“So…tell me what you are NOT good at? What do you need to do better?”
This is the trick question in an interview. Does everyone lie when they answer? I certainly used to lie when I was asked that.
I said something like, “Well, I’m a perfectionist, I need to work on that.” What a lie.
I’m often afraid to be honest. To take off the mask. What if everyone figured out what a fraud I was?
What if they figured it out and the mayor had a big award ceremony for the person who yelled “Fraud!” the loudest? What if I was forced to present the award and everyone laughed?
I used to go on TV quite a bit. The one phrase you are not allowed to say is, “I don’t know.” If you do they never ask you back.
We’re trained to “put our best foot forward.” To be perfect. To know everything.
When we start dating someone new, we are on our best behavior. We’re THE ONE she/he was looking for (I do this for three months. Then I start to reveal the crazy. Claudia, my wife, is taking a while to figure that out).
But flowers only grow in shit. Warmed by the heat of the sun, roots bury snuggly into the Earth. Only then can they blossom.
I know where I’m weak. If you’re ok knowing where you’re weak…you’re ok.
LACK OF CONFIDENCE.
I’m scared all the time before I meet people. What if they don’t like me? I want people to like me.
Before I give a talk, I’m nervous. Everyone else is more impressive than me.
Sometimes I cancel meetings at the last minute because I’m afraid I will contribute nothing worthwhile, that the fraud will be revealed.
And then I feel like a jerk for being so unreliable.
Is this ok? I don’t know. It’s just true.
I simply don’t like to do what I don’t like to do.
At a job interview, I should say this: “Don’t ask me to do something I don’t want to do. Because then it will never get done.”
Why would people NOT procrastinate? Who wants to do menial tasks that they don’t want to do?
13 years ago I ran a stop sign. I got a ticket. I never paid it. My license got suspended. And everything got worse and worse. Now I have to take the whole Driver’s Ed course and then an exam, etc.
I don’t think I’m ever going to do it. I have other things to do.
All because I procrastinated.
But is that so bad? When I procrastinated lots of things, I ended up saving thousands of hours by not having to do stupid menial tasks; I only did the things I like to do.
Here’s my procrastination strategy: I always have a plan B-Z. “Ok, I will call someone I like first instead of calling someone I don’t like.”
Or, I will be silent and look at the river for an hour instead of going into the city for a meeting that will be useless.
Every day I try to find the things I can procrastinate on and then I work on my Plan B.
A lot of Plan Bs get done.
FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN.
I could say, “I don’t like doing things that take me way out of my comfort zone.”
I start to shake when I get out of my comfort zone. Or become easily annoyed. It’s always a test.
Like the time I forced myself to ask for a 10% discount at the local coffee shop (thank you, Noah Kagan).
Sometimes it’s good to get out of your comfort zone a little.
All future art is right outside the comfort zone of the prison we’re locked in. Our heads are pressed up against the prison bars, the art, the innovation, the creativity, just slightly out of our reach.
Even though the prison doors are unlocked.
But if I have to go way out of my comfort zone, forget it. Take little steps. Why make something hard when it can be easy?
One time I was addicted to a particular drug. If I tried to cut it off cold, I would go crazy.
I had to cut it off a tiny bit at a time. It took years. It was out of my comfort zone every day. The drug made me comfortable.
I try to do 1% a day out of my comfort zone. It then feels like practice.
I actually like to do work…for two or three hours a day. After that, I’m lazy.
I don’t return calls or emails or texts. I might play some chess online or take a walk.
It’s hard to work hard all day long. I’d rather take a walk around the block with a friend.
This was true when I had a job and now when I work for myself. When I had a job, I would take 30 minute bathroom breaks, right before a two hour lunch. And then, of course, gossip on a cigarette break (I ate licorice while everyone smoked). And then I’d leave early.
They’ve recently assigned a mental illness to laziness. They call it ADHD and even prescribe medication for it.
If you like to daydream instead of focusing on boring stuff, now you are officially mentally ill. People cling to this. “THAT’S WHY I can’t do Neurophysics!”
But what if you daydreamed about traveling through time on a skateboard and having secret powers and seeing colors that don’t exist and then trying to paint or write or create it?
Would your boss yell at you?
FEAR OF FAILURE.
What if I start a company and I raise money and I hire people, and then I lose it all and have to fire everyone and everyone hates me.
Ok. I did that.
Every day, I got dressed in my clown costume and pretended to be a CEO. I would sneak into my own office and lock the door.
I don’t want to be embarrassed by failure. I don’t want everyone to think I’m a fool.
People (which is to say, me) say, “You only learn from failure.”
Maybe. Maybe. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be afraid of it. And, to be honest, sometimes failure is just failure.
Someone asked me the other day, “How can you have no goals? Doesn’t everyone need a goal?”
I don’t need one. What am I going to plan? Am I going to plan what I should be doing when I’m 60 years old? I might be dead then.
There’s a saying in chess, “Better to have a bad plan than no plan at all.”
Fine. I’m good at coming up with a bad plan, just so I can do something this moment. I’m going to plan to publish this post. I hope my plan works.
One time I planned to make a hundred million dollars. Instead, I went broke.
For my first thirty years, I planned that I would have a life of no kids. Instead, now I (gratefully) have two beautiful kids.
I’m going to plan on crushing one of my kids at tennis in a few hours. She’s only 13. I hope she loses and cries. But this plan might fail.
I planned to date for a while after I got divorced. Instead, a year later I was married.
I know that everything I plan for has a tendency to not come true.
I HAVE NO PASSION FOR ANYTHING.
Every few months I seem to have a new thing I am passionate about.
I don’t know anybody in history who has been passionate about the same thing for their entire careers.
Often the key to success is to build upon multiple passions to create something nobody has ever seen before.
I get interested in one thing, I will obsess on it and read, watch, study everything about it for two weeks, three months, maybe a year or so.
Sometimes it’s another person. Sometimes it’s a game. Sometimes it’s work.
And then it’s over. I get bored and move on.
People say, “I still haven’t found the ONE thing I have been put on this Earth to do.”
Who put you on this Earth? Why did they pick you to do that ONE thing?
“I’m special,” people say. One person out of seven billion. One organism out of ten trillion. Blah!
We live in a great time, where we can explore many passions.
There’s a story about an ad agency that got a new big client. The boss said, “I want everyone to come up with ONE great idea.”
The boss left and came back an hour later. Nobody had any ideas.
He said, “Ok, I want everyone to come up with 20 ideas!” Within an hour everyone had 20 ideas.
Don’t let the search for one searing passion force you to miss out on the 20 things you can love.
– – –
“Well, then, what are you good at?” I can imagine a boss saying. Because we might still be playing that game of good / not good.
“I’m not really that good at anything,” I could truthfully say. The learned man knows everything. The wise man knows nothing.
I hope. I made up that line so I will sound good.
Maybe one day I will be good at something. Or maybe not.
The only thing I can do is serve this one moment. By hitting Publish. For me, this is how to be authentic.
Image credit: CC by Peter Lindberg