Every social situation has a baseline series of expectations.
In an interview at a bank, you’re expected to dress formally.
On a first date, you’re expected to have showered recently.
These expectations are often unstated and sometimes highly nuanced (for example, swearing is acceptable at some companies and shunned at others) — but when you want something, to the best of your knowledge, don’t screw with the baseline.
Breaking social expectations is a simple and easy out for someone to say no to you. Don’t give them that opportunity.
I attended a conference last week with lively discussion about the deliberate introduction of serendipity into our lives.
We are becoming more and more saturated by information and that is highly curated. In general, this is a great thing — its more efficient, more interesting and generally validating. That’s pretty hard to argue with.
And that is exactly the challenge: serendipity, which is inherently uncertain, struggles to win the competition for attention with curation. Curation is an almost guaranteed dopamine hit… while seeking serendipity is anything but guaranteed (and may be negative).
This explains why we check our phones rather than strike up random conversation.
Serendipity fuels creativity, innovation and luck. We need it to outgrow our own limitations. Yet taking the risk to seek it out is becoming more and more challenging.
When times have been hard I’ve found a (nearly) universal cure:
The Light of Day.
When I’m most uncomfortable and ashamed of something, the best thing to do is share it. To bring those complicated, messy, painful feelings into the light of other people.
Here’s a real world example: in college I had a pretty nasty eating disorder (a combo of anorexia and bulimia). While I was eventually able to mostly break it in secret, I didn’t stop fearing it until I could comfortably share my experiences: until I brought it into the light of day.
I also know that if, on a tough day of procrastination, I find myself compensating by saying how great my day has been, I’m digging myself deeper in the hole.
The funny thing is, that in the moment, I believe that stating my day was great will motivate me to change or make me feel better. FALSE! So false. It makes me feel worse!
By being honest and open about my flaws, I find a well of compassion that enables me to move forward and drop the baggage about what’s happened in the past.
It may be uncomfortable, but the light of day is generally the best medicine.
I am a horrible painter. It’s true.
I’m sure I could become better, master some techniques, but that’s not the point.
I enjoy painting because I have absolutely zero attachment to the outcome.
I expect it to be bad. I don’t care when it is bad.
I have no fear when it comes to painting – even showing it to other people because I have no ego attachment to the outcome. I don’t care that I am bad and I don’t care if other people think that I am the worst painter on earth.
My ability to paint (or lack thereof) is not part of my self-identified value.
What this tells me is that the fear of being seen comes not from skill or lack thereof — but from internal expectations of your performance and your confidence that you can meet them.
If you’re afraid, maybe you should try caring less and perhaps even enjoying being less-than-amazing at something.