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ICYMI: Rockstar

Prima Donnas. Attention-Seekers. RockStars. 10x Engineers. These are people who are driven to be (or at least be seen as) the best of the best, the cream of the crop. And maybe they are (and maybe they aren’t). But the challenge is their NEED to be SEEN in that light. Whether we encounter them in the NOC or among the congregational flock, their behaviors can be distracting, disruptive, or downright toxic. Are there lessons we’ve learned from our IT tenures, our religious experiences, or even our sacred texts which might shine a light on how to handle (and even help) these folks to be better members of our community? Listen or read the transcript below:

Leon (00:06):

Welcome to our podcast where we talk about the interesting, frustrating and inspiring experiences we have as people with strongly held religious views working in corporate IT. We’re not here to preach or teach you our religion. We’re here to explore ways we make our career as IT professionals mesh, or at least not conflict, with our religious life. This is Technically Religious.

Doug (00:53):

Prima donnas, attention seekers, rock stars, 10 X engineers. These are people who are driven to be, or at least to be seen as the best of the best, the cream of the crop. And maybe they are…

Yechiel (01:08):

And maybe they aren’t, but the challenge is there need to be seen in that light, whether we encounter them in the NOC or among the congregational flock, their behaviors can be distracting, disruptive, or downright toxic.

Ben (01:19):

Are there lessons we’ve learned from our IT tenures, our religious experiences, or even our sacred texts, which might shine a light on how to handle – or even help – these folks to be members of our community?

Leon (01:30):

I’m Leon Adato and the other voices you’re going to hear on this episode are my partners in podcasting crime, Doug Johnson.

Doug (01:36):


Leon (01:37):

And also Yechiel Kalmenson.

Yechiel (01:39):

Hello again.

Leon (01:40):

And newcomer Ben Keen. Welcome to the show.

Ben (01:42):

Hey, thanks for having me guys. Appreciate it. Looking forward to this.

Leon (01:45):

No problem. We’re looking forward to it too. I think it’s a good topic. I think it’s one that, um, a lot of folks in IT are sort of thinking about struggling with, but before we dive into it, we have a tradition here on Technically Religious of shameless self promotion of guests before anything else. So Ben being the newest member of, uh, of the speaker pool, why don’t you go ahead and tell us a little bit about yourself and how you identify religiously and all that stuff.

Ben (02:09):

Sure. Uh, my name is Ben Keen. I am from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I’m a senior system administrator, uh, self deemed monitoring engineer for one of the largest retailers in denim, American Eagle Outfitters. Uh, you can find me on Instagram and um, as Leon says, “the Twitters”, uh, @the_Ben_keen. I am a United Methodist. I’m a son of a preacher and I identify myself more of a collective Christian, whereas I take things from all different kinds of religions and kind of bring into my own self.

Leon (02:39):

Um, okay. Doug, tell us about yourself.

Doug (02:41):

I’m Doug Johnson and the CTO for a startup called WaveRFID. We do inventory using RFID cooled tags and things like that. I’m actually not on social media. I got off of it. I’m on LinkedIn a little bit, but not very much. I don’t even have a website or a blog that I want to promote. So that’s just the way it, uh, I’m a born again, evangelical Christian.

Leon (03:01):

Practically a technical Luddite.

Doug (03:03):

But on purpose!

Leon (03:04):

On purpose, right. A purposeful Luddite. I don’t know anybody who’s an accidental Luddite. Actually. It takes effort these days. Um, okay. Yechiel, what about you?

New Speaker (03:14):

Yes, so, uh, I’m Yechiel Kalmenson. You can find me on the Twitters @YechielK. Um, I have a blog at and I’m an Orthodox Jew.

New Speaker (03:23):

Okay. And I’ll square the circle here. Uh, I’m Leon Adato. I’m a Head Geek. Yes, that’s my actual job title at SolarWinds, uh, which is neither solar nor wind because naming things is hard. You can find me on the Twitters, which we all say to annoy Keith Townsend’s daughter. Um, you can find me there @LeonAdato. I blog and pontificate on things both technical and religious at And I also identify as Orthodox Jewish. And I wanna remind everyone who’s listening that if you are scribbling those Twitter handles and websites down, madly, stop it. Just relax. Put your hands back on the wheel of the car or wherever you are listening to this because we’re going to have show notes out the day after this podcast drops. So we have all the links of everything that we’re talking about. You don’t need to write things down. Um, as good IT folk. I think the first thing we want to do on this topic is define our terms. What do we mean when we say ‘rockstar’?

