What money cannot buy…

is, amongst other things, honest-to-God feedback

At work, I’m typically and brutally honest with people around me — I’ll praise easily, but also point out improvements when they dont meet my expectations. I’ve learnt over time that genuine feedback goes a long way with the right sort of people. With the wrong sort, it does not matter — they will not change for better or for worse.

Within a social framework, however, I find myself teetering on the verge of conservatism. I tend to avoid people I don’t want to spend time with, and maintain a suitable veneer of nicety with my friends and acquaintances. All of us have our quirks and scars that make us, well, us. And I don’t see too much value in trying to improve everyone through my lenses. Or, maybe, its just lack of courage.

But with the closest of friends, its an entirely different matter. We’re brutal to the point of being nasty with each other, and will share the most heart-wrenching comments at the most inappropriate moments. I’ve been called out as, amongst other things, a cold-hearted bastard by my best buddies. Several times. Copious amounts of alcohol was involved. As were confessions and secrets. But its always been a secret source of joy to me to be really, REALLY told how and what I need to improve. We’ve all evolved into an extremely gentrified society with layers of unsaid codes for polite engagement — see paragraph above. So, I suppose, I can only lean on constructive criticism and genuine feedback from the best of friends, or the most enlightened colleagues.

I had one of those conversations today with one of my very oldest friends. We go back, gosh, 18 years!!! And the phone call really started off as a straightforward catch-up call. But, as people in their mid-thirties are wont to do, it veered rather quickly into a discussion on career development and progression and aspirations and such.

Now, I would claim to be “reasonably satisfied” with my career, all things considered. I have the usual grouses, the standard complaints, but what the heck, its just a job.

Amazingly and uncannily, my buddy of 18 years was quick to point out that:

  1. I am too busy conforming
  2. I am selling myself short
  3. I am needlessly and recklessly under-confident
  4. I should be me, all day long and all the time

What really hurts and feels great at the same time — is that he is 100% right! I had a warm feeling of satisfaction when I put the phone down — all I need to do, in essence, is go back to being me. What made me positively glow, however, was that someone cares enough to call me out. To poke me in the eye and tell me where and how I am going wrong. And even better, what I need to do to improve myself.

Its hard to replicate this favorable state of affairs. You either have it, or you don’t. But learn to beware of surrounding yourself with acolytes and yes-men (and women) who will cheer you on to further and further mediocrity. If you reject feedback, you miss out on an opportunity to succeed and flourish. And of course, it becomes harder and harder to accept the older we grow. Our opinions and our egos grow in direct proportion, don’t they?

It also brought to mind a line I read somewhere a long time ago: “ You are the sum average of all your friends.” And it makes me grateful for the friendships I have and the relations I hold dear. As I was told very pointedly today:

“I would hate to talk to you 5 years later and find out that the guy I’ve looked up to for 20 years does not exist”

Word.

No more to be said.

Its time to get stuff done.