Adam Grant (@AdamMGrant) has been Wharton’s top-rated professor for seven years, is the host of podcast WorkLife with Adam Grant, and is the author of three New York Times Best Sellers: Option B (with Sheryl Sandberg), Originals, and Give and Take.
What We Discuss with Adam Grant:
- Why you probably don’t know yourself as well as you think you do.
- Why you’re prone to believe things about yourself that are patently false.
- How people closest to you benefit from reinforcing these falsehoods.
- Why the people who would most benefit from helping you see these falsehoods are the least likely to point them out.
- What you can do to become more accurately self-aware.
- And much more…
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Whether it’s in trying to land a job or impress a date, we spend a staggering amount of time making claims about ourselves. It makes sense: You’re the only person on Earth who has direct knowledge of every thought, feeling, and experience you’ve ever had. Who could possibly know you better than you? But sometimes it’s that direct knowledge that causes the problem in the first place. Think of it like owning a car: just because you’ve driven it for years doesn’t mean you can pinpoint when and why the engine broke down.
In this episode, we get to the root of this problem with Wharton professor, podcast host (WorkLife with Adam Grant), and author (Option B [with Sheryl Sandberg], Originals, and Give and Take) Adam Grant — an expert on how we can find motivation and meaning and lead more generous and creative lives. We’ll dig deep into why we have cognitive blind spots about ourselves and what we can do to become more accurately self-aware. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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The One You Feed is a podcast by Eric Zimmer and Chris Forbes that hosts inspiring conversations about creating a life worth living. Check it out here!
More About This Show
Notions of taking a long vacation for a voyage of self-discovery from whatever keeps you busy on the majority of your days aside, you probably think you have a pretty good idea of who you are. Even if you have a significant other who almost never leaves your side, you’re the significant self who spends every moment — waking and otherwise — with yourself. But how much of what you know about you comes from true introspection and how much of what you believe about yourself comes from the observations of others?
“In high school, I had a friend who told me that I had no sense of humor,” says Wharton professor and organizational psychologist Adam Grant. “Like only someone who’s a future psychologist could do, I was like, ‘Well, why? Explain it to me! What’s your logic? What’s your evidence? Back it up!’ And she said, ‘Well, you don’t laugh at all my jokes.’
“I do think that people have a really hard time judging how others are supposed to respond to their humor, and I think that goes to a larger question about: how self-aware are we, really?”
If you’re not an aspiring psychologist, you may have let similar observations pass without question and pondered them years after the fact. Perhaps you let them shape the way you feel about yourself even now without even realizing it. Maybe someone told you in eighth grade that you’re the funniest person they ever met and it inadvertently led to a dream career writing funny stuff for Trevor Noah to say on The Daily Show.
Having the confidence to pursue a career in comedy and developing the skills to back it up in order to beat out the competition and land such a prestigious gig takes a special kind of self-awareness. So what makes the difference between someone who’s confident enough to call themselves funny on a level that pays the bills and someone who’s content enough to just be funny in polite dinner company with friends and family? Why do some of us think of ourselves as creative while some of us think our talents are more grounded in the tangible? Why do some of us cringe at the thought of working with numbers while others dream of doing nothing else? How does someone make it as a public speaker in front of audiences of thousands when someone else can’t even leave the house for fear of interacting with the mail carrier?
How well can we really say we know ourselves if we can’t even tell for sure why we’re inclined toward certain things while shrinking from others? Are our defining proclivities intrinsic, or do we pick them up like gifts — or curses — put upon us by others? And if we don’t know, who does?
“There are some things you know about yourself that other people don’t know — and that are probably useful to know,” says Adam. “If you take an internal state like anxiety, for example, you are a way better judge of your own anxiety levels and how neurotic you are than other people, because nobody knows what’s going on inside your head. You might be really neurotic on the inside, but very good at putting on a cool front on the outside. Or the opposite — you might come across as really anxious, but you’re actually pretty chill internally.
“I think to really understand any emotions that you’re experiencing, any particular patterns of thinking or feeling, you are the best gauge on that. The problem is that most of your success in life depends on how other people perceive you, and sometimes we are atrocious at gauging that.”
Listen to this episode in its entirety to learn more about why Adam publicly “broke up with” the popular Myers-Briggs personality test that’s used these days for everything from hiring to dating, what Adam considers to be a much more consistent personality predictor and how we can use it to keep tabs on our self-awareness, where our blind spots are most glaring, why it’s possible to be trusted even if you’re not liked, how we can come to discover ourselves by eliciting feedback from others (without being crushed when this feedback isn’t flattering), and much more.
THANKS, ADAM GRANT!
If you enjoyed this session with Adam Grant, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- WorkLife with Adam Grant Podcast
- Books by Adam Grant
- Adam Grant’s Website
- Adam Grant at Instagram
- Adam Grant at Facebook
- Adam Grant at Twitter
- The Daily Show’s Secret to Creativity, WorkLife with Adam Grant
- People Don’t Actually Know Themselves Very Well by Adam Grant, The Atlantic
- “I Think It, Therefore It’s True”: Effects of Self-Perceived Objectivity on Hiring Discrimination by Eric Luis Uhlmann, Geoffrey L. Cohen, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
- The Myers-Briggs Personality Test Is Bullshit. Why Is It so Popular? by Luke Winkie, Vice
- Goodbye to MBTI, the Fad That Won’t Die by Adam Grant, Psychology Today
- Hold a Marriage Meeting: 3 Things This Expert Does for a Happy Marriage by Meghan Holohan, Today
- Self-Verification 360°: Illuminating the Light and Dark Sides by Rebecca J. North and William B. Swann, Self and Identity
- How to Trust People You Don’t Like, WorkLife with Adam Grant
- How to Love Criticism, WorkLife with Adam Grant
- Employees at the World’s Largest Hedge Fund Use an App to Rate Each Other on Over 100 Traits — Here’s How It Works by Richard Feloni, Business Insider
- The Bias Blind Spot: Perceptions of Bias in Self Versus Others by Emily Pronin, Daniel Y. Lin, Lee Ross, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
- The Self-Fulfilling Nature of Positive Illusions in Romantic Relationships: Love Is Not Blind, but Prescient by Sandra L. Murray, John G. Holmes, and Dale w. Griffin, Interpersonal Relations and Group Processes
Transcript for Adam Grant - How to Know the Real You Better (Episode 153)
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:00] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. As always, I'm here with my producer Jason DeFillippo. Adam Grant and I go back a long way. He's an organizational psychologist who studies how to make work, not suck as he puts it. We grew up in the same area of Michigan and Adam has consistently broken the mold by outworking out, producing and outshining almost everyone in our age group, which I think is great. He’s written a bunch of books. He's like one of these all-star professors, really a great thinker of our time and it's kind of cool that he was just like this youngest tenured professor ever at Wharton Business School. Kind of a big deal. He was tenured at 28 instead of, you know, like 40 something. That is incredible. And whenever I talk to Adam, I'm always impressed by his ability to take a Freakonomics style look at the workplace and to do so in a way that us gen X slash millennial types can actually pay attention to and wrap our heads around.
[00:00:53] Today on the show why we probably don't know ourselves as well as we think we do. In fact, it's not just an absence of knowledge about ourselves, but there's a near certainty that we actually believe the things about ourselves that are patently false. Whether it's trying to land a job, we're impressed to date, we spend a staggering amount of time making claims about ourselves and it makes sense, right? You're the only person on Earth who has direct knowledge of every thought, feeling, and experience that you've ever had. So who could possibly know you better than you? Sometimes though that direct knowledge is what causes the problem we're talking about here in the first place. Think of it like owning a car. Just because you've driven it for years, doesn't mean you can pinpoint why and when the engine broke down and that's kind of what we're going to delve into here with Adam Grant. We've got some drills and exercises for you to get better self-awareness and help others do the same, which I think is just a really interesting and a little bit of a scary way to do that.
