One of the hardest things for many Rebels at Work to manage is their intensity: they so want to make a difference, to transform a new idea into a reality, that they can’t modulate their energy. They say they want to listen to the ideas of others, but their own intensity plugs their ears so they can’t actually process what other people say. And many of their colleagues don’t say anything at all. Even when the Rebel begs for their input, they sit on their hands, afraid there’s nothing they could say that would impress the Rebel.


This is not a hypothetical scenario. It’s actually a summary of a conversation I had recently with a sincere Rebel who can’t quite figure out why they don’t make as much progress as they should. It made me think of the photo that Lois Kelly shared this week. We are responsible for the energy we bring to the workplace. We’ve often written about how important it is for Rebels to be positive; but it’s equally important that they remain CALM.

Throughout the conversation, my friend made a couple other comments that indicate a Rebel in some distress.

A new initiative isn’t going smoothly. “It’s just a mess,” they said. My response: “It can only be a mess.” How many big new ideas proceed smoothly, exactly as planned? None that I know of. I know this is easier said than done but Enjoy the Mess. I always think gardening is a good metaphor for the Rebel journey. You win a few; you lose a few. The beautiful plant you paid so much money for dies in its first year; but the plucky volunteer from God knows where prospers in your garden and propagates itself successfully. Messiness can be beautiful…but maddening.

Sacrificing inclusion and equity issues for the sake of efficiency and speed. My response: “Don’t do it!!” I know it can be tempting to mimic how the Status Quo has always done things, but you will hate yourself in the morning. Your actions reveal your values. I remember once being reassigned from a job I loved, being told that I wasn’t “hard enough.” That hurt for a long time; in fact, it still hurts. But it’s a superficial hurt. What I feel most is the quiet satisfaction of holding true to my beliefs. In everything you do as a rebel, minimize the trendy rhetoric and maximize the actual, often messy doing.

I’m not sure I helped a lot; in fact, I’m sure I didn’t help enough. Intensity is a common occupational hazard for Rebels at Work. It is probably unavoidable; you will learn to be more detached only with the passage of time and the accumulation of experiences. In the interim, just try to avoid agonizing over every detail of your Rebel journey. You will make mistakes and things will not go as you planned. But don’t let it eat at you. For their own well-being, Rebels have to figure out how to disconnect their anguish button.