Thinking, doing, learning.

Blog

I write and talk about product management, strategy, design, and software delivery.

Three things I didn't do: 2018 in review

It’s the time when everyone is reflecting on achievements through the year and the things learned along the way. I’ve got a bag of those, sure, but what about the things I didn’t do, don’t know, or can’t understand yet? Those seem worth considering, not because I have regrets - I have none - but because it’s okay.

So, here’s my year in reflection, from a contrarian point of view.

Its easy to talk about ‘right things’; doing them isn’t trivial

In many situations, I quickly reach a working comprehension of what the ‘right’ work looks like. I’ve got good ways of assessing problems, and a fair chunk of experience identifying goals, finding potential solutions, and executing toward the outcome.

Great!

In spite of this, I frequently get trapped by the Law of Triviality, prioritising my time and effort toward lower value work - i.e. inbox zero - that is completely meaningless with regard to the mission at hand. It makes me feel good because: it’s easy; I can do it; it get’s done.

It’s an hourly/daily struggle, that got in the way of lots of meaningful work for me in 2018. I know, I know… You can’t be firing on all cylinders, all the time. Knowing that doesn’t make it less irritating.

I don’t have an answer on why I do this, or how to stop it. And, that is okay.

Doubt + Conflict = Achilles

In quite a few areas, I have a deeper-than-average knowledge of things. That goes alongside many, many areas where I know little-to-nothing. There’s a few things that drive me toward desiring deeper knowledge. Doubt is one of them. Being a cynical doubter makes me better at product management - I think. It means I’m usually well-researched, and have evidence for my beliefs. It definitely doesn’t mean I’m always ways right. On the contrary, I have a special skill at being wrong, which is most useful when ‘wrong’ happens fast and cheap. That’s another article, for another time. Doubt also means I’m open to opposing views, and frequently encourage dissent.

But the truth is I’m pretty terrible at conflict, and dissent is really uncomfortable. For reasons I completely do not understand, I have a tendency to believe others before myself. Even if I think that person is a complete douche, I know they’re making stuff up on the fly, and their argument is based in fiction. Invariably, I end up nodding along like a grinning idiot. Partly because I’m terrible at conflict, and partly because I’m a complete doubter. I’ve been described from time to time as ‘a very agreeable chap’, which I used to think was a compliment. I guess it still is, but it’s also a liability.

This tendency toward doubt and aversion to conflict most certainly got in the way of progress a number of times in 2018.

I don’t have an answer on why I do this, or how to stop it. And, that is okay.

People are hard

I love my friends. I’m capable of effective communication. I can even be passionate and engaging from time to time. But I’m not really a ‘people person’, and I’m probably not an easy person to be around either. I have always been this way.

I have always been this way.

I have always been this way.

People who know me, know this. But most people, in most professional circumstances probably can’t tell. Or can they? They can’t tell either because the ‘performance craft’ I’ve developed over the years in order to cope; or because I’m ‘a very agreeable chap’. Either way, it’s freaking exhausting! People probably don’t even care that I’m not really a people person…

I don’t know why I try so hard, or why I care so much about this. And, that is okay.


Woah, this all came off as a bit of a sulky introspective teenage diary kind of thing. That wasn’t the point.
I guess I could rewrite it… Or, how about I just stop giving a damn whether you’ll like it or not; stop doubting; and stop flip-flopping about whether it’s worth my time? Yep. Let’s do that!

Jonny SchneiderComment