A few weeks ago, I had my annual review at work. While I usually consider blogging about work to be verboten, something happened that reflects so clearly that 2012 Goal Number Eight will continue to be a project for me. On my review form, I had written something like, “I often struggle with working hard on something, and not getting a gold star.” And that’s true! I do struggle with that! When I work hard on something, I want someone to notice!
But my boss read something slightly different. He mentioned that my comment was one of the most truthful things he’d ever heard from me, and as he went on, I realized that he’d read something even more deeply honest than I’d meant. (He’s one of those brilliant people who can recognize things, and then find a way to say them to you that doesn’t piss you off, or totally paralyze you. Amazing superpower, that.) What he read, I think, was something more along these lines:
“I cannot tolerate doing less than gold-star-worthy work. And I have a hard time when people with whom I work do not do gold-star-worthy work.”
That’s… yep. That’s pretty darn true.
It’s not that I’m necessarily afraid of failure. While I obviously don’t yearn for failure, I have no problem acknowledging my failures when they happen. But mediocrity? That’s a different story. In fact, a few months ago, I passed something that was displaying this quote, and felt so strongly about it that I typed it into my iPhone notes:
I never thought of being an over-achiever as a potential detriment, but I guess it is possible that — like anything else, when done obsessively — it might just be the thing that holds me back. I still haven’t decided how I feel about this hypothesis. It flies in the face of most of what I’ve striven for my entire life. But I do find it challenging in a way that many hard truths tend to be. I’ve been thinking about it for a while. I don’t know. What do you think?