Fire for Effect: Give Credit its Due

This is the second salvo in Michael Rutherford’s regular column, Fire for Effect.  Take it away Mike…

It is amazing what you can accomplish…

Harry S Truman did some pretty cool stuff.  He took the wheel during WWII and ended that mess in less than 4 months.  Old “Give ’em hell, Harry” checked the expansion of communism both at home and abroad and at the same time…championed the UN…helped rebuild Europe and the global economy… pulled off the Berlin Air Lift… racially integrated the U.S. military… started NATO… stopped the entire Chinese Army, in Asia, without WMDs (a cool trick in anybody’s book)…got General Douglas MacArthur under control (Almost as big a deal as that thing with the Chinese Army!) and he had a few other pots on the stove.  Somewhere in and amongst all those little distractions, he had time to utter a saying that has stuck with me since the first time I heard it.

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit”


Credit.  Recognition.  Acknowledgment.  One of the sweetest nectars to be found in the garden of AFOL delights, as well as one of its most insidious toxins.

The Desire For Credit (DFC) is a classic motivator.  The idea that our peers will acknowledge our efforts as exemplary.  That some lasting accomplishment will be attributed specifically to us for a very long time.  We long to see our name and our contribution carved into the marble of history next to other reputable guys and their great achievements: Euclid’s Elements, Newton’s Constant, the Van Allen Belt, the Pickard  Picard Maneuver

It’s an attractive notion that speaks directly to our self-worth.  It taps directly into our narcissistic tendencies, a sirens call both irresistible and destructive.  It might even be primal, this desire for the approval of the group.

And like most primitive urges, we often suppress and deny it, like our intense desire to stare at attractive people in public.  Like our deep-seated need to establish dominance in social situations, or our intense need to eat food from Chick Fill’A.  These are all very natural behaviors, and all suppressed (usually with only marginal levels of success).   We get busted checking people out, we get pissed off when slighted in public and we eat the hell out of those damn chicken sandwiches…just like we all know a Cro-Magnon would!  Many of us reject the notion that this desire exists at all, but this denial is of course false.  We want credit for our effort, but WE THINK IT IS BASE to want the credit, so we SAY that we don’t.  Only for a few, a very select few, is this rejection sincere.  In fact, recent satellite images of the Earth suggest that there are precisely FIVE people alive on Earth today who don’t care at all about getting credit for their work.  Oh shit… Mother Teresa is dead?  Make that FOUR people. Then again, even the beloved Mother Theresa had her issues with credit.

This Desire For Credit (DFC) is a pervasive element of the AFOLs life.  Isolating the DFC from everything else, for the purpose of discussion is largely artificial.  Like ethics, safety, respect, faith, trust…and bunch of other stuff…The DFC is part of everything we do.  Maybe a small part, maybe not so small, but it always OVERLAPS with a lot of other topics. A transition sentence is one that helps your reader move to the next concept smoothly (like my thesis for example), but I don’t have a good transition sentence, so…JUMP NOW!

THESIS: The desire for credit (DFC) can both motivate and prevent the artistic growth of AFOLs and the hobby, and acknowledging our DFC allows us to mitigate it’s destructive side.

We can see the impact of credit (or the Desire For Credit) in at least three areas of the hobby: Parts and Techniques, Building Efforts and Disputed Credit.

PARTS and TECHNIQUES.  From time to time, one of us will use a part effectively in a MOC and receive the curt but salutary accolade: “NPU!”  Ah yes…that use of the yellow minifig life jacket to capture the subtle curves of Hasselhoff’s ear lobe…that was quite clever wasn’t it?  You KNEW they would dig it, “But soft!  They speak!… NPU bro!”  Ah yes, time to smile and sip the sweet nectar of credit.  But once per era, one of us, usually the seventh son of a seventh son will use a part to devastating an affect and with such relentless frequency that the part becomes synonymous with that builder!  Or a mind will conceive of and execute a technique… teachable, learnable, re-producible on demand and guaranteed to increase crop yield by thirty percent!  Part and builder, part and technique… bonded forever in AFOL song and lore!   It’s a real hallmark.  No, really, it’s cool.  And chicks dig it too!  In fact, I hear it also reduces home mortgages by a quarter of a percent!  Examples of this rare CREDITUS MAXIMUS include:

Nnenn, a beloved and departed AFOL who brought us this enduring design criteria.  True, the Vic Viper is not called the Nnenn Viper, but the formal and recorded design criteria for the Vic Viper is synonymous with this artist.  His design remains an enduring challenge to our entire community.  Nnenns idea endures, an ongoing dialogue within the community about the tension that will always exist between conformity and creativity.  The below image conveys two messages.  First, Nnenns vital contribution to the greater Lego dialogue: conformity and creativity are NOT mutually exclusive.  Second, all of these MOCs were built by different AFOLs and brought to Brickworld Chicago in 2010 in order to commemorate Nnenns passing.


The man had IMPACT on AFOLs and the Art of Lego.  He created and shared an idea that resulted in an explosion of creative effort, AFOL improvement, and vigorous dialogue.  I never saw or heard of him chasing credit… but we all know he earned it, and I for one will say without hesitation, that it is a good thing to recognize his contribution (by name).  Not base, not crude, but unambiguously inspiring.  Oh, and his influence is seen at the highest level an AFOL can achieve: Lego product design, as documented so excellently by TBB.  And of course… just to nail down the trifecta in a supernova of CREDITUS MAXIMUS, we all still call this part the Nnenn:

Other examples of CREDIT in the realm of Parts and Techniques include:

The Travis brick: Named for a remarkable AFOL who passed away too soon.

The Lowell sphere: Invented by a man questing for the perfect round cap on the end of the engine thingy on his Y-Wing…

The Bram sphere: As hydrogen warheads followed on the heels of atomic warheads, so the Bram sphere followed on the heels of the Lowell sphere…marvel at the vast and cool intellect of one of our greatest builders.

Reality check: I Can’t KNOW how or even IF the DFC effected the cognitive processes of these esteemed colleagues and I make no such claim.  What I do say is this: most of us would really dig achieving this level of notoriety.  STOP!  Yes you would!  Don’t deny!  Don’t succumb to the notion of what you THINK is more civilized and ignore the savage TRUTH!   Instead, I urge you to make peace with this base motive, acknowledge it and then having befriended it you must learn to tame it and always strive to keep it in check.  Again, I do NOT claim that the DFC motivated these builders.  Creative impulse.  The need to invent the technique in order to achieve some higher level effort.  Accident!  I declare that Keith should interview each of these cats and get their take on the whole business!  (Do it Keith… Do it!)  I’m just saying, it’s pretty cool that they have parts or techniques named after them and if I was ever able to achieve the same,  I would be pretty jazzed about it.  Because I’m base, crude and think like a Neanderthal?  Maybe.  Or maybe just because I have a rather pedestrian world view.

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