Notwithstanding the fact you don’t understand the differences between geeks and nerds, you are certain you are not one of them and it’s beginning to be a problem. You are not a computer programmer or app developer. You don’t attend hackathons or speak PHP, Perl, or Python. When you overhear them taking about full stack developers, you think they are talking about girls.
The way you dress in comparison to them is also a dead giveaway. You don’t have five pairs of the same exact T-shirt with E = mc2 or some other esoteric statement printed on the front that only a geek or a nerd would fully appreciate. They affectionately call you a “suit.”
You are painfully aware that software is eating the world. (The High Priest of Geekdom, Mark Andreessen, decreed it to be so). Most of the in-demand, high-paying jobs these days are reserved for geeks and nerds. They now rule the world. Your company is hiring them like crazy and it’s only a matter of time (if it hasn’t happened already) that one of them becomes your boss. You are totally GEEKED-OUT because you are NOT NOW, you have NEVER BEEN, nor will you EVER BE, one of THEM!
Calm down, take a deep breath…I can help. I can relate to your anxiety over these turn of events, because I too suffer from non-nerdliness. It is an inadequacy I never knew I had until later in life. Like you, I thought I had it all covered. I’ve been a jock, an organizational leader, and a preppie. Heck, on occasion, I have even been a stoner. But I have never been a nerd. I totally lack both nerdliness and geekiness. The world changed overnight. For us non-nerds, we now live in Bizarro World.
Since I have been unable to find a support group (I Googled Non-Nerds Anonymous to no avail), I have had to formulate my own strategies. I’m happy to share them with you because us non-nerds have to stick together. We are on the verge of extinction! I call this my Non-Nerd Guide to Surviving in a Nerd’s Geeky World. Here are a few of my survival strategies:
1. Learn to speak geek. They have their own language. Learning it will help endear you to them. It’s sort of like a Gringo who learns Spanish. You will never be one of them, but the fact you are trying to learn their language and their culture will make them more accepting. You can start by subscribing to the Top 10 tech web sites. I also suggest watching the Big Bang Theory. And whatever you do, for goodness sake, make sure you have the entire Star Wars Collection and know all of the characters.
2. Display a collectible figure on your desk and always be futzing with a puzzle. Nerds love Xmen, Transformers, Harry Potter, Star Trek and Star Wars figures. They also never met a puzzle they didn’t like. If you get the reputation among them for liking certain collectible figures and solving puzzles, you might be able to avoid being stereotyped as a non-nerd, or worse, being devoid of all nerdliness.
3. Know their obsession and develop one of your own. Every nerd has at least one obsession. All of their nerd friends know what it is. It could be space, a scientific theory, or some feat of engineering. When you learn their obsession you should feed it by sending them copies of new articles on the subject (they will have read every stinking thing ever written to date), or a notice that the ultimate-geek authority on the subject will be speaking somewhere. Most importantly, ask them to send you anything they run across on your obsession.
4. Appear to be intellectually curious about the most mundane things.Nerds especially love to challenge the way everyday things work. They love to debate among themselves how things should be redesigned or rebuilt to work better. You can impress them by calling something out. For example, if you’re looking out the office window when it is raining, you can say something like:
“Why do umbrellas work so poorly? Most of them don’t open properly, the latch usually sticks. They flip inside out in the slightest wind. When closing them they spray water everywhere, drenching you in the very substance they were designed to shield you from. There is never enough room for two if you want to share it with someone you’re walking with. Not to mention the fact you usually leave it behind when you need it the most.”
These observations about an everyday, mundane thing, will be enough to spur endless debate and send them into conniptions. If you’re bold enough, you can offer a few solutions, like, “My umbrella should text me if the weather forecast is for 51.6% chance of rain, or if I leave it behind in a restaurant. If I’m walking with someone I should be able to pull on the handle to extend the canopy by 2 feet.”
I guarantee you, by the end of week, they will have designed a better umbrella.
5. Take up a creative hobby. A role-playing game like Dungeons & Dragons would be the ultimate. Some sort of band instrument will also pass, as long as it is not a cool instrument like the drums or guitar. But whatever hobby you choose, it must NOT be sports-related. The only exception might be game and player statistics.
6. Get a MAC or a PC that does not run Windows. Nerds dislike most Microsofty things, even the ones that work for Microsoft. Bill Gates is only consider to be a pseudo-nerd. In some circles he is persona-non-nerdy and thought to be a sell-out to his kind.
7. Finally, talk about how much you enjoy marketing, sales, or operations. They will think this is weird because they won’t understand why anyone would want to perform such menial tasks, but they know such tasks are necessary on their march towards world domination. They might just take you along for the ride. I’m especially betting on this strategy.
Now that you know that future employment and quality of life are still possible as a non-nerd, go forth and spread the word to other non-nerds. It is time for non-nerds to unite! And may the force be with you.