“From Rusticus . . . I learned to read carefully and not be satisfied with a rough understanding of the whole, and not to agree too quickly with those who have a lot to say about something.”
—MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 1.7.3
A week ago I went into a long conversation with my boss to discuss my mid-year performance. There was a lot word been said to me, the good stuff – happy to hear I made everyone happy, the bad stuff – it’s hard to inhale the mistakes. “Treat mistakes like gifts”, as he went on making his points on things that I should be improving. “Mistakes are not bad things but a good opportunity to know that you probably hit the same wall, it’s time to find a different wall to hit and to see if it will fall down this time. If it does, it only means you are doing the right thing”.
Overwhelmed with such statements, being a perfectionist and well-known as an overthinker, I sat there silent and telling myself what does all these means? At a rough understanding, the lack of patience me could translate the feedback as a personal attack fully, and the old me would probably burst out finding anything personal to return a favour by giving a piece of my mind to the giver. What good could it do to help me? But no. We both went silent. 2 minutes or more, I don’t remember.
But I started to notice the tone, I came to a realisation of the words he chose were surely being well thought ahead of time. After all, this is a performance appraisal session, it’s the moment your hard work is being reviewed and rated. Whether I like it or not, those incoming feedbacks are written directly to my name. Only a few days after I learnt as much as we hate feedbacks, the bad feedbacks have always been the case, the ‘hate’, the ‘defensive’ responses we normally exhale are only because of we ‘fear’ of changes and lack of ‘deep understanding’.
With the thoughts that came to my mind a few days after, I have made vast changes in planning on how do I show up to be better in my role. I can choose to sit at a corner, finding the points to validate the feedbacks that were given but instead, I choose to sit at the corner, thinking what did my boss meant with those feedbacks.
We need to push ourselves for a deeper understanding.
I take this reminder from Marcus Aurelius as a first and most important skill in solving problems. That also means my agility to grasp the real and valuable information that was given for my later use.
Tyra Banks, when she first started to pursue her modelling career, she would watch the videotape of professional models over and over again to understand and learn from the experts. She took feedbacks home with her so that she could analyse what could be better and she won’t have to repeat the mistake again. It’s admirable on how she dedicated her time to understand the feedbacks, recover and focus on to solve the problems she had.
Nowadays, technology is made easy for us that we could seek and learn almost everything stretching our knowledge and skills horizontally or/and vertically; collect quick feedbacks on our business via the power of the internet almost instantly. Yet, interestingly we let the dark side of the internet to push information on us, that overloaded our minds and we disconnect.
I think today’s quote is relatable to the first step to a great problem-solving. It is an essential skill to grow not just in professional but also at a personal level.