Upholder Tools and Rebel Tools

This post (along with all the articles in the Rebel alliance category) is based on the “Four Tendencies” framework developed by Gretchen Rubin.

picture of tools
The wrong tools just won’t do the job. Photo from Pixabay.

I wanted to write about being a rebel: about the power, pain, and delight of seeing the world through contrarian eyes. But starting is always hard, so I pulled up the blogging template shared by Michael Hyatt.

Then I stared at it.

And I thought about how to fill it in.

And I wrote a few words, erased them, and did it again.

Then I stared at it some more.

An hour later I quit, angry and frustrated.

Later that afternoon, still stewing over the failed post, I heard myself say, “Why the hell am I using upholder tools for rebel work?!”

Upholder tools

There is no shortage of useful and generous advice on the internet. And for every piece of advice and shared tool, there is a chorus of voices praising its provider and testifying about how well it works.

There are also people advocating the exact opposite and getting the same praise.

Of course what works for one person may not work for another; we are all different and as the text shortcut warns, YMMV: your mileage may vary. (Or as I once saw it interpreted: you make me vomit.)

But for rebels the problem is particularly hard because the vast majority of the advice on the web is provided by upholders. They post on a fixed schedule, write properly formatted book proposals, meet their publishing deadlines, and give the TED talks. They have earned the right to tell the rest of us how to be successful and they do so.

The tools and methods of the upholder are gold for other upholders and are even useful for those with the adjacent questioner and obliger tendencies. But rebels are the exact opposite of upholders and upholder tools and tactics are bound to fail—often catastrophically—for a rebel.

What’s a rebel to do?

Before I understood the rebel tendency, I treated all advice from successful people as of the same value.

  • Michael Hyatt—who is doing a thing I want to do—does this, so I’ll do it too.
  • Tim Ferriss—who is doing a thing I want to do—does this, so I’ll do it too.
  • Tony Robbins—who is doing a thing I want to do—does this, so I’ll do it too.

Almost every time I tried this, it ended either badly or very badly. When something would work, it was always because I found some rebel mind game or used it in a rebellious way.

The day after meeting Gretchen Rubin and hearing her talk on the four tendencies, I was struggling with a tool provided by uber-upholder Michael Hyatt and heard myself say (out loud and in a public library), “I can’t be Michael Hyatt, I can only be Kwin Peterson and that should be enough.” I may never forget the relief of that moment.

Now that I understand the rebel tendency, a new factor has entered my advice calculation. No longer is it, “He’s successful so I will do that.” Now the thinking is, “She’s successful and she’s a questioner so this might not work for me,” or “He’s successful but he’s an upholder so this will probably not work for me,” or “He’s successful and a rebel, so some version of this is likely to work.”

And yet I still fall into the trap of using upholder tools; they’re just everywhere. The upholder viewpoint is part of the very fabric of society it’s like water for a fish. It is around us and in us—a lens with which we see the world and which we judge our own efforts and value.

The hardest part about being a rebel

As I was recently reminded, the hardest part about being a rebel is remembering you are one.

I’m on the hunt for rebel-tools. Please share your favorites below.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *