Sunday, September 18, 2011


Being a troublemaker is one of the best ways to get fired -- yet paradoxically, it's also one of the best ways to get ahead.

Not being a troublemaker helps to get through the day -- being a troublemaker helps to sleep at night.

Not being a troublemaker helps to get along with others but hard to live with yourself.

Being a troublemaker might be one of the best ways to ensure that you act on the differences between doing things right and doing the right things.

Troublemakers are outcasts -- until of couse everything changes -- then they're revered.

All revolutions are impossible... until they happen.

The most successful people in this world are troublemakers... it's just that when they become popular, we call them leaders.


  1. Joe,
    The problem with dichotomies is that they limit our thinking to 2 ways of doing things – being a trouble maker or non-trouble maker. The problem with the trouble maker is that he distracts people's attention from the real issues of education and the focus is on the lack of respect, ego , power , not being a mensch etc. Imho a better way for people in all walks of life is to use Ross Greene's CPS – collaborative problem solving model , the same model we teach the teenager troublemaker to work with people in order to further his interests. Focus the conversation on concerns, find out what the concerns of others are all about , share your concerns , show how your solution can address the others' concerns. People have more chance of sharing ideas with others if they come across as respectful etc a real ' mensch'.

  2. I echo Allan's concerns about dichotomous arguments like the ones you present here. I'd much rather work with people who can affect real change along a collaborative model (though problem solving is not my favourite model...I prefer looking for what works rather than focusing on what is wrong) than those on either end of your dichotomy you set up here. In other words, I don't believe that a 'troublemaker' can really affect any kind of change this is sustainable, permanent.

  3. That was the most enlightening thing I've read this week. Great post!!!

  4. I am wondering if you didn't really mean "troublemakers" at all. I often believe it is often a label and perception applied by others - for a host of reasons (which may be more about them than you). Trying to do what is right, presenting challenges to those in positions of decision-making can make you an outcast...which doesn't always aid sleep :)

    Collaboration is great, but not always effective if positional power is influencing the process and the final solution. Sometimes change does require an uncomfortable approach. Maintaining respect for people is still possible, but it isn't always easy when ideas are being challenged.

  5. Yea, it's just not that simple. Joe.

    It depends on the troublemaker and trouble being made.

    That said, your point is well-taken.

  6. I think if you bring revolutionary ideas that cause people professional discomfort then you are absolutely right. If those ideas cause "trouble" for the status quo and those within the system then you are on to something (assuming the ideas are sound). However, if the messenger gets in the way of a good message then people may not be willing to listen. It's one thing to be a revolutionary with good's quite another to have people open and willing to consider moving toward those ideas. Leaders are measured by influence and if we are not able to influence people because of our methods then we will not succeed. I have always found that bringing a direct message of change without being threatening, disrespectful, or using sensational language is most effective. If I need to be an a$$ to get things done, then I'm not a leader, I'm just an a$$.

  7. I think I understand where you were going with this but I'm one of the readers having trouble with the term "troublemaker". When I first read it I was caught up in the connotations. Perhaps that was your intent. Troublemakers look for trouble and for me that connotes an unreflected search. Any fight will do. I could believe some people do define themselves by this constant conflict.

    Perhaps you meant people who assume a critical stance and have the courage to voice their concerns are perceived as unreasoning troublemakers by the complacent or vested interests they are challenging. I would certainly agree with that. I would also agree that I sleep better when I take a principled stand on an issue.

    Perhaps I dodge a few though. I don't like being a troublemaker in the general sense. Confrontation is very uncomfortable. I try to be discriminating about my battles.

  8. By the way, this post and the thread of conversation generated illustrates the limitations of blog design. There are so many great comments, illustrations, and clarifications above and I would like to contribute or respond to them. Its too bad it doesn't allow comments on the comments.

  9. Alfie Kohn talks about the transitioning process - that the kids are not going to jump for joy when we give them the opportunity to take ownership of their own academic or social-moral learning. They are used to playing the system and only being active if there is an extrinsic reward - grades, prizes etc waiting for them. It takes a lot of collaboration between teachers and kids to make change. The same goes for dealing with adults. Ak always starts out by asking parents and teachers about their long term goals and concerns for kids. He then shows
    the impact of different approaches on these goals and concerns. Without a clear understanding of long term goals and concerns , we cannot come up with viable solutions. AK says it is the right questions that will lead us to the most appropriate solutions - it is not how much homework for junior school but whether there should be homework at all.

  10. Would replacing "troublemaker" with "innovator" or something similar detoxify the connotations enough?

  11. All great recent points added here! Always good to hear those broader questions like Allan suggested -- AK on AK :)


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