Do something about it, or…

Posted by Doc
May 23 2010

We all know unhappy people, whiners, the frustrated and disappointed and disenfranchised, those who are dissatisfied and feel that they are stuck.

For this post, I’ll refer to that persona as Vern (since it could be a male or female name).

Vern complains. In fact, Vern seems to be happiest when complaining, which is ironic.

Vern seems to be helpless in frustration, seeing the world as beyond his/her ability to affect and change. The bad things seem to have overwhelming power. The situation always seems to be beyond Vern’s control. And Vern can always find something to complain and be unhappy about.

For a while now, I’ve been saying to people…

Sadly, Vern is too ready to say “I can’t”.

I disagree. I can always do something about it. If I can’t change “it”, then I can change me. I can leave, for instance. Or I can learn to accept things as they are. These are frequently the ends of the spectrum, with various forms of changing me and it in the range in the middle.

However, if Very chooses not to take any of the many choices available, then my follow-up is…

I mean, if you choose not to do anything to change your situation, Vern, then do me the courtesy of not battering me with your frustration, whining, griping, or other expressions that make it clear that you believe that something or someone else is in charge of your life and circumstances.

Take charge of your life, willya Vern?

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10 Responses

  1. Twitter Comment

    RT @athought: Blogged: Do something about it, or… [link to post]

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  2. Terry Brown says:

    Very much agree with the sentiments here – as software developers, we are very much in control of our own destiny.

    I’m always surprised at how many career developers spend so little time in an attempt to better themselves or their own situations, yet they’re happy to sit and moan when they don’t understand something or their situation isn’t perfect.

    Well said.

  3. Andy Palmer says:

    I have learned a couple of nice reframes that might help Vern.
    First, when Vern says “I can’t do “, ask Vern to reframe it as “I won’t do ” to reflect the implied choice
    Secondly, when Vern says “I must do “, ask Vern to reframe it as “I can do ”

    And if all else fails, drop back to the follow-up 🙂

    • Doc says:

      Lovely reframing. Thanks. Right in line with taking ownership and responsibility as opposed to acting helpless or being a victim.

  4. Dahlia says:

    Word Doc! I’m also tired of hearing myself complaining, so am in the midst of *doing* something about it 🙂

  5. Jay says:

    I agree with most of what you have to say, but one thing – when many people shut the f up and learn to live with it, it creates a culture of just accepting things the way they are. If you see something being done incorrectly, and its not you who is doing it, then complaining about it is actually a Good Thing. Whiners also influence change. They give heart to others who also disagree with the status quo.
    An example, if you are in a company where 9 out of 10 people are incompetent (I know its doomed, but please read on), would it be right for the 10th person to not whine because he can’t change the other 9 people? Walking away is not always an option. I am sure the 10th person will try to walk away but while he’s there, he’s going to complain.

    • Doc says:

      To be clear, I’m not advocating learning to live with it as a primary strategy. There’s a difference between taking action in the form of complaining to someone who can do something, and whining and complaining to your co-workers, family, and friends, most of whom are as impotent as you are.

      I disagree that whiners give heart to others. People who take action to change things give heart to others. Whiners – those who gripe and complain to anyone who will listen – dishearten and discourage others.

      In your example, of #10 whines to the other nine, nothing will change. If #10 whines to his/her spouse or friends, nothing will change. If #10 takes the issue to management/HR/leadership, then it’s not whining, it’s taking action.

      So in the more general senses of “complain” I agree with you.


         /ʰwaɪn, waɪn/ Show Spelled [hwahyn, wahyn] Show IPA verb,whined, whin·ing, noun
      –verb (used without object)
      1. to utter a low, usually nasal, complaining cry or sound, as from uneasiness, discontent, peevishness, etc.: The puppies were whining from hunger.
      2. to snivel or complain in a peevish, self-pitying way: He is always whining about his problems.

  6. Do you remember the movie The Untouchables? There is a scene where Sean Connery asks Kevin Costner,

    “What are you prepared to do about it?”.

    I recently set this as my ring tone at a client. You can check this clip out at and use it in presentation to a team.

    I agree with you that whining, unchecked, is destructive. As coaches and/or leaders, we have to get people (and ourselves) out of the mode of whining and out of the mode of living-with-it-as-a-primary-strategy.

    Dennis Stevens

  7. YvesHanoulle says:

    isn’t your post the same as what Vern is doing?
    Complaining about somebody else, instead of taking any action.

    How can you change your interaction with the Vern’s of the world?

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