Thursday, June 16, 2011

Volume 3 Issue 24: Two-Cent Economics

The Downside of Being a High Achiever

This is one of the best articles that I have read recently. It is a very long article, so be forewarned. It is definitely worth the time.

Here is one of my favorite parts:

Focus on the Long Term
Major goals can withstand interim setbacks. When you are looking at the big picture, you often give yourself more latitude to make a few missteps.
One lawyer with a passion for civil liberties, Steven, told us of an experience writing a brief that was in an area of law that lay outside his experience. He was paralyzed by the prospect of looking incompetent to the members of the legal community he admired most. That the subject matter was only slightly out of his area of expertise made it all the more daunting—he felt he should know instinctively how to respond.
Steven realized that he had to grant himself the permission to be mediocre—an appalling prospect for achievers.
He weighed the possible consequences of a subpar brief against the broader benefits of expanding his expertise and making an influential contribution to the case. As it turned out, his work on the brief garnered him additional respect from his colleagues. It was a solid effort that demonstrated his ability to stretch beyond his comfort zone.
Long-term success requires some willingness to commit to necessary short-term risks. High achievers often let their fear of failure stop them from taking those chances.
That was the case with Rick, a respected professor but a dismal team player. His students loved him, but his peers were increasingly vocal about his refusal to contribute at an organizational level. He couldn’t be counted on to complete any work other than what was on his own to-do list. Rick consciously ignored his colleagues’ feedback, in part because he knew he was less talented at organizational tasks.
Mostly, though, he was just too self-absorbed to pay attention to anything other than his own teaching, research, and publishing agenda. Unfortunately, Rick’s inability to see the big picture was his undoing, and his contract was not renewed.
In his next position, Rick resolved to do things differently. He invested time and effort in shoring up his organizational abilities. Though he worried initially about not focusing his all energies on teaching, his farsightedness paid off: He’s now one of the most highly regarded professors in his department—on all counts. He still feels anxiety about his weaknesses—that’s who he is—and in a way it’s what makes him great. He’s never satisfied.
Doing the right thing poorly is painful for high achievers. It’s much more satisfying to do something well, even if it’s not the best use of your time.
Moving your A game to a new level or in a new direction takes humility, it takes practice, and it takes patience (not necessarily your strong suit). But it’s a necessary step on the road to doing the right thing well.

I have been preaching about long term thinking for a while now. This article just puts it aptly, among other amazing things.