[00:01:49] So I really enjoyed this episode. The time flew by and if you want to know how I manage to keep people like Adam Grant on speed dial and have this great network, it's all about systems. It's all about tiny habits. I actually just taught a bunch of this to some intelligence agencies, some espionage type. So even if you're already really good at networking, which a lot of you have been saying you are, there's going to be some stuff in here, unless you are already a clandestine service MI6 type which you're not. So check out our Six-Minute Networking course. It's free over at jordanharbinger.com/course and get a nice taste of that. It's the stuff I wish I had for the last 15 years. All right, here's Adam Grant.
[00:02:26] Shall we dive into this? I read the article. The podcast is really interesting and so you only did like a handful of those. Is that kind of the deal with that?
Adam Grant: [00:02:37] The basic thought was that I was going to think about each podcast episode as like a mini book. And so we decided a season would just be eight episodes and then two bonus and so we're working on season two now. Part of it was a chance for me to really turn upside down the way my own work life works because I basically spent the last six years since I think you and I first connected, getting invited into organizations to tell them mostly things I already know. And I go to all these interesting places and I don't get to learn that much because they want to hear like the greatest hits. And so the podcast was kind of a flip of that to say, “All right, what if I invite myself into places that are reinventing work and making it suck a little bit less and try to figure out what we can learn from them?” So that was the hook and it's been super fun.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:26] I like the idea that you get to go to these places and really dive in. In fact, I thought it was pretty interesting that you got to sit in the writers room on the daily show. I'm imagining a bunch of really funny, quirky people somewhere like kind of hipstery, some are really alt, and some look square, but those are like the real weird ones. And then Trevor Noah are sitting there and they're like, “All right everybody be really funny. What are your ideas? And go!” and everyone's just ready with some hilarity. I mean, what's the reality of sitting in a room like that? Or is it not even a room anymore these days?
Adam Grant: [00:04:00] That, you know what? Jordan, that's not that far from what I saw when I walked in. So it was a little surreal because I've watched the show since I think we were in college, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:11] Yeah. Where are we? And I remember going news, I'm not doing that. And my friend was like, “Trust me, you'll want to see this guy talk about funny -- make fun of the news. And I thought, “Well, how disrespectful is that?” And then dot, dot, dot. My favorite show, right?
Adam Grant: [00:04:27] Exactly. I think I had a very similar experience and I'd watch Trevor stand up and thought he was hysterical. And so I was excited to get a taste of his show and then, or his version of the show. And so I reached out and said, “Look, we basically want to do a show about the making of your show.” It's like a Seinfeld coffee table book about coffee tape.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:48] Right, right.
Adam Grant: [00:04:50] Very meta. And they were surprising, I don't know, I don't know exactly why, but they were surprisingly receptive and they said, “Hey, you're with Ted, you want to do a work life episode?” “Sure.” “Come on in.” And so I literally just arrived at the writer's room one day and it is tiny, it's an undersized living room essentially with a few couches, their bagels sitting everywhere. And it is full of probably 30 mostly hipsterish looking people, many of whom are in their 20s and 30s. It looks like a total melting pot covering every possible culture and hairstyle. Would I walk in, they don't even notice that I'm there. They're just there riffing on the previous day's news, and every two or three minutes somebody will hit play on a clip. And then it's like an immediate competition to see who can make the funniest one liner on that particular clip. And then when they feel like they've run out of steam, they cycle through the next one. And Trevor walks in and nobody even notices, they just continue with the routine, until he finally calls the meeting to order. But it was kind of like watching -- it was almost like watching a basketball team in warmups where they don't realize anyone's in the audience and it was just pretty fun to see it in action.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:05] That's got to be a pretty fun but also pretty stressful job because if you have an off day and you're just not being funny and you're just sitting there, all your colleagues and Trevor Noah are like expectantly looking at you dead pan with eyebrows raised and they're like impressed me and you're just like, “Yeah, I'm not feeling it today. You know, I had to go to the vet. My stomach hurts a little,” and they're just like, “All right, you said that yesterday, so when are you going to be funny and earn money that we're paying you?” And you're just like, “I'm getting fired from this job immediately.”
Adam Grant: [00:06:34] I was a little terrified because I think probably it took six or seven minutes from the time I walked in for somebody to make a really bad joke that no one laughed at, at all, just completely bombed. And I'm like, “Oh no, that person's life is over.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:48] Right.
Adam Grant: [00:06:50] Trevor thinks they're an idiot. You don't get that much time to pitch in front of the top guy necessarily. They actually just jumped on it and started making fun of it, and treat it as an opportunity to make more jokes. And I felt like it made it easier for the person who bombed to laugh at themselves because they were kind of laughing together knowing that they've all bombed at some point. And I was like, “You know what? We need to do that more.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:18] Yeah. Good point. How glad though were you at that point that that wasn't you, right? Like I'm glad I don't have this job. That guy screwed.
Adam Grant: [00:07:25] Oh, I think, I mean we've all had that moment, that moment of kind of even just in a meeting pitching a joke and having it fall flat. And I was like, “Okay, that's painful enough, but at least I can say that's not my job. I'm not supposed to be funny.” That would have been a bonus if anybody left. Here like this is the definition of what they're supposed to be good at and how can they just fall flat on their faces, but they seem to do it almost every hour.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:51] It's got to be a tough gig. And it sort of segues nicely into what we're going to discuss today because in order to get a job writing jokes, writing comedy, by the way, I just want everyone to know my dream is to have a team of people writing funny things for me to say, and then I get to save them on the show and everyone thinks I'm the funny one, that is a great place to be in your career. You really have to think at some point to be a comedy writer, to be in that room, to be in any position at all like that. That you're funny. You have to think that you're funny but people who think that they're funny generally are the people that are not funny at all. So you have to have this balance, right? We are you're like, “I know that I'm kind of funny, but I'm not so funny that I'd go around telling people this,” and yet here's my resume telling you how good I'm going to be in that writer's room, right?
Adam Grant: [00:08:42] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:42] How do you manage to slide in there?
Adam Grant: [00:08:44] It's a hell of a paradox. I think that most of the people that I met at the daily show, they've just been told over and over again that they were funny by other people or they noticed that when they made a joke, more people laugh when other people make jokes and at some point they realize like, “All right, I'm pretty good at this.” But once they did that, they started surrounding themselves with funnier people and a lot of them sort of moved in a slightly more professional direction. So they do stand up on the weekend or they'd start submitting applications to write a column for a newspaper. And as they do that, they automatically catapult themselves into a world where people have much, much higher standards and clear taste. And so really quickly it's like, “Okay, I was funny in my high school class, but I'm not funny compared to Jerry Seinfeld or Ali Wong.” And so I've got a lot of work to do. And I think that, that feedback seemed to help a lot of them calibrate. It is funny though because I remember in high school actually, I had a friend who told me that I had no sense of humor and like only someone who is a future psychologists could do. I was like, “Well, why? Explain it to me.” Like “What's your logic?” Like “What's your evidence? Back it up.” And she said, “Well, you don't laugh at all my jokes.” Oh, sense of humor.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:10] Oh, I'm the problem. I’m the problem huh Cheryl? Yeah
Adam Grant: [00:10:14] Exactly. So I do think that people have a really hard jet time judging how others are supposed to respond to their humor. And to your point, I think that that goes through a larger question about how self-aware are we really?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:27] And that's what we're going to discuss. That was a brilliant! We just landed that gliding that plane right down on the runway. That was great.
Adam Grant: [00:10:35] I learned a lot from you over the years. What could I say?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:37] Yeah, man. I should be taking notes on this as well. I think that that was smooth. Usually we have to slam that transition in there a little bit, but that was probably as smooth as it gets. Your work in the area of self-awareness is a little bit scary. And that's a topic for today because I think it does come down to the fact that, “Look, I want to believe, I really want to believe that I not only know myself better than anyone else, but the knowledge I have about myself is actually the most important information about myself that exists. And I know that's kind of confusing, but it's sort of a two-prong thing here. If you're listening and you're confused, what I'm saying is people think they know themselves really well and that is only true in certain areas, except the problem is those areas in which you know yourself, not that big of a deal for the rest of us, like not really going to make or break your career, et cetera. Am I close?
