An ex-colleague but still-friend of mine, mailed me after my article Live Like An NBA Star. He told me how much he recognized self-awareness as a key to personal development. And he expanded on it with his observations. It got me thinking on the topic, which is the subject of today’s post.
First, recall my friend Greg’s comments on what makes the best prospect for the NBA. He said most great basketballers’ egos have been buffed to a mirror shine by years of adulation. Only a few can receive that praise and retain the ability to see their flaws and areas where peers exceed them. Prospects with this quality are more likely to succeed in the NBA. Because, in addition to starting with the right talent, they are sure to improve.
If self-awareness is akin to modesty, then surely their opposite are narcissism and arrogance. Along that line a graduate student at Massey University in New Zealand, Jeff Simpson, recently showed the effects of narcissism on employment. Presumably Simpson’s studies in psychology helped him identify narcissistic tendencies. But it did not take a PhD to measure narcissists’ success in the workforce:
None of those 10 [narcissists] remained employed at the company for the full two years.
While those numbers every egomaniac may fail, anyone that has read of Larry Ellison and Steve Jobs knows differently. So, clearly some people’s egos drive them to great successes. But the hidden cost of that management style may be seen in Apple today. It was certainly in Jim Collins’ Good to Great. In short, a company built around a single ego always fails after the ego departs.
So, controlling our egos is critically important for most people’s success. And even if you are the next Steve Jobs your stockholders will thank you if you build a company that is not centered around your ego. Self-criticism is a piece of the broader category of emotional intelligence (EQ). Some authors conclude that EQ is more important to success than IQ.
Like the dimensions of intelligence of which I have previously written, I suspect we each excel in some of the above and need improvement in others. For instance I believe I am strong in numbers one and two, acceptable in number four, and I am consistently working to improve myself in number three.
The article I linked above contains some recommendations of improving EQ. But I am developing my own philosophy for self-improvement with respect to EQ:
Many years ago I saw a program on the Discovery Channel. In the show several types of “geniuses” were collected: a physicist, mathematician, a spelling star, a writer, and others. All participating geniuses took a traditional IQ test, for which the physicist scored highest. But the IQ test we all know–logic puzzles and mathematics and geometry–tests to the physicists natural strengths and experience. While the other participants scored lower on that test, they scored much higher in tests measuring other human capabilities. In other words, genius is relative. And a variety of tests can identify different types of genius.
Ever since I saw this show I have been fascinated with the idea of dimensions in intelligence. I remember seeing a demonstration of a special type of intelligence on display at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in 2004. Before I played in the WSOP, I was often the best player in local games in San Jose, California. But at that table in Vegas I was one of the worst. And one of my opponents kept proving it to me. He repeatedly announced my intent before I said anything. (Incidentally, that was an excellent tactic to intimidate me.) While that unknown gentleman may very well have failed high school math, he was a savant with respect to human behavior.
I realized then that people’s real strengths are not obvious. Indeed, uncovering them can be incredibly difficult. We are accustomed to measuring intelligence with logic quizzes and breadth of vocabulary and wittiness. But how does this account for my erstwhile poker opponent? How do we measure behavior prediction based on minute changes in posture and facial expression? And how do we recognized those that quickly master new languages? Or can readily understand emotional state in a meaningful and empathetic way?