My father was an astrophysicist and my mother had her own T.V. show when she was in her early twenties. He was an atheist, she a devout catholic. When I was 12, my father received a Fulbright Lectureship and moved the family to Sri Lanka. As a result, I went through all of the awkwardness of puberty in a school where everyone spoke 3 languages...except, of course, for me.
Our childhood experiences and our upbringing effect us well into adulthood, then go on to impact how we work and how we raise or own children. I would encourage anyone to spend (even just a little) time reflecting on what key factors from those years effect your work, thinking, and interactions. What did I learn from that kind of reflection? Here are a few:
- You are never going to be the smartest person in the room...and if you are, you're in trouble - surrounding yourself with people you feel are smart is enriching, if a little tough on the ego from time to time. The alternative? Never learning from others, and running the risk of being ensnared by your own myopic views or, ego-driven delusions of grandeur. Do I believe that you can learn from anyone? Yes, but that's not the same as killing your ego and stretching yourself with every day interaction with friends and co workers. It took me until after college to take this to heart.
- People with very different views can still agree on fundamentals - diversity of thought leads to creativity and good problem solving. Is it always comfortable? NO. I think my parents were experts in navigating their differences in conversations about how to raise children. They did disagree, but they also had and showed respect to one another. Somehow they always ended up agreed and united - very inconveniently for me sometimes.
- Tolerating ambiguity can lead to better decisions and results - It's okay to be uncomfortable. Sometimes you can be tempted or even pressured to make a decision just to feel better that something (anything!) was decided...when you don't have enough data. YOU can AND SHOULD WAIT - When we moved to Sri Lanka, we landed with no place to stay and spent a full a week living at a YWCA. It wasn't fun being a teenager and not knowing how long we would be living in one room with no air conditioning. Under a lot of pressure from friends, parents, and their own children, they still flew us to a foreign country with no firm place to live. It makes sense now but WOW, moving around the world with no promise of a permanent place to live was very uncomfortable for the whole family. They couldn't trust that they knew anything until they were on the ground. This was in the 80's - no online reviews! Do you need to make a decision right now? mDeciding to soon can cause permanent regret.
- Learning that constant failure doesn't kill you very advantageous - Anyone who got good grades and was rewarded according knows that the right answer is good, and not knowing the answer is bad. You are a leader because you are smart and know the answers a lot of the time. This paradigm is shifting FAST. Unless you are a Marketer, Developer, HR Person, Compliance and Risk Expert, and Salesperson, other people have to make decisions and now about what you know, it's about how fast those you are leading can learn. Now success relies on risk taking, innovation, and speed at all levels of the organization- Now you have to be the servant leader who actively enables fast, cheap failure. Constant learning by EVERYONE is only way to adapt in the Digital Economy. For me, having a true rock scientist for a father and a bona fide TV star for a mother, immediate didn't happen much of the time for me. I learned A LOT, constantly. Seriously though, the basic understanding that I can always be proven wrong and that I had better be able to back myself up with data has been incredibly helpful. Use Data, demand feedback, interact with customers, push decision-making down. Make a hypothesis, test it. Shrink the costs of failure...you'll success faster that way too.