Adam Grant: [00:11:31] Yeah, I actually, I think you nailed it. So Jordan, I do have some good news for you right there. There are some things you know about yourself that other people don't know and that are probably useful to know. So if you take an internal state like anxiety, for example, you are a way better judge of your own anxiety levels and how neurotic you are than other people because nobody knows what's going on inside your head. And you might be really neurotic on the inside but very good at putting on sort of a cool front on the outside or the opposite, right? You might come across as really anxious, but you're actually pretty chill internally. And so I think to really understand any emotions that you're experiencing, any particular patterns of thinking or feeling, you are the best gauge on that. The problem is that most of your success in life depends on how other people perceive you, and sometimes we are atrocious at gauging that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:24] Yeah, that seems like it could be a big problem. I mean, it's kind of a waste of time for me to know all this stuff about myself and then have it all be largely irrelevant to how I work, how I relate to other people. It seems a little bit unfair is not a great word for it because that's how things are. I mean it's just a statement of facts, but it doesn't really seem to be a pattern that we can easily break. And not only that, if we're supposed to develop self-awareness and we know a lot of workplaces grade you based on self-awareness which is probably a good thing. It sounds like we should be focusing more on this and yet all of these personality tests and things that we take Myers Briggs, it's like, hey, what about you're really just evaluating yourself and then you get this acronym, I guess at the end, and it's supposed to define you. And yet it's all based on my own perception of my own data about myself. It seems like, “Wow. Talk about a recipe for disaster.”
Adam Grant: [00:13:25 Yeah. I think it's scary and I guess a few years ago, I publicly broke up with the Myers Briggs because I was so appalled at how the ratings are done and the lack of updating of science that went into that, which is a whole another conversation. But I think some of this we know immediately, right? You would never judge somebody's intelligence by asking them how smart they are and you'd actually watch them use their intelligence knowing that they're probably going to be pretty motivated to think that they're bright and that watching them solve problems or answer trivia questions or try to figure out a complex task would be a better way to go. But I think we overlook the fact that this is true across a whole range of domains. If you think about job performance, for example, the best personality predictor of performance in most jobs in the US and actually in most industrialized countries is conscientiousness. Are you disciplined, hardworking, organized, dependable? Or are you more spontaneous and carefree? And it's not hard to figure out that conscientious people tend to set higher goals. They tend to be more persistent in achieving those goals. They work harder. They also work smarter because when something doesn't work, they don't give up. They look for new ways of solving problems. And so people are aware of that and they're pretty motivated to see themselves as conscientious and the problem is they have access to everything they've ever done.
[00:14:58] And so Jordan, if you want to see herself as really conscientious, it's pretty easy for you to search your memory for nine situations where you were super organized and on top of stuff. And what you don't have is the comparison of your best nine against everybody else's best nine. And so you can overestimate how much you really have your act together.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:16] Oh, that's a good point. I hadn't really even thought about the idea that someone could say, “Well, how nice are you?” And I skip over all of the assholery of like the last 29 days and I go to like the one--
Adam Grant: [00:15:30] You had a bad 29 days.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:31] Right, yeah. But then I go to the 30th day, and I'm like, “Well, I did pick up that dollar that that lady dropped and say, “Hey, you dropped this.” And she was like, “Thanks.” So I'm a pretty good person, right? And that's the memory that I'm going to latch onto because it's desirable and because nobody wants to be like, “Yeah, well there's all these times where I've done really horrible things and that's what I want other people to know about me and that's what I want to believe about myself.” We're just going to filter that. But the problem is -- I would imagine is this is unconscious, right? This is happening to us in a way that, that is riddled with cognitive bias.
Adam Grant: [00:16:08] Constantly. And yeah, I mean it's pretty fun to watch people do it, right? Because it's almost like they've told their life story just by writing their own Wikipedia page and there's no editor kind of going through to figure out, “Okay, well wait a minute, what else have you done?” And is that really true? I think that one of the places this plays out is, there's a classic study in psychology of married couples where they're put in separate rooms and they're asked to estimate of the total work that goes into their relationship. How much do they personally are responsible for? And so each person gives a percentage and three out of four couples add up to over 100 percent, so somebody's lying. And it turns out that some of that is ego, right? We all want to think that we're doing most of the work in our relationships, but more of it is just information discrepancy, right? You know every act that you've ever done to contribute to your relationship, right? You were there when you cook dinner and when you plan to vacation and when you walk the dog and by definition you weren't there when your partner did all those things.
[00:17:15] And so on average I think people were able to come up with 11 of their own contributions and only eight of their partners. And so I think one of the ways we can become more self-aware is actually learned more about what other people are up to, on the same dimensions that we're trying to judge ourselves.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:30] So that's interesting. It's not just a simple matter of cognitive bias, right? It's an information asymmetry and--
Adam Grant: [00:17:37] Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:38] That makes a lot more sense because I'm thinking to my own relationship and there's no way I would put anything over us -- I would never be like, “I'm doing at least half the work.” I know damn well my wife is doing a lot more work in the relationship, and we've also talked about this. One day, this is not the same thing, but the other day she asked me something like “What percentage of the housework do you think you do?” And I was like, “Hmm, like 5 percent.” And she goes, “Oh, I'm so glad to hear you say that.” And I said, “Yeah, why?” And she's like, well, she was talking to her friends and all these husbands out there, and you don't have to admit guilt Adam, but all of these husbands out there are like, “Yeah, I do like 40 to 60 percent some days and it's like not even close.
Adam Grant: [00:18:25] Liar.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:26] Yeah. Not even close. And I would imagine this gets mirrored and how much work goes into the relationship because we're thinking like, “Well, you know, I come home and I say hello to her and I buy stuff on the way back from the office.” And it's like, “Yeah, that's not even close to what your wife did all day. You just weren't around.”
Adam Grant: [00:18:43] Yeah. Yeah. I think that's exactly the trap that a lot of people run into. And I mean, I think it's a fundamental challenge we have any time we try to gauge our generosity or our contribution to others. And Jordan, the question your wife asked is sort of, you can't win, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:58] No.
Adam Grant: [00:18:58] Because either you're going to get in trouble for overestimating it or you got a lot of work to do now.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:04] Well, I kind of went this way, by the way, if anybody's worried about this, walking into that trap. Yeah, what happened was I set about 5 percent, and I said, “But I hope you don't feel like I'm not contributing because what I'm doing is working on the business, earning revenues so that we can pay for things, et cetera. That's where I look at my contribution. Let me know if I need to do more.” She's like, “No, I'd rather you just don't try to like get in the middle of all these other things that I'm doing, because the problem with this. My dad tried to do housework like once or twice when I was a kid and my mom was like, “Just stop. You're just making everything worse.”
Adam Grant: [00:19:39] I've been in that position. After reading a lot of this research on how out of balance things are between husbands and wives, I came home and I told my wife I was feeling really guilty that I wasn't doing enough at home and she was like, “First of all, do not touch the kitchen. You can't even make spaghetti without it being really crunchy, and I'm afraid you're going to set the place on fire.” But secondly, I would love more help and we then had this conversation, it sounds like similar to yours about, “Okay, what are the things that, that I could actually be stepping up and contributing in that you don't enjoy doing or you feel like I'm good at?”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:15] And did you come up with a balance or where she like just stay away from everything and go back to your office?
Adam Grant: [00:20:21] No, I got permanent garbage duty. So that was--
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:27] Not bad.
Adam Grant: [00:20:27] Immediately landed on my plate.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:28] That’s not bad.
Adam Grant: [00:20:29] Yeah, I've actually found, I like taking out the garbage because it's the perfect time to listen to podcasts.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:34] It's also oddly satisfying for me. It really is. It's like I'm getting rid of all this stuff.
Adam Grant: [00:20:39] Wait, I'm not alone?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:41] Yeah, isn’t that weird?
