Blog: Design Musings and Other Nonsense
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Mind the Recoil
I was talking with a colleague the other day, and the topic came up about hiring. I was talking about a particular candidate, about how he looked perfect on paper, and said all the right things. There was nothing wrong with this candidate at all. From a logical perspective, they ticked all the right boxes. But, I passed on the candidate. There was something else, something more that held me back. I call this the recoil, and paying attention to it has served me very well (and, conversely ignoring has only led to my own peril).
And this goes for more than candidates, this also includes clients, as well as practically any other type of relationship. With regard to clients, sometimes there are clients you have a natural love connection with, and consequently, do really good work together. And, other times, you have clients where it seems like the two of you are from different planets, and the only reason you have been brought together is to create conflict, building a cautionary tale that you will regale others with later. Most of the time, though, when I have had these latter types of situations come up, there have been signs. And, often, the first sign is the recoil.
Towards or Away From?
The way I think about the recoil is how one naturally leans towards someone (or something). That is, do you find initiating communication with this person easy, or does it require effort? Do you do it right away, or do you procrastinate? Do you read their email immediately when you receive it, or put in the “I’ll deal with this later” queue (which, often you have to will yourself to finally get to)? This natural posture towards a person, or a situation, is telling. There is a part of us that is either attracted, repulsed, or indifferent to a given person or situation. To find out which one it is, identify which type of action is easiest, the least effortful. Do you feel naturally included to get closer, or further away, from a given person or situation? Knowing the answer to this will give you the bigger answer of what your natural predilection is.
The Trickster: Fear
Now, it is not always that simple. Sometimes there are situations where the screen on your radar is a little fuzzy. Fear has the unique ability to obscure our natural intuition, or “gut read” of situations or people. It is almost like a veil masking our reality. Fear can immobilize us, keeping us from those things that we do really want, but are too afraid to go after. So, how do you know if it is fear holding you back? Check your posture. Are you reacting to the whole idea, or just on particular part of it? Specifically, are you reacting to having a spotlight shine on you? Or, perhaps, to committing to this idea (or person)? Identify if you are reacting to the particular circumstance, or if you are just not that into the whole thing. Figure out if your reaction is situational or global, because if it is global, odds are this is something you don’t actually want to do.
Honoring the Recoil
Like most things, the more you exercise this muscle the stronger it gets. I spent years and years talking myself out of minding the recoil. No matter what I was feeling, or even what I knew I wanted, I would logic myself into thinking this was a great idea, and I just needed to push through my procrastination and get things done. I was rationalizing myself away from what a part of me knew was true. I kept taking on clients that would have been better off with someone else, hiring employees whose resumes fit a position but their personality didn’t, and going ahead with business deals where I would have been much better off to have just stayed away from. Every single time, though, there were clues. The deals were hard to close, everything took more effort than it should have. Nothing was ever easy, and conflict happened much more frequently than normal. And, like most things, it is really only after being beaten over the head, repeatedly, that I started to look for a better way to do things. And for me, that better way is to never ignore the recoil.
But, I Have (insert obligation here)…
Of course, it is overly simplistic to suggest that you should just cast off every curmudgeon in your life instantly (sometimes, that curmudgeon is helping you make your mortgage payments). We all have to bring home the bacon, in one way or another, and sometimes we just need to make the best choice available to us and move on. However, I would argue that we often have more flexibility than we think we do. We can get so used to “doing whatever it takes” that we forget we actually have a choice, a choice in a surprising amount of our life. Often, we have much more flexibility than we think we do, and by exercising our natural preferences, we will not only be happier, but probably do better work (better work with a whole lot less conflict).
Life Like a Log Cabin
The funny thing about consciously choosing situations you really want (and passing over the ones you really don’t) is that the effects are cumulative. Sure, you save yourself the acute stress and strain of that one bad client, but at the same time you are building a stable of good (if not great) clients. By choosing things that you truly want to do, you end up filling your life with enjoyment. It can be easy to blame other people for the stress in our lives, but, often, it is us who chose to get involved with them. The choices we make today create our future tomorrow, and the more we layer good choices on top of one another, like logs in a log home, the more we will find the entire structure of our life being exactly as we want it.