The I Could Do it Better Syndrome

You know them.

They’re the people who yell at the television on Monday nights, insisting that they could have caught that pass or avoided that tackle. They’re the ones who can’t attend a conference or event without telling other people how they would have made it more interesting. They’re the people who believe they can do everything better than anyone else, whether it’s blogging, forging a career, making choices, having a relationship, or even serving a charitable cause.

The I Could Do It Better Syndrome seems to affect only a small percentage of the population, but they’re a persistent and vocal minority that demands not only to be heard, but somehow validated. It’s not enough to address their criticisms — they want nothing less than complete capitulation. Yes, you are right and I am wrong. How may I serve you? What can I do to make you happy? Until they get the attention and agreement they want, the I Could Do It Betters won’t let up, at least until they find a new outlet for their hostilities.

There’s a man online who has been doing a remarkable job of bringing light to the issue of homelessness. It was his vision, his idea and his efforts that resulted in a mission that has gathered steam, sponsors and many, many supporters. And while I’ve been neutral in the past about social programs that “raise awareness” — believing that direct, one-on-on support is more critical — Mark Horvath’s has gained my respect. His pinpoint focus and tireless travels across the United States and Canada have resulted in more than just awareness and sympathy. His interviews with homeless people have spurred real offers of help and assistance. Further, in giving the homeless a direct opportunity to tell their stories to the world — to look into the camera and in their own words talk about their situations and feelings — Mark has given a powerful voice to those “invisible” people whom society has often ignored or dismissed.

I’ve followed Mark’s journey online for about a year. While it doesn’t surprise me that his mission has been attacked recently by a group of I Could Do It Betters, what I do find disturbing is how far they’ve been willing to go to get other people to jump on their hateful (and I must say, seemingly jealousy-driven, bandwagon). They’ve tweeted his sponsors and threatened to never do business with them. They’ve made YouTube videos questioning his ethics. They’ve accused Mark of exploiting the homeless for his own gain, of being a limelight seeker, of not answering questions to their satisfaction — even of passing out the wrong kind of donated food. Their claims have gotten ridiculous and out of hand — they’ll criticize anything from Pop Tarts to socks — but they seem to delight in any opportunity to assail Mark’s “motives”, his tactics and his character.

Having followed Mark’s mission for over a year, I know that not even one of the accusations are even partially true. This is a simply a bold case of I Could Do It Better by people who, hypocritically, are seeking attention for themselves. They seem to resent the (well-deserved) praise has received and believe they could do a better job with the resources Mark has gathered.

My question to the armchair critics would be — if you believe you could do better, why don’t you? Instead of all that energy spent denigrating one person’s efforts, why not build your own mission from scratch? What’s stopping you from rallying support for your own better ideas and solutions?

The answers are, of course, apparent. Lacking their own will, drive and ideas to actually affect change and improve the world around them, the I Could Do It Betters would rather imagine that they could — if only they were Mark. If only they had had the idea and put the work in. If only they had spent the great amount of time and care that Mark has gathering support. If only they were given the opportunity.

However, the I Could Do It Betters have to know that Mark wasn’t given his mission — he created it out of his own vision and ideals and then worked very hard to make it a reality. There’s nothing to stop others from doing the same (or even better) should they ever choose to leave the comfort of their armchairs and take the real-world actions they believe would be an improvement.

You can learn more about Mark Horvath and his mission to help homeless people by visiting, or by following @hardlynormal and @invisiblepeople on Twitter.

Today’s post is a guest post by the novelist and essayist, Jane Devin. We’re delighted she stopped by to bark and walk in our back yard and welcome her any time she wants to wander in. If you haven’t already, buy her book, Elephant Girl. It is nothing short of amazing.

34 Replies to “The I Could Do it Better Syndrome”

  1. I’d like to follow up this post with a quote that I believe truly addresses the critics vs. the doers:

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” – Roosevelt

  2. Jane, there are many do gooders in this world that don’t crave fame like Mark. Like @MitzvahCircle and @nothosepeople. And countless others you don’t hear about because they aren’t glory hogs like Mark. THESE are the people we should be praising, not some guy (who, YES, has done some good, but has not saved “1,000s of lives,” as he so loves to claim) who goes on road trips and spouts platitudes about ending homelessness.