Adam Grant: [00:20:42] That's so weird. So what do you find satisfying about it?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:45] You know what it is? It's like you open up this bedroom, garbage can that you've kind of been over stuffing for two weeks because you're like, I got to take this out, but it's 4 o'clock in the morning and you just wanted to blow your nose. You're not doing it then. And then you know, some days they're like, take this thing out or you're taking out like all this heavy sort of food garbage. And there's this area where now where you would have normally had to push down on a garbage can full of stuff. It's empty. You can just drop it in leisurely. I don't know, I must have some sort of a there's a deeper complex here probably, but I find it, it's like cleaning things up and making them orderly. Except for you're actually getting rid of something that is objectively not supposed to be in the house anymore, as opposed to just making things perpendicular and parallel on a desk that you're going to mess up in five minutes.
Adam Grant: [00:21:32] Yeah. You know, it's funny because as I hear you say that, I think that I wonder how much of this is unique to the fact that, you definitely, and we don't have a job where we create much that's tangible.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:48] Right. Good point.
Adam Grant: [00:21:49] Right. It's like you're going to put out some ideas or some conversations and they're never really done and you don't ever get to kind of ship them off and feel like I created something today. And so I feel like when I take out the garbage, like I've actually accomplished something that I can see in front of me.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:05] Right.
Adam Grant: [00:22:06] Which is very satisfying in a Maria Kondo sort of way.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:09] It's also a little sad that that's like the one tangible thing where we sort of brush our hands off, go wash with their Meyer's Cleaned Day Hand Soap that literally everyone in America seems to have now and then dry our hands and we're like, “Oh, that's a job well done.” I'm imagining people who do woodworking or are working on a car and a garage, they wipe the grease off their hand and they're like, “Yeah, that's a beauty.” I never will have that experience with garbage especially.
Adam Grant: [00:22:35] No, no, that's true. Although I do occasionally stack the cardboard boxes in a pattern.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:40] Also satisfying, yeah. Now we just have some sort of weird complex that we get. We grew up in the same area. For those of you listening, we grew up basically in the same town. There's probably some weird stuff in the water. We aren't that far from Flint now that I think about it.
Adam Grant: [00:22:53] It's true. And not only that, but you were college roommates with one of my good high school friends.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:00] That's right. That's right.
Adam Grant: [00:23:01] I feel like Serge might've put something in your water.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:03] It's very possible.
Adam Grant: [00:23:04] It’s possible.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:04] Yeah, some sort of Russian spies that now is--
Adam Grant: [0:23:08] We’ll have to check afterwards.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:11] Colonizing our brains. Yeah, exactly.
Jason DeFilippo: [00:23:14] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest, Adam Grant. We'll be right back after this.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:19] This episode is sponsored in part by ZipRecruiter. You know what's not smart? Job boards that send you candidates that aren't qualified for the role you actually posted, job boards that sends you a mile high stack of resumes to sort through. There's a lot about this that will drive you crazy, but you know it is smart? Going to ziprecruiter.com/jordan to hire the right person. Unlike other job sites, ZipRecruiter will find qualified candidates for you. It's got matching technology. It'll scan thousands of resumes, identify people with actual skills, education, experience, other things that you might want in somebody that you're hiring. And it will actively invite them to apply to your job so you get qualified candidates fast. And that's why ZipRecruiter is rated number one by employers in the US and this of course comes from Trustpilot with over a thousand reviews. Right now, listeners can try ZipRecruiter for free at ziprecruiter.com/jordan. If you love the show, show your support for us and ZipRecruiter by going to ziprecruiter.com/jordan, J-O-R-D-A-N.
Jason DeFilippo: [00:24:19] That's ziprecruiter.com/jordan. ZipRecruiter, the smartest way to hire.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:24] This episode is also sponsored by Athletic Greens. I've been taking Athletic Greens for a long time. Just had some right before this. I'm doing some smoothie lunches. They're faster and frankly too lazy to make food sometimes. But anyway, Athletic Greens is an integral part of that and I bring this traveling. I do it on airplanes, if I've got long flights. This is the kind of thing that you can take or drink or eat, whatever you want to call it, when you can't get good quality food, which frankly in America is like all the time. Jason, I know you've been doing athletic greens for forever.
Jason DeFilippo: [00:24:56] Yeah, I do it for breakfast actually. I'll get up in the morning and have my tea and then knock back in Athletic Greens. Take my supplements. In that way, I know for the rest of the day if I have to eat crappy, like if I've got to go to a meeting or something and they want to just like go to Chipotle or something, I'm like, “Yeah, I'm okay, I'm covered. I've got my stuff every day,” and I tell you, I feel better. I honestly feel better. So I take this stuff every morning.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:18] I love that your go to crappy was to Chipotle when before Cesar Millan's ranch last week. I straight up went to McDonald's for the first time in like 11 years and got two Sausage McMuffins and they were amazing.
Jason DeFilippo: [00:25:30] Well, that's the thing. It's like, “I know that I can do that kind of thing because I had my Athletic Greens before we met up at Cesar's. You'd guys texted me and they're like, “Hey, do you want anything from McDonald's?” I'm like, “Oh, hell yes. I want, some Hash Browns and an Egg McMuffin, hooked me up.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:43] Yeah, yeah. Just sprinkle your Athletic Greens on your Sausage McMuffin and see how that goes for you.
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[00:26:44] Don't forget. We have a worksheet for today's episode so you can make sure you solidify your understanding of the key takeaways from Adam Grant. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. Thanks for listening and supporting the show. To learn more about our sponsors and get links to all the great discounts you just heard, visit jordanharbinger.com/deals. If you'd like some tips on how to subscribe to the show, just go to jordanharbinger.com/subscribe. Now back to our show with Adam Grant.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:10] All right, so back to self-awareness in which everyone just got a glimpse of are kind of over overly self-aware selves here just a minute ago. You mentioned in some of your work that, and there's a great article on this in the Atlantic that we'll link in the show notes. People's coworkers, colleagues, et cetera, are better than they are at recognizing how their personality will affect their job performance. So in other words, people we work with are much better at evaluating us than we could possibly be. This sounds a little terrifying because I feel vulnerable knowing that.
Adam Grant: [00:27:44] Yeah, well I don't think it's as vulnerable as it as it sounds, because your coworkers do get to see you do your job every day. And so if you think about it for a minute, Jordan, if I were to give you a conscientiousness scale and have you fill out a bunch of items about do you always finish the things you start? Are you a reliable person? Do you feel like you're good at keeping yourself organized and on schedule? I could take your ratings and then ask your coworkers to fill the same scale out about you. And then your coworkers ratings might be twice as powerful as yours in predicting your performance. And if I do that in reverse, and I have your coworkers fill that out, the ratings you give yourself add nothing. And so whatever you know about yourself that your coworkers doubt is either wrong or sort of irrelevant to your performance.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:39] Wow, that's bizarre. So they can see things that we either can't see probably a little bit of what we won't see or refuse to see. The information that we know about our self doesn't really affect our jobs. So okay, that means that in some way our blind spots as humans have to be somewhat predictable. And this is your area of research, right? You've got to have seen this. If we really can't evaluate these things about ourselves and our colleagues and coworkers can, those must be the same areas or similar areas for pretty much everyone. Is that the case?
Adam Grant: [00:29:17] Yeah, it seems to be. So the areas that we have the biggest blind spots in are the areas that are evaluative whenever you really care about looking good or we know the difference between positive and negative.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:28] Like generosity something like that?
Adam Grant: [00:29:30] Generosity, intelligence, creativity, anything that's desirable or virtuous. And then also that are highly observable so much more something like assertiveness, which everyone can witness as opposed to more of the internal anxiety that we talked about earlier.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:46] Ah, okay, all right. And why is this important the fact that other people can see us more clearly than we can? Which we take away from that?
Adam Grant: [00:29:56] Well, I think you captured it really nicely that there are things that we can't see because we're stuck inside our own heads and then it's kind of like if you go back to Aristotle's era, astronomers being totally convinced that the Sun revolved around the Earth. You would really easily be able to see that if you weren't on the planet Earth because you would see Earth moving.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:20] Right.
