Ev Bogue put across the theory the other week that “writing what’s obvious” to you is a much better tack than writing your esoteric musings. I am shocked, shocked, that you wouldn’t automatically find my musings both entertaining and profound, but I thought I’d try it.
I have found in my own experience that the habits of my friends — perfectly integrated and therefore ordinary and unremarkable — have given me some blinding moments of clarity.
And so, while it seems a bit odd to toss out my own, now-perfunctory habits with the intention of dazzling you with their brilliance, hey, they’re useful to me, and I keep doing them, so it may be that you’ll want to adopt them, too.
A lesson from the stage…
Here’s a tip I picked up when I was a young performer: Never, ever, point out your mistakes to the audience.
Oscar Wilde (allegedly) said, “Never speak ill of yourself. Your enemies are more than happy to do it for you.”
While it (arguably) speaks to your integrity and humility to point out your mistakes and short-comings to your boss, everyone else only cares about what it looks like. This is as true in real life as it is on the stage.
As far as anyone outside of your intimate circle is aware, unless you inform them otherwise, you meant to do things pretty much exactly as they turned out. That job you got (or didn’t get), that house you bought, that man you split up with. You don’t have to divulge that you didn’t get a big enough loan for the house you wanted, or that you didn’t get called for an interview.
If people want to believe you have it easy, let ’em. Why should you be obliged to talk down about yourself in order not to feel bad about yourself or your accomplishments. The people giving you genuine compliments don’t want to know, and the people who aren’t, don’t deserve to know.
If you want to do a post-mortem, and examine your mistakes as a way to improve your performance next time, sure. Go over it with your boss, your spouse, or a mentor. Don’t share it with acquaintances.
The Exception to the Rule
The only time I’ve found where it’s nice to share your flubs is when you’re building rapport. Maybe you’ve become a mentor yourself, or maybe you’re just trying to break the ice at a conference. It can be totally fine to say, “Gee, these rapid-fire introductions makes me forget every interesting thing about myself. It’s like being back in middle school. I want you to like me, but I don’t know what to say to make friends.” Plenty of people will relate to that, and they’ll still see you as poised for finding a graceful way to say what everyone was feeling. Plus, you totally get karma points every time you make someone feel that they’re not alone.
But other than that exception, don’t bandy about your mistakes. It’s enough that you learn from then, and that you teach others if the opportunity arises. Let everyone else enjoy the magic.