Monday, February 22, 2010

Stop Pretending You Are Cooked or You Might Get Burned

None of us hit the ground in our careers fully baked. In fact, I believe that few people are ever even done at all. It takes time to fine tune the skills and instincts that allow us to make an impact, and if one is not open to growing, they stall out.

I meet a lot of professionals who try to put on the facade that they have figured it all out and are somehow superior to those around them. An early "homerun" in their career (because of talent or luck) can cause a person to believe their own press and thus never allowing themselves to grow to even higher levels.

When ordering the chocolate souffle at a fancy restaurant, you must plan ahead, make your order in advance and relish the time it takes to prepare. Success is not the pre-packaged cheesecake where you can pour on some fruit puree to hide the flaws. Real success has bumps, cracks and a gooey center.

I am on a journey toward higher levels of my career. It took me until I was over forty-years-old to have the confidence, experience and understanding necessary to take my own path. I am very fortunate as I am now living my dream, but I am far from completion in figuring out this recipe of life. This does not bother me, as I know that with each ingredient I advance in how I can help others through my work.

I am losing patience with people who put on fronts that pretend they are so damn smart. It is in our vulnerabilities that we expose our brilliance. The people who are overly proud of themselves and caught up in their own importance are less attractive than their inflated egos lead them to believe.

Those who view the crowd around them as adoring fans are the fools. Other people do not exist to be scaffolding, but instead to be our co-workers in building greatness. All opportunities come from people, thus we need as mutually beneficial peers if we really want to reach the highest heights. Climbing up and over others can get you to the top, but leave you alone on a hill instead of together on a mountain.

Sharing with others that you are a work in progress will lend them to be more open to being of assistance to you as you grow your own path. Do not just look to those higher than you, although most will give you a hand up, but look side to side and find the ones with whom you can co-create, as that is how deep relationships are forged.

Have A Great Day.



Eugene Sepulveda said...

wow, Thom. one of your most powerful posts ever. I'm itching to know the catalysts. Of course, secretly insecure and afraid I gave off the aura of fully-baked, though you and I know nothing further from the truth. We am really liking the middle aged man you are becoming

Jason Stoddard said...

I'm not shrink, but this subject hits home with a big part of my journey. To this end, the thoughts and opinions below are subjective, but perhaps some of it will resonate. It's working for me.

One of the things I love about you, Thom, is that while you're often identified and introduced as a professional speaker, you "do a thing" before you talk/speak about it. Next time you submit a bio, add Professional "DoerthenSpeaker." In this day and age, how rare is that? (And you absolutely know I do not offer false praise, so you can take that to the bank.)

One of the biggest lessons in life is the realization that everyone wants to understand and be understood. Often, the cart is placed before the horse: the latter is more present than the former. The result is an imbalance rather than symbiosis. Humans are social animals before they are rational animals: you've head it before, people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. And we all maintain a unique method of receiving and giving, what amounts to nothing less than, love. For any person that has invested significant time in a romantic relationship/partnership, "this" is intuitively known. But for some reason, people amputate these considerations from their professional relationships. There are a number of reasons/causes for this; chief among them: we are socialized for process driven unique, individualized hyper-specialization on the proverbial clock. You're special, develop yourself into a corner, and, uh, time is a-burnin. Anxiety ensues. And in an effort to leap-frog what is necessary to achieve a symbiotic balance, people will often abandon the social worldview for an exclusively rational worldview and supplant themselves as Captain Know-It-All: I am smart, hear me roar. And then, they're screwed. Invariably they will artificially manufacture visibility, awareness, credibility, and leadership without first understanding. You can smell it coming from a mile away. Case in point: Who is smart? Bob Hunt or T. Boone Pickens? More precisely, who is genuine in the doing, not the artificial manufacturing when it comes to a sustainable, alternative fuel model? But Bob's challenge is no less challenging than T. Boone's: he is humble to a fault. T. Boone is anything but humble. You think these two could work together? Maybe not, but they probably should. We'd all be better for it.

How can one be understood if they do not first understand? The sad part and the real fallacy is that people often garner greater likability and opportunity to contribute if they simply listen to understand before artificially compelling their need to be understood and a genuine trust develops.

The best teachers and mentors often top from below; that is to say that they recognize this inherent, almost instinctive, human need for understanding and being understood in their students and begin the relationship by "Socraticly" engaging, "What has been your experience? I am genuinely interested in how you see the world." This is an intentional act of compassion and the student almost intuitively recognizes it as such. The student then responds with their story and their song (ad nauseum) motivated by their need to be understood. And then, the teacher/mentor goes about the unobstructed business of developing the student. The irony here is that Eugene did this exact same thing when we met for lunch for the first time over a month ago. And guess who did all the talking? :-)

All in all, we're all learning. While your critical observation is a good one (albeit a bit too open ended for my liking), the "other side" has problems too and we each go about working through those problems differently. Don't let anything poison your proverbial well... just keep on working through and given the opportunity, reach out to what you identify as false, be their audience and offer an ear if not help. The rest will take care of itself.

Towards understanding and being understood,

thomsinger said...

Eugene and Jason -

Thanks for the comments.

Eugene.. yours was too funny, No, you did not inspire the topic... he he... as you are one of the people who educated me (long ago) on being open to differing points of views. beliefs, and opinions. You are a master of that!

Jason, thanks for the insight. I think you are right about the understanding and being understood... but it only works when both parties are open to that connection!