164 - Three questions for your work and life

11-03-2024

personal developmentcareer designmiscellaneous

Here are three ideas to consider and three questions to ask yourself this week:

How to make your relationship with your boss work

In my early career, I believed that neither my boss nor I did each other a favor by fulfilling our respective responsibilities. I saw my boss as an equal and I expected the same efforts from him to make our relationship work. Which means, I took 50% responsibility for making the relationship with my boss work. I expected my boss to take the other half—his share—of the responsibility. Such a belief would show itself in ways such as: Not being proactive about scheduling meetings and conversations to make sure things are aligned, if there was silence from the boss or the boss didn’t seem to care Expecting the boss to understand how I liked to communicate or be recognized or be managed, and in the absence of that… Not being curious about matters important to the boss or about the boss’s working style By withholding efforts to make your relationship with your boss work or by first expecting overtures from your boss, you lower the chances of things working out between you and your boss. Your boss sees that you’re not especially keen and she reciprocates. Years later when you are a boss you pay it forward by exhibiting the same boss behavior that you received. By doing your best to make your relationship with your boss work without expecting parity from the get go, you sow the seeds for a virtuous cycle. When you make an effort without being pushed, your boss sees it and is motivated to step up. She meets you partway and now you’re both invested. Years later, when you become a boss yourself, you do the same. If there’s a big inconsistency between how you would like to be treated by your boss and how you as a boss treat your reports, ask yourself: Am I solving my interpersonal problems or propagating them?

The gravity of low-hanging fruits

The low-hanging fruit trap (or quick wins trap) ensures leaders spend most/all of their energy on gathering easy pickings (quick wins) to the point they have no bandwidth left to pursue higher, long-term goals. Sometimes, these quick wins may take you farther away from your long-term goals. That’s a double whammy—you’re not even not making progress toward your most meaningful goals; you’re actually moving farther away from them with your current strategy. To avoid this unfortunate yet common situation, make sure Any quick wins you pursue are in service of your agreed-upon long-term goals You’re leaving some quick wins on the table to create space to chase the big goals The first one is simple and probably something you’re aware of, explicitly or otherwise. The second one is trickier because we can get sucked into chasing the dopamine rush of frequent small wins. To avoid that, ask yourself: Which low-hanging fruits am I letting go of to reach higher up in the tree of my goals?

Trained to be randomly competitive

Growing up, I was pushed to be an all-rounder. Good at studies, good at sports, good at debate, declamation, extracurriculars, everything.

I call this being randomly competitive. You’re randomly competitive when you care enough to do well in things you’ve little to no interest in.

Recently, a friend told me that, in her first undergrad year, when she found herself in a different engineering discipline to what she wanted, she worked her bum off to secure grades good enough to get her a change of stream in the second year (something very very few pull off). When that didn’t happen, she continued to ace her grades anyway through the next three years, even though her feelings for her discipline remained tragically tepid.

Being randomly competitive doesn’t mean you care about things you’ve no business caring about. It’s more like you take any and all failures personally. There’s a stronger-than-typical correlation between outcome and identity.

👉The thing is, you can be good at anything but not everything. You’ve to pick what you’ll take personally.

👉And the other thing is, your goodness at everything comes at the cost of greatness in that one thing you truly want to excel in.

So, next time you’re upset because you lost a game of scrabble or because the car behind you beat you to the signal, ask yourself: Am I being randomly competitive?

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