Doug (04:24):

Well, Let’s start with what’s a real rockstar. I was a rock disc jockey, a celebrity, if you will, uh, for 11 years. And I met a lot of rock stars.

Leon (04:34):

I want to point out only because Doug and I grew up in the same city that Doug was the number one top rated drive time disc jockey at a particular point in time here in Cleveland. So when he says he’s a celebrity, he really is.

Doug (04:46):

I also found out how much fun it is to be a celebrity. Not. Okay, but just the way it goes. But in any case, I met a lot of people and uh, met a lot of rock stars. And there are people, rock stars who are total jerks. They would, I mean come into the studio and they’d bounce all over the place and they’d scream and they’d throw stuff and you know, just make total jerks of themselves. And then there were other people who were real rock stars. I mean, they take somebody like Ainsley Dunbar. Ainsley Dunbar, so drummer for Jefferson Starship and Journey and John Mayall blues… And just tons of people. If you look on his Wikipedia page, he’s played with everybody. I had lunch with him. Nicest guy we’ve ever, I mean, we just had a great time. Talked about everything and he was, but he’s a real rock star. So you know, a rock star is basically somebody who can do their job on stage and take, take care of business.

Leon (05:46):

Okay. And I think that’s definitely the, the good definition of it. But we also have that again, that negative definition, which is somebody who’s, you know, attention seeking behavior, looking to push social limits in ways that often doesn’t need to be pushed, you know, those kinds of things. So I think that’s another part of it. Um, all right, so that’s generally speaking, but what do we mean when we say a rock star in the world of tech and IT like what, what is, what does that typically mean?

Yechiel (06:15):

So I think in general, when people speak about rock stars, rock star developers, rock star engineers, um, it’s all referred to in the business as the “genius asshole.” This’ll be like the person who can code in 20 languages who can solve lead code puzzles in their sleep. You know, you can spin up, you know, in 2000 line of lines of code application and over the weekend. But at the expense of not really being part of the team, um, to put it mildly, like their code will be extremely unreadable. They’ll follow their own conventions, won’t follow best practices. They’ll solve things in brilliant ways, but very unconventional ways, like using really esoteric parts of whatever language they’re using, um, which makes it really unreadable for people coming after them trying to maintain their code.

Ben (07:06):

Yeah. Or you’ve got the example of that new hire and it kind of comes in and joins the company and thinks that they are better, or know more than everybody else and comes to your desk, uh, where you are the subject matter expert, uh, not trying to glorify yourself, but you know your role. And they come into your cube trying to tell you how they would do your job better. Uh, and not really giving any good fruit to bear from that interaction. But on the flip side of that, you also have those people that joined a team, bring their skill sets to the, to the table to teach people how to fish. You know, like you could sit down with that Linux engineer, that windows engineer and they can show you what their experience has brought, brought them to this floor and teach it to others.

Yechiel (07:52):

Yeah, I mean, rock star is not necessarily a bad thing. There are some rock stars who are really humble and personable. Um, I like saying a lot. I don’t remember who I heard this from and I really feel bad because I use it a lot. And they really want to give credit. Um, but I heard someone say that “a 10x engineer is not someone who can produce 10 times more code than other people, rather 10 X engineers. Someone who brings up 10 other engineers to their level.”

Doug (08:20):

Eric Elliott, JavaScript guy. He’s, he said that, I don’t know if he’s the first one to say it, but,

Yechiel (08:24):

Oh well thank you.

Leon (08:27):

There we go. So credit where credit is due because you are both wrong and you know when to give credit,

Yechiel (08:32):

but the good ones,

Leon (08:33):

Right! The good kind. Exactly. Um, so on the, on the bad side, I remember, so this is tech, but it’s not IT tech. Um, way back in the day when I was working in theater, one of the people that I knew got a job building the, a chandelier for “Phantom of the Opera” when it opened on Broadway. Okay. So those people who know the show, the chandelier comes crashing down and has to be rebuilt after every show. And he built it in such a way that he was the only one who could figure out how to put it back together. And he basically got himself, you know, ‘forever work’ on that show because he built it in a way that no one else, you know, could, could manage. And that’s, that’s not okay. It’s one thing when you say, “This is so complicated that most people just can’t figure it out because it’s so hard.” But it’s another thing when you purposely build something, whether it’s code or a chandelier, in a way that no one’s just ever going to figure it out because it’s a special puzzle that only, I know.

