All my life, I’ve been the guy who comes up with ideas people ridicule, ignore, and marginalize. In my life, RIMing is so common, it should be a verb.
Back in 2005, I pitched telecommuting to the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce after listening to a presenter talk about how the state of Minnesota needed thirty-eight billion dollars over the next few years to repair roads and bridges.
Reactions from my learned business colleagues were, well, less than favorable. How could anyone work from home without proper supervision? What about camaraderie around the water cooler? And why did geeks like me keep coming up with solutions in search of problems? I mentioned thirty-eight billion reasons, but the Chamber Chairman politely told me to shut up and the meeting continued without any further disruption from the bald guy.
Somebody really may have called me a geek at that meeting. Or maybe it was another one. They all run together.
Another time, I ran into a potential customer at a business trade show. I gave ’em my firewall pitch and they blew me off; story of my life. But this company called me a couple days later. Software viruses were running rampant inside their company network, nobody knew what to do about it, and their Internet Service Provider threatened to cut off their service unless they cleaned up the fire-hose of traffic they were pouring across the internet. I scrambled, built them a firewall, installed it the next day, found their virus-infested computers, and cleaned up their mess. I figured they’d be grateful. But after a couple months, nobody knew who I was, and they replaced everything I put in with equipment from somebody else with a bigger marketing budget than me.
Still another time, I called on a nonprofit agency who needed IT service. They were polite, but sent me on my way. They also called a few days later with an “emergency.” In quotes. As I recall, it was a Friday and they needed a proposal by Monday morning. I worked over the weekend and delivered a nice proposal. They never returned a phone call after that.
Something similar happened at an architecture firm. One of the owner’s sons invited me to a followup meeting to talk about IT service with their decision-maker dad. I drove across town and showed up, but no dad. When I asked if they gave everyone this same level of respect, I’ll never forget the answer. “Why should we bother? Somebody else will always come along and offer us service.”
With hindsight, I’m glad those guys never became customers. Getting paid would have probably been a nightmare.
And, speaking of getting paid, I had another small business customer who lasted a couple years. But in the end, after my invoices were 120 days old, they fired me, claiming I was too expensive. That one ended up in small-claims court, where I won, and still had to fight to get paid.
Back in the 1980s when I worked for a large computer company, a sales rep and I visited a customer who wanted to talk about PC networking. It was the 80s. Networking was new to the world in those days. Nobody owned cell phones yet. The potential customer asked me a question, I started to answer, and she interrupted me. She turned to the sales rep and said, “This guy talks like some kinda perfesser or sumpthin’. I can’t understand a word he says.” To this day, Kurt, the sales rep, still calls me, professor.
A couple years ago, an organization leader and I got into a conversation about the dangers of the internet. He asked me about staying safe and I started to give him advice. He interrupted me after about one sentence. “Greg, just tell me everything I need to know in twenty-five words or less.” A few people around him chuckled; I tried to be a good sport, but that one stung.
The anecdotes flood my head. I remember another nonprofit that wanted a consultant study on how to make best use of their technology. They disqualified me because I was too technical.
Between late summer, 2016 and early 2018, I sent queries about my new novel, Virus Bomb, to 110, count ’em, 110 potential agents who said they were looking for new authors. About half responded with automated form-letter rejections. The other half didn’t bother to respond at all. A few people gave me reasons why nobody would ever even look at anything I wrote, much less evaluate and possibly publish it.
By the time Morgan James Publishing called, I had been ridiculed, ignored, and marginalized so much, I didn’t believe anything the acquisitions editor said. If they were interested in me, something had to be wrong. I actually RIMed myself! I’m glad I came to my senses.
I share all these anecdotes – and I have lots more – because I used to think RIMing was unique with me. It’s not; anyone who comes up with a better idea or challenges conventional wisdom gets RIMed.
When the world RIMs us, we can either accept that we’re powerless to make a difference, all our ideas are dumb, and we’ll never amount to anything, or we can wear RIM jobs like a badge of honor and redouble our efforts to prove all those RIMers wrong. I know which choice I want. How about you?