Today is my second day at Startup Institute Boston. The first day…was…BANANAS. I honestly have never been around so many creative and forward thinking people since my senior year at MIT. It’s incredibly reinvigorating for someone like me who just spent 6 years in the same place, doing the same thing. Nothing against that place or that thing! It was actually pretty awesome. But the staying-in-one-place for so long has taken a toll on my self-confidence as an idea maker, wearer of multiple hats, and all around interesting guy. For this reason, I’m incredibly happy to be going in a really new direction.
But I’ll have more on that another time.
Yesterday we did this individual exercise where each of us told the cohort something we sucked at doing. It was a really deep, introspective exercise. It got very personal and honest. Here’s what I suck at: expressing disagreement. I don’t like being the non-conformist when a decision needs to be made. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like conformity one bit. I believe wholeheartedly in individuality. But it’s a lot easier said than done! It’s difficult for me to muster up the courage to disagree with the group. And I do this to myself often. I punish myself with silence for daring to think differently than the rest of my peers, someone I respect, or someone whose feelings I don’t want to hurt.
I’m sort of introverted and occasionally socially awkward…which I think is absolutely fine. I love people who fit this description because we get each other! But mix that with conflict-phobic, and you have a person who is afraid to say to a group “I think you’re all wrong.” I’ve seen this social tendency occur throughout my professional and personal life, with my coworkers and my loved ones. I’ve always been aware of it, but too afraid to confront it.
This exercise of admitting “what I suck at” keeps me from continuing to ignore it. When I admit it loudly to a group of respected peers, I’m really admitting it to myself. I’m telling myself “Wake up! You have a problem. BUT…it’s OK. Start working on it.” I know now that I don’t need to solve this problem today. But I do need to start. Now that I’m painfully, ultra-cognizant of this flaw…I can take small actions to treat it. The next time I hear an idea I disagree with, I can remind myself to boldly state my dissident thoughts and worry about the consequences later. I can remind myself that sealing my lips only reinforces the problem and guarantees that it’ll happen again. I can remind myself that even if I’m wrong I deserve to be heard and considered, even if people don’t want to hear and consider me.
So there you go. A little piece of Tarikh being really deep. I’m glad I did this exercise AND I’m glad I shared it with you. Maybe you should give it a try. Really if there’s anything you’re struggling with, try it out with a group of people. Tell them what you suck at.