Thoughts On Becoming More Open Minded
I’m a fairly intelligent person. Through school and early career people have generally regarded me as being a competent and intelligent individual.
At times my intelligence can work against me. When it does I’m a less effective individual, team member and software developer.
I wanted to share some of my thoughts on how this usually presents itself and what I can do to overcome it.
How This Has Impacted Me
A while ago, I was interviewing for a new position. I went through two rounds of interviews before they decided they weren’t interested in me.
One of the pieces of feedback the interviewers gave me is they felt like I would get mad if people disagreed with me.
At first I just got annoyed at them. But as time has passed I’ve really thought about their feedback, how I interact with people and how my thoughts and attitudes impact the people around me.
Across the course of my career, I don’t think most people would say I’m hard to get along with. But there have been moments where I’ve been moody or annoyed by what’s happening and become a difficult to deal with.
During the interviews for this position, there were some reasons I can attribute to my not really being engaged or excited. Nonetheless, their feedback highlighted one of my shortcomings. At times I become closed minded. At times it’s hard for me to admit that I’m wrong.
I learned a great fear of being wrong that shifted my mind-set from thinking “I’m right” to asking myself “How do I know I’m right?”
I was reading Principles and Ray Dalio describes how it took his company almost failing for him to shift his mindset. His fixation on being right blinded him. He went from thinking he had all the answers to being someone who asks the right questions.
I struggle with the same kind of mindset. I enjoy being right, so when I think that I’m right I stop asking questions. I stop learning.
How I’ve Begun to Change
At work this can mindset can present itself over a PR or during an architectural discussion. Or at home it can present itself when my wife and I disagree about something.
I’ve started thinking beyond myself when I’m challenged or disagreed with. I’ve begun to attempt to subconsciously ask myself and answer “what’s the goal?”
At work, the goal is delivering the best features to our clients. At home, the goal is making the best decision for my family.
If I take a step back and think about the goal we’re trying to accomplish, that usually helps me have a better perspective.
My coworkers and my wife have valuable things to say. I would really only be harming myself if I refused to listen to them.
After talking about it, it might turn out that I was right or that I was wrong. It’s less important that I be right and more important to me that the right decision gets made. But that’s not my immediately reaction to feedback, sometimes it takes me awhile to get in that mindset.
Acknowledging The Process
Another thought that has helped me is realizing most of what we do is part of a process, and process is usually there to help us.
After I finish a user story, I’m going to create a PR, then people are going to comment with ideas and suggestions that will most likely require me to make further changes.
That’s part of the software development process. Unless it’s super trivial work, I expect some back and forth.
For making decisions for my family. I want to involve my wife in them. Better decisions are made when both my wife and I have a say. I have come to expect feedback and difference of opinion of her.
Learn to accept the process, realize that the output usually is better because of the process.
Never Stop Learning
Lastly, have a learners mindset.
My son is currently two, and at that age he’s wrong a lot. A lot of my interaction with him is me correct him and teaching him new things. He’s fine with that. He currently doesn’t know any different.
We all have the ability to approach life more like my son. If someone has something to teach you, learn something. If someone has feedback for you, listen.
If I always had that mindset, my teams and relationships would definitely improve.
I haven’t mastered this concept. It’s something I’m working on. It’s why I’m writing this article! It’s something I’m continuing to learn and get better at!
This article is an attempt for me to put words to the thoughts and habits that I live life with. Then give myself new thoughts to change and improve myself.
Intelligence is what you make of it. A super intelligent person can be a pain to work with. I want to be someone who uses what intelligence I have to make my life and those around me better!
We are all on some step of this journey, I hope this have given you some food for thought.