Improving Infosec (or any Community/Industry) in One Simple but Mindful Step

Matt Graeber
May 9, 2019 · 9 min read

Alternate title for the technical crowd: Discovering, performing root cause analysis of, and strategically mitigating vulnerabilities of the soul. Exercises for the intelligent and mindful.

As I write this, I’m going through a minor bout of depression. I mention this because while it is extremely difficult to do so in the midst of pain, darkness can often offer extremely profound perspective that you might otherwise lose sight of if you don’t practice looking at it directly. This post is a collection of thoughts, observations, and principles I’ve been establishing over the past several months. The ultimate motivation to write this post comes courtesy of my depression. There is no cry for help in the words that follow but if you’re worried about what follows taking a negative turn, buckle up. It’s not the turn you may be expecting… 😊

Note: I am not a professional therapist. If you truly need help, do not use my words as canon and seek professional help. This post is merely the result of an experiment I’ve been performing on myself that has exhibited huge positive outcomes from which you may benefit as well.


Positivity

Before establishing how to exercise positivity, allow me to highlight some important observations:

  1. There is a cacophony of noise in our industry consisting of negativity and, as a result, a consistent outcry condemning the negativity. From my perspective, this is primarily amplified via social media.

I feel it is important not to reject these observations and instead, to embrace the beauty (yes, I referred to the negativity as beauty) of both sides of this system. What makes the interaction of negativity and positivity beautiful in my opinion is when you’re able see the system as an objective observer.

Ask yourself, if you see your surroundings as exceedingly negative, do you improve the situation by explicitly calling out the negativity? More specifically, what is your goal in calling out the negativity? Is it to acknowledge that there is a problem rather than pretending it doesn’t exist? What can actually be done about it? Unconsciously, are you expecting that the problem will take care of itself or that by enough people agreeing with you, it may cause those being negative to reflect on changing their perspective? Have you considered that calling out negativity in excess without having a plan in place might be adding to the problem? I can’t answer that for you but I’ve arrived at an answer on my own by reflecting on my own actions that I can see clearly in hindsight did not have a net positive impact. More specifically, in almost every case where my messaging was not positive I can see that it only served to benefit one thing, my ego.

Is there a more productive way to improve the industry you’ve already invested so much in? To answer that question, I will offer a quote from D.L. Moody that my amazing co-worker, Andy Robbins introduced me to a while back: “The best way to show that a stick is crooked is not to argue about it or to spend time denouncing it, but to lay a straight stick alongside it.” Positivity is the straight stick that offers solutions for a better industry. I am so grateful for you sharing that quote with me, Andy!


Simple Positivity Practices

Here are several principles I’ve made a concerted effort to work on personally that are extremely simple to apply. The challenge, as with anything though, is with consistent application.

  1. When tempted to respond negatively or forcefully, step back and remind yourself of the immenseness of the Earth and of the Universe and ask yourself, in the big picture, is it worth it? Understandably, an emotional state may inhibit such rationality. Another question to ask yourself is, who is the actual beneficiary of my action? Through practice, you may find that the unconscious beneficiary is ego rather than that of “helping” the target of your criticism.

Positive Influences within our Industry

Practicing #5, I wanted to take the opportunity to call out the overwhelmingly positive influences I’ve observed recently. This obviously won’t capture everyone/everything but these people stand out to me as particularly influential in helping shape, validate, and reject my perspectives recently:

  • Chris Gates. Chris’ talk on Hacking your Happiness had a profound impact on me not only in the substance of the talk but in his courage to present it. His talk and subsequent journey in finding himself was a huge influence for me and served to smack me in the face in realizing that the best path forward is one without ego. One does not need to align with his belief system to see the power in his message of looking inside oneself.

For all the other people I didn’t mention by name, know that I can think of at least one extremely positive thing about you. Also, if you’re self-conscious about not being mentioned, read this post again. Hehe. I also value deeply the people I’ve disagreed with as they have played an important role in helping to change or validate my perspectives. The perspectives of the people you disagree with are, in my opinion, of equal (if not slightly more) value than that of those you agree with.


Conclusion

I’ll keep this extremely succinct. Through the practice of positivity, you have absolutely nothing lose and you and the people within your sphere of influence with will have everything to gain! I love you!

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Credit: Hubble Deep Field https://spacetelescope.org/images/heic0406a/

Thanks to Andy Robbins, Kelly Villanueva, Casey Smith and the love of my life, my wife for their invaluable insight, review, and critique of this post!

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