Doug (09:32):

It almost feels like the bad rock stars in tech want a bus factor of one. Right. I mean think about it. I mean the whole thing is. …

Leon (09:41):

(laughing) I just love that: “bus factor of one.” Okay. Yeah.

Yechiel (09:45):

Yeah, it’s job security.

Doug (09:46):

It is, but I mean, it’s just wrong. It’s bad for the team. It’s bad for everybody. I mean, when you reach my age, you realize that you don’t want me to be your bus factor of one. Bad things could happen to me tomorrow. Who knows? It’s just, you know, it. But I bet I get the impression that there are rock stars that they considered themselves the, the bus factor. If it wasn’t for them, it would all fall apart.

Leon (10:07):

Right. Well, and I’ve, I’ve always told people who are in that position, right? Like, Oh no, I’m the only who can do this. This is just remember “Irreplaceable is unpromotable,” you know, so if you want to be, if you want to be the one person, like, okay, but you ain’t never go into her and right. You know, if you win the lottery, because that’s the only, you know, I, I don’t like the other examples, you know, look, if I win a lottery, I love you guys. I mean it, I’m going to go buy an island, like I’m done. Right? So, you know, if you make it so that your leaving, you know, completely destroys an environment that’s just not okay. Um, and I think that that idea of, you know, if you leave, it all falls apart. I think that takes us to a different aspect of it. You know, this being Technically Religious, we’ve talked about the technical, but I want to talk about the religious also that, that there are rock stars in the religious world. Now there’s something that I say a lot and then yechiel you came up with a corollary. You know, I’ve said a couple of times on the show that no religion has found the cure for the common asshole. The flip side of that is that, um, nor has any religion taken out an exclusive patent for assholes. So you’re going to find ’em everywhere. But I’m curious about what a rock star looks like in our religious life, like in the pews and the, you know, in our church or synagogue or place of worship. What, how does that manifest?

Doug (11:26):

Well in, in Christianity there’s, um, there are people who essentially set themselves up to go ahead and be the whole ministry. I mean, they are, the central chore, it all hangs on them and, and because this Christianity of course they, uh, you know, they come across as very humble. They, they, they of course, you know, you, you need to be humble. But they are so that they’re more humble than you’ll ever think of being. Um, and so of course they’re rock stars and you know, that they can build a whole, the whole ministry ends up, uh, being built around them. In fact, there are ministries that are named after people that you realize that they haven’t done anything to, uh, effectively take care of that bus factor. If something happened to them, their ministry is gone. Whereas there are other ministries that are continuing on. Billy Graham ministries is still doing work even though his name is on it, but he’s dead and it’s still, he built an organization in such a way that it could continue on after he was no longer able to do the work.

Leon (12:40):

Warren buffet this week came out with a message they did their annual message, you know, for Berkshire Hathaway. And one of the things like nine words that caught everyone’s attention was “we are already well positioned for our departure.” Meaning that Warren Buffett and his partner, his partner is 96 year old one. Warren Buffett is like 86, 87 something like that. Like they know that eventually they’re not going to be in that company and they’ve already, you know, they’ve dealt with it. They just haven’t made a big deal about it. But yeah, that kind of thing.

Doug (13:13):

There are rock stars in Christianity. Worship leaders have to be up front. I mean it just, that’s the whole concept of being a worship leaders. You’re getting everybody to come along, but not everybody who is a worship leader, uh, is leading the congregation. They’re basic. They’re, they’re actually looking more to have the spotlight on themselves. It can, it can go either way.

Ben (13:36):

And on top of that, you take away from the leader, whether it’s the pastor, the lay leader, whoever’s leading the worship, and then you flip the camera over to the pews and you see those people who… And no judgment of how you worship. If you’re, if you’re motive, which means raising your hands and waving of them around and stuff like that. If that’s your way of communicating with your, with who you call God, all the power to you. But when you take those actions and you just start making it a show to bring the light upon yourself, you’re, you’re really missing the message. You know? Uh, we’re supposed to be bringing message in light upon who we refer to as our God, not ourselves. And there’s a lot of same people that not, but five minutes later or in the parking lot honking their horns, flipping you off, calling you all sorts names for cutting them off, but they didn’t spend an hour talking about how great Jesus, how in tune they are with their religion. And then five minutes later it’s gone.

Leon (14:33):

Yeah. I’ve, I’ve seen that. So Yom Kippur is one of the most intense holidays in the Jewish calendar. Um, it’s a day where you fast for 25 hours. It’s uh, it, it again, it’s really intense and at the end of it, uh, people want to go home, they want to get a bite to eat and I’ve watched people cut other people off and scream words and stuff like that. Like you just had, it was the high point of the entire year and here you go. Like this is not our finest moment,

Ben (15:01):

That one hour. You know, you got to carry that forward if you want to, if you want to be seen as the rock star, that carries with you.

Leon (15:10):

So just as an interesting point of sort of cultural comparison in Judaism, the, the leader of the congregation, the rabbi is often not doing anything. That the job of running the service often falls to just people in the room. And it is fairly participatory in the sense that in many congregations someone will look around the room and say, “do you want to do the next part?” Do you want to do the next part? And in some places it goes around paragraph by paragraph in some parts of the service, um, you know, throwing things around. Certain people have certain jobs simply for consistency sake or because it requires a little bit extra preparation. Um, but that’s, you know, th Doug, your point of having a worship leader doesn’t always exist there. However, I’ve seen that in the smaller congregations, in the startup congregations, in Judaism, it usually revolves around one or two people who have a key collection of skills because it is… You’ve got to be fluent in Hebrew. If you got to be fluent with the music, you’ve got to be fluent with the different variations of weekday, morning, afternoon, evening services versus, you know, the Sabbath war and versus a holiday of which there are 9,362 I think Yechiel, you can correct me if I’m off by one or two on that one. Um, you know, there’s a lot and every single time there’s a variation, there’s something extra that you say or don’t say. And so the person who has the, you know, again, it’s a unique collection of skills. So there’s not always a group of people. There might be one person who’s, “no, no, no, I’ve got this one!”

Yechiel (16:46):

Even in larger congregations, I don’t think we are completely rock star immune. Um, you will have those people who are more, you know, to Ben’s point, it’s more about the show and appearing more religious than everyone else and more devout than everyone else. You know, I’ve been to congregations where the prayer is basically a contest of who could finish last and it goes to ridiculous lengths.

Leon (17:09):

I’m in really fast car creations where it’s like, you know, “can we get it done in 20 minutes?” And it makes me nuts.

Yechiel (17:14):

It’s like the 6:20 minyan. Uh, yeah. The one like the first where people actually have jobs, pray at. So yeah, they’re trying to finish as quick as possible, but you have those where, um, you know, they’re just closing their eyes and waving their fists and you know, going, yeah, like Ben said, you know, it’s not exclusive to Christianity.

Leon (17:34):

Yeah. I’ve also seen people, um, I love this where they are trying to lead from the rear. Where the person who is leading the prayers, again, it goes, you know, around the room, somebody is invited up to lead this part and somebody in the room thinks that they’re not doing the job that ought to be done and so going to do it for them from their position, seven rows back. They’re going to sing louder, they’re going to pray louder. They’re going to let you know that they’re done with this part of the, you know, of the prayer and you should be now too, kind of thing. And it’s just not the most gracious moments when you’re trying to have a prayerful experience when trying to connect with the divine. Those are some examples of, of what we mean when we say rock star, what do “they” mean? Like this is what we mean. These are our examples. But there’s, there’s a different collection of “they”. So we have to do, as we talked about the “they” and then and say, what is it that they mean when they say rock star, when you encounter the word rockstar in the wild, what are they talking to?

Doug (18:30):

One of the first places that I have seen it and seen it repeatedly is in, uh, in tech ads. Uh, I mean those of us who do dev work, you know, we move around a little bit. Sometimes you’re doing consulting you’re doing or, or you’ll come onto a project for a while, just you move a lot. So you read a lot of dev ads and just a lot of people who are running these job postings are looking for “rock star programmers.” And, and, and as a matter of fact these days, if I see that I’m out, I mean, if they’re looking for a rock star, I, I just know I’m not going to want to go ahead and have anything to do with them. Because either they don’t know what they’re talking about or, um, they have really unrealistic expectations of what somebody is going to be able to do. But it just comes down to there’s, there’s, you know, they’re, they’re the, the, the big companies that think they need to ask for rockstar programmers so they can get the cool kids to go ahead and apply to their job. Um, and then there are the, the startups, the young bro startups that actually, you know, they believe that. They, they think being a rock star is a cool thing and, and, and they’re going to go ahead and they want to have other rock stars to be working with them so they can all just be a bunch of rock stars. And have a rock band or something. I have no idea. It just makes no sense to me at all.

