Which one do you want to be?
From the time we are children until the day we die, we are saddled with self doubt and insecurity. It’s natural. It’s innate to all beings. The puppy that cries that first night in his new home when you leave him in the box with the blanket and the ticking alarm clock to replicate his mother’s heartbeat. He knows that a yelping puppy is not left behind in the pack and when he sees you close that door and leave him in the dark – his head gives him his first insecure message; he’s been left behind. His cries are intended to make sure this does not happen.
One of my first recesses in first grade found me joining in a game of kickball. My first time up, the pitch came in just right and I nailed it perfectly and sent it sailing over the fence for a home run. Everyone was amazed, including me. I never did anything like that before. Well here were all these new faces and all these new friends and I was suddenly this playground legend. I deliberately did not play again for weeks after because I knew my follow-up performance would never match up to the heroic home run I hammered on that first day. I wanted to ride the wave of that successful reputation. In time, I began to play again and became extremely average and soon the homerun story that everyone else used to tell faded away. I recall the attention it brought but more than that I recall the insecurity I felt when I was faced with the fact that if I tried it again and failed, I’d lose all that I had gained. In a first-grader’s world, that loomed large.
In the last 4 or 5 years, I’ve watched many friends lose jobs, homes, spouses and other valuable things as the economy has faltered and a personal financial crisis has put pressure on people they never felt before. A strained marriage, a mortgage one can barely afford, a job that often seemed expendable; all seem to collapse when the added pressure of a lack of funding appears. At the peak of these breakdowns, people are told to “dig deep and find the best in themselves” but the fact is they are probably never weaker or more unable to mount a comeback than right then. Sometimes it is merely primal survival skills that help them right their ship and get back on track. But knowing that the waters are teeming with potential problems such as these, how can we prevent this seemingly inevitable course of events from happening?
I believe, as with current medical views, the best defense is often a good offense. There are preventative measures you can take to make yourself less vulnerable to losses and less likely to carry those lifetime insecurities right to your dying day.
It is important to note that what I am proposing here is not simply a formula for success rather a lifestyle change that’s intended to modify your approach. See, I believe people give off a sense of confidence or insecurity the minute they are encountered and no matter how they try to disguise it, if they are truly insecure about themselves or some extension of themselves it always can be detected. Once sensed, it does damage.
I envision an approach to this problem that is surprising simple. Ask yourself what kind of people you are most drawn to both personally and professionally. And the inverse – what is it about some people that just immediately turns you off? Then, simply work to become the one and work to stop being the other. With your new coat of Teflon on, many of life’s hits and punches will slide right off. Even if you’re fired, you’ll be more likely to be hired somewhere else. If you get divorced, you just may find love again and now a better relationship because you are more in harmony with yourself. If you lose your home you’ll find the best way to beat the devastation is to find and decorate a great and new apartment. It can be done. You just have to make sure you can’t be stopped. I don’t mean to trivialize enormous bouts of bad luck and life-changing events, but we all know finding a way to “roll with the punches” is more about your approach to problems than anything else. What kind of real strength and stores of integrity do you have?
Here’s my list of traits that I admire:
• I am drawn to people that stand out and are willing to do so. This is not be confused with those that are eccentric just to be different. I mean a person that could care less if he/she is judged--they are just going about their lives as they see fit--with or without your approval.
• A constitution of confidence and self-assuredness.
• An opinion that doesn’t change when important people join or override the consensus.
• A sincere sense of humor as well as a sincere and visible sense of appreciation.
• A general attitude of independence and strength. Not overbearing or reckless but just an admirable swagger of ability. Does this person appear to be someone you could get behind and trust to handle something – not necessarily lead but clearly handle his/her part of a project? In a word: capable.
Here are things that make me resist some people:
• Constant apologizing – people that act like they have no right to even think, propose or debate the issue. They often start sentences with, “I know it’s not my place to say….”
• People that always pretend what they are saying requires strict confidence. They whisper a lot, close the door, give signals; these people usually take themselves and issues way too seriously. Get real.
• People that always point out the negative. Just the opposite of the “can-do” attitude. These people always take the air out of the room whenever enthusiasm is high.
• People who pretend they simply are carrying on with marching orders they don’t understand but are unwilling to challenge. They say things like, “hey I know better than to question – I just do what I’m told no matter what I think.”
• Complete indifference – “Why haven’t you fixed that hole in the wall?” Answer: “Well it was there when I got here a year ago and nobody told me to do anything about it. Doesn’t bother me though I just hang my coat over it.”
OK so be honest with yourself. Which people would you like better as friends, neighbors, co-workers? I think it’s pretty clear, right? I mean we all know a million reasons cause firings and layoffs. It isn’t simply a personality contest, but if all other factors are held in check and it is merely an evaluation of who has greater potential to last, there is logic in working to become a better person all around. Avoid the traps of becoming that negative, spineless, gossipy type I mentioned above. If you don’t--and one day the choice to fire someone comes down to you and another guy--I guarantee you the more positive guy will always win out.
Ron Ciancutti is the Director of Procurement for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.