    Sorry, Jane, but you got it wrong. Clearly, you don’t know me, and vice versa.

  3. Good stuff, Jane!

    It’s the ‘do for one what you cannot do for everyone’ syndrome.

    These armchair people are not willing to start small as I’m sure Mark had to.

    For some reason we have this sickness in America that we do not see the value in helping just one person. That is how many great organizations get their start.

    You do have to be willing to accept the possibility that your organization may not get very large but there is still value in helping just one person.

  4. Sadly, Juana, you just proved my point. You and others are resentful that Mark’s mission has received attention — the kind of attention that has made it successful.

    Mother Theresa also received praise and publicity — was she a “glory hog”? The fact is that people who do bold, courageous things in the name of a good cause do tend to have others who want to promote them and get them in the public eye. It’s sad that a few people, like you, would rather have his mission, and Mark himself, be invisible — which would, of course, make his cause a failure.

    If you love and support the work of others, then by all means go support them. Praise them. Tell your friends. Contact the media about them. Nominate them for prizes. Because this is what Mark’s supporters have done. There is nothing stopping you from doing the same for causes YOU believe in more than his.

    Further, just because receives attention and support does NOT take away from other people’s efforts. There’s no subtraction here, only addition. The more people who are out there doing good — in whatever way they can — the more people who will be helped. There’s no set number of pie slices in the charitable cause pie.

    Now, onto some POSITIVE news:

    Don was first person housed because of the program
    has now housed 6 people and continues to work with others

    a farmer donated land to feed low income people because of The farm is now bigger and feeding more people

    in this promo
    2 more people housed because of

    Mark fought the system to help 1800 homeless people and won

    Rd gets housing

    Rd and Anne

    CDI College giving scholorships to low/no income

    Donny gets housing because of

    Larry is reunited with family
    Creation of Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness

    There is more for those who care to see–and support– the good.

  5. I don’t think Mark craves fame. I think he is just a very skilled story-teller and a certain level of notoriety found him. He knows how to frame a story so people will listen. That does not diminish the work others are doing.

    Nor does what others do diminish his work. God does not keep count of the bodies; only our modern media does that.

  6. I just had lunch with someone in the Dayton area who feeds the hungry. (Also a minister.. yeah, we agnostic dogs hang with God-people too.. we don’t judge 🙂 …) He started off feeding one family and now feeds over 600 families a month. He does not seek out fame yet it seems to find him anyway because he is a charismatic personality. It is just who he is. And yet others deride him for it because they say he should be teaching people how to fish instead of feeding them fish. I think you help where you can, whom you can and how you can. Let God figure out the rest of the formula.

  7. I’m scratching my head trying to understand why anyone would boycott sponsors of a guy trying to help the homeless. That seems so counter-intuitive to me.

    Reading the comments here does clarify it a little bit. There seems to be a perception that he’s in it for the attention, am I right? Or not even that as much as that he hasn’t done as much as others serving the homeless?

    Ok, I’ll throw my 2 cents in on this. Cause aside, Mark Horvath has done a remarkable job of using social media to raise awareness in very real ways about homelessness. Homelessness is that ugly thing in the corner no one wants to talk about. It’s the angry consequence of a society that cheers executing criminals and the idea of letting sick people die in the streets. No one really wants to talk about it, but if they do, it’s usually in the context of why those people failed in some way, rather than how we’re failing them.

    Horvath is using his story and available social media tools to force people to look in the mirror and realize we’re all connected, we’re all vulnerable, and we’re all responsible. That he has enjoyed enough success to garner the attention of high-profile media online is to his credit.

    When he has a break, he should write a book about how he did it. I’m certain it would trump anything the professional public relations folks write about “social media 101.”

    Props to him. Excuse me while I go make a donation.

