Do you value your abilities?
I’m not inquiring whether you’re someone who lacks self-esteem, confidence, inner knowledge, or faith in yourself. What I’m asking is whether you can step outside yourself or your situation—whatever it is—to perceive the intrinsic value of the skills and abilities you’ve garnered over the time you’ve spent in school or work, or even your lifetime.
What I always run into, when I unconsciously (or consciously) downplay my own talents or skills, is someone’s inevitable judgmental comment about how I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, how I lack self esteem, how I shouldn’t downgrade my abilities and “feel bad” about myself, etc.
I’m always surprised by this comment when it comes, no matter how inevitable I’ve found it to be.
If anything, I’m a confident person. I know I have a lot of natural talent in many areas and a good sense of self, as you can tell by this sentence, haha. I learn osmotically and in a gestalt-like manner, which is simply an innate learning style.
But perhaps I lose sight of how valuable my skills may be to others.
It is said we judge the world by the way we judge ourselves. I feel that if I was able to learn what I have learned, so can anyone. Does that mean I don’t have self-esteem? I take this approach in life—that if I just try hard enough, and the goal is truly important or necessary to me, I can do anything. If I’m stuck on some mental obstacle, well, I know myself well enough that I generally become aware of it quickly. I change my thinking, my perspective, and so am able to grasp new concepts. It’s usually a process resulting in a satisfying epiphany.
So, too, can anyone else, potentially, become skilled at almost anything. Therefore, I tend to think my skills are not that big a deal. Perhaps I don’t value them as I should. I find myself instead, valuing what I cannot yet do or what I have not yet conceived.
“Dude, you’re projecting.”
Maybe those “inevitable” comments are coming from people who think as I do, people who just have different skill sets from mine and therefore value what I can do. But if so, why the judgement?
“Let’s step outside, Buddy.”
Yesterday I heard three team presentations on different IT solutions, delivered by graduating students of IS. I’m a third-year student with a lot of classes yet to complete and much to learn, and these presentations were from students who had completed the program.
Initially, I was not impressed. The first of the three involved ideas so basic to me that I was both annoyed and bored. Of course they were good ideas, great even, but I already knew this stuff—everyone knows this stuff—shouldn’t there be something more to it?
The second presentation was less boring, but rather unsophisticated. I kept thinking, is this all they learned? I already know this too.
The third presentation was in slightly less familiar territory, but I just outright questioned the solution’s feasibility and assumptions. The team’s Analytic process seemed incomplete, even fallacious.
But then I stepped outside of myself…well, sort of. I could see that these teams, these people, had learned something new to them, and that they valued it because it was important to them to learn it. The non-IT business people in the audience valued the teams’ solutions because they were not part of their own skill sets and because the solutions satisfied their business needs. Legitimate reasons. The faculty valued the teams’ presentations because they were proof that learning had occurred—validation of the program.
I valued it because it showed me another way of looking at things, that you need to step outside of yourself and your own perceptions to grasp what’s important to other people. Only then, can you reach them…if reaching them is important to you. It’s important to me.
Those familiar with the Star Trek franchise are aware of the Klingons, the warrior race who desire only honor, crave battle, and fear dying of old age or in their sleep.
And speaking of franchises, Dan Cathy, President and COO of chicken sandwich chain Chick-Fil-A, belongs to another group with what some would consider equally unusual (traditional?) views on life. (Not only do they believe marriage is reserved for couples of the opposite sex alone, but they actually seem to believe same sex unions defy the will of God and invite his judgement.)
Back in July, Cathy made a comment about marriage that angered activists for same sex unions. I’m not here to add my own opinion in this debate, as this blog is limited to discussing, among other things, business topics.
Suffice it to say that some in the business community, including Joel Libava, the Franchise King, questioned the judgement of a franchise owner who would take such an unpopular stand on an issue so far from any connection to his primary business of selling chicken sandwiches, and believed Cathy and his company’s proverbial goose was cooked.
Not so, as it turned out. In fact, the company posted record sales on an “Appreciation Day” organized by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and others. Though some surveys indicate the company’s overall popularity is down, the fact is that Cathy, like any good entrepreneur, has, for better or worse, weathered the storm.
