It isn’t all about you

Being judged on one’s own merits is generally considered a good thing. I often hear people complain about blamed for something that was caused by others, or that they weren’t in an environment that allowed their strengths to shine.

I would instead suggest that they’ve misunderstood the goal of a worker. It isn’t to be the best you, ignoring what’s around you. It is to take the world as it is, and to make it better.

I know this makes understanding each individual’s contribution much harder. When you’re successful, you can’t take all the credit. Spectacularly successful investor Warren Buffett famously recognised this in acknowledging that his talents wouldn’t have been valuable in any other place or time in history. And when you fail to add value, it is rarely all your fault.

Once you accept this, your focus becomes a more outward one. You know your skills and and what you enjoy doing – look around and think about where they can best be used:

  • What kind of boss would let you perform at your best? 
  • What type of company would have the right opportunities to add value?
  • How will you realise when you’re in a situation you are better off escaping?

Addressing these sort of questions may not change who you are or what you’re personally capable of, but they will have a big difference in what you can achieve.

2 thoughts on “It isn’t all about you

  1. John Stepper

    I agree…and yet this is hard to accept. At (American) schools, we’re told it IS about you. What you achieve is up to you. At work we’re told about meritocracies and our performance management systems give everyone an individual number and individual bonus.

    Would you change any of that given what you wrote? If so, how?

    1. Guy Lipman

      Thanks for my first comment!

      I do agree that a large part of the teaching should remain on individual skills: ability to read, write, do maths, code, analyse- these are going to continue to be critical. Where I’d be changing the emphasis is in how the skills are tested, and what students are taught is important. I’d make more of the assessment on how students use the skills, rather than exam based. And I’d certainly increase the emphasis on self-motivated learning, social learning and collaborative skills, and assess for them. Easier said than done, I know.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *