Can you be a different person at work?

I like attending conferences. I enjoy watching great conference speakers. They are interesting. Great speakers convey a story, they put on a show.

I wondered how they did it. I started asking people. I received many answers. This one stood out

Great speakers are just being themselves on stage. They are interesting off stage, so they are interesting on stage.

This answer was from a colleague.

Fast forward a year …

I’m in Bangkok, chatting with the same colleague at a cafe. It was 4 PM. Being a weekend, I had plans for the evening. My colleague enquired what they were. I responded with this long list

  • I wanted to grab a late lunch at a nearby Israeli styled cafe
  • I wanted to come back to the cafe we were at and work on a pending task
  • I wanted to go to an amusement park near my hotel
  • I wanted to go a Japanese Sushi place near my hotel

My colleague smiled. He said, “That’s ambitious”. It was a euphemistic phrase to say that I had overestimated how much I could do with the rest of my day.

As the evening progressed, I realized what he meant. We began to discuss. I explained that I disliked estimating. Estimating demanded an immense amount of my mental energy and I avoided doing it off work hours to relax.

Estimating though, is of paramount importance at work. For example, I have to be able to correctly estimate when I can release a feature so that the content team can work on an announcement and write to our customers.

A thought struck me. How can I be good at estimating when I start work on Monday when I don’t enjoy doing it off work. There isn’t any magic on/off switch that can make me be suddenly good at estimating on Monday.

The same goes for other things. I cannot be good at writing and communicating at work when I don’t enjoy writing off work. Like any other muscle in the body, your brain needs practice to get so good that you can do these things “effortlessly”. My colleague’s quote on great conference speakers had come back to my mind. Can you avoid doing things you aren’t comfortable doing off work when you’ve to do them at work? Can you be a different person at work?

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