If you have nothing to offer, you’re useless, right?

I often find myself in a position to offer someone else an opportunity to contribute their experience to some effort. Perhaps it’s someone who’d like to try their hand at technical writing, and I’ll offer to publish a blog post for them at PowerShell.org.

I’m confounded, however, when I run across folks who say something like, “I wouldn’t really have anything to write about.”

Now look, if your answer is, “I’m a terrible writer and I don’t have the inclination to fix that,” no problem. It’s definitely work, and if it’s not your thing, vaya con queso. But so say you have nothing to write about means you lack any experience, wisdom, or knowledge that someone else might not have. In other words, everyone already knows everything you know. That makes you completely useless. 

And the thing is, almost nobody is completely useless. Small children, maybe, because they truly do lack experience. Maybe you personally don’t place a lot of value on some of your experiences… but your value assessment isn’t universal; one man’s trash, as they say, is another man’s treasure.

“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it” is another good paraphrasing, here. Most IT professionals, when confronted with a problem, turn where? Google. They try to see if anyone else has experienced the same thing that they’re experiencing, and to see what that other person did about it. That makes every experience valuable and worth documenting.

And let’s take another look at the “I’m not really a big contributor.” Are you a leech? Would you say that the net of your contributions to the world are more than, less than, or equal to your net receipts from the world? I’ve written millions of words in my career, and I’m still way on the negative side of the equation. I’ve definitely received a lot more knowledge and wisdom than I’ve given – but that doesn’t stop me from trying to catch up.

People have this idea that writing, or lecturing, or teaching, or whatever, means you somehow have to create new information. Unless you’ve got something new and unique to offer, you’ve got nothing to offer – you’re just a net consumer of other people’s information. That outlook is wrong, wrong, wrong. High school teachers didn’t invent algebra, or language, or history, or politics. I didn’t invent VBScript or PowerShell. Contributing typically involves taking existing information and repackaging it for a specific audience. You’re explaining something.

Back in the day, I was migrating a NetWare file server to Windows (yes, back in the day). First run through, I was checking folder permissions, and saw “Everyone:Full Control” on every single folder. Whaaat? Delete everything, migrate again, same thing. Hmm. Opened a ticket with product support at Microsoft. Dumb me, I had left the default permission on the root of the drive, and so everything we migrated simply inherited that in addition to the migrated permissions. Duh. So I wrote about it. It wasn’t a new experience, it wasn’t a unique experience, and it wasn’t even very complicated – but someone else might come along and benefit from it, so it was worth having the information out there. Turns out several folks had written about it, but they hadn’t used the keywords I’d been looking for – so I was repackaging my experience into terms that would have helped me… and it’s likely someone else, too, down the road.

So never be afraid to contribute your experiences, especially ones that were challenging for you. You never know when it might help someone else, and it’s only when we can all share information with each other that we’ll all truly succeed together.

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I agree with Don wholeheartedly. I believe we all have the ability to look at things in different ways. One person might explain or share something that 60 percent of us will understand while another may explain/share something that another percentage of us will comprehend. It takes different types of people to offer a variety of ways to communicate or teach something and we can all begin by sharing experience with one another. No one knows all, and no one can begin to understand everything.


I completely concur Don. One of the things I learned a long time ago is while I cannot architect a C++ application nor do I have the abilities other have, I have my own unique set. From encountering others I have discovered we all share some things in a common.
Sometimes we are afraid to try new things because we are afraid to look silly or stupid in front of others.
Sometimes we think that answer we offer is useless.
But more often than not you'll find that your 10% that you think is useless opens up another's eyes. "Hey I never thought of that before!" (It's more common than you imagine)
Perfect example, Mark Russinovich is held as a genius (and rightly so!) but some things have been done with CMD and PowerShell with his HANDLE.EXE utility even he never previously imagined.
Put this in your hat, I once flipped hamburgers and French fries due to a lack of confidence, not a lack of skillset. There are so many others that are holding themselves back because they are afraid to try.
Give it a shot, the worse you do is you fail, the best you can do is succeed. But what about the third option? Where even tho you MIGHT have failed you gained the courage to begin stepping up and doing a little bit more than you thought you could before?
That's the cool part.
and yes, I USED to say once "Would like Fries with That?"
.....Not any more 🙂