Circa 1991, two years into my career at Ernst & Young and I have been selected to attend a week long seminar in Cleveland with one of our leading experts on management development. As I was a relatively new manager it seemed like a very good thing to do. Somewhere around day two of the session we were asked to write about ourselves. What did we see as the our key personality traits. I proceeded to write a few obvious traits like, hard-working, diligent, shy, curious and a few others. I handed my personal survey in to the instructor and soon after he came to me to discuss my self-assessment. Interesting thing happened during that session – first he asked me why I thought that the traits were accurate?
He asked if I had talked to anyone about them. And then asked if I had any validation for my assessment? My answers were Because, No and No. Then, he asked me, So, why then did I write down the traits that I had? I responded with a slightly annoyed ‘because they are who I am, I think I know myself quite well”. He chuckled and told me to sit down.
And sit I did. OK, what now? And then in a very deliberate and clarifying way he explained that self-assessment is a flawed process and is especially flawed when an individual is asked to provide a qualitative view of themselves. For example, he stated that “shy” would be one of the last words he would use to describe me (and I am sure for those of you who know me for any period of time you would agree with him). BTW – it took me quite a few years to realize that I considered myself shy because I was that way in 4th grade. I carried that view of myself way beyond any practical reality till it was pointed out to me 25 years later (by my instructor) that I was far from shy and most likely the exact opposite (ok, so much for knowing myself). Undeterred by my flawed self-assessment I endeavored to be “curious” (yes I listed that trait as well) and asked him quite a few questions about me and how I stacked up. He told me that first I needed to learn about a few reliable techniques that are better at providing a view of a persons’ traits. He described them for me –First ask someone else who knows the person; Second, visit their place of work or home; Third ask a family member; and Fourth look at their stuff - Lastly, and only with no better alternative ask the person about themselves.
What you find out through this process is that we build complex and elaborate mental and physical views of ourselves to protect our ego, create in our mind an image of who we want to be and lastly, we tell ourselves we are great, fast, smart, good looking etc (yea, yea, I know you get the point). And so we are left with a challenge - believe our own hype or choose to find out who we really are – we are indeed the perception that others have of us and so to figure this out we need to see external feedback – it is true that we might or might not like what we hear but we need to hear it, none the less as it is who we are. Second, we need to find ways to catch up our current reality some long held misconceptions (eg. I am sure we have all kept, from some long time ago, a person’s characterization of who we are; teacher tells you that you are not good at math and from there on in you believe them regardless of if it is true).
And so I think it is time we moved to a new place, a place that allows us high performance in our life because we start from a solid and real foundation. This new place also is one that is full of listening, assessing, asking, probing and evaluating on a continual who we are (or at least who we are perceived to be). I bet that over time you will find this process fun, interesting and satisfying. And if you have a minute be sure to tell me who you think I am as I am still working on becoming less shy. J
Headline – the Blog goes live tomorrow – I will send out an email to all so you can check it out.
I will continue to use this email list to publish the daily post as I think it is still fun to have this intimate community to do challenges with.
And I also added a few more participants today – so for those of you who are new to what we have going on – the way this started was with a pushup challenge:
There is a song by Moby named “Flower” The song has lyrics that I want you to try to do push-ups to:Here is the YouTube link to the song.Every time Moby says ”Green Sally up and Green Sally down” you do the following:. Push up when he says Green Sally up - then go to the down position when he says ”Green Sally down” —— hold it there till he says Green Sally up and then you keep doing it over and over again (up down hold ….. up down hold….) till you finish the song - or fail……Simple as pie
For the veterans of this email Blog – I did indeed get to the end again today. I am finding the strain to be exquisite – very focused and painful. Got off to a great start on the pushup challenge – 85 in the first set – I am hoping that I am counting ok – total 186 pushups in 4:17 minutes. Must be those Kind bars I ate today, ya think?
Loving life, that’s all
And oh yea – Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you! <3