  8. It’s easy to be an armchair quaterback when you have an armchair.
    I’m 5 months homeless, and by meeting people like Mark of, Fran of, and Shay & Shane of, I was able to understand the world I was being thrust into. More importantly through all of them I learned that my abilities to adapt and learn fast was a gift that can be used to help others.
    I’ve been able to hold events for the homeless, bring clothes to those in need, help others obtain benefits and other resources. All because I watched and learned from them, and realized that while all have different methods, the one common denominator is that all three are wildly effective.

    There’s MANY more doing whatever they can, from spreading the word, to donating cash, to going in the streets and giving someone what they need. I only use these three together because they all vary greatly in personality, professional methods, and and target results. So to “compare” them is silly, but the point is not everyone needs to agree with methods, but results speak for themselves.

    Anything that any of these fine folks get in return is well deserved. Even if just the peace of mind that they’ve helped, because I know that simple feeling has completely changed my life.

    Through them my voice has been heard by many, and I now write for Spare Change News, my website Through this my oportunities continue to grow, as does my ability to continue to reaching more people to help, right here from “street level”.

  9. It saddens me to hear of this constant bashing against Mark. I honestly love Mark for himself and his goal to bring awareness and help to the homeless. His video of me on Invisible People sparked unbelievable growth and changes in my life! I’ve been using social media for just over 2 years. I first met Mark when he was in Chicago not long after I started using Twitter. I had a real meal–fried rice at Panda Express at Ogilvie Metra Station. It had been sooo long since I had eaten a meal that wasn’t out of a cold can! Mark has done so much to inspire and encourage me. He has taught me that anything is possible. And it IS! I am no longer homeless. I am more social. People actually look to me for advice and help. I am more confident in myself and optimistic about the future. I feel successful! Mark’s travels and videos give the homeless opportunities. It all starts from there. The transition out of homelessness. Society becoming aware of homelessness. People understand the hardships and want to help, they care to volunteer at shelters, and they donate. Mark is on a path to help the homeless and he is doing an awesome job! Its unbelievable that anyone would try to knock him down like this. He is really a great person.

  10. I am the wife of Larry, sister-in-law of Terry. We were the lucky recipients of a miracle that happened because of Mark and InvisiblePeople.TV. God
    put Mark in the position to interview Terry. God used Mark’s talents to give us an opportunity to share 53 wonderful final days with our brother. Put
    a price on that! I know how much that reunion alone meant to us after 33 years of looking. When people create negative stories to condemn a man
    who is humble and loving and kind..I take offense. He is like a shepherd who has and does go out of his way to find that one hurting lamb. If he can’t
    give what is needed, he finds the support needed to help. How many times is it easier for us to turn our head and walk past? This man has
    watched us walk past , ignoring an alcoholic and drug addict. He has now stirred that discomfort and empathy in all those who have ever had the
    privilege of meeting him. We now are tasked to do what we can to help. Mark gave up precious time in his schedule to meet us and I wonder how
    many more lives he’s directly and indirectly affected. He has sacrificed a lot to reach out to those who feel they are invisible. If you can’t support
    his work, at least don’t stand in his way. I guarantee you will be trampled. Indebted. Bev
    tasked with that opportunity to pay it forward. He gave us time that we could not get ourselves and will be forever indebted. Thank you, Mark.

  11. Can you show me where Mark claims that he “has saved thousands of lives”?

    I can tell you that many thousands have been made aware of issues homeless people face, through his work.

    The people at YouTube and Twitter headquarters, who are quite worldly.
    were blown away by his presentations.

    Jealousy hurts the cause.

  12. Jane, thanks again for this post.
    I’ve worked with Mark (at a homeless shelter) for over a year and have seen first hand how he works with people; always respectful, compassionate and encouraging. Best part is that he understands both homeless individuals and service providers, so he’s able to get people working together on the big picture of ending homelessness.

    As far as media attention goes; there can be no social change, no end to homelessness, etc. unless we all (as a society) become aware of the issue! How can he- or anyone- change the way we treat & help homeless people, without media coverage to raise awareness? Even still, I’ve been around countless times as he’s asked reporters to interview willing homeless people or the service providers instead of him and I agree with Karoll that the attention he has been getting is to his credit, shows he’s doing something right.

