Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How not to make careless mistakes (again)

Today I've gotten a really bad case of dressing down from my colleague. It has been the case of too many "I told you so", "why didn't you remember this", and "what's the point of telling you so many times?". The ultimatum has been given, and I want to ensure that this doesn't become a habit. I need to urgently reflect upon what has happened, and the game plan to change it. So here goes.

1. I assume too much.
Granted, it's both my strength and weakness. I catch on things very fast, once I have a structure in place, I can be left to figure out the rest on my own. The downside of that is I also make a whole lot of assumptions and I think they stem from the fact that I subconsciously think that others will not be able to help me, so I leap to the conclusion that I know best. It's a subtle manifestation of arrogance that has led to serious consequences.

So attitudinally, I need to start thinking of how I can make sure I don't rush through my thinking and leap to conclusions about things. I'm gonna ask myself 3 questions: If I know this fully, can I do this without checking back with others? What other information do I need or have to find out? Why do I feel I can do this?

I need to stop having misplaced sense of self-confidence.

2. I take things for granted.
From my previous point about false self-confidence is putting too much trust in my own work. It used to be that I can complete something and hand it up - and still get good grades/reviews for it. However, now the stakes are higher and I can no longer trust myself to hand in work and not afford to check through them. Everything I do has to be be checked. So that means: -

For emails: read them out loud before sending. If i have a funny feeling in my gut, walk away before replying. Fresh eyes or check with someone before sending it.

For admin work: If it's a huge report, always look through it the next day to catch whatever mistakes I missed. Stop having the tunnel vision attitude and really really make sure I leave no rows unchecked, no columns unmarked and no boxes empty.

For work processes: I realised this is a symptom of a larger problem which is...

3. I need to have a personal stake in my work.
I meant this both as a command and a source of reflection. I've been wondering why I could perform so well in the past and the answer was glaringly in my face.

I was at the centre of all the projects I did well in, with patient people working with me. This time, the project was initiated by someone else, carried on and then passed to me. So inheriting a project has its challenges out of all is the sense of having a personal stake at the project we are taking over.

I need to make it mine, and to make it mine - it means I need to find some kind of personal stake. In the past it was because I was working with my friends or people I know well. Now, it's a strange environment with conditions out of my comfort zone - I need to find my footing again. So this is what I'm going to do:

My personal stake is in my colleagues and professional family: I owe it to them to do good work if not they will suffer. And seeing how much pain uncaring can result in, I should not become like them.

My personal stake in my work is the very fact that this is meaningful work, and I should be passionate about the brands I'm working on, or at the very least, care enough to know that many people out there will see the message, take advantage of the current sale fare, opportunity, or even take away some inspiration from the advertising messages I'm putting out. It's about engaging a community and creating communities through my work. I think having this social meaning is an important meta-driver that will fundamentally change the way I see my work.

In the past, I didn't see my work as important, and being very junior in the company, it is inevitable to feel insignificant and have a "let-go" attitude. However, I'm grossly mistaken because I"m expected to also have a stake,  and my bosses want my input in many things. So I should take this as an opportunity to consider adding my stake in this meaningful work.

4. I need to constantly remind myself that mistakes occur all the time, but every incident is a lesson learnt, not a bucket of tears.

Today I wept a little because I was grossly disappointed in myself for being such a loser. The whole negativity just kicked in and almost triggered a downward spiral. I was being frustrated at myself for messing up big time and dragging someone's wits and stress levels up at my carelessness.

I think it's also a moment of realisation after the fact (to be specific, 8 hours later), that my negativity is going nowhere. It's not gonna help me, and I want very much to get out of the rut. I've tried objectively to look at this and see what a lesson I can draw from. First and foremost I think I learnt more about myself, and coming to these conclusions is already a good step forward. Secondly, I understood how my supervisor felt, and I appreciate her honestly in sharing her feelings with me. Thirdly, I learnt how to recover from criticism when in the past I would have just crumbled away.

So from now on: I'm gonna take a break by taking a walk to cool down before coming back to continue with my current work when I feel like the dam is breaking. If I'm feeling really vexed due to a bad day, I need to go somewhere to air the bad vibes before attacking the issue again - I would.


It's such a challenge to step out of one's comfort zone to attack something that you've never tried before. Having to unlearn and re-learn new things after being so deeply entrenched in school is something that most people will find a challenge. I need to constantly remind myself that it's a bad patch we all have to go through some day - and the constant faith that this will lead to a better place is something I'm holding on to. Like what my supervisor said, as new things come in, the things I'm weak at will never fade, but what we can do is grow the list of things that I'm good at.

I think fundamentally, it stems from having a personal stake in things, and after that usually the rest will follow. But until then, I'll just have to be extra careful by asking myself those questions and pacing down my work before submission.

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