For the record, I’m still learning how to do this whole “life” thing.
Recently, I made the really invigorating discovery that I can be a grade-A asshole while simultaneously thinking that I am helping those around me.
In continuing to examine my assumptions, I’ve started to see the “black boxes” in my thinking – swaths of my perception that I’m blind to. Sometimes, they exist because I have inaccurate data about a project that keeps me from seeing the reality of whats going on, but other times it’s myself that I can’t see, which keeps me from being in-tune with how my actions affect what I’m doing or the people around me.
Recently, I had one of those big black blind boxes planted directly over a particular relationship with a teammate. I was completely unable to see that I had done nothing to build trust with them, but was instead micromanaging their portion of the project, and making them feel disempowered to bring their expertise to the table. The surprising thing to me wasn’t that I was basically managing the project very poorly – I am very aware of my baby-level management skills – what surprised me was that, yet again, I couldn’t see it. It was only after my interactions were played back to me by another teammate that I saw how incredibly rude and arrogant I had been – in what I thought was the best interest of the project.
Black boxes are sneaky – they don’t show themselves on their own, until it’s too late. I need to learn how to hold a mental candle up to everything I do, so that I can see, if not the actual wrong-ness of my actions, at least the black boxes themselves. If I can see the boxes, I’ll be able to work backwards and find out what I’m missing.
But that’s not the point.
We all have black boxes in our minds. We all struggle to see how our actions affect others, how they affect projects we’re working on, and how they affect our own selves. That’s something I will always struggle with, and I hope I’ll continue to make progress and get better at uncovering those boxes.
The point is: what do you do once you’ve found them? That’s where humility becomes the most crucial thing of all.
My actions towards my teammate were really wrong. I felt I was in the right, arguing for the betterment of the project at hand, but in the process, I really hurt someone by making them feel that they had nothing to contribute. I walked all over them in the interest of “making things better”. At the time, I didn’t think that it would be possible to heal that relationship in a way that wouldn’t leave a long, awkward aftertaste.
After some wonderful soul-searching with another teammate, I was counseled to simply humbly make amends, let that feeling of asshole-being really sink in and sting, think of the situation from the other’s perspective, and genuinely admit to being that asshole that I never wanted to be.
Super simple, kindergarten human-being 101, there.
All I can say is that genuine humility, without expectation of forgiveness or “results”, is miraculous. The amount of healing that can be had, both for your own being and for a relationship, by simply getting down and being vulnerable in your own shortcomings, is incredible. My teammate and I are on much better terms than we ever had been.
By focusing on humility in my management and relationships, I hope I’ll be able to more clearly see the black boxes. At this point, I’m pretty confident that humility is the secret to the whole “life” thing.
Go forth and be humble, folks.