Just be effective

One of the things I’ve struggled with the most is investing my time and energy into trying to prove myself right, instead of doing what will be most effective in achieving my goals.

This was a difficult problem for me to notice because it always felt like working to prove myself right – to champion my ideas instead of another’s – was the most effective way to achieve my goals.

After all, if I didn’t believe in my own ideas, why bring them up in the first place?

The problem that took me so long to pinpoint is that although these two things – proving myself right and doing what’s effective – are sometimes aligned, mostly they’re optimizing for different things.

Proving that I am right and that my idea is best feels good. It’s an ego boost. It reassures me that I’m contributing something of value; that I have value to the organization. That I’m not an imposter.

Whereas doing what’s effective often means abandoning my ideas. Admitting that I was wrong. Seeing flaws in my plans (flaws in myself) that I hadn’t known were there.

Trying to prove myself right is easy. Being effective and doing what’s right for the organization is hard.

And like that great quote from Jerzy Gregozek:

Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.

When in this type of situation, it’s useful to step back and think about the big picture. Why are you in the organization and working in your field – to win arguments? Or to achieve your goals and be part of something successful?

The irony here is that trying to prove yourself right may make you feel worthy and successful, but it actually has the opposite effect. While abandoning the need to be right may result in your ideas being dropped, sure, but better ideas will end up being executed – which makes everyone more successful.

In other words, the most effective way to achieve your goals is recursive – just be effective.