You can’t learn what you think you already know. I can’t learn what I think I already know. And oh, the many times I have stumbled over my own false confidence in the long game of life and success.
When I feel confident or accomplished in a certain area, I just stop paying attention to new information. I think “I got this” and then move on to other things.
These blind spots have occurred in my life in a pretty predictable pattern.
I work on a project or an idea.
I struggle and toil and finally breakthrough and acheive the first benchmark.
I get positive feedback from others.
I may work again and get a little bit better. I again accomplish something that looks impressive externally. I get positive feedback.
I fail to see the people or the good luck that has contributed to making these victories possible.
I conclude that I have earned my merit badge in this area. I give myself a gold star in a private ceremony taking place inside my own mind.
I congratulate myself for my hustle and intelligence and begin working on other projects.
I am blinded by my perceived merit.
And that is how it happens. Boom — I have made up a story that allows me to think I now know this thing, when really I know 30% of this thing. Or less.
My false confidence makes me blind and extra stupid. I now will miss so much information in this area, because I am not paying attention. I have told myself a story of my own awesomeness and I only find evidence that supports what I believe (confirmation bias). Over time I become increasingly crippled in my pursuit of achievement.
If false confidence is the disease, what is the antidote?
The great news is that there is a way out of this labyrinth of false confidence. The bad news is that it is fucking hard and painful.
STEP ONE: Learn to LOVE feedback. Especially negative feedback.
Feedback shines a light into the areas we cannot see. Valuable feedback can come from friends, colleagues, strangers and even those we actively dislike.
If you are noticing a pattern in the feedback you receive, chances are the information in the feedback is VERY true. The common denominator of any pattern you continually see is YOU. Yep — point that finger back at yourself.
Value feedback. When you are getting feedback (especially negative feedback) — STOP. Listen.
Solicit feedback. Ask people around you to tell you the truth. What are you not seeing? What is it you are not understanding? What would they tell you if they were not afraid of you getting mad or disliking them?
And when you get feedback you don’t like, fight the urge to deflect, to defend, to shut down. These painful moments and the greatest gifts from the universe. Don’t throw them away.
STEP TWO: Learn. Read. Consume voraciously.
The very best way to get unstuck in learning is to actively learn. Read new books about subjects you already know. Read old books again with new eyes and a new thirst for knowledge and understanding.
STEP THREE: Get a coach.
There is no substitute for a thoughtfully engaged third party who is able to tell you what you cannot see on your own.
Nearly every great performer has had a consistent relationship with someone who tells them the truth, good, bad and ugly. Hopefully it is someone they trust. Hopefully it is someone who can help them with the answers and skills they need to break through the bad and the ugly. Hopefully it is someone they will listen to, no matter how painful.
Hi! I’m Mary — a chiropractor, a writer, a marketer, and a teacher.
I am the founder of The Art of Story Project, an online business which coaches speakers and content creators to use story to become more powerful influencers.
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