The most difficult conversation I have with my students and clients is usually the first one.
I ask them, “Who are you?”
Silence, a nervous laugh or a blank stare usually follows.
I tell them it’s okay. It took me a year and a day to figure it out, and I thought about almost nothing but that every day during that time. It’s hard.
If your mother used to undermine you when you were a kid, making those little comments that you weren’t quite “good enough”, how do you suppose you are going to react to a manager who’s constantly subtly critical of your work?
It’s going to drive you nuts, right? And now you know why.
Recently I sat down with Peter Finch from KGO radio in San Francisco to talk about bad bosses.
I use this analogy to make it more clear, especially with male clients not accustomed to airing their personal laundry in front of another guy (or anyone). Hopefully this allows them to think about it, even if they aren’t comfortable verbalizing it.
I was bullied when I was a kid – routinely pummeled and humiliated in front of others. Play a practical joke on me this afternoon and watch my face. If I am the target of the joke, and a bunch of people are laughing at my expense, I will laugh with you – but only after a momentary sharp pain coming straight from my memory bank. What are my options? Should I not have a good sense of humor? Should I be angry at being the target of a joke, or should I be a good sport, knowing it wasn’t meant to hurt me? I choose (now) to laugh, and let it go. The residue of our childhoods have a hell of a lot to do with how we react to personalities and authority figures in our workplace.
Reinvention and goal-setting are simple. These self-help false prophets who have all the cures to all that ails you are full of crap. Here’s the answer – it’s easy and it’s always been easy; you know what you need to do. Do it. Finish it. Complete it. Achieve it. Graduate. The hard part is knowing the location of your starting line. That is really, really difficult. The reason why you and I constantly procrastinate on stuff is because we don’t know where the goal line is for our particular project. The mental stuff gets in our way. It allows us to make excuses for not doing what we want. It gives us a free pass. It gives us rationale to not do it.
One of the first exercises I do with a client is ask them to write a paragraph about themselves. Silence, a nervous laugh or a blank stare usually follows.
I tell them it’s okay. But they will still need to do it. Knowing who we are allows us to move ahead. When we believe our paragraph, everyone else will, too.
John Scott is an instructor, online learning coordinator, and the career services manager for the School of Multimedia Communications, Academy of Art University San Francisco. His book “Destination:Reinvention” is on sale now in the Amazon bookstore. Grab a daily reinvention tip at destinationreinvention.com.