Adam Grant: [00:30:21] But the fact that you're on it makes it really hard, and I think that the same thing is true about the mind. The very fact that you live inside your own head makes it really hard to see what other people can from outside and then the other part, that's the observable part. Then the evaluative part is there are just things that you do not want to see about yourself, that are uncomfortable to admit, that are blows to your ego. And so one of the things I had a lot of fun doing in the first season of Worklife was going into workplaces that tried to fix that and say, “Hey, you know what? We're not going to let you keep those blind spots. We're going to hold up a mirror and let you see yourself as other people see you in the hopes that that will help you get better at your job, or maybe turn you into a less terrible person.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:06] Yikes. That's got to be tough. Because of course, it's really easy for me to look at what would evaluate myself in, right? I'm looking at my own head and I'm like, oh, okay, but then the question is, what am I ready to admit to other people? Because I'm not just going to spill everything that I find in there, right? Even if I could get rid of my bias and see things even remotely clearly, which you have sort of shown that we can't, even if I do find something, I'm not going to be like, “Hey everybody, guess what I found out? I'm really not that emotionally stable.” Go figure, right? I'm not doing that.
Adam Grant: [00:31:42] Yeah. Well I actually think you might, but most people wouldn't.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:45] Maybe I would, yeah. For purposes of this show only. For science.
Adam Grant: [00:31:50] No, I think, I've never known what to do with this, but there's a psychologist, Bill Swan, who has argued for decades that against this backdrop of us thinking that we all just want to see ourselves positively, Bill said, yeah, but we also have this motive to be seen accurately. We don't just go around trying to impress other people. We also try to express ourselves and we kind of want to align the ways that we really are with how other people see us, so that we're not constantly disappointing them and so that we feel like we're understood and I would guess Jordan from the times we chatted over the years, that you probably score pretty high on his self-verification scale where you are willing to trade off a little bit of being seen positively for being seen accurately.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:42] Yeah. And this might not be the exact same thing, but I am very much okay with having people trust me more than they like me in certain business situations especially, and that's been cultivated over time though, you know, of course, I spent most of my young life really trying to get people to like me more as every kid does. And then it just got kind of horrible as an adult and is not a great way to exist and it doesn't work with dating. It doesn't work with friendships, it doesn't work in the workplace and then I've realized starting my own business, it's actually more important for people to be like, “Look, I know that Jordan's going to do. He says he's going to do. I'm going to get what I paid for, et cetera.” Versus having people be like, “Oh, he's just a really nice person. I like being around him.” It's great to have both, but if I had to choose one, I think trust is probably a little better and this is just a theory, this is something that I've thought about a little bit here. It's better to do business with people that you trust. I'd rather do business with people that I trust but don't necessarily like than people that I like, but don't necessarily trust.
Adam Grant: [00:33:51] I think that's so critical and unusual. It's actually, it's a theme that jumped out when I did an episode with a crew of NASA astronauts who had to trust people that they didn't like.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:05] Oh yeah.
Adam Grant: [00:34:05] So imagine that you're coming out of the US Navy and you've gotten picked to live your lifelong dream and fly into space and you were told that one of your crew mates is going to be a Russian cosmonaut who when you were in the Navy was your enemy and you were going to fight the cold war against him. And now you've got to fly with the guy and he's not particularly friendly and he's kind of nasty about whether you're any good at your job and clearly thinks that he's superior and you probably don't enjoy interacting with that guy very much, but your life depends on being able to trust him and know that he's competent and also that he believes your competent. I think it's really hard for people to get past that right? To say, “Hey, I want to put my life in the hands of somebody that I don't even enjoy interacting with.” And I thought it would know that's something that more people ought to learn how to do. So how did you get to that point?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:05] Oh, good question. I think probably it comes down to, the one thing that's coming readily to mind here is little decisions. So if I have the ability to say to somebody, “Hey, the reason that you're not getting this speaking slot, for example, is because you're actually not as dynamic of a speaker as the other people that got chosen around you. I could say that, right? And I probably would, but the other thing I could do is go, “But I really want Jim to like me.” and so I'm not going to tell him that he's not as Diana dynamic of a speaker and that he should improve that. I'm going to say, that whole event is kind of just a popularity contest. It's kind of just a boys club. You’re never going to get that. I should have told you before, but I thought maybe they changed their ways, but they haven't. Same old crap. You're great. Don't let them get you down, you know? And that would would've made that person feel better and be like, Jordan's got my back. He's on my side. I like him, but I think I was able to achieve that by saying, “Look, you're not as dynamic of a speaker. You should email this guy and take some lessons and it will really go far. You're not really what they're looking for right now at this type of event, but don't feel bad. You just don't have enough reps under your belt.” It doesn't necessarily make that person like me. It doesn't have to make them dislike me, but they sure like me less than if I had stroke their ego or protected their ego. It's just that I was able to give them feedback that they could use instead, and so I have to make those decisions in real time as those situations arrive, I kind of just take note of when I have the ability to give somebody real feedback, for example, or blow sunshine up their skirt. It's a lot easier for me to just to now make that decision knowing that it's the long game that matters for me in them.
Adam Grant: [00:36:55] That that is exactly what Ray Dalio tries to do at Bridgewater, and in saying, “Look, you've got to be willing to because people a little emotional pain in order to help them improve.”
And the reality is that most of us are afraid to do that. We don't want to hurt people's feelings even if in the long run it's going to help them, and I think that's a disservice to other people.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:17] Especially when you're dealing with things like financial markets or well, any business actually it seems like a great idea. I would imagine in that workplace though, there's a lot of -- you really have to get down to people's motivations. Because when I hear about what happens at Bridgewater, which is everybody gives each other feedback, that's pretty brutal and you can even give it to Ray I guess, if you feel the need to do that. There's got to be a little bit of like, well, I got feedback from Adam, but then I also think that Adam is secretly mad at me for this other thing. So I'm going to discount that feedback or thanks for the feedback Adam. And then you're thinking like, “I'm going to give you feedback now.” And then when you get that, you're like, “Is Jordan just mad at me for the feedback I gave him before?” Like how do you get rid of the idea that maybe they're motivated by something else other than just giving you realistic feedback? Maybe they're mad at you for your feedback. How do they mitigate that, right? How do they control for that?
Adam Grant: [00:38:14] So I've spent a couple of years studying Bridgewater and doing some work with them. And actually I was on a call yesterday where I was quoting a study and Ray just interrupted and said, “Bullshit.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:27] Wow.
Adam Grant: [00:38:28] At first I was like, “Whoa, that's harsh.” Like I'm a social scientist. I have pretty
high standards for what counts is rigorous research. I'm pretty sure this study is not bullshit. And then the next thought I had was, all right, I finally reached a point where he's brutally honest with me, and isn't pulling any punches. That's great. That’s what I need in my life. Especially from somebody who's gone to the extreme on a scale of like giving and receiving feedback. So he has a bunch of systems in place that have really been designed to solve the problem you're describing. So I think in a lot of workplaces, you're right that I might give you negative feedback because I'm mad at you for rating me negatively or I'm trying to get ahead in some way and you're a threat to that. At Bridgewater, one of the things they do is, so you get rated on about 77 different dimensions of performance in real time.
[00:39:26] So you're in a meeting right now and I could be rating you on whether you're demonstrating higher level thinking or getting stuck in the weeds. I could be rating you on whether you're standing for truth and fighting for right, as opposed to being a little bit political and you can then rate me on being distracted when I'm busy writing you. But they aggregate all these ratings that are done in real time. And then what you're given is a believability score, which is a score in each domain for how accurate your feedback has been in the past, because we have everybody doing the ratings. And so what that means is I might be given a high believability score on feedback about your personality, but a low believability score on my predictions about markets. And so then you would know whether in general, you should trust my feedback in that domain and there's a very strong disincentive for me to then gain a feedback system because I'm going to kill my believability score, if I give you feedback that I think is not accurate in a domain where I've proven accurate.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:30] Oh wow. So we want to build up our credibility, which is great because of course I think we touched on this earlier, we want to convince everyone, including ourselves, that we're smart, creative, and intelligent. And if we're just sort of trying to game the system in that way, or when we give other people feedback, then we lose on this other metric, which is actually arguably more important having discussed the whole trust versus likeability thing in the first place.