The reason? Cathy knows his people. With a restaurant chain that closes on Sundays, donates to conservative religious organizations, and has fairly transparent references to its conservative religious beliefs in company literature, Cathy has attracted a certain kind of customer, and, like the Klingon warriors we were talking about at the beginning of the post, these folks like their gagh served live. (They prefer an interpretation of right and wrong that is decidedly outside the mainstream and celebrate those who stand for those values despite social pressures.)
Cathy knows there are enough customers who understand the culture of his company and agree with his views (no matter how unpopular they might be), and that these customers will support his business regardless and help it thrive. By contrast, it is impossible to imagine the head of Starbucks taking a similar position.
It may be upsetting to activists and progressive thinkers, but entrepreneurs should take heed. Understanding your customers and what they value will make all the difference in the world for your business. Be sure you know who they are.
A Little Background
For those of you who don’t know, I’m a third year student at Muhlenberg College, working on a Bachelor’s of Information Systems degree. It’s an accelerated, cohort-based program that emulates the professional workgroup environment prevalent in IT and business. It’s fast moving, deliverable-intensive, team oriented, and much more “real world” than the average college experience. I think it’s a great primer for hitting the ground running in Fall of 2013, when I expect to graduate.
Information Systems Management
I’m in my second week of Information Systems Management class, and this is the first course where I’m actually having to roll up my sleeves and put a little elbow grease into it. I’m being challenged in several areas: The most difficult is in synthesizing the thoughts and opinions of my team members with my own, for group projects. I am fortunate to be working with compatible people–Myers-Briggs has seen to that. However, personal work styles, schedules, and other constraints are proving a formidable challenge to time management. We’re working on that, of course, and getting the job done and done well so far, but it’s definitely a condition I can’t ignore, even for a moment.
Thinking Inside the Right Box
Okay, okay, we’ve all been told to “think outside the box.” Either that, or we all maintain that we do think outside the box. By saying this, we separate ourselves from all of the ordinary, average, banal, dogmatic, limited, trite, close-minded, you-fill-in-the-negative-adjective people out there and distinguish ourselves as creative, inspired, insightful, free-thinking, innovative, you name it.
But there’s no denying that most industries, most fields of work or study, have a language and even a culture unique unto themselves: Doctors have doc-speak, business people have biz-speak, and IT/Computer Science people have tech-speak. And just like with any foreign culture, the key to that culture and its methodologies often lies in its language.
And, as with any language, the more you use it, immerse yourself in it, the more you learn to think like members of that culture, embrace its philosophies and perceptions, share its point of view, and communicate in terms of its ideas and methodologies. It’s a metamorphosis. And it’s not thinking outside the box. It’s thinking inside a different box…perhaps a better one, at least for you.
The IT Box
For the first time, I consciously found myself thinking inside a different box–the IT box. Seriously, it was like an out of body experience. It was like a personal paradigm shift in about 3 dizzying seconds, an altered state bringing about a totally different perspective. It was weird. Here’s what happened…
For homework I had to read a Harvard Business School case study and make a case analysis. The steps are problem identification, evaluation/analysis, and recommendations. The class was charged with making the analysis from an IT perspective, however upon reading the case for the first, second, and even third times, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what it had to do with IT at all. It seemed, if anything, like a business ethics case, all soft skillz, yo, and touchy feely. Generally that’s my comfort zone–I’m a people person–it’s right up my alley. The whole thing seemed preposterous.
Then, suddenly, the room tilted. It was just like that. Suddenly I could see what was missing, what the IT solution was, as implied not just by information, but by missing information. It was like a leap of logic, a flash of insight that turned out to be right. It was like learning to think in another language. It seems impossible, until one day you just do it.
If you can change the way you think about a thing, anything is possible.
They say genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. I have never really ascribed to this, because a lot of what I consider genius (in myself, yes I’m that conceited, and in others) appeared as a flash of insight, true inspiration rather than the result of relentless pushing.
In this case, however, I’m going to say that fixing the darn featured post slider was about 45 percent late-night, exhausted, fruitless struggle, about 30 percent perspiration over that struggle, and suddenly, today, a good 25 percent inspiration. Now I only have to go into Solostream’s forum and apologize for the cranky help ticket, haha. Well, like I said. This is not a blog…it’s an Adventure!
(BTW, pay no attention to the spinning wheel in the photo gallery slider. I haven’t uploaded anything yet. Don’t worry, I think I know what I’m doing now, but we’ll see soon!)