Leon (19:54):

Acer was founded on the idea that everybody they hired got straight A’s in college. Like that was their shtick for a little while.

Doug (20:02):

I was going to say it probably didn’t last very long. Did it?

New Speaker (20:07):

I wonder if they’re still around?

New Speaker (20:07):

My favorite quote for that is the, the A students are managed by the B students, uh, who are work for the company owned by the C students.

Ben (20:15):

Well, I think, and going back to who “they” are, uh, you know, you have those people that make their resume or their, their social media profile on LinkedIn or whatever, where they labeled themselves rock star. And this isn’t about your, you selling yourself. Obviously when you’re looking for a job, you need to sell yourself to your possible, to the employer as a, as a candidate because you’re going up against five, 10, 15 other people. So you want to make yourself stand out. But it’s those people that are just so about them. Um, you know, I know personally when I interview, uh, one of the hardest things, so I served eight and half years in the military, right. And, um, so one of the things I found hard to do was really to justify myself because in the military, it’s team, you know, as a team, we did this, we did that, you know, so when I first got out and I was talking to a possible, you know, possible places of employment, they’re like, “Well, what did you do?” I was like, well, “we…” You know, and they’re like, “no, no. What did you do?” And you know, you got to kind of learn how to promote yourself without overdoing it and becoming that rock star.

Yechiel (21:26):

Although when someone does write rock star in their profile, it’s worth paying attention to what they actually mean with that because, and this is true, someone actually wrote a language called “rockstar” just so that they can call themselves a “rockstar engineer.” It’s an actual programming language that compiles.

Leon (21:41):

If you want to find it. We were all laughing about it before we started the show Um, so if you, too, want to be a rock star programmer, uh, you can do that in all humility. You can be humble while saying that you’re a rockstar programmer. Um, and Yechiel, you were saying that, uh, some of the programming terms where they use like lyrics of songs.

Yechiel (22:03):

Yeah, the syntax is all rock lyrics.

Doug (22:05):

I do have to say that I, the best title I was ever given, and it’s not quite as good as Leon’s “Head Geek”, but an a year before I left this job, I was also, I was a sales engineer forever. And when they could tell I was starting to get somewhat dissatisfied, a new box of cards showed up and my new title was “solution visionary.”

Everyone (22:26):


Doug (22:26):

So that’s on my LinkedIn page now even, but I didn’t do it for myself.

Leon (22:31):

Um, yeah, it’s like nicknames. I don’t know that you can give yourself those nicknames. If somebody else gives it to you, then you could sort of wear it with pride but also like nicknames. It only works for a particular group of friends. You know that with this group of friends, you’re “stinky” and this other group of friends, maybe your, you know, “home run” or whatever, but, but you, you can’t introduce yourself and just decide that that’s what you’re…

Yechiel (22:54):

And someone out of the group of friends can’t just go over.” Hey stinky.”

Leon (22:59):

Okay. So having talked about, you know, again defined our terms. I think the bigger question is, um, you know, how do we deal with people who either see themselves as rock stars or, or are in that position? Like what are some things, some actual strategies that we can have to work with, deal with, interact with? Like, what can we do there?

Doug (23:21):

Going back to what Ben said about the military all being about team, you actually can go ahead and, uh, build up the team that you’re on, um, in such a way to, uh, give you strength in numbers against the rock star if they really are being a jerk type rock star. I mean, in essence I’ve come into, I’ve come into situations where there was a rock star architect, whoever it was that just, you know, was making everybody miserable. And everybody on the team was so cowed that they just, nobody would stand up that nobody wanted to, you know, put their head up and get nailed by this guy. Um, I’ve been at this long enough that, and I’ve got enough people that don’t like me in the world. I have no trouble with people now. So I would go ahead and, you know, start building up the team so that they, they kind of see that it was all right if everybody on the team thinks this is a bad idea, even if the rock star doesn’t, if everybody on the team and you sort of build the whole idea of team, you can sort of mute the, uh, the, the, uh, power of the rock star by the numbers of everybody trying to accomplish things together as a team.