Adam Grant: [00:40:58] Yeah. Yeah. I think that's right. And I think one of the things that I was surprised to see happen when I watched this play out at Bridgewater is I kind of expected that people would always be second guessing the motives, right? And trying to say, okay, when somebody tells me -- one of the craziest things that I saw happen there, was a guy named [Kiran] [00:41:17] walked into a meeting and a slide came up ranking managers at Bridgewater and he was ranked dead last in a room of several hundred managers.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:28] Dang.
Adam Grant: [00:41:30] And I'm like, “Oh shit. He didn't even get stabbed in the back. He just got punched in the face--
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:34] Yeah, burn!
Adam Grant: [00:41:35] In front of all his colleagues, and they're the ones punching him. And you know what I would feel inclined to do in that situation is start thinking about all the reasons why people might be biased against me. And that didn't even cross his mind because they have all bought into a system and opted in where they agree that they're going to listen to critical feedback because they want to help each other get better. And so you build up this experience over time of knowing that if people rate you negatively, even though we all tend to feel uncomfortable about doing that, then odds are they're probably trying to give you accurate feedback and hold up that mirror and help you get better.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:12] That is a brilliant way to try to mitigate cognitive bias because that would be my first thought. Everyone's biased against me, or maybe I'm biased against, I've got some other bias. And by the way, you would know this. Is there a bias whereby I think I'm less biased because I think I have that bias.
Adam Grant: [00:42:31] Yeah. This is Emily Pronin’s work on what's called The Bias Blind Spot, which I've always thought of as the I'm not biased bias.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:40] Yeah.
Adam Grant: [00:42:41] So people actually think that they are more objective than other people are, which of course is ridiculous.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:47] Yeah, that makes sense. And the more objective, I think -- I think a lot of people who don't realize they're vulnerable to bias, the more vulnerable they might actually be. Because since we all have that, the fact that they don't see that or we don't see that means that maybe it affects us even more strongly than other people.
Adam Grant: [00:43:06] Yeah. I mean, it's terrible actually, because the more convinced you are that you're objective, the less work you do to try to catch and check your own biases. And so the more unbiased you think you are, the more bias that makes you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:21] Oh my gosh, that's such a mess.
Adam Grant: [00:43:23] Watch out.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:24] Yeah. Ugh. So in what areas do we need to have other people hold a mirror up for us? And then how do we do that? Who do we choose to do this? Because if I ask my wife, “Hey, I need a realistic assessment of myself.” She's still not going to do that. First of all, she has to rationalize the fact that she married me in the first place, right? She's not going to be like, “Here's all this stuff that's wrong with you without running into a cognitive dissonance of her own where she's like, “Wait, I'm married you. Damn, what was I doing?” Right?
Adam Grant: [00:43:57] Yeah. Although you know what? There's some Marion Holmes work showing that high expectations of your partner can become self-fulfilling prophecies and that if your wife has an ideal view of who you are, that you become more motivated to try to become that person. And so maybe her best option is to say, “Hey, Jordan, like on your best day, here's who I think you are and here are all the times you've fallen short of that. Let's close the gap.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:23] Yeah.
Adam Grant: [00:44:24] Which maybe allows her to maintain her positive view of you, but also motivate you to make some improvements. But I think you're right. I think at a basic level, it's often hard for people to know what to give you feedback on, and then you have to gauge, okay, how honest are they being and where are they relevant. I think the place to start though is with specific skills. So other people tend to be pretty good if they're knowledgeable in a domain. And you're new to it or you've gotten inconsistent feedback in it. They tend to be pretty good at giving you feedback, especially if you aggregate a bunch of people to give you feedback. And so there's actually an exercise that I tried out after seeing it in action at Bain, the management consulting firm. So they have a version of an owner's manual or a user manual, you know when you get a new car, it comes with a manual. They tell you how to operate it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:17] Yeah. I've never even cracked that thing in any car I've ever had in my whole life, but yes.
Adam Grant: [00:45:23] You're clearly less clueless than I am then because I've actually not, I think I probably read parts of everyone because I couldn't figure out how to work pretty much every car I owned.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:35] Oh, yeah. So my dad worked for Ford, so if I was like, “Hey, there's a little light that says OD off, what is that?” He's like, “Oh, you hit the overdrive switch on the gear shift, or you should just hit that little button that you probably never knew was there.” And I'm like, “Oh, okay.” So I guess I sort of lived with a manual for a car.
Adam Grant: [00:45:50] Clearly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:51] Yeah.
Adam Grant: [00:45:51] I'm mechanically completely incompetent, so --
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:56] Gotcha.
Adam Grant: [00:45:57] So those manuals are useful to some of us, right? Especially if you think about any piece of technology that you're not good at. A DVD player, a phone, a laptop, some new product that you've never tried out before. The user manual is supposed to be helpful. And what I think is interesting is that the human mind is way more complex than anything we buy, no matter how technologically sophisticated it is. And there is no owner's manual, and I think we need our own owner’s manuals, but we also need to give them to the people we work with. And so what this manager had done at Bain was he was going to write a user manual for new employees to say, “Look, here's what I'm good at. Here's where I struggle. Here's what brings out the best in me, in the worst in me.” So that they could get to know him faster. And then he was like, “Wait, why would I do this? I don't know all that stuff. The people who've worked with me know all that stuff.” And so he challenged his team and he said, “I want you each to write a draft of what's all the stuff you know about me now that you wish you had known in your first week of us working together.” And he had the team put that together and then yeah, they had a rough draft and then they compared notes on which things were important and less important. And then it ended up getting turned into a one page document that is given to every new person who works for him. I just thought that was a great idea. And so I reached out to a few people who work with me and I asked them to write out just a draft of the user manual for me. And I only predicted, I made a list of what I thought I was getting was going to be in it first so I can test myself, awareness. I only predicted about a third of it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:34] Oh wow. Wow. So you try to write an instruction manual for yourself.
Adam Grant: [00:47:40] Yeah, yeah. So I knew I would be told, for example, that I was constantly late and that if you want to work well with me, one, you need to be aware of that I have a chronic inability to disengage from the current task until it's done. And then two, if there's something really important, you either need to stress the importance of timeliness for that activity for me or you need to lie to me about when it starts. So I thought that was predictable. I knew that was going to go in there. And I wrote it almost verbatim, matching what one of my colleagues did. But there are whole bunch of other things that I just did not anticipate at all.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:18] So okay. We created an instruction manual for ourselves and I'll talk about how we do that in a second because I'm very curious about that. But then you didn't really, it's not just as simple as you sitting down and going, “Oh okay. I know these things about the way I operate. Let me notify you.” There were things in there that you didn't know, right?
Adam Grant: [00:48:36] Yeah, quite a bit. I was like, “Oh, this is either really uncomfortable or a great learning experience and I'm going to try to turn it into the learning part.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:47] Yeah, probably a little bit of both because I would imagine that the people you work with closely, guys like Jason, my wife Jen, the rest of my team here, they've got a vested interest in making me better at everything or and definitely vested interest in making me less difficult in other things that we do together.
Adam Grant: [00:49:05] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:06] But the problem is, and Jen knows this, Jason knows this. The challenge is of course if there's something that I need to hear but they know I don't want to hear it, they're probably not going to jump over themselves to deliver bad news and then get me kind of riled up.
Adam Grant: [00:49:23] Yeah. Because that's only going to make their lives more difficult.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:25] Right, right. Yeah. And I mean I try to be aware of this and not shoot the messenger because the last thing you want to do is train your spouse and your producers and people you work with really closely to be like, “Hey, if you have a problem with Jordan, definitely don't tell him cause he's going to make your life a living hell. So just bottle it up until you find a better job.” Like that's not who you want around you, right?
