Two of the people I worked with this week, one a client and one a potential client, were both figuring out how to continue to grow. They were teaching themselves about how to continue learning - they were still open, agile and adapting.
On the other side, I hear clients say, “I got this!”. And they do. They’ve worked hard and they own it. They make it theirs’ and they keep the hard won victory close. In fact, they use the same approach over and over - “I got this!”. The challenge is that they stop checking in with themselves. They stop re-validating their approach when they are in different situations. They have a new tool - a hammer, and everything looks like a nail. Then one day, the hammer doesn’t work and they ask, “what happened?”. It’s at that point they realize that there were signs along the way that they didn’t pay attention to - things changed and a different approach was required. That’s when, “I got this” turns into “What happened?”.
"What Happened?" to me
For me “What Happened?”, occurred when I had learned how to manage digital networks from the folks who made the Internet come alive. I had to work my butt off and had learned some phenomenal things about how to manage a team running a network and how to manage the network itself across multiple cities and two countries! I really believed in myself and what I had learned. I used my experience to build a $4 million dollar hosting business and then a $2.5 million dollar e-commerce business - “I got this!”. In my next role, things went off the rails. “What happened!?”
What happened was I had stopped listening, stopped asking questions and stopped moving forward. I had become closed off to feedback, unaware of alarms going off and unable to adapt.
Avoiding "What Happened?"
So, it’s important to notice those signals: “I got this”; “Yep, been here before, all you gotta do is…”; “The issue is obvious, last time this is what I did...”. I’m sure you’ve heard similar language from others and maybe from yourself too?
This closed off state, born from a hard fought win, is a place where you can get stuck! You can miss opportunities. You can lose opportunities you already had. Getting unstuck takes significant effort and may require help external to yourself.
The key here is learning how to learn continuously. We have that ability to reflect on how we do or don’t learn in a situation and adjust for next time - without taking ourselves down. We are able to see when and how we do or don’t stay open to input that could help us grow. Learning to learn and grow moves us toward wisdom and good judgement. We become more “Sage” like. The promise here is that as you become more sage-like you become “a continuous learner and are agile and able to constantly adapt to the shifting demands of a situation. You seek to be fully aware, take responsibility for your life, and realize your fullest potential. You have a desire not only to learn but also to learn how to learn, and to take charge in being able to grow.” (Sidle, Leadership Wheel) So, you avoid “What happened?”.