    It’s disheartening to see how much effort Mark’s critics have put into attacking him, and sadly without cause. I’ve yet to see one valid claim from them and can only feel that their criticisms say much more about them than they do about Mark.

  13. As a friend who knows Mark, claiming that he craves fame couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact its blatantly unacceptable to make such an assertion without know the background, facts, and spirit of the man. Please don’t riddle a comments section with useless banter, it only makes the conversation worse, and takes it away from what is important, and that is helping people.

  14. I have been following Mark’s work for over a year now. Can’t see how anything he is doing hurts the efforts of others involved with trying to make a difference for people living without housing. I can’t see why people would attack him or try to get his sponsors to pull back. It’s hurtful and mean. If someone personally doesn’t care for what he is doing don’t watch or follow him. The work he is doing requires a certainly level of publicity…that’s the point of it.

  15. Do what you can in any way you can to make life easier for one another. Is that soo hard?

    Mark has been homeless and the possibility that others may live and DIE homeless in the land of the free and endless opportunity really bothered him – that no one seemed to care also bothered him. So: he turned his camera outward and it brought attention and the attention brought hope and help.

    If addressing the issues that I can not look away from also consume me such that Ican not take other work – and if it puts bread on my table, feeds and clothes and houses my children: should I also be ashamed?

  16. And they prove my point again and again. A new Twitter account opened this morning – @HomelessDefende (yes, there’s no “r”) – for the sole purpose of spreading lies and misinformation about Mark Horvath, @invisiblepeople. They are even using the hashtag of a SM conference that Mark is attending.

    I encourage everyone on Twitter to block and report this account, which was created for no reason other than to try to destroy a good cause and cast doubt on Mark’s character.

    Under the guise of “asking questions” they continue to stalk and harass Mark and his supporters. All of their questions have been answered, some many times over, and almost all of them are asked for no reason other than to find ammunition. They’ve contacted Mark’s employer to try to get him fired. (Mark’s been on unpaid leave with the blessing of his employer). They’ve threatened his sponsors. None of that worked, so now they’re taking to Twitter and trying to gain the attention of his supporters and conference attendees.

    As I said in my article, it’s apparent that this small group of people would rather destroy something good than create something good for themselves and others.

    Updated to add: One of the hallmarks of a smear campaign is to dig in and around issues that have nothing to do with any legitimate issue. Did you get fired from your last job? Oh, you nominated yourself for that grant? How much do you spend on food you eat? Why’d you stay in a hotel and not sleep in your car? These are the types of inane questions that Mark has battled and that his detractors only pose to try to cast aspersions. It’s ridiculous. They are owed no explanation from Mark, his sponsors, or supporters. Period.

  17. I agree. I don’t answer questions people ask in comments. It is a tactic to turn the argument to what they want to talk about rather than the issue at hand. And, as this is my back yard, I don’t have to approve any comments I don’t want to nor do I ever have to explain why or why not.

  18. Ed said it best – “jealousy hurts the cause.” Bottom line: Mark is touching lives in an overwhelmingly positive way. I know him personally and can vouch that he places a high value on transparency and integrity in everything he does, and his work makes it easier for others to raise awareness and do THEIR work. If I didn’t know Mark, I’d still have to wonder: even if someone else out there is having more impact and getting less credit than Mark gets, what do they gain by tearing Mark down? Squabbling about credit and recognition hurts people living on the street because it keeps everyone from getting our work done. This is not a zero sum game – we can help each other, celebrate each other and hold each other up. There is enough work to do.

  19. Jane, thank you again for this post.

    I think it has all been said, but I want to attest to Mark’s character and sincerity. I hired Mark as a temporary outreach worker just as he was starting InvisiblePeople. He continually had ideas on how to improve services and be more responsive to our clients, he mentored us in social media and provided countless hours of unpaid support for our agency’s website and social media accounts. During the winter months he worked long hours as an outreach worker and on his off hours maintained the InvisiblePeople site.