Adam Grant: [00:49:46] No. So Jason, we should talk offline. I've got some ideas for you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:51] Yeah. How do we get that more accurate picture of ourselves then from our coworkers and colleagues? I mean I assume we need to be working closely with them, but the weekly Skype or Zoom meetings, not going to cut it for most people.
Adam Grant: [00:50:07] No. I think one of the things I've learned from a couple of leaders I've worked with is I heard a version of this story from I think three different leaders, was they felt like as they got more senior or more influential, people stopped giving them the candid feedback they used to get.
And at first they would just ask for it and nobody told them anything, and eventually they said, “All right, you know what? I have to really go out on a limb here to try to make it safe for them to speak up. And one of the things a bunch of them did was they said, “All right, I'm going to give feedback on myself out loud.” And so I ended up trying this to get my own team to write my user manual. I said, “All right, here are a couple of things I think I'm really bad at.” And then, “Okay, which of these do you agree and disagree with? And what am I missing? What are my blinds pots?” And once I put the blind spot question in there, it was like the floodgates just opened. It was like, “Well, sometimes you crush people with your negative feedback on an idea.” That was a point I heard multiple times. I was like, “What? I feel like I'm encouraging --
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:14] I don’t do that. Oh wait.
Adam Grant: [00:51:14] And supportive, no! Never!” That's a terrible idea. And I think what I didn't realize was I was just trying to be efficient. I thought, okay, I've got a meeting with nine people on my team, and I think part of my job is to quickly vet which ideas are new and rigorous. And so if something didn't meet that bar, I'd be like, “Nope, that's probably not going to work. Let's move on to the next one.” And I'm just like, “Yeah, you can say that to me too.” And what I was totally unaware of is there's a little status hierarchy there and people are feeling really discouraged and demotivated by that. And so that was a kind of a big wake up call for me on making sure that people recognize that I see potential in their ideas.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:02] How do we put ourselves then in situations where maybe we can't ignore feedback from multiple sources, short of, do we need to have like an intervention kind of situation where it's like, “Hey, rose to me.” I don't really know how this would look in practice.
Adam Grant: [00:52:19] I think I actually think most of it is about just making it easier for people to tell you the truth. So I mean, I'll give you some, some things that I've been doing that I found helpful that in some cases come out of the research in some cases are just ideas that occurred to me when I was grappling with this. One thing I do is every talk that I give after I get off stage, I ask what's the one thing that I could do better? And it's such a simple thing and totally non-threatening for people to answer it because who couldn't do at least one thing better. In some cases, I get immediate suggestions. In other cases, I find out that they actually do an audience survey that they never bothered to share with their speaker before, and now I've got a whole bunch of data points to learn from. And then when I do is once I collect that feedback, I loop it back with my team and say, “Look, I got this feedback, what do you think of it?” And that puts them in a position to hold me accountable for making changes.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:16] Wow. Okay. That's seems like a great idea. Is there something we can do? Look, let's say we're not the boss, let's say we just want to get some great feedback from those around us. I know you've got this reflected best self-exercise. Would you take us through this?
Adam Grant: [00:53:32] Oh yeah. This is one of my favorite exercises and not just because it comes from Wolverine territory. So I was first introduced to this, when I started grad school at Michigan. A bunch of my colleagues and advisors at the time had noticed that not only are people often uncomfortable giving negative feedback, but sometimes they're uncomfortable giving positive feedback. they feel like, well that actually a bunch of reasons. So yeah, I might be hesitant to compliment you because I think it's going to be awkward or because I'm afraid that you'll just think that I'm trying to brown nose or kiss up in some way, and so I don't do it. And then you miss out on some helpful information about what you're good at, or something that at least would energize you a little bit because it's nice to hear when you have a strength.
[00:54:21] So the reflective best self is an exercise that's designed to counteract those problems and what you're asked to do. I've had students do this for a decade. I've had senior executives do it, military generals, people find it really informative and pretty uplifting. What you do is you reach out to 15 to 20 people who know you well, and it's up to you who those people are. So they might be colleagues, they might be friends, family members, and then you ask them all to tell a story about you when you were at your best. And it doesn't have to be long, so just a paragraph about a time when you really were great or excelled at something. You get these stories coming in and pretty soon 17 people have told you about a time when you were able to shine in some way. And the first thing is people are surprised because sometimes they don't even remember the stories they hear and they're like, “Wait, what?” I did that I'm pretty sure you're talking about someone else. I have no recollection of that, of that story at all. Then there's another layer of surprise, which is often strengths are highlighted that people don't know they have and that goes back to the blind spot issue. We don't just have blind spots about weaknesses. We have blind spots about strengths too. There are things we just do instinctively, that we have a talent for or that we approach in a creative way and we don't even think twice about it. And so people come out realizing, “Hey, there are a couple of things I'm good at that I'm not using those strengths as often as I could.
[00:55:51] And your job then once you collect all those stories, and this is the part that involves some work, is you create a portrait. You analyze the common themes and you say, “Look, these are my three strengths that stand out most around when I'm at my best through the eyes of the people I trust. And here are the situations where I've seen to be good at using them. And here's some ideas on where I might be able to use them that I'm not already. And I recommend it to anybody who has I guess, who has a human brain.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:22] Yeah, that seems useful. And we'll put this in the worksheets as we do with all practical exercises from the show. This reflected best self-exercise, which is from Wolverine Territory. That's the university of Michigan, not the Marvel comic book. For those of you wondering what the hell we were talking about there.
Adam Grant: [00:56:37] Good clarification.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:39] I like the idea of getting 15 to 20 people that I know well to tell a story about a time when I was at my best. What happens when they go, “I don't know. Can you give me an example?” Should we feed them some kind of example or is that just going to screw up the whole thing and skew the results?
Adam Grant: [00:56:56] I don't know. I think that's actually a good empirical question. So I'd want to see the data. You could run the experiment where some people are giving examples and others aren't. I've seen it done both ways. I think sometimes a little bit of direction is helpful. So if you want to offer an example or two that's fine. But if you just Google the reflected best self, it's pretty clear from the instructions to most people. They're like, “Oh, I just have to think about a time when you were really outstanding.” I can do that and then I'll write what you did and how it mattered. So I don't think the examples are necessary, but I think it's possible they could be helpful.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:33] And this is something for its context dependent, right? Because I guess a close friend of mine might be like one thing that was great was when we were at that fast food place and there was that old lady and she couldn't find her wallet and you just paid for her food. That was really cool. That said something about you. Whereas somebody who works with me might be like, remember that time that something broke and you stayed up all night with us to help fix it and that was pretty cool. It made us all feel like a team. It's going to be different I would imagine for each person given context that you work with them or that they have with you, right?
Adam Grant: [00:58:04] It is. Although I actually like to see people do it across different contexts because two things can happen. One is you start to see consistencies and you'll say, “All right, I'm not a totally different person with my colleagues as I am with a good friend. Like Jordan in your two stories, even though they sound really different, what I hear as a common thread, that you'd like to be the hero, or that in crisis or under pressure or in a difficult situation, you step up.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:31] In those two made up examples. That is correct.
Adam Grant: [00:58:32] Yeah, totally, totally. But what examples did you make up? I wonder if that says something about your psyche. Who knows?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:38] Probably.
Adam Grant: [00:58:40] So I think it is helpful for people to realize like, “Hey, I went to a coworker and I went to a friend and they've never met and they've seen me in totally different situations, and they hit on one of the same strengths that must've happened because it's pretty representative of what I'm good at. And then the other part is when the opposite happens, when you know something that you feel you're very strong at in one domain, you realize that none of the stories in another domain highlight that and you're like, “You know what? Like that generosity I show with my family, I could probably show more of at work or vice versa.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:15] Oh, that's really fascinating. This is really awesome. I'm so going to annoy my friends and family with this immediately.
Adam Grant: [00:59:22] You should.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:22] Jason, you're getting this task ASAP. You're welcome. Yeah. Like this could yield some really interesting results. Wow. Wow. And I like that it's for when you're at your best because if you did it and you were like, give me feedback on how I could become better. I feel like you could easily get really overwhelmed with all these things that you need to improve and all these different areas of your life, although that might also be useful.
