It’s not anxiety.
And it’s not panic.
The opposite of confident is not confident. Unsure.
Being unsure can be healthy. It can help us focus on how we can make our work more likely to become the contribution we seek.
But anxiety and panic have nothing to do with an informed understanding of how the world is unfolding.
If you promise not to check your email while we’re talking, we promise to not waste your time.
If you agree to look me in the eye and try to absorb the gist of what I’m saying, I agree to be crisp, cogent and on point.
If you are clear about which meetings are a waste of time for you to attend, we can be sure to have them without you.
If you can egg me on and bring enthusiasm to the interaction, I can lean into the work and reflect back even more energy than you’re contributing.
The purpose of a meeting is not to fill the allocated slot on the Google calendar invite. The purpose is to communicate an idea and the emotions that go with it, and to find out what’s missing via engaged conversation.
If we can’t do that, let’s not meet.
Multi-tasking isn’t productive, respectful or healthy.
That’s not the same as perfect.
The best available option is always available.
Perfect almost never is.
If you care enough to contribute, you can care enough to not wait for perfect.
Some jobs need you to show up in person (and for the time being, surgeons are in that category, but with robotically controlled waldo arms, who knows…).
But many jobs can be done more effectively with a combination of asynchronous work, video calls and emotional effort.
Don’t confuse a long or risky commute and co-work with showing up with your full self.
If they don’t need you in person, perhaps it’s better to show up with a great attitude instead of paying the high price it takes to be there on time, in real time.
And if they do need you in person, then be there. Truly there. 100% present.
It’s the slots in between, where attendance is taken, power is on display and the work is mediocre that cause us a lot of stress.
There are really only two ways to approach this:
“We don’t cheat.”
“We cheat when we can get away with it.”
The posture of, “our side doesn’t cheat,” is the belief in the validity of the game itself. It’s a statement of moral authority, a promise of consistency and valor. It respects the process.
The posture of, “cheat if you can,” is the belief in the ends at any cost. It degrades the system, because if everyone cheats, then there is no system left.
Cheaters often brag about their exploits, because they want to normalize them.
Sophisticated competitors, the ones who really want to win, understand that cheating destroys the very thing they set out to do. Because once cheating is normalized, the winner is the person who had the guts to cheat the most and destroy the system, not the one who deserved to win. Being against cheating doesn’t mean you don’t want to compete, it means that you do.
In every community, on every team, there are people who believe that the only chance they’ve got is to cheat. Our systems persist only when peers in the community step up and insist that the cheater stop. Because being on a team that wins by cheating is ultimately self-defeating.
Often, people encounter ideas that are spreading like wildfire.
The problem with a wildfire is that not only is it out of control, but it leaves nothing but destruction in its wake.
Build an idea that spreads like wildflowers instead.
You’re unlikely to get everything you want. That’s a good thing, because wants are part of what define us.
It’s entirely possible that you’ll get most of what you need, though.
The trick is in being clear about what you put into each category.
People don’t hire you, buy from you or recommend you because you’re indifferently average and well rounded.
They do it because you’re exceptional at something.
What if you invested the energy to be even more exceptional at it?
If someone offers you “feedback,” your Spidey sense might start to tingle. Feedback isn’t often part of a warm and fuzzy feeling.
“Advice” is better. If you ask someone else for advice, you’re engaging them in your journey.
But, as Peter Shepherd points out, “noodling” is the best of all. When we start noodling over an idea, we can be sure that no one is going to get injured.
They didn’t reject you.
They rejected an application. They rejected a business plan. They rejected a piece of paper.
They don’t know you.