Friday, January 29, 2010

Remembered Identity

Our Remembered Identity exists where our self and past collide. How do you know who you are? Because you remember events in your life that helped form your sense of self. It’s not so important whether these are glorious moments in your autobiography or events you’d rather erase; what’s important is that you can’t forget these touchstones. For better or worse, they’ve left an impact—and when you write a profile of yourself, these moments inevitably get reported.
The good news is that successful people, with robust senses of self-worth, tend to mine their past for the shiny diamonds, not the lumps of coal. They do this, in part, out of self-protection. After all, who in their right mind would gorge on painful or embarrassing episodes from his or her past, let alone allow these episodes to define his or her identity? The trouble is, the further you go back into your past the greater the chances that your Remembered Identity doesn’t match up with who you are today. The world is full of people who aced their teenage years, but is there a sadder commentary about an adult than “he peaked in high school”?
Likewise, the workplace is full of people who made mistakes in their past, but those errors do not necessarily pinpoint with any accuracy who they are now.
I remember asking one of my more self-effacing clients—a man with amazing achievements—to itemize his plusses and minuses as an executive.
“Well, I’m not very good at follow up,” he said.
“How do you know that?” I asked.
“My biggest screw-ups in business occurred when I didn’t pay attention to my customers,” he said. “I didn’t check up on them as much as they’d like. I didn’t return phone calls promptly. I didn’t always do what I promised to do, at least not in the timely manner they expected. And sometimes I lost customers because of that.”
I glanced down at the feedback I had gathered about the man from his direct reports and colleagues. He was a capable leader, with several thousand employees under his command. He had a few behavioral issues that needed to be dealt with, but “bad at follow up” was not on the list.
“When was the last time a customer gave you negative feedback for poor follow up?” I asked.
“It’s been a while, at least ten years.”
“Then why do you still insist you’re bad at it?” I asked.
He didn’t have an answer.
That’s where Remembered Identity can cheat us in establishing our Mojo. There’s nothing wrong with harkening back to the past to sort out your strengths and weaknesses. But cling too tightly and you might be getting it all wrong, creating a dark blurry picture of someone who doesn’t exist anymore.

Life is good.

Marshall

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MOJO: How to Get It, How to Keep It, and How to Get It Back When You Lose It!

What Got You Here Won't Get You There

http://www.marshallgoldsmithlibrary.com/mojo

 

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