How to Become More Self-Aware

How to Become More Self-Aware

Alan Mulally, the celebrated business executive credited with turning around the fortunes of Ford motor company in the late 2000s, remembers an important lesson he took in self-awareness. It was during his first management position as a 25-year-old and he’d been nurturing a promising young aeronautical engineer whom he much admired. He was enjoying mentoring the man, his first employee, and was totally stunned when he handed in his notice, suddenly telling Mulally “I have to get away from you!”

But rather than feeling bitter, Mulally turned the situation into a learning opportunity and discovered from the unhappy engineer that he (Mulally) had been overly controlling and trying too hard to turn the engineer into a carbon copy of himself. “Can you imagine if no one had told me for years, or for decades? What a gift!” Mulally tells Tasha Eurich in her book Insight, the Power of Self-Awareness in a Self-deluded World.

Eurich, who is a psychologist and business consultant, describes self-awareness as “the meta-skill of the 21st century.” Mulally tells her “Throughout my career and my life, there has been one essential truth: the biggest opportunity for improvement – in business, at home, and in life – is awareness.”

Not knowing ourselves can lead us to make bad career decisions, to be overconfident, and to miss learning opportunities. Self awareness, by contrast, shows us our true motives, how we can improve, gives us the chance to address or own up to our weaknesses, and ultimately it makes us better decision makers, colleagues, and leaders (not to mention friends and companions). Unfortunately, without making the effort to become self-aware, most of us are vulnerable to self ignorance, both in terms of what we know about ourselves and how other people see us.

Consider a study of thousands of professionals from various fields. When researchers compared their self-assessments with their actual performance, there was little correlation. What’s more, those of us who are least competent or capable are more likely to overestimate our knowledge or abilities in that area, a phenomenon dubbed the Dunning-Kruger effect after the psychologists who discovered it (in one dramatic example, prisoners rated themselves as more kind and trustworthy than average).

And lack of self-insight, or at least a lack of motivation to become more aware, usually goes hand in hand with weaker performance, especially the higher you climb in your career. Writing at Forbes, Joseph Folkman describes his research on leaders and the seeking of feedback: among the mostly poorly ranked leaders, only 17 percent ask others for feedback, compared with 83 per cent of top-performing leaders.

How to become more self-aware

To learn more about ourselves, our strengths, weaknesses, motivations and fears, the obvious thing to do is to spend time deep in introspection or to keep a daily diary. But Eurich explains that these techniques don’t work, at least not the way that most of us do them. For example, research shows that people who spend too much time reflecting about the self tend to suffer more anxiety and poorer wellbeing (in part because it’s all too easy to slip into rumination, self blame and the search for absolute truths that simply don’t exist). And according to studies by Eurich and others, diary keepers are more self-reflective, but they don’t have any greater insight.

One reason is that people who like journaling often do it too frequently: experts on the emotional impact of writing, such as James Pennebaker, suggest doing it every few days, certainly not every day. And, says Eurich, it’s important to “explore the negative and not overthink the positive” – you should aim to turn confused perceptions of events into “a coherent meaningful narrative” and avoid squeezing the joy out of positive experiences by over analyzing them.

Another way to boost your insight is to ask yourself the Miracle Question (first described in Chip and Dan Heath’s book Switch): Imagine a miracle occurs tonight as you’re sleeping that ripples out and benefits many areas of your life, what might this miracle be? “Think for a moment” says Eurich, “… how is life going to be different now? Describe it in detail. What’s the first thing you’ll notice as you wake up in the morning?”. Eurich gives the example of Matt, a leader who saw all the benefits that would come from realizing that asking for help isn’t a weakness. His solution “wasn’t an oversimplified single action …” says Eurich. “Instead, he envisioned exactly how both he and his employers would change on a far deeper level.”

Also, try daily check-ins. Unlike journaling or diary keeping, these are short, focused responses in which you spend from just a few seconds up to a maximum of five minutes reflecting on how your day went, what worked, what didn’t and how you could do better tomorrow. Eurich cites research with call center workers that found those who performed this daily ritual boosted their performance by 23 percent on average.

Other tricks to self-awareness involve helping yourself see things from a different perspective. Eurich recommends a basic technique called “going to the balcony” (as named by negotiation expert William Ury), which you could also think of as like imagining you are a fly on the wall. Next time you are in an argument or a stressful situation, place yourself outside of it and see how things seem from that vantage point. Similar to this is “zoom in, zoom out” technique. Again, when you’re in the midst of a tricky encounter, zoom into your own perspective and the baggage you’re carrying – maybe you’re tired, stressed or worried about something – then zoom out to the other person’s perspective – ask yourself, what kind of day may they be having? What are they thinking and feeling?

