(I wrote this in February 2011 after I just completed my orientation training)
I complete today my initial training. The following are some of the key insights I have gained during the training.
- Good interpersonal skills trump everything. If you don’t have them, then nothing else you do will matter. People will not want to work with you. Everything we do and seek to accomplish in life depends upon being able to work well with others. In modern terms: “don’t be a douche.”
- Seek out and rely upon mentors. You need to find the people whose point of view you respect and turn to them for advice. Don’t ask them in some cheesy way to be your mentor, rather cultivate this type of relationship with them by going to them out of respect with genuine questions and rely upon them sincerely. It should not be artificial and contrived. Don’t make it contrived networking and politiking. People naturally want to help others and to share their wisdom, so take advantage of this to learn and to grow. Ultimately, everyone has something to share and to teach you. When people see that you are earnest, that you respect them and that you rely upon their counsel, they will naturally come to respect you. Express appropriate gratitude and appreciation for what others have done to help your way.
- Give back (or pay forward). Do for others what others have done for you (and what you would want others to do for you). The essence of bodhichitta is the pursuit of wisdom, skills and knowledge so that you can then share that wisdom, skill and knowledge with others. So rely upon mentors to seek such wisdom then make a point to help others when they need it. Giving back is also sometimes known as ‘paying forward’, the idea being you build up relationship capital with others for the future. This is much like karma, where you create good causes for yourself for the future. The key is to do this with a selfless motivation. I want relationship capital so that I can then help even more people in the future. This should not be done from the perspective of selfish intent. Though, it is better to help others with selfish intent than it is to not help them at all.
- Focus on doing a really good job in everything you do. Take the time to do things right, to do it right the first time and to do it on-time. As Grandma says, “a job worth doing is a job worth doing right.” Ultimately, if we just focus on doing a good job (and we are easy and pleasant to work with) then everything else will take care of itself with time.
- In the State Department, the currency we trade in is called “corridor reputation”. Corridor reputation essentially comes down to the question of “would I want to work with this person again in the future.” A good corridor reputation has five components: (1) you do your job very well, (2) you are easy and pleasant to work with, (3) you are willing to go above and beyond what is required of you, (4) you have a clear and easy to understand “brand” that people can know you by in terms of what you are an expert in or capable of doing, (5) you are part of a respected network of people and you yourself have a network of people that you can marshal (which itself is built from your mentoring and helping of others).
- Never create more work for others, especially your boss. Your boss wants you to lighten their load, not add to it. Don’t just come with problems, come with solutions that you yourself take personal responsibility for implementing. Mark told the story of what a boss wants is to be able to kick up their feet on their desk reading the New York Times and being able to just say ‘proceed’ when you come to them with a solution to some problem.
- Always give to others more than you take from them. Sometimes, especially in the beginning, we have to ask favors of others. But we should seek to repay them more than they gave to us. We should always do at least two favors for others for every one we ask of them, that way we always have a positive balance with everyone.
- Don’t be a whiner, don’t be demanding and don’t be a prima dona. One person created the impression that if she did not get what she wanted to go to London that she would quit. This makes people not like you and not want to give you what you want just to teach you that you need to become a team player and be willing to not get your way. In contrast, Brian stepped up with a good attitude about going to Juarez. What a difference. She is always whispering in corners with highly placed people, but she comes across as somebody sneaky trying to impress others. It is good that she has the courage to approach and make herself known to those in power, but her general approach makes you want to clip her wings and opposed to offer her a helping hand.
- Roland is a natural leader, is socially very skilled, he commands respect through his competence and confidence and his can-do spirit and attitude. He is somebody who has good common sense and practical ability. Simone, Tim and Roland are all examples of people who are resourceful and can practically figure things out that they have not done before. They are good with their hands and in operating efficiently and effectively in the physical plane. This is something I need to work on.
- Bahram comes across as very smart, very competent, very charismatic yet no ego. He doesn’t say much, but what when he does, it is always relevant and value-added. These are all skills to emulate.
- Don’t let your enthusiasm get ahead of your wisdom. It is good to be eager but if you overdo things and make mistakes then people want to slow you down and they can’t trust you to not make a fool of yourself. So it is better to do less and do it very well and then gradually build up your capacity. In this sense, I asked too many questions and took up too much space. It made people want to not call on me when I had a question. I made this same mistake at my first ITTP. I talked too much. It is better to be more reserved and limit your interventions.
- I need to develop an ambidexturious personality. They are really big on the Myers Briggs personality test. I have a INTJ (introvert, intuitive, thinking, judgement). This was explained as my personality preference (like my preference to use my right hand to write). There is nothing wrong with this, but it is important for me to also become equally comfortable with the opposite of this. There are strengths and advantages to all of the different traits, and I need to become proficient in all of them.
- I need to apply effort to develop the skills, abilities and habits of highly effective people. It is more important to develop these skills and habits than it is to have substantive knowledge. When you have these skills, you can do anything by just adding a little substantive knowledge (which you can learn). But if you lack these skills, you will not be able to do anything even if you have the best substantive knowledge. In this light, I should start reading a lot of those business books about habits of highly effective people, good managers, etc.
- We should always work principally on overcoming our weaknesses. We should identify them, then apply effort to overcome them. It is useful to try understand how others perceive you. Not because you are attached to what they think but because this is a good way of identifying our faults that we need to work on overcoming. I think I come across as a bit socially ackward and not somebody who people want to hang out with. I am not sure why.
- It is good to be humble, but it is extreme to be falsely self-depricating. On many occasions, I would exaggerate my lack of knowledge, incompetence, weaknesses, etc. I don’t need to do this. I certaintly shouldn’t be pretentious, but I also don’t need to be falsely self-depricating or to talk excessively about my faults and weaknesses. The middle way is to be aware of your faults, but to sincerely apply effort in overcoming them by learning from and relying upon others.
Your turn: What spiritual lessons did you learn at work today?