In these Post Games, I tend to drag us a little off the course for each of these podcasts. We could easily just talk about entrepreneurship basics and I’m sure we will have so much content to work with we can definitely go that route but I love the side conversations in each of these conversations that really discuss parts of life that may touch both your work life but also your personal life. With that in mind, I wanted to take us down the path that Priest and Patrick McGinnis explore in episode 96: Going Beyond Your Day Job.
In this episode there’s a slight side tangent that talks about how so many in society sort of use social media to talk big about the projects they’re doing rather than actually doing the work and it’s an epidemic that can of course spill outside of our social media lives to the actual workplace or worse, into our regular lives when some of us are bragging about every wonderful amazing thing that your life represents to project an image that might not necessarily be true.
There’s a bit of a psychological element to this of course. Nobody wants their lives to seem dull or boring and really nobody wants to be seen as a failure. You’re not going to find too many people broadcasting those moments on say Facebook, Twitter or Instagram unless it’s truly a cry for help (not necessarily in the I need professional mental help type of way, though that could be applicable but more so in the my stress/anxiety is at the breaking point and I’m at a breaking point where I need someone to talk to me or at least some sort of assurance).
Most people cover up their failures with pictures or statuses that seem exceptionally optimistic or as mentioned on the podcast, they’ll put out all these incredible inspirational quotes about being a successful person trying to push you to possibly accomplish what they cannot. It’s symbolic of the world we live in to some degree that we are far more concerned about the perception of our lives rather than the realities of them. I’ve even heard this concept play out in the workplace personally where co-workers and management at places often think they can play the role of a work psychologist and make some sort of diagnosis on whatever image you project. I have a bit of habit of being completely honest with my readers – as I think some of you may relate to my own personal experiences and I feel it helps describe exactly what I am getting at. So here is a very real situation that happened to me.
At one of my most recent jobs I started a new role and was thrown to the wolves on day one to see if I could handle it. While I had similar experience in what the role entailed the actual details of the role required a lot of brand new knowledge. Bank regulatory rules, learning processes around mass transfer of servicing accounts on loans not owned by a mortgage company. All of this has a million little details in it. I was put in a meeting room on my first day and asked to be up to speed almost immediately. It was a fairly impossible task especially since I hadn’t had a mortgage background in any way. So I spend countless hours digging into information, reading through regulatory documents, digging into process notes. This would consume most of my days. Head down, possibly leaning on my hand, completely absorbed in the material I was trying to pick up. A co-worker saw the head down leaning on the hand and asked if I liked my job. I said, I like learning new information but I was still getting my feet wet. In a matter of days I went from the new guy to the guy that my leaders now thought hated the role. It was ridiculous. Where the hell did that assumption come from? I was told later: Body language. You LOOKED unhappy so clearly it seems you’re unhappy here. I was also told Perception IS reality. It was sort of an unwritten company edict that everyone apparently judges you on their every interaction with you so you need to pretend everything is great or possibly put yourself in position to be pushed out the door. Another of these edicts: WORDS MATTER. Meaning basically going over your every single word and phrase so nobody takes you the wrong way. It was a constant parsing of emails and how you converse in meetings driven by the goal of branding perfection.
Now ultimately there is some truth that both of these things are extremely important in how others view you. For instance when we’re selling something, you’re trying to convince them of the plusses of buying the item, not wading them into the depths of possible negatives they need to be aware of. You’re spinning positivity and positivity makes the receiver feel good.
In society though, we have taken the concept to incredible levels though and I feel like one only needs to look at how creating a false perception of yourself has become endemic to so many of society’s ills that we should, if we were introspective enough, consider the consequences. The worst term I have ever heard is “Fake it until you make it”. The problem is continually faking it means you’ll never make it. If you managed to fool enough people, they move you onto something bigger that you will likely mess up and never learn. That is if they don’t learn of the first faking beforehand. Constantly deceiving people to pretend life is great or that you are amazing whether that be on a work project you’re not pushing a lot of effort out on, a new business idea you’re sort of going into without enough drive or work ethic or even just pretending your personal life is fantastic to compete in some way with friends/family or just keep unearned compliments coming your way to make you feel better is dangerous.
Think hard about the WHY when you’re doing these things. Pretending you’re smarter than you are on any given topic might make you feel capable when trolling people online but you should temper that false confidence when it comes to trying to prevent actual experts, intellectuals or educators from telling the truth. Pretending you’re happy all the time probably means you’re masking the opposite and not getting the kind of assistance you need whether that’s medical through anxiety or depression medication or even counseling. Pretending you’re working harder than you are means you probably know you need to really pick up the slack and pick up your end of the responsibilities.
Let’s try something crazy here. How about being honest and transparent with one another? It’s not weak to ask for help or on the flip side to show empathy to one another. Think back to the beginnings of human civilization. They all had tribes. It was not one hunter, it was a bunch of hunters. It was not one parent, it was a bunch of parents. Even in those days when every possible turn was a threat to their very existence humans recognized the fragility of their nature and bonded together with one another. We’re in a different world of course where people are more introverted and anti-social than ever before in public yet we’re also more exposed than ever before. Instead of projecting falsehoods and pretending we’re confident and awesome endlessly. Let’s tell the truth and reach out a hand or and here’s a novel concept, an ear, when we all need it. Changing that culture might keep those pseudo-shrinks at bay in the office.