    As a Board Member, it is my hope that Mark can continue to focus on InvisiblePeople and that it becomes the self-sustaining organization it needs to be.

  20. I don’t know Mark. I cannot attest to his character or motives. He *could* be all of the negative things people are saying about him for all I know.

    My question is: does it really matter? Do we have so few homeless people in our communities that people have to fight over who can or should be able to help?

    Mark’s project has actually helped homeless people….people that I know. There, that is my bottom line. I don’t care why he did it, how much more he could or should have done, if he was paid to do it. If you don’t like what he is doing…I’m sure I can find some other homeless people who would appreciate whatever help you are offering.

  21. You’re right, Jane. They don’t let up. They just create more and more fake accounts in order to attack. The latest is @madrugada3. No tweets except to further their agenda of Invisible People bashing. I thank God that people are seeing them for what they are. Like you, I’ve watched Mark try to answer their questions, but no answer is ever good enough. Probably because they aren’t legitimate questions at all, so there are no right answers. Whatever he or his supporters say just add fuel to the fire because they’ll twist it for their own agenda. And they don’t just attack his mission, they attack him personally, and seem to think that all parts of his personal life are their business and fair game.

    I’m with you. Mark owes these people no explanations. He owes them nothing, no matter how entitled they believe they are.

    Now I’m off to make a donation to @home and the film for Invisible People. Not that I can afford much, but you know…his attackers have made me want to support him MORE, even if it means I have to sacrifice a little something. Today it will be lunch.

  22. In a previous life, I used to work at a biomedical company selling exercise bikes to paralyzed people (true!) I learned a lot about people and the non-profit, benevolent community from that experience. I met a ton of really good people, but also saw more ugly than I ever want to remember.

    Christopher Reeve was injured shortly after I started up. Since he was a larger, taller man than we usually served, he was having trouble finding physical therapy equipment to fit his frame. Our engineers made a specialized frame for our technology and shipped it, me and the engineer out to his home in upstate New York. He and Dana welcomed us in without even knowing who we were. Over the next few years, all three of us became friends. They really were exceptional people and not just because Chris was injured. (even though Chris and I had more than a few heated exchanges… he was a very, very stubborn man.)

    But his quest for a cure rankled a lot of people; especially those who had been working tirelessly to get attention for SCI. They felt he just swooped in and stole their glory. They were resentful, even as Chris tried to include them. They actively campaigned AGAINST Chris fueled mostly by their jealousy. (That or an absurd claim that it was God’s will they have their injury or Chris was building up unrealistic hopes.) Having seen Chris behind the scenes, this was incredibly puzzling to me. And very sad. And it kinda got to him too from time to time. He didn’t ask for his injury and he felt that the least he could do was lend his celebrity to the cause.

    I understand what Mark is going through. No matter what he does, he will have enemies. The best he can do is continue helping those he can and not let the haters get him down. Posts like this and a network of supporters helps a ton for sanity!

  23. I wanted to share part of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Ziaobo’s final statement (right before he was sent to jail for 11 years). This is just a bite.

    And now I have been once again shoved into the dock by the enemy mentality of the regime. But I still want to say to this regime, which is depriving me of my freedom, that I stand by the convictions I expressed in my “June Second Hunger Strike Declaration” twenty years ago—I have no enemies and no hatred. None of the police who monitored, arrested, and interrogated me, none of the prosecutors who indicted me, and none of the judges who judged me are my enemies. Although there is no way I can accept your monitoring, arrests, indictments, and verdicts, I respect your professions and your integrity, including those of the two prosecutors, Zhang Rongge and Pan Xueqing, who are now bringing charges against me on behalf of the prosecution. During interrogation on December 3, I could sense your respect and your good faith.

    Hatred can rot away at a person’s intelligence and conscience. Enemy mentality will poison the spirit of a nation, incite cruel mortal struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and hinder a nation’s progress toward freedom and democracy. That is why I hope to be able to transcend my personal experiences as I look upon our nation’s development and social change, to counter the regime’s hostility with utmost goodwill, and to dispel hatred with love.

