Exchange of Services Request:
I’m looking for someone willing to read this piece and provide feedback. The main issue I need help with is transition between points: (Do I need to explain more or less before I move to the next point?) In return, I would review an equally long document of yours. Let me know if you’re interested.
This is a draft I wrote about my strengths, weaknesses and solutions to address my weaknesses. I’m planning to use it (or some of it) to explain my profile for potential work partners.
Am I the Best or the Worst?
The statements are real statements made about real people or in real conversations.
|A to/about B||“Working with you causes one to have a heart attack.”||“I will not allow you to taint the picture of the company.”||If you don’t like it, find yourself another company.|
|C to/about B||“I learn much more from you than vice versa. I don’t even know if you can learn anything from me.”||“You are my role model when it comes to people’s rights and ethics.”||In the end of a TedX given by person C to the crowd “The talented Person B is the brain and I’m the muscles”.|
|B to/about A||In a half-joking half-serious manner “ (A is) hot-tempered, garrulous and intellectually-bankrupt. He was a major cause of stress in B’s early career. Hence, he was dealt with accordingly. After B’s star started to rise, little is known about A’s life”
|“Maybe if you let go of your cartoonish reductionism and embrace a more nuanced worldview, you wouldn’t be so gloriously wrong so many times.”
|B looks to see if A’s car is parked or not. He realizes it’s not. He feels relief. He realizes that he doesn’t want A to be in the office.
A is not there. B is not kidding when he verbally wishes that A feels pain the same way B felt pain because of him.
|B to/about C||“In need of someone to push me… to tell me I can do it… to tell me that they believe in me….to help me get back on my horse again… to shed some light in a dark place… (in other words, in need of person C ”
|“C believed in me before I believed in myself … from when I was little. He encouraged me and saw things in me that I didn’t see in myself”.||(Because of C), this time in my life is the time I find myself in the most, and I am satisfied the most about myself and I feel that my work is productive… the closest I’ve been to happiness in at least ten years.|
Here’s the interesting bit: Person C and Person A is the same person: Ahmad Al-Assad, my former boss and current colleague at Talentology. Also, we share the same father and mother. Person B is me.
How do we explain this?
Enter the Flip Paradox.
The same skill set and profile that produced those positive results also create my weakness. This is what I call the Flip Paradox: Your weakness is your strength. Your strength is your weakness. This paradox is one of the lenses I use the most to view the world. That lens was heavily shaped and molded by working at The Talentology, the books David & Goliath (by my Malcolm Gladwell) and The Power of Neurodiversity by Thomas Armstrong. What makes something a strength or a weakness is the context around it. The same trait can be strength in context X and a weakness in context Z. Negative things, especially extreme unique ones, can INDICATE that there are underlying or dormant positive things that we’re not looking at. That positive can be turned into a great strength if it is put in the appropriate context.
In fact, one of the descriptions that I include in my So Very Hashem page is كثير الاستطراد “Someone who digresses a lot”. The comment sounds slightly negative but I love it. I only met the girl who described me as such once in my life. But this two-word description is so expressive, eloquent, perceptive and apt that it’s better than much of what I’ve heard from people who have known me for decades. It conveys much more about me much more than a generic cookie-cutter description like “friendly” or “dedicated”.
Digressing a lot is negative because it makes the conversation hard to follow. However, it can indicate that there is a talent or strength lurking: namely, that I have an enormous concern about accuracy and that I look at things from many angles. I strive for to provide an exhaustive account of whatever it is I’m discussing. The opposite is also true. The profile that I explained in the cover letter causes both the positive and negative feedback in this document.
Main Skill Set
My main skillset is analysis, research and writing. If you cut my head open, you will find etched in my brain “Why?” and “How do we know?”. I lust for evidence. Malcolm Gladwell’s description of Nassim Taleb as “the empiricist who doesn’t believe in empiricism” hits home. Research is an obsession. When I put my mind to find an item, I immerse myself in that its world. I find myself diving deep in the ocean of knowledge to find those pearls of a find. “Boiling the ocean” and “No stone unturned” are expressions that really resonate with me. Writing for me is effortful, effortless and natural all at the same time. It’s a compulsion more than a favorite pastime. It is painful and therapeutic. I’m a writer. It wasn’t entirely a choice. This saying about the process of writing puts it well “You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.“
The Bad News and the Good News about My Profile (Trade-Offs)
Time, Team, Tidiness
Here are the issues that come with my profile (negative and positive views)
Among the most serious weaknesses I have is taking a lot of time to deliver the final result. I don’t have a problem in starting on time. My issue is knowing when to say “That’s enough, let’s wrap it up and move to the next thing”. I’m currently trying to understand what exactly happens by using a more rigorous documentation of my work process. When I use words like “obsession” “compelled” and “addicted” to describe my main skillset, there is some literal truth to these words. You can view my inquisitive nature as pathology and strength, a liability and an asset.
Or maybe there’s nothing wrong with the amount of time I dedicate to the task. Maybe the task itself is unrealistic. For example, I allotted an hour to research the generalist/specialism debate as sub-task in preparing for a workshop. This turned into an approximately 40 hours project .Maybe I should expect that arriving at a meaningful useful result in a topic such as this one will take that long.
Another cause is the fishing mentality. If I’m asked to get a fish, I say to myself, hang on a minute, get a fishing line instead so that you’ll be more effective. Invest in the building block now and then reap the benefits for the future. On my way to get the fishing line, I say “no, build a sturdier building block, get a fishing net” then after on the way no nooo a fishing boat…. Then noo a fishing ship…. Then no build the factory that builds the shipping ships first”. In other words, I have a strong macro- inclination
All three causes: meticulousness, unrealistic expectations (both are symptoms of perfectionism) and macro-optimization are relatively easy to manage in comparison to the third cause, which is sense of responsibility. “my work impacts people” is heavy idea. Hurting others thru my work or causing negative impact is a daunting prospect that causes me more time before delivering results.
In defense of myself, I have to say it’s not all my fault. Once we look at the evidence. The chance of having little, zero or even negative impact is likely to appear much larger than we expected. The opposite is true as well, however, having a great beneficial impact seems more likely as well.
Another aspect of this sense of responsibility is being true to one’s word. A job agreement is a sacred commitment to me. I dread the idea of failing the other side of the agreement by underperformance or under-delivery regardless who that person is.
This “debilitating honesty” shows most viciously in copyrights as the example. If I were on my own, I would seek copyright clearances for the training material from the sources I’m drawing material from. This can be a tedious complicated process. As often times, it’s not clear if we have to take permission from the author or not. Often, it’s not clear what is fair use and what is not.
I might be over-cautious in this regard which might be annoying & frustrating to my colleagues as it might delay/complicate/ add expenses to the work (though I’m usually willing to pay the expenses myself).
Which side are you on again?
This issue again stems from honesty. My ultimate allegiance is to the truth wherever it may be. If another company has a superior product or service for a client’s situation I feel I must let them know of their options. If there is something wrong or deficient, I want the client to know about our limits.
If we’re using someone else’s material, I want to make sure we’re ot doing any copyright infringement.
3- Tidiness: The Simplicity-Complexity Trade-off
A common feedback I get on my work is that it’s confusing or hard to follow. I admit I’m not the tidiest person. There are two types of confuse chaos that can emerge. The reader can say
- “I don’t understand what you’re saying” This one is easier to solve.
Simplifying the content for the reader is an important point for me but it comes as the last step in my writing process (in sequence not importance). Thus, much of my pieces should be thought of as drafts. Also, I’m not big on formalities that don’t seem to have a practical value so be aware grammar-Nazis! Lastly, the visual aesthetics of a post is not my strong suit so apologies if you find a post ugly or hard to read. I’m planning to work on this issue in the future (from Freezing Fire; Sizzling Snow on my blog).
I know I know…Design is important. Content will not reach people properly if the format is poor. It’s just my brain is hard-wired to think of design as the last step (from Warning for Designers. on my blog) .
- “I understand what you’re saying but you’re not giving me one clear simple direction”. This one is tough because there’s an aspect to it that is world-dependent not Hashem-dependent: that we live in a world with lots of shades of