All Hail Inconvenience

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There’s a peculiar thing to we humans when it comes to inconvenience. We will seek to avoid inconvenience, crave convenience like a drug, and will gladly take it too easy. Yet, strangely, people often crave challenge, the unknown – and dare I say inconvenience? We will give up easy on challenges if presented with an easy option, then go out of our way to seek adversity.

Now I could examine this from many perspectives, some of them actually insightful and rational, but I’d like to focus on geeks and careers. That’s what I do- that’s my challenge (or perhaps my comfort zone, we can discuss that elsewhere).

The Importance Of Inconvenience

So I want to discuss the importance of inconvenience. Now this isn’t some sermon on the value of suffering; I find most of those proclamations are made by the people who aren’t suffering but are bang along fine with others suffering. Instead, I want to discuss what inconvenience means.

Inconvenience is about being blocked.

Think of the time you couldn’t get your new phone to work. Or understand a concept. Or find a location. Or even do a task basic to some like change your oil or cook a meal. Perhaps it was even something far more traumatic. Each of those was an inconvenient situation, perhaps inconvenient in a dangerous way.

You were blocked. There was something you could not do. You learned what you could not do (and were perhaps surprised).

But n some cases you overcame the challenge. You figured out where you were. You learned to do something. You at least read the manual. Each time you learned.

So, yes, inconvenience can be painful. But it indicates what you can’t do and is a chance to learn or overcome. It may not be any fun – it may be horrible. But it can be a chance for change.

Now what happens when we avoid it?

The Discontents of Easy

Think of how much of your life gets automated our outsourced. How much that technology or someone else made your life a bit easier. Things you didn’t have to do – and often things you didn’t want to do. They’re taken care of, be through an app on your phone or making a restaurant run.

Now and then these things break down – and you’re helpless. Convenience becomes hopeless inconvenience.

Now and then you may hear people talk about how this works or that works – and realize you don’t understand because you’re relying on technology or another person to solve your problems. You get a moment to peak behind the curtain and realize what you don’t know.

Now and then you wonder how “someone can manage to do without X” only to realize others do. They may have no choice, but they do.

Sometimes when things are easy on us, we miss the underlying reality. We don’t know how people live without what we have, we don’t know how things worth, we become helpless when the automation or outsourcing breaks down.

A little inconvenience now and then can teach us how the world works, and we may miss it.

Trouble Is A Friend

If we let convenience blind us too much, if we don’t understand how the world works, then it also affects our career. I’m sure right now you can think of many times people didn’t know how something worked when it was painfully vital. And you had to fix it.

(Let’s leave aside the times you didn’t know what was going on and someone else had to bail you out).

So let me praise inconvenience in your career. We should seek challenges, we should seek painful moments and solve awful problems. If we want to do something for a living we cannot rely on automation and outsourcing and letting someone else do it. We must know, and get our hands dirty.

As an IT Professional I worked my way up from programmer to Program Manager, and facing everything from bad code to inexplicable deadlines was invaluable to me. Oh, sure I complained (a lot), but I solved problems. I learned.

I complain, but I learned. I’m better for it. I mean I complained, but still.

I’m sure you’ve met people professionally who were rather insulated from problems. And I’m sure you’ve railed against how they knew nothing and couldn’t get their work done, and how you had to do it. I’ve been there.

But you got inconvenient. You learned.

The Geek Pain Edge

Which brings us to we geeks, the modern literati, the applied intellectuals. We seek challenges.

Oh sure we don’t seek pain. We like a challenge. We’ll stretch and strain and sweat in cosplay, code things that require brain-twisting nights of caffeine, write fanfic and hone our craft over and over, and run a convention on little sleep. We will suffer to do more – and suffer rather gladly.

Suffer for our art as it were.

There is, in geek culture, a challenge-seeking element. It’s there, in you, burning away, driving you. We take it for granted as it’s often seen as a part of geek culture; invisible due to its omnipresence. We can forget it.

We shouldn’t. Because that gives us an advantage in our career that that challenge seeking is there, that the do-it-yourself-even-if-it-hurts drive is there. Sometimes we even embrace the pain as pain, as many an artist or speaker or convention head can attest, and it just fires us further.

We do it of course because we both love what we do and this is part of us. Inconvenience? No, challenge, bring it on.

That’s one of our professional edges.

The Career Advantage

The geek drive to seek challenge, to dive into what we love, to do things ourselves despite convenience, is something we can translate into our careers. In fact it’s something we should translate into our careers as it gives us an advantage.

  1. First, we have a natural challenge-seeking drive. We can cultivate that in our lives and our jobs.
  2. We recognize challenge as we seek it – and we can recognize appropriate challenges to meet in our job – and of course learn and distinguish ourselves.
  3. We have stories that we can share about overcoming challenges – which sound great in interviews and speak to our character. Sure we liked the challenges, but still. I’ve done this quite a bit with success – people will take you seriously when you, say, published your own book.
  4. Our geek experience allows us to learn how things work (especially if we’re writers, coders, and so on). That gives us some underpinning knowledge of how the world works that can help on the job, in interviews, etc. That knowledge can help us explain things to people.
  5. When we want to run from a challenge or seek inappropriate convenience, we can realize we’re running away – and cultivate our challenge-seeking behaviors from geekdom.

Revel In Inconvenience Don’t run from it – use it. Apply it. Give it a chance to learn something. Own it.

We’re geeks. We’ve been doing it almost unconsciously.

(Though in the case of some dumb things, I’ll understand the complaining)

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, publishes books on career and culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at