    –Liu Xiaobo, 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Winner.

  24. It is so hard to get him off his lazy duff to do almost anything, but the work Mark Horvath does could not keep him from staying silent. And Jane’s recount of his detractors made his blood boil. From time to time, he hits the mark… 🙂

  25. Thanks for your piece here, Jane.

    Mark’s been a friend, colleague and mentor for a number of years now and has an undisputed record of assisting underserved populations.

    Normally I wouldn’t even give the negativity a second glance because clearly, those who criticize Mark’s work are woefully ignorant of the importance in raising awareness, shocking the conscience of the mainstream community, and providing a voice to those who otherwise are passed by like garbage in the gutter. However,this kind of ridiculous and public attack on a man working to do all he can to assist others is unwarranted and unfathomable. If out of his efforts he becomes recognized for his efforts, then MORE power to him because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and we need a whole lot more Mark Horvaths out there, providing voices to those who otherwise would never ever be heard.

    If someone has a problem with what Mark Horvath does to serve this marginalized group of human beings, that person should take it up directly with him. Clearly, Mark is not only easy to talk with, he’s definitely easy to find.

    Whether motivated by jealousy or anger, the public impugnment on Mark is a disgrace to the work all homeless service providers do each day. It sends such a poor and negative message to the community that colleagues aren’t able to play nice with each other despite our differences and it destroys the professionalism we want to bring to the world of direct service delivery.

    To attack him publicly does little harm to professional damage to Mark himself. Instead, it makes all of us look bad while pointing a glaring spotlight on the motives and agendas of the attacker, as well as that individual’s mental status, since so many believe that “those homeless people” are all crazy anyway.

    My advice to Mark has been consistent: keep fighting the good fight, pay as little attention to the detractors as possible, and allow his actions to speak for him. This approach has been incredibly successful throughout his efforts, as his thousands of supporters certainly prove.

    On a positive note, Mark’s supporters are intelligent enough to discriminate between justified complaints about a particular circumstance and someone hunting him with a destructive ulterior motive. Too bad the same can’t be said for those promulgating the unwarranted public attacks on him.

  26. Judy, Rufus Dogg, it gives me great elation to add my voice to this piece.

    Having known Mark since a week before I became homeless; having spoken on stage with him; having accompanied him in the field; and working as a volunteer for him, I share this with you:

    You’ve written a piece I wish I had written. Thank you for the eloquent expression.

    I do not give my trust easily. I give it to Mark Horvath.

    I am one of the homeless whom he has shed blood, sweat and tears for. I am housed directly because of his efforts.

    By illustration and action he has become one of my teachers.

    He has become my friend, a path that happens rarely with me, my friends can be counted on the fingers of both hands. I do not make them lightly.

    Gratitude alone is not enough to win my respect.

    With respect, I continue to voice my support-of and belief-in Mark, Invisible People and WeAreVisible.

    Rd Plasschaert

  27. Juana. I don’t know you, you don’t know me. I’m assuming that you also don’t know Mark, since Mark and I are friends and all.

    You are wildly incorrect and you do a lot of harm to @MitzvahCircle and @nothosepeople by bringing them to your mudslinging.

    In Los Angeles Mark has helped hundreds of people get off the streets. In the US and Canada Mark has enabled the homeless to have access to services by showing them the simplest things, like how to set up an email account… something that even my 10 year old takes for granted.

    Mark has encouraged me to donate everything from cash to major household appliances to my local homeless shelter. Is that enough of a contribution from just one family that gave nothing before meeting Mark?

    When Mark went to Alaska he was able to change the shelter system, when he went to the deep south more changes were made there as well.

    Hanes has given homeless men, women and children clean socks. Can you imagine not being able to afford a new pair of socks?

    Mark’s tours have activated the technology community to support homeless shelters and services locally, nationally and internationally. He is not a rich man or a proud man, he is a humble man who is brave enough to stand in front of audiences and ask them to see homeless people as part of our community.

    Juana, it would be pathetic if your legacy was that you attempted to unwind all of that goodness.

Comments are closed.