Ben (24:32):

Well, in my case, you know, dealing with, um, uh, you know, you have those people you’re in your work face that are like, “I fixed it” person or “that’s my fix” or uh, the ones that say, “Oh, I’m sure you were thankful that I was around today.” Um, but you know, as a Christian growing up, I was always taught the importance of group over self. Uh, the aspect that where you are only as strong as the weakest link. Um, and that permeated through my eight and a half years of being in the military, whether it was being deployed to Iraq or, uh, sitting stateside, wherever it was. You know, a story about Iraq, you might remember the story of Geraldo Rivera, uh, who literally, uh, destroyed a mission by drawing stuff in the sand because he wanted to be the rock star. Um, people in the military can relate to the term PT stud. That’s someone that can continuously do a 300 PT score in the army. Uh, that’s the old PT tests. I’m not familiar with the new ones, so don’t hold me to that. Uh, or the weapons guy that the pers, the person that can go out and just knock down 40 out of 40 targets every single time. Some of these people are very humble about it, you know, they put in the work to hit those scores. Uh, so you deal with them one way, but dealing with a person that kinda comes in and is arrogant about it, you really need to kind of either mentor them down or leave them to their own devices and eventually, you know, Darwinism takes effect almost. It just works itself out.

Leon (26:04):

Right. And that’s one of the things that, that I’ve, I’ve done, you know, not as not in a management role but as a, somebody on a team is that I think that rope can be a really, um, interesting correction corrective service to apply. And what I mean by that.

Doug (26:21):

You tie them up and throw them in the closet?

Leon (26:22):

Yeah, no, that’s exactly not it. No, blanket party. None of those things. Um, but what you do is you find, you know, as you’re talking about things as a team, you find those projects that are perfect for lone wolf. You know, that, that one person can go off and you say this would be great for Alfred to do. (No offense to anyone who was named Alfred.) Um, you know, this would be, this would be fantastic for this to do. Why don’t they do that? Because then they can go off and be the rock star and one of two things are gonna happen. Either it’s going to be amazing and they’re going to get all the attention that they need and crave and it’s going to be good for the company and reflect well on the team. But it hasn’t pulled anybody away from what they were doing. It gets that person completely out of your hair. Or if the person is that self inflated but doesn’t actually have the skills that they think they do, kind of rockstar, then it’s going to expose it in a way that doesn’t put anyone else on the team at risk. So as a team, when you see those, those project opportunities, those, you know, whether it’s a subcomponent of what you’re working on or whatever and say, “Oh, this is something that, you know, again, Alford can do all on his own.” You know, those are the things that you keep on offering up, um, to get them out of the way or to, you know, either temporarily or, or longterm. Um, I also think it’s interesting in the Jewish tradition, there’s a story about we should, how we should always walk around with two slips of paper, one in each pocket. And on one sip of paper it says, um, you know, “for me the world was created.” And on the other slip of paper it says, “I am nothing but dust and ashes.” And that we stand in the mid point between those and that in any given moment, we might need to pull out one slip of paper or the other. And that’s, you know, obviously that’s to keep ourselves humble. That’s to keep ourselves, uh, in check. But I also think that there’s a way to have that kind of conversation with the people who see themselves as rock stars is, is to continue to inject that, um, that thinking or that, that frame of reference, uh, along the way. So that’s tech. However, I think that in our religious life, there’s, you know, we encounter those rock stars. We’ve talked about it before. But I also think it’s interesting because in our religious texts we run into rock stars. So I wonder if you have any thoughts about, you know, and as you are wandering through the pages of your faith and you hit a rock star, like what, what do you do? What does your religion do? How do you, how do you react with that? Cause we might find lessons that we can carry over into our daily life there.

Yechiel (29:05):

So yeah, and a sense we said they were like good rock stars and bad rock stars. And we definitely find both. And religious texts, for example, um, I would say like the number one rock star in the Jewish religion is Moses who led the Jewish people. And yet we, the one point that keeps coming over and over is his humility. Like from the beginning where he’s arguing with God, like he does not want to do it. He’s really reluctant to take on the, the, the leadership and all through the end where he’s constantly putting himself out, you know, putting himself between God and the Jewish people to protect them and shield them from their own mistakes.

Leon (29:45):

Right. And, and, and the, the Torah ends saying, no human will ever walk the face of the earth that is as humble as Moses. Like it, that point just keeps getting driven home. So yeah, that’s a pretty strong point.

Yechiel (29:58):

But then of course you have the other end. Uh, you have people like Pharaoh or like Cicera. Um, in fact, the Pharaoh is described in Ezekiel. As someone who says, “לִ֥י יְאֹרִ֖י וַאֲנִ֥י עֲשִׂיתִֽנִי” Li y’ori va’ani asisani” Te Nile is mine. And I have created myself.” Meaning someone who feels like he doesn’t need anyone. He’s self-made. He’s created himself essentially. And he doesn’t need, you know, to hell with anyone else.