Adam Grant: [00:59:45] So we were assigned to do this when I took a class that was trying to help us with our own personal development. And at first I was like, “Huh, this is interesting.” And then my second thought was, well, I wonder this is kind of, it's only one side of the coin. What happens if I get a reflected worst self? And I asked people to tell a story about a time when I was horrible and then look at the themes and those stories. It was way harder to your point earlier to get people to tell me those stories, but I actually learned a lot from it.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:19] Yeah. So did you really just invert the exercise and--
Adam Grant: [01:00:22] I did.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:22] What kind of stuff comes up then reflected worst self?
Adam Grant: [01:00:27] I did, I have found that a lot of my worst self-moments were stories about times when I was distracted. And it was like I'd be back to back in meetings and then checking email and really not engaging with people, which ironically was supposed to be one of my strengths. But when people had my attention, they had my full attention. And then I guess when they didn't, they really didn't get any of it. And so I took that and said, “Okay, I'm going to start carving out time between meetings to make sure I have a moment to check my email or my voicemail and that way, I'll feel like I'm not missing something important.
[01:01:10] What else did I get? Oh my God. I got feedback that I was essentially, I'm trying to remember the way it was articulated. It was pretty funny. The gist of it was that I was so nervous that I was causing other people to shake it in their seats when I got on stage, physically.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:30] Wow. So you are so tangibly anxious. Other people started mirroring your nonverbal communication essentially instinctually, and everyone felt awkward or nervous about it. That's really, yikes. That's something you definitely want to fix. But yeah, that must have been hard to hear.
Adam Grant: [01:01:48] Yeah. Especially as somebody who's about to become a professor and you know, one day give Ted talks, I was like my anxiety is contagious. This is not a good thing.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:57] No.
Adam Grant: [01:01:59] It was the fuel I needed to go and start working with aa speaking and teaching coach.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:03] Oh my gosh. Yeah, because you think like, Oh, I'm anxious of course is because the one thing we learned earlier in this episode was that we're really good at evaluating that kind of thing for ourselves. But hey, at least I'm covering it up well and nobody can really tell.
Adam Grant: [01:02:17] Oh, I thought I really, I mean, I guess I was just so anxious that what I was doing to cover it up only just scratched the surface. But yeah, knew I was anxious. I did not know I had telekinesis and I could transfer my anxiety across the room.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:30] Wow. Bravo. So I was really excited to do this reflected best self that until we started talking about the reflected worst self, which seems like you probably have to do both. And now I'm kind of dreading that one.
Adam Grant: [01:02:44] Well, you know what though? I think there's actually a work around. So I'll say that the evidence suggests that the reflected best self, we do know that it can help with development, by allowing people to recognize their strengths and use them productively. I've never seen anyone study the reflected worst self, so I can't vouch for it with data. But I have noticed a work around which is you can just do the reflective best self and then at the end of it, once you've finished making a list of what your strengths are, most of your weaknesses are going to be the opposite of those, right? So if one of your strengths is that you're really good at performing and kind of capturing people's attention, chances are that you're not listening as well as you should be. If one of your strengths is actually keeping your cool and not being in a neurotic mess. There are probably times when you underreact to emotionally intense situations and you want to be more aware of that. And so I think you can actually identify your worst self by just saying, “Okay, what's the opposite of my best self?”
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:48] Right, right. Yeah. What's the inverse of my best self because I think we all, at some level, we do secretly know -- everyone right now is thinking, “Ooh, I hope people don't notice that this,” or “Oh, I know I'm going to here, it's going to be about this and that.” We all kind of know, at least those of us with even a modicum of self-awareness, we're like, “Oh yeah, people are going to write about my inpatients.” That's going to be the thing that shows up in the worst self. We secretly know this stuff because we've been chastised about it before, probably by a significant others, close friends, parents at some point throughout the course of our life.
Adam Grant: [01:04:25] Yeah, you've got to be aware of some of it, unless you're totally, I mean that's not just a blind spot, right? That's being totally blind.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:31] Right. Yeah, that totally makes sense. So reflected best self, optional reflected worst self. I think it's great that we have ways to figure out how to become a little bit more self-aware by utilizing the self or utilizing the perceptions of those around us that work with us closely because most of us, almost every one of us has this. So we don't have to develop some keener sense of self-awareness or go do hundreds of hours of, what's it called, that therapy where you go at analysis, we don't have to do that. We can really just ask people around us to let loose on how they perceive us, which actually people are probably dying to do at some level anyway, right?
Adam Grant: [01:05:16] Yeah. I mean, what's funny about it is one of the ways that I also think about the other side of this, which is, okay, so I want to get people to be honest with me, but I also want to make it easier to be honest with them. And sometimes people don't want to hear the negative feedback that you have for them or the constructive criticism that you've spent a lot of time figuring out how to deliver. And so one of the ways that I've dealt with that is I've started just occasionally letting people know, “Hey, I noticed a couple of things that I thought might be useful for feedback. Are you interested?” And no one ever says no, because the idea that somebody is having thoughts about you and you don't have access to those thoughts is very, very uncomfortable, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:05] Right.
Adam Grant: [01:06:06] And so I think that that's sometimes opens the door because once people have opted in and said, “Yeah, you know what? I want that feedback. It makes it way easier to give it.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:14] Adam, thank you so much. Really interesting as always and it's always great to be able to have a better picture or a clearer picture of who we are and how we can improve. And so thank you for your work and thanks for coming on the show today.
Adam Grant: [01:06:28] Thank you, Jordan. Delighted to be here. Appreciate it.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:33] Great show as always with Adam. Really, really a pleasure talking with him. If you want to know how I managed to keep guys like Adam in my Rolodex on speed dial. Well it's all about those systems, those tiny habits, the ones I'm teaching you in our Six-Minute Networking course, which is free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. I actually just did a class for this for some military and law enforcement and intelligence agents. And so I'm teaching this to people who are already good at networking. So if you're one of those who's like, well, I'm already pretty good at this, naturally, that's great. You'll have plenty to learn here. It's not like put yourself out there. I've got real info in here that I'm teaching to people, keeping the world safe or making it less safe depending on your perspective. But go ahead and check it out. The drill is take just a few minutes per day. It is free. That's the point. Jordanharbinger.com/course.
[01:07:21] And speaking of relationships, tell me your number one takeaway here from Adam Grant. I'm @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram. This show is produced in association with PodcastOne and this episode was co-produced by Jason “Reflection of Mediocre Self” DeFilippo and Jen Harbinger. Show notes by Robert Fogarty. Worksheets by Caleb Bacon. And I'm your host Jordan Harbinger. The fee for the show is you share it with friends when you find something useful, which should be in every episode. So please share the show with those you love and even those you don't. We've got a lot more in the pipeline, very excited to bring it to you. And in the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
[01:07:59] A lot of people ask me which shows I recommend and which shows I listened to. And one that I often listen to is called The One You Feed with Eric Zimmer. And I've got Eric here. One episode you did recently was with Steven C. Hayes, the Founder of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Sounds a little woo woo, but tell us what's on with this episode.
Eric Zimmer: [01:08:16] Well, it's actually not that woo woo, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is sort of considered the third wave of psychology improvements, cognitive behavior therapy being kind of the second wave. So it's sort of an improvement upon that. He wrote a book called Get Out of Your Mind And Into Your Life, which is an absolute masterpiece. And he just talks so much about exactly what it sounds like. We spend so much time up in our heads and worrying and fretting and planning and thinking that we're not really living our lives. And he has a ton of great tools to help you get out of your mind and into your life. And one thing that he says that I think is so useful is “That one way to judge our thoughts, whether they're good or bad, is really whether they're useful.” It's not, is this a good thought? Is this a bad thought? Is this a useful thought? And it's so powerful in the whole episode, I think is really one of our favorites.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:09:11] And if you want to check out The One You Feed, of course, we'll link to it in the show notes. And you can also just search for The One You Feed and look for the two headed Wolf in any podcast app.
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