A co-worker and I started reminiscing this afternoon about our past professional missteps.
He once called his boss a choice name within an email… and then accidentally sent the note to his superior instead of the intended officemate.
I was frustrated by a manager years back and when he wouldn’t heed my persistent explanations that his instructions were incorrect, I hardcoded my distaste for his ignorance into the database we were building.
This afternoon we laughed, but my friend and I were quick to acknowledge how stupid and arrogant we had been all those years ago.
“I was such a jerk back then,” sighed my pal.
It’s important to remember that you used to be dumb, ignorant and/or reckless.
It’s also important to realize you might still be those things.
Self-awareness isn’t simple. And it isn’t a static goal.
While driving to meet someone recently, I found myself miles past my destination and very confused.
I sincerely thought that I had been paying attention, only to realize that in whatever brief window of time I had let my mind wander, I’d completely missed the finish line.
Self-awareness is kind of like that – let your head out of the game for even an instant and you may end up in a very different place than you want to be.
So how do you stay on the right track?
I suggest one simple sentence in three parts:
Take feedback/ from people you trust/ regularly.
In improv comedy there is a basic rule referred to as “Yes, And…” When someone says something to you or does something, you answer in positive, not negative terms to perpetuate the scene. If your partner tells you they just came from the barber, you ask about the haircut. You do not tell them they actually came from the dentist. Such a maneuver ends the discussion and thus the activity.
It’s the same with feedback. When we hear something we don’t like, but recognize as true we tend to say “Yes, but…”, not “Yes, and…” It takes humility and self-concern to drop the defense and attempt to reassess and potentially repair.
From People You Trust
But how do you know the criticism is worth hearing and taking stock in? There are plenty of people who don’t know enough or may even have bad intentions when offering you a critique. How do you keep them from throwing you off track?
Consider the source. Is this someone you need in your life? Is this someone who wants the best for you? Does this person have a track record of good ideas or bankable wisdom? Seek those people out.
There is little I hate more than the concept and execution of “routine car maintenance.” Every time I see a mechanic for an oil change, I feel like they are telling me to get a new transmission. But if I don’t take my vehicle in for an occasional tune-up, things start going wrong and I will quickly find myself broken down roadside.
Just like switching the fluids under the hood or the batteries in the smoke alarm, we need to remind ourselves to evaluate and be evaluated as a way to ensure future effectiveness.
It is important to acknowledge that you were once young, dumb and full of bad ideas.
But it is MORE important to make sure you aren’t old, stupid and making the same mistakes.