Leon (30:23):

Right. And, and we all know how Pharaoh worked out in the end. So that’s again, a good cautionary tale. I also think that as we’re reading, as we’re reading our religious text, one of the things that, that strikes me is how in some cases incapable and in some cases unqualified, the people who are doing these amazing things are. I mean, um, you’ve got, you know, Jacob, who’s, who’s considered, you know, the, the, the Prince of Truth. And yet he was, it was kind of a liar. A lot. Or you’ve got Joseph, uh, who’s considered, you know, a tzadik, a righteous man, but he was kind of narcissistic for a lot of the narrative. Um, and that’s even if you ignore the Broadway play and the technicolor dream coat and all that stuff that, you know, he’s, he really wasn’t, he was probably kind of a little bit much to have to, you know, have dinner with sometimes. And I feel like a lot of times the underlying message is that God isn’t picking people because they are super competent. God is picking people who are the least likely to have been able to achieve this on their own. Just to drive the point home. Again, Yechiel your point. You know, Moshe… Moses didn’t want that job. He fought against it. And you know, I think that at the time people are like, “Who’s going to lead us?” “Moses.” “What?!? What are you talking about? that’s like… Could you have picked anybody worse for this job than that?” No, I actually couldn’t have picked anybody worse. That’s why I did it.

Yechiel (31:57):

Yeah. And specifically about Moshe, um, I read one of the commentaries, I forgot which one right at the moment. Um, he had, like a very heavy stutter, um, to the point where, where he didn’t actually speak to Pharaoh. He would speak to Aaron and Aaron would talk to Pharaoh and the reason why God chose someone with such a stutter was so that it would be sort of obvious that it wasn’t Moses’ doing it was God working through him.

Leon (32:24):

Yeah, and I think that you know, again in our religious life when you meet that that rock star, you know in in church, in the pews that the, the interesting thing is if you think, if you hold even an inkling, that God has somehow smiled down upon you to achieve or accomplish some particular thing, that’s probably a really good indication that you suck.

Doug (32:47):

I mean we’ll see. I mean in an on on the other side of the Testament divide, we’ve got the same thing. I mean most of, most of the people who are the leaders in early Christianity were not the ones that you would think of… Peter is the number one guy and he was a total jerk and he was like really impulsive and flip flopped all the time. I mean, it’s just the worst to deal with. And nine times out of 10, Jesus is having to turn them in and just say, go “chill dude.” You know what I mean? He went in in like two verses. He went from a, you know, God told me, “God told you that Peter”, to “get you behind me. Satan.” I mean really that, and that’s two verses we go from God’s talking to you and Oh yeah, apparently so Satan. So honestly Peter, just if it, if it hadn’t been God, it wouldn’t have happened.

Leon (33:40):

Um, okay. So those are, those are some ways to frame as you’re reading scripture, as you’re reading your religious text to remember that there’s probably an underlying message that these people, for as great as the things that they achieved themselves, we’re still flawed human beings. Were still, you know, walking around with their own struggles, which they sometimes overcame and sometimes didn’t. Um, but bringing it back to real life again, you know, we’ve got people, we’ve got personalities in our religious communities and I wonder what are some things that we can do to interact with them, to deal with them, to, to, you know, how do you respond?

Yechiel (34:19):

I just roll my eyes and move on.

Leon (34:21):

Right, right, right. Exactly. And I think frequently that works. You know, the joke I always give is “Well, that’s, that’s when, you know, it’s time to start a breakaway minyan…” You know, start your own congregation, which is going to be for, you know, guys 35 to 37 who drive Ford focuses because, you know, you have a, you have a congregation for every possible…

Doug (34:39):

Well, I’ve, I’ve found combinations of humor and um, scripture can be really helpful. I, um, I was… There, there was a number of years ago I was teaching a, a Bible study, uh, before church started. Um, and I was traveling 45 minutes to this church. It was a small church. I was supporting it and that kind of stuff. And one Sunday morning just everything went wrong. And I arrived, ten minutes late, teach my class and the elder – the main elder, the guy who kept everything going, the main guy – pulled me aside and basically reamed me a new one. Uh, and I said, okay, I’ve got a class to go teach. We’ll talk about this later. Um, and went and taught my class and afterwards, afterwards I said, I’m going to take, take what you said, I’m going to go ahead and, uh, pray about it and I’m going to think about it and look at scripture and you know, we’ll talk next week.” And so as I was doing all that, I get down and I went back the next week. I said, “I went through all the scripture that I could find in. The only time I’ve found where somebody was arrived late was when there was this battle. And Saul was all set to go and Samuel arrive late. And Saul had gone ahead and done the, uh, had gone ahead and done the sacrifice. And the thing that I found interesting, my elder friend, is that Samuel, the guy who arrived late is not the one who got in trouble.” And he apologized. And we moved forward and we became great friends as a result.

