Moving fast or slow
Obstacles are relative
"It is hard becoming a new version of yourself." A simple understated line from season 4 episode 6 of "Billions". It is hard. The obstacles standing in your way are all relative. Others might see them as small. They might see them as insignificant. But obstacles are relative. Everything is relative. The challenges that stand in your way are yours. It is hard to become a new version of yourself. It is even harder to become the best version of yourself.
Today I have been struggling to become a new version of myself. Habits that once served me well no longer do. They are simply no longer relevant. My addiction to being hyper-responsive on Slack or email serves no one. After deleting the Slack app there is no longer even anything to respond to. But I pick up my phone. I look and see the empty home page slot where my attention once lived. It is mindless. The habit is empty. Truth is, I see now, it always was. Once it is gone it is hard to remember why it ever mattered.
I am struggling. I instinctively check email. The little red notification, that magical little flag that validated my checking email, doesn't appear. It's turned off. I still check. It is a hard habit to break even when there is no validation at the end. There is no little red icon telling me that I am important to someone. Its absence is unsettling. I am embarrassed by the habit. Why did I ever feel like I needed to constantly check this? Did it ever really matter? Why am I holding my phone? When the little red validation is gone it leaves a hole. It leaves a question.
It is hard to become a better version of yourself in part because who we are - who I am - is formed by habits and routines that are often mindless. Ideas that I latched onto early in my career became a part of who I am. Always on. Always at the ready. A click away. It is hard not to be that person.
It is an obstacle that may sound insignificant. A bad phone habit. That's all. Who doesn't check their phone too much? Who doesn't want to see that little red alert that begs for your attention? It's all relative. It's not just the checking that keeps me from becoming a better version of myself. It's the need to keep checking. Checking when it no longer makes sense. Checking when it never made sense. It's hard. Hard to break a habit of external validation. Harder still to create a new habit.
It's all relative. Maybe for you, the little red icon doesn't mean anything. Maybe for you, it is a like from a friend on your Instagram or Facebook post. Maybe for you, it is a congratulation on your LinkedIn post. Maybe for you, it is [ fill in your own blank ]. We all have them. Our mindless habits. Our work habits. Our moments of need for external validation. Does it matter? If it was turned off tomorrow would it really matter? Did it ever matter?
It is hard to become a new version of yourself. The obstacles that stand in the way are all relative. The choice is yours though. The choice is mine. To overcome, we must choose. I am choosing the adventure. The adventure of overcoming my obstacles. You?
About David Verhaag
David has spent his career building and scaling teams at some of the leading HR technology companies. He was most recently the Chief Customer Officer at Degreed, the lifelong learning platform. Prior to Degreed, he held leadership positions at Kahuna, HireVue, and SuccessFactors. David lives in Park City, Utah.