Thursday, June 14, 2012

What can you learn from a Jackass?

When I was younger my uncle tried to set up some training sessions with a painter friend of his to help me get better at my then-current passion.  I thought the friend was a little creepy and only did cowboy art, so I wasn’t interested.  After getting frustrated with me, my uncle asked me why I was turning down such a great opportunity.  To which my smart-ass, teenage self replied, because I didn’t think he’d be able to teach me anything I wanted to learn.  Then my uncle taught me a life lesson I’ll never forget.  He told me that there are opportunities to learn everywhere and I was stupid for missing out on them.  “Hell, Tanya, you can even learn from a jackass what not to do!”  I lost my uncle a short time later to an unexpected heart attack.  But I can still hear that conversation very clearly and it has become one of the guiding principles of my life.

There are times when you get so extremely lucky that someone sees the potential in you and takes the time to teach you to become better - better at a job, better at a hobby or just plain better as a human being.  When these times arise, take it in with as much enthusiasm as you can.  That criticism that stings so much is something that will help you to grow.  Internalize it and learn from it.  Great mentors and bosses will offer you this opportunity often.  When a superior, co-worker or friends identifies a flaw in your work, it’s generally not done with malice.  Half the battle of improving yourself is knowing what needs to be improved.  Having the input from those you trust is invaluable in identifying your short comings.  Once identified, put their constructive criticism to use, and redo the work or apply the lesson to the next project.  Each project you do should be better than the last.  No excuses.  Externalizing criticism as a too demanding boss instead of using it as an opportunity to continually improve will be career limiting. 

Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of great mentors and bosses willing to take the time to teach you the ropes or help you refine your skills.  But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be doing it anyway.  Watch those around you, who is successful and who isn’t?  Why?  Are the skills they are using something you can learn or emulate?  Are there things you see that don’t go over well?  Why?  What could have been done differently?  Take time to critically think about your interactions each day.  There are learning opportunities everywhere, you just have to look.  Remember, you can even learn from a jackass what not to do!

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