Leon (36:09):

There’s a couple of things going on there. I mean, obviously there’s the humor aspect, but I think also just asking, you know, if, if you have the ability to do that, to say, “What is it? That’s, why do you feel like you have to carry this entire load?” I’ve been places where the people just thought that they were the only one who cared that much about it, that, you know, they didn’t think that anybody else, you know, felt that strongly. And when you said, “No, actually several of us do.” And so if they’re, you know, let’s, how about I take this part and you take that part or you know, you, you can sit back. I’ve had people who, who literally ran the entire service, but when we asked them, said, “I really wish I could do nothing. I’d like to just show up and be a participant.” And they meant it. They weren’t being, it wasn’t false humility. They really meant that they wanted to just be in the back, but they felt like if they didn’t do it, no one was going to. And as soon as we were able to show them, no, so-and-so has got this and so and so has this and everyone has this and we certainly when you feel like it, we’d love you to participate but please do not feel like you have to. And that that was regulatory for everyone.

Ben (37:24):

And I think that speaks volumes too to taking it back to the workplace, pulling it up, you know, getting away from religion and going back to tech when you have a new hire comes to the company and kind of explain to them the culture of the company. You know, I’ve held a few different jobs as a contractor before landing my full time job now. Uh, so I worked for law firms, I worked for banks, I worked for small startup companies. I’ve worked for software development companies, uh, and now in retail. And the one thing I always found interesting going from company to company assignment to assignment was the different cultures. you know, the law firm was very black and white, very yes-no, very binary. Um, but here at American Eagle, it’s a little more lax, you know? Um, so when you get that person that comes from that atmosphere where the rock star ism, if that is, that’s not a word, if not I’ll coin it. It, um, you know that rock star ism is almost bred into the culture. You know, when you look at a law firm that’s a very intense, very go at it. Get what you get when you can get it type world. Compared to the world I live in now where it’s very more a collective good, you know, you think when you see our jeans, you don’t think it takes that much to sell them. But let me tell you behind every pair of jeans are the few hundred people you know. And if you have someone that comes in with that rockstar mentality that I am it and without me, the company fails, you’re only going to see yourself a failure. But if you split, pull them aside very tactfully, very nice. Hey, look, this is our culture here. If they get the message and they change their ways, awesome. But if they’re a complete jerk and don’t change their way, well then there’s other ways to sort that out through HR or just Darwinism at its finest and let it work itself out.

Leon (39:19):

Anybody have any final thoughts? They want to leave with everyone who’s listening.

Doug (39:22):

If you’re at a place with no rock stars, look around. It might be you.

Everyone (39:27):

Ooh! Ouch!

Doug (39:27):

Hey listen, I have to admit the place where I was also “solution visionary.” We were at a show and they, the team brought me a bottle of “Arrogant Bastard Ale.” Cause sometimes being right comes across as being arrogant. So, you know, it’s,

Ben (39:42):

and I think that’s the key takeaway. Uh, knowing the difference between being arrogant and being right. You know, having that ability to say, “yes, I know what I’m talking about.” But having the ability to listen to key points from other people. What are the things I enjoy about being a monitor engineer is we leverage a product called SolarWinds, the exact same SolarWinds that Leon, uh, works on. Um, but we have a community online and there we can share ideas back and forth. My idea may not be the one that always goes forward as the best idea, but at least my idea went forward and it’s a collective learning experience. So when you have that type of atmosphere, you’d… we pull each other up, you know, and that weekly becomes stronger and you can move on to the next.

Speaker 7 (40:28):

Thanks for making time for us this week to hear more of Technically Religious visit our website, where you can find our other episodes, leave us ideas for future discussions and connect us on social media.

Doug (40:40):

Hey guys, this was fun. You want to hang out tomorrow?

Yechiel (40:43):

What, with you nerds? I’m way too cool for that!

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