Meanwhile, to find out more what others think of you, you could try the well-known 360-degree technique, in which each person in the team rates everyone else. Or if you’re feeling particularly bold, Eurich recommends the “dinner of truth” during which you ask the other person “the one thing that annoys them most about you.” This approach should be handled with care! Indeed, when it comes to seeking feedback from others, Eurich stresses that it’s important to seek the right kind of feedback from the right people – loving critics are ideal, people who have your best interests at heart, but who are also prepared to be honest.

But whomever you are seeking feedback from, especially if it is of a personal nature, brace yourself for unpleasant surprises – practicing a brief moment of self-affirmation can help with this, which means reminding yourself of your values and what matters to you in life. That way you’re more likely to take on the new information constructively rather than it stinging and making you resentful.

Ultimately, the path to self-insight is a process. It’s an approach to life rather than a chore to be performed over a weekend. “It can be long, difficult and messy,” says Eurich. But she promises that it will be worth it. “If we can get just a bit more mindful and self-aware each day, the sum total of these insights can be astonishing,” she says.

from 99U99U http://bit.ly/2v5eEcE

Julia Kaganskiy: Navigating the Unknown

Julia Kaganskiy: Navigating the Unknown

About this talk

As director of arts and technology incubator NEW INC, Julia Kaganskiy helps creatives and makers navigate everything from cultural shifts to financial challenges. Through it all, she’s developed a framework to navigate the unknowns in the creative career, without losing confidence in your ideas.

About Julia Kaganskiy

Julia Kaganskiy is a cultural producer across art and technology. She previously served as global editor of the Creators Project, a partnership between VICE Media Group and Intel. In 2010, she founded #ArtsTech Meetup, an initiative that brings together digital artists and professionals from New York’s museums, galleries, and art-related start-ups.

Kaganskiy has been profiled in the AOL/PBS series ‘MAKERS’, named in Crain’s New York Business’s ’40 Under 40′ list for 2015, and cited by Fast Company (2011) and Business Insider (2013) as one of the most influential women in technology.

Links

NEW INC

@juliaxgulia

from 99U99U http://bit.ly/2uFznc5

Irene Au: The Architecture of Creative Collaboration

Irene Au: The Architecture of Creative Collaboration

About this talk

Khosla Ventures design partner Irene Au learned some of her most valuable design lessons not from the companies she advises, but from a close collaboration with the residential architects who helped her family design their dream home. From how to choose your clients to anticipating their needs, mindfulness and intention rule when it comes to fruitful creative collaborations.

About Irene Au

Irene Au is design partner at Khosla Ventures, where she works with early-, mid-, and late-stage startup CEOs. Au has unprecedented experience elevating the strategic importance of design within internet companies, having built and led the entire user experience and design teams at Google (2006-2012), Yahoo! (1998-2006), and Udacity (2012-2014). She began her career as an interaction designer at Netscape Communications, where she worked on the design of the internet’s first commercial web browser.

Au also teaches yoga at Avalon Yoga Center in Palo Alto where she is part of the teacher training program faculty and is a frequent author and speaker on the relationship between mindfulness practices, design, and creativity.

Links

Khosla Ventures

@ireneau

from 99U99U http://bit.ly/2fFQfsr

Natasha Jen: Design Thinking Is Bullshit

Natasha Jen: Design Thinking Is Bullshit

About this talk

If Google Image search is your sole barometer, “design thinking uses just one tool: 3M Post-Its,” says Pentagram partner Natasha Jen. “Why did we end up with a single medium? Charles and Ray Eames worked in a complete lack of Post-It stickies. They learned by doing.” In her provocative 99U talk, Jen lobbies for the “Crit” over the “Post-It” when it comes to moving design forward.

About Natasha Jen

Natasha Jen is an award-winning designer and educator. Born in Taipei, Taiwan, she was invited to join Pentagram’s New York office as partner in 2012. In 2014 she was acclaimed by Wired magazine as one of nine ‘Designers Who Matter’.

Jen’s work is recognized for its innovative use of graphic, digital, and spatial interventions that challenge conventional notions of media and cultural contexts. Her work is immediately recognizable, encompassing brand identity systems, printed matters, exhibition design, digital interfaces, signage and way-finding systems, and architecture. Her clients, past and present, include Harvard x Design, Phaidon, Kate Spade, Chanel, Nike, First Round Capital, MIT, and the Metropolitan Museum, to name just a few. Pentagram made headlines in 2016 for their bold brand work on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Jen has earned a variety of awards and appeared in a number of publications, including Wired, Fast Company, Kinfolk, Print, Creative Review, Metropolis, Flaunt, and China Art and Design. She was one of the winners of Art Directors Club Young Guns, for which she also served as a judge in 2007 and 2011. She has been a guest critic at Yale University School of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, and Maryland Institute College of Art; and currently serves on the Board of Directors for Storefront for Art & Architecture and AIGA’s New York Chapter.

Links

Pentagram

@njenworks

from 99U99U http://bit.ly/2i0vV5P

Liz Jackson: Designing for Inclusivity

Liz Jackson: Designing for Inclusivity

About this talk

Liz Jackson is leading a revolution in inclusive design by rethinking disability as a branding problem: “We are disabled not by our bodies, but by the world around us. It is a social construct. Disability is nothing more than a brand, the world’s ugliest brand,” says Jackson. From problematic “inspiration porn” to the lack of disabled people involved in the industrial design process, Jackson’s talk is a powerful call to action for all designers.

About Liz Jackson

After a chronic neuromuscular diagnosis in 2012, Liz Jackson began to wonder why her eyeglasses were fashionable when her cane and all other assistive products were stigmatizing. This epiphany, spurred Jackson to found the Inclusive Fashion & Design Collective; an ecosystem of products, ideas and people who prioritize the exception rather than the rule. The IFDC’s mission is to increase the impact of beautiful, functional products in our everyday lives and in the global economy by supporting designers and retailers in the making and marketing of products for all needs.

Jackson — sometimes known as the ‘Girl With the Purple Cane’ — and colleague Sinead Burke have spoken everywhere from TED to the White House on inclusive design.

Links

Inclusive Fashion + Design Collective

@elizejackson

from 99U99U http://bit.ly/2fGPXS2

Steve Selzer: Designing for Friction

Steve Selzer: Designing for Friction

About this talk

As experience design manager for Airbnb, Steve Selzer doesn’t fear friction; he embraces it. Avoiding friction means removing “opportunities for serendipity, confrontation, and personal growth,” says Selzer. In his 99U talk, he not only outlines how his team navigates friction they encounter, but how they strategically create it.

About Steve Selzer

Steve Selzer is a designer, manager, and creative leader at Airbnb. Over the last decade, he has led design for a broad range of companies — from startups to Fortune 500 companies spanning education, finance, entertainment, consumer products, transportation, communications, and social enterprise.

Today, Steve leads the Business Travel design team, which is focused on transforming the experience people have when they travel for work. He also leads the Payments design team, whose focus is two-fold: enabling more people to transact on our platform, and empowering Airbnb Hosts to be successful entrepreneurs.

Prior to Airbnb, Steve was a creative director at global innovation firm Frog Design. He is passionate about human-centered design and focused on building products that responsibly advance the human experience.

Links

‘The Fiction of No Friction’ on Airbnb.Design

@steveselzer

from 99U99U http://bit.ly/2i1kbzS

Rick Webb: You Can’t Plan for Everything, So Stop Trying

Rick Webb: You Can’t Plan for Everything, So Stop Trying

About this talk

As co-founder of creative agency The Barbarian Group, Rick Webb helped define the then-burgeoning field of digital marketing. When Barbarian experienced rapid growth, Webb had to get comfortable with delegating creative control, and when the agency was sold to holding company Cheil Worldwide, he and his partners had to relinquish control of their operations and even contend with a corporate scandal. In his 99U talk, Webb takes a detailed look at the birth and life of a creative organization, and the messy realities of the coveted “exit”.

About Rick Webb

Rick Webb is a writer, angel investor, and consultant to such startups and marketing companies such as Tumblr, Soundcloud, and Percolate. He currently serves as COO at Timehop.

In 2001, Webb co-founded The Barbarian Group, an award-winning digital ad agency. He served as its COO for the first ten years of the company’s existence. Webb left in 2011 to pursue angel investing in technology and advertising. He is an angel investor in Foursquare, Percolate, Sherpaa, Nestio and Timehop. He is an advisor to several other tech startups and marketing services companies, including Hard Candy Shell and Small Girls PR.

Webb is author of Agency: Starting a Creative Firm in the Age of Digital Marketing, released by Palgrave Macmillan in 2015, and Man Nup: A Groom’s Guide to Heroic Wedding Planning in 2016. He is an avid writer on technology, advertising, economics, and government. He graduated from Boston University with a degree in International Economics in 1992. He serves a board member of the VCU a, one of the most renowned advertising graduate schools, and was named as Creativity Magazine‘s ’50 Most Creative People in Marketing’ (2008). He was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Links

Agency: Starting a Creative Firm in the Age of Digital Marketing

@rickwebb

from 99U99U http://bit.ly/2fG7IAN