner or movement or performance; “an awkward dancer”; “an awkward gesture”; “too awkward with a needle to make her own clothes”; “his clumsy fingers produced an awkward knot”
    – difficult to handle or manage especially because of shape; “an awkward bundle to carry”; “a load of bunglesome paraphernalia”; “clumsy wooden shoes”; “the cello, a rather ungainly instrument for a girl”
    – not elegant or graceful in expression; “an awkward prose style”; “a clumsy apology”; “his cumbersome writing style”; “if the rumor is true, can anything be more inept than to repeat it now?”
    – hard to deal with; especially causing pain or embarrassment; “awkward (or embarrassing or difficult) moments in the discussion”; “an awkward pause followed his remark”; “a sticky question”; “in the unenviable position of resorting to an act he had planned to save for the climax of the campaign”
    – not at ease socially; unsure and constrained in manner; “awkward and reserved at parties”; “ill at ease among eddies of people he didn’t know”; “was always uneasy with strangers”
    wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

  3. So my definitions are less “narrow” when you say them?

  4. I don’t understand your point. You chose one defintion and I provided a fuller range. In the context of this post I think this one applies better:
    – hard to deal with; especially causing pain or embarrassment; “awkward (or embarrassing or difficult) moments in the discussion”; “an awkward pause followed his remark”; “a sticky question”; “in the unenviable position of resorting to an act he had planned to save for the climax of the campaign”
    I wasn’t in any way meaning to imply that library folk are clumsy or physically awkward I find that definition pretty insulting as was maybe your intent to point out by choosing a narrower range of meaning. I clarified my post by providing a more complete definition so that folks wouldn’t be left with the impression that I meant otherwise.
    So, I suppose the answer is yes. My definitions clarify my meaning and your definition doesn’t apply in the context of this post.
    SA

  5. This is dumb. Just because something is awkward, doesn’t make it important. And important things are not always awkward.