Winning shallow

Something I was asked this week stopped me in my tracks: when you think about your profession, what is your strong point? What would you say is the thing that sets you apart and that you do best? What is your unique selling proposition when it comes to selling yourself? I had to take a few seconds to think about it and even after that I had to fumble through an answer that even to me sounded shallow. The truth was … I had never thought about it.

The above prompted a couple of days of personal reflection. As it often happens, the books I am reading are not by chance and this week I was wrapping up Fear Less, Dr. Pippa Grange’s book where she talks about winning shallow – winning not because what you are fighting for is something you are deeply invested in or that you very much enjoy but to alleviate feelings of not being good enough, winning to beat the other guy, winning amidst or as a result of constant comparison, winning to be seen as good enough, the opposing side of a joyful, meaningful and fulfilling win – winning deep. Dr. Grange talks about how when we win shallow, we continue to believe, the second after the win, we aren’t enough. Nothing is really changed. Achieving something and actually feeling like you did can be a completely different thing. Hard to hear but so true … .

Looking back on my two decades of work I can no longer hide the fact that I chose the path of winning shallow so many times. Whether it was to impress a supervisor, upstage a peer, prove myself to myself (the most futile of endeavours, as your worth does not come from what you do but simply exists – it is a matter of whether you are able to acknowledge that … ), whether it was to take another step towards “making a name for myself”, adding something to my CV or gathering one more accolade, I realize today (too late maybe?) that these were shallow wins for the most part. The fleeting feeling of fulfilment and purpose was barely noticeable. What, out of all this, could I pinpoint as my strong point?

When I was asked to share my unique strength, I was faced with a mirror that shocked me to some extent. The question that I heard was actually what is it about everything that I have done that says something real about me? Not something that I had to do, not something that I did because I wanted more money, more visibility or that I wanted to be better than … , something that brought a real sense of purpose, joy and fulfillment. Something that made me feel alive.

Two days of reflection later, my mind spin stopped upon a term I heard a little while ago – “connective tissue”. I feel that, regardless of what my title, my contract or my business card says, what I actually am is a connective tissue builder. What lights me up is listening to connect dots, highlighting connections that might not be obvious in the moment. Someone told me today that this is “strategic insight”, a quality that is needed in a leader. Hmm, interesting …

Way back when, in my teenage years, I heard a Romanian saying that translates something like: every kick in the butt is a step ahead. I guess, very true. Never let disappointment wash over you without it leaving something positive behind. I started from being truly disappointed in myself for the way I handled an interview and ended up with a new piece of the “me” puzzle that fit. Self reflection can be painful but it will always be fruitful if you are honest and open minded in the pursuit of self discovery.

Photo by Matt Seymour on Unsplash

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