The Asymmetric Nature of Inflicting Pain

"How could they do this to me?"

While I may not know you personally, I'm willing to bet that you've asked this question more than once in your lifetime. Worse yet, some of these experiences occurred with people you knew, loved, and trusted. This makes these situations all the more painful because there is an expectation that they wouldn't (or shouldn't) knowingly caused us harm. And in the midst of all the pain, we are left to wonder why it happened.

Making the Unfamiliar Familiar

With less five minutes before my presentation, I found myself making my 4th trip to the bathroom stall where I sat down to try and get my breathing and heart rate under control. A team of executives and principle investigators from DuPont flew a private jet up to Boston the annual review of all research performed and funded under the DMA (Dupont-MIT Alliance). I was barely into my second year of research and, despite making significant progress in the sophistication of my experiments, I was terrified that I was going to get bombarded in the Q&A period.

Say What You'll Do; Do What You Say

One of the most powerful ways to build trust is the simple-but-not-easy process of making and keeping commitments. It's simple because it only takes two steps: you make a commitment and then you make it happen. It's difficult because it's incredibly easy to overcommit one's capacity, overestimate one's skillset, and overstate one's desire to see it through to completion. In fact, the asymmetric nature of the two steps almost makes it inevitable that some agreements will be broken or renegotiated to something more realistic.

The Components of Trust

Do people trust you? It's a serious question because it greatly impacts how effective you'll be in those relationships. In high trust situations, decisions can be made quickly, there is no need to second guess a person's intentions or abilities, and the occasional miscommunication can be dealt with in a straightforward manner. Contrast that with low trust situations where decisions need to be discussed in great detail or even require lawyers to get involved.

How Will You Show Up?

Dread, worry, anxiety: these are just a few of the emotions that most people experience as the alarm goes off on Monday morning, signalling the end of the weekend and the start of getting back to "the grind." Most of the time this negative emotional state lingers around like a dark cloud with the only glimmers of light piercing through is hope that it'll all be over soon. The hope that we'll "get through it" so we can get back to the weekend.

But Do THEY Know That?

One of the most challenging problems in web/software development is the disconnect between the front-end user experience and the back-end development complexity. I recall many times spending weeks teasing apart and solving a very difficult problem only to show the result to a client and receive a facial expression that conveyed "is that it?" This can be immensely disappointing for both parties. The client may feel a lack of appreciation of their needs and their budget. The developer may feel a lack of appreciation of the result they delivered and the value they bring to the table.

Running on Empty

There are few things more embarrassing for a teenager than having to call your mom to come rescue you. However, there I was on the side of Route 5, my car completely out of gas. Had I just taken 5 minutes before I left Amsterdam, I could have made it home without issue. But through a combination of overconfidence (e.g. "I have plenty in the tank to make it home") and being oblivious (e.g. "Oh shit! I didn't see the gauge drop below E"), I found myself having to waste a good hour waiting to get picked up and then having to suffer through the ensuing jokes.

If Only I Had the...

  • Time
  • Money
  • Skills
  • Experience
  • Access to the right people
  • Courage to take a chance
  • Approval
  • Willingness
  • Motivation
  • Assurance that it would work first try
  • Balls
  • Authority
  • Buy-in
  • Right strategy
  • Right timing
  • Right moment
  • Right company
  • Right coworker
  • Budget
  • Information head of time
  • Full backstory

If. If. If. If.

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