Give yourself room to grow

OR: don’t be so hard on yourself

Picture a pendulum — It’s swinging back and forth.

It’s also slowing down…

…Because I said so.

Please hold your questions till the end.

*ahem* The pendulum is eventually going to end up resting at its center. Until then, it’s going to swing back and forth in smaller and smaller strokes.

Big reveal: this is an analogy for how we grow. I’ve seen it too many times to ignore.

Meaning: Most times we aim for something, we either under or overshoot it at least by a little.

Here’s an example about trying to be cool:

Last year, My (business) partner Morgan and I pitched a rather esteemed board of well known and incredibly successful people. We were asking to be awarded a loan which had incredibly favorable terms, to help us launch our smoothie machines startup.

I was pretty nervous.

Nervousness can make you act a bit differently than you would otherwise. For example:

Teenaged Mitch would have compensated by over-talking and seeking validation from the board.

Early 20’s Mitch might have also been overly talkative yet much more abrasive.

Late 20’s Mitch might have been too gentle, having been in the midst trying to correct his abrasive ways.

30 year old Mitch walked in, sat down, and happily prepared smoothie samples for the board while Morgan pitched. During the Q&A, I got up to distribute the smoothies, chatted with the board members as I passed around and sat back down, while continuing to field questions.

We received the grant, but with the note that the head of the board found me arrogant and didn’t like my demeanor.

As best I’ve gathered, the trigger for this feedback was was my seating position while answering questions. Having reflected, remaining standing was probably the way to go.

I had 3 thoughts upon receiving this feedback :

1 — As a former problem child, I know with certainty that if you follow up an initial negative interaction with a positive one, things generally work out.

2 — This esteemed person is more likely to remember me in the future.

3 — That feedback is much better than hearing that he thought I was meek or unconfident.

That’s probably not a solid 100%, but who cares? Past Mitch would have overthought this whole thing — Now I write about it. Either way, life goes on.

In this case, I got feedback from someone who must know a thing or two, and now I know where I am vs. where I want to be. I’ll swing back a little bit the other way.

Like steering a paddleboat, you can’t just leave the rudder in the middle and hope to go straight, it’s a constant process of negotiating the waves and adjusting to stay on course.

The important thing when growing is to decide which side of the line you would prefer to fall on when you’re inevitably off by a little. Otherwise it’s hit or miss and your target it very small.

If you’re feeling down on yourself, just think back to an older version of yourself. Did you handle the situation better?

If so, great, keep adjusting as you go forward.

If not, bummer, keep adjusting as you go forward.