Today, I would like to talk a bit about self-improvement, and how I’ve dealt with the various ups and downs of this process.
Most people have heard about Mozart and his prodigious musical abilities. Mozart spent the early years of his life putting most of his focus on learning music. Day in, day out, he practiced, and even though I can’t personally vouch for him, I am pretty sure that he’s made a lot of mistakes and put a lot of effort in learning from those mistakes. Yet, he is still referred to as a musical prodigy, rather than the kid who spent all of his time practicing music.
My point is, it’s easy for us to focus on the results or the ideal outcomes, and ignore all of the effort that’s required to achieve results.
We all read about what’s expected from product managers and product leaders in our industry. Know your customers inside out, constantly communicate your product vision, foster innovation in your design and engineering teams, and many many others… Yet sometimes we find ourselves saying….
Oops, I did it again.
Even though we know what we need to do to become successful product managers (or anything else really), and even though we’ve put conscious effort in improving, we still realise from time to time that we’ve fallen short of achieving what we want to achieve.
And I bet Mozart also had his fair share of frustrating iterations, which did not seem to result in any self-improvement, even though he took honest actions to improve his output.
This happens to all of us.
It’s fine to make mistakes (sometimes even more than once) – but at the same time it is extremely important that we are disciplined with ourselves enough to keep in mind that it is only fine if:
- We’re humble enough to accept that we’ve made mistakes,
- We’re honest with ourselves to understand why we’ve made the mistakes,
- And, finally, we find the energy required to get back up on our feet and try again with more determination to succeed in the areas that we’ve failed.
Learn. Measure. Build. Just like Mozart and the other prodigies of the world.
Although a necessity for our own personal success, this frequent iteration of self-improvement cycles, can take its toll on our own well-being and can sometimes also make us feel like impostors.
The ever-so-reliable Wikipedia defines Impostor Syndrome as “a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud”.
What’s important to realise here is that we all make mistakes, and it’s fine to not be getting things right the first time round. Being humble enough to accept mistakes and making active improvement efforts should be our aim. Success will come as a result of our actions. And finally, we should definitely not feel any shame whilst going through this process.
Impostor Syndrome is much more common than one might think, and I was extremely appreciative of Martin Erikkson’s opening speech at Mind The Product 2018 in London, who spoke about how prone Product Managers are to feel like impostors.
To close today’s thoughts – self-improvement is an iterative process, which takes time and can be quite frustrating. But it’s always good to keep in mind that everyone’s doing it and nobody’s expected to get things right from the first time round. As long as we remain humble in the process and honest with ourselves and those around us, we should only be a few iterations away from success.