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This week’s theme is self-awareness. I landed on this theme due to the many people I encounter who spend way too much time comparing themselves. It’s why I intentionally built the foundation last week focused on your mental health. Now we’re going to work at getting very real with ourselves. It’s not about who or what you want to become, it’s about who and what you are right now. Sure, we’re all subject to growth and improvement – which means we can change, but I want to push you to consider innate strengths, talents, and abilities. I also want you to think about your beliefs, convictions and character traits. It’s time to look deeply into the mirror.
We’re talking about you. Your self-awareness. Your beliefs. Your decisions. Your actions. Changes YOU need to make so you can improve.
It’s not about what other people need to do. Or what you think they need to do. This week we’re being selfish in that we’re looking into the mirror so we can grow. We want to become better human beings.
New flash: It may appear to have anything to do with your business. But it does.
You may wonder how being a better person can serve you at work. Well, let me offer up a few pieces of evidence – proof of why you should put in this work.
The Pacific Gas and Electric Co. continues to be in the news for bad behavior. Well, if you think criminal behavior is bad. And I do.
Uber’s rocky road toward an IPO was commented upon by TechCrunch. The company has a history of bad behavior from the top down.
Boeing may have known about the safety issues with the 737 Max before that fatal crash last year.
Daily big companies and small companies make the news because of illegal, immoral or questionable behavior from the C-suite. Nevermind that many other companies don’t make the news for doing good work, behaving honestly with high integrity. But the pursuit of business success is a strong siren call that lures many founders, CEOs and executives to ignore whatever character and moral compass once defined them. Others were likely scoundrels from the get-go. It just took some time before they were found out.
Still think being a good human has no correlation with growing great at running a business?
John isn’t his real name, but John is the CEO and founder of a software company that has passed the $100 million mark. He’s a programming fool. Gifted. A skill beyond my comprehension really. Forget computer languages, I’m still trying to master English, my native tongue.
John is hard-charging and proud of it. He has no reservations in being a jerk. Or being considered a jerk. I joke with him that he’s read too many stories about Steve Jobs. But I suspect it’s true.
He churns through developers with a rapid clip. Ask him and he’ll admit he’s constantly surrounded by inept people, incapable of crafting clean code. Maybe he’s right. I just know his tactics aren’t serving him. Or the business. At least not serving either of them to grow great.
I’m patient with John though because he realizes he’s learned this behavior. Those early years of having to do most of the coding himself taught him what it took to succeed. And it also taught him what it would take to fail. But he refused to fail.
Privately, John hates it. He hates “having to be like that.” That is being a jerk, berating people, exhibiting intolerance for even the slightest error. “Man, I just don’t know any other way,” he says. We work mainly on finding out if he’s capable (which means finding out if he’s willing) of believing his life can be far better – and it’ll make his people and his company better, too.
At first, he had doubts. But he was hopeful.
Now, he believes it. So he’s putting in the work to figure it out. I’m trying to help him do that. Not by doing it for him – which is impossible – but by helping him see some things he’s never seen before. So far, so good.
This week we’ve talked about beliefs, convictions, and character because experience has taught me how valuable those are to our growth. John isn’t entrenched with the belief that in order to build a high performing company he has to be a leader with a bullwhip in hand. Yes, that’s how he behaved, but after a while the toll of that behavior on the company and on John personally was apparent. He’s a smart guy.
“What does it mean to be a good person?”
I ask John. I ask other people, too. It’s often similar to what others might say, but not always. I drill down. A more personal question.
“Describe what it would look like for you to live your ideal life.”
Paint me the picture of your ideal version of yourself. This isn’t who or what you are right now. It’s who and what you’d most like to be but avoid including things like skills, talents or interests. For example, it’s out of bounds for me to say my ideal version of myself would be somebody who loves being in big crowds. Fact is, I don’t. And nothing is likely going to change that. Best I accept that truth about myself and create my ideal version of myself around that aspect. So if you’re doing this exercise at home (and I hope you are), then accept those innate things that make you, YOU.
Now let’s amp it up. Every single bit of it.
For most of us it starts with the things in our life – the qualities or components of our life that irritate us, irk us or make us unhappy with ourselves. No, we’re not going to spend time berating ourselves. We are going to spend time recognizing that there are some things (maybe many things) that we really do need to change so we can be better people.
Jeremy is an effective executive, but he admits a lifelong habit that drives him crazy. He’s not able to use “NO” as a complete statement. It drives him crazy. He’s “always telling these small lies to protect myself.” Making up excuses. Figuring out things to say to other people. Compelled to give reasons when no reasons are necessary. Seems small, but it’s a daily nagging aggravation for Jeremy. Besides, lying – even lying about seemingly small or insignificant things – isn’t helping Jeremy become a better person. He’s learning to say, “No” or “No thanks” and leaving that as enough. Says Jeremy, “It’s much nicer to feel a bit uncomfortable doing that than living with how I feel about myself by making something up.”
No change is too small. No change is too big.
Figure out what you think your ideal self would look like. How would your ideal self behave? How would your ideal self talk? How would your ideal self make decisions? How would your ideal self work with others, manage the work and lead people? Figure that out. Write it out if you like. Paint the most detailed picture possible.
Now, figure out how to get from where you are to this ideal that YOU created. Don’t fret about getting there in a single step, but commit to making a step (just one) in the right direction. You want to make the change and you want to feel better about yourself for putting in the work.
Don’t worry about what people will say or think. You have to live with yourself. The things you’ve always hated about yourself should likely be the top things on your list. Stop accepting bad behavior as being who you are. That’s the toxic danger of self-resignation. “Well, I just lie because I don’t want to be that candid.” No excuse. You’re eroding your self-respect. And that’s the bottom line to this work. We’re trying to elevate your self-respect. We’re trying to put in the work so we’re feeling good about the effort we’re making to become a better person every single day. No matter what!
Be well. Do good. Grow great!