Hi everyone. I didn’t intend for this to be so long. But hopefully this post will be helpful to those who manage to get through it all. I was doing that thought exercise Steve suggested in the article and it kind of went off on a tangent. I hope reading this is helpful to those who also suffer from "analysis paralysis".
Originally Posted by Angela
Interesting timing. I've been noticing that if I'm complaining or offering unsolicited advice, whether silently or out loud, it is 100% about me, and 0% about the other person. The other person is simply a generous (or unwitting) mirror for me. What a GREAT tool for personal growth -- just listen to my own complaints and the advice I give others! Every time, no exceptions. It's NEVER their problem.
I'm the same way. Even though, rationally, I know that this isn’t true and that it cannot possibly be true, and even though I rarely complain about it to anyone, I still have the underlying feeling
that 90% of business/career success "out there" is simply a result of dumb luck or unethical behavior. It's a knee-jerk reaction I have whenever I come across any positive business news. Now I’m not saying that I rip up the newspaper in a fit of rage or anything. It’s really just a tightening up in my stomach and I catch myself subtly shaking my head from side to side.
So... because I believe I live in a Dilbert-esque world, full of mostly incompetence and corruption, that is what I experience. I bring it all onto myself.
Because my personal philosophy (at least business-wise) has been "Don't Step in the Leadership
", all I see around me regarding business/career decisions is where NOT to place my next step.
So I do nothing.
Or more precisely:
- I work in contract jobs at companies solely for the socializing opportunities.
- I work in contract jobs mainly for the learning experience of working in a different industry.
- I dabble in developing various passive internet income streams but never actually complete or launch anything.
- I read books and listen to audio programs on business / economics / finance (mostly for fun, because it's enjoyable to me) but I still don't apply most of what I've learned directly to my life.
Originally Posted by Adam
Well, I just tried a test of this...
Just before reading the thread, I was wondering why a business owner who I'm sub-contracting with was being so flaky...
After reading it, I decided to stop being flaky about the project, I gave him a call, an viola, I have all of the information for that project, plus I was contacted by another company for a very large project that they were being flaky about as well not more than half an hour later.
Gosh, I guess I've been really flaky lately...
I think my problem isn't being flaky but it's somewhat similar to yours. I think it's just me trying to "fly by the seat of my pants" most of the time, with as minimal preparation as possible. Just like how some people pride themselves on how much they can memorize without writing anything down, I think I pride myself on how little I need to prepare beforehand. I still prepare to a degree and take pride in my work. But I rarely over-prepare, which is probably a better way to go than my tendency to under-prepare and just wing it.
I guess, subconsciously, I think that a lack of preparation somehow equals agility and flexibility, and that “going with the flow” somehow equals an automatic “flow” state. That last one is kind of true though, now that I think about it. But I already know that the flow-state only can last for so long and "going with the flow" can only take someone so far.
Thinking about “flow” and "going with the flow" some more and how it relates to my feelings about my work/business relationships, this is what I came up with:
Ultimately, it’s 100% all me. No one else is doing anything to me. For example, it’s so easy and natural for me to see that everyone is truly doing the very best they can in all the other dimensions of life, but for some reason I have a lot of resistance to that idea whenever it comes to work / business. All I see is incompetence and corruption. However, people in work and business REALLY ARE
doing the very best they can too. Even if I can't see it. There is no "incompetence" or "corruption". Even the (seemingly) pointy-haired managers, jaded engineers, deceptive marketers, sleazy salesmen, greedy entrepreneurs. Those labels exist only in my mind. Ultimately, it's just a bunch of people trying to make a living, doing the best they can with what they've got.
My negativity towards most of my work/business relationships is basically because I have a bad strategy and outlook towards work/business in general.
This strategy, or lack of one, is:
- Fly by the seat of my pants which gets me into a quick flow state.
- While in flow, my mind divides, classifies, and organizes. Divides, classifies, and organizes. Over and over again. But eventually though, my “flow wagon” approaches an insurmountable wall of complexity. (too much challenge, not enough capability)
- I still persist and try to continue on with my flow state for as long as possible, trying to crash through this barrier even though my mind can’t process everything anymore (which sets up a perpetual feedback loop of increasing stress, anxiety, and exhaustion)
- I then fall off my “flow wagon”, pick up the pieces, and repeat the process all over again.
This “go with the flow” approach has worked fine in the short term because I rarely fall off with small projects, but eventually it breaks down on longer term work / business goals and I get buried under a mountain of complexity. I mean, it works fine in most lower-level office jobs, but it fails miserably whenever I try to start my own business. And it works fine in higher-level programming jobs, but it usually means I have to sacrifice time/energy in other areas of my life in order to meet my own quality standards.
So when I look at other people’s work/business success and try to apply my own mental model to it, I just get frustrated. Failing over and over again always sucks. Failing constantly at what you naturally enjoy and are naturally talented at really sucks. Not being able to see how/why you keep failing or why you can’t ever finish what you start sucks even more.
So when I look at other people’s results and try to backtrack their steps and figure out how they got there, I guess I just write it off as either luck or cheating somehow. (Now that I think about it, a lot of people can easily fall back on those two excuses) Truth is, I have no idea how they got where they are. But my current mental model only allows for those two conclusions.
Why do I only see luck or cheating as options? The best reason I can come up with is that when I’m working on a longer term, more complex goal and when I eventually reach the point where my “flow wagon” is about to run off it’s rails again, I basically have two choices (other than slowing down or stopping on my own):
- (a) I can just coast along, zone out mentally, and pretend I know what I’m doing and that everything is under control. Just like how a stereotypical pointy-haired manager would. (success by dumb luck)
- (b) I can resort to lower-level-consciousness behaviors (yelling, intimidation, guilt-trips) to deal with all the stress and extra input since all my higher-level faculties are already at 100% cpu utilization. (success by cheating / unethical behavior)
I don't want either option, so I usually just opt out. And I hate failing, so I subconsciously avoid situations that just set me up for this kind of failure scenario, where the only possible way I can succeed is either by cheating or blind luck.
This has been a great exercise and has really opened my eyes. It’s a tough pill to swallow though. But still, it’s great getting at the source, or at least one of the sources, of all these negative feelings.
Bottom line is that, personally, I need to learn how to "small chunk", delegate/cooperate, automate repetitive tasks, encapsulate complexity, iterate my output in order to get immediate feedback, and realize that whatever I do is never EVER going to be "just right" the first time around.
I can still "go with the flow" with everything else in my life. Just not in work/business. In my experience, trying to plan the other stuff just doesn't work. You really can't plan your friends, what you will like or won't like to do for recreation, who you have the hots for, who you fall in love with, or what your spiritual path will be. It's so much more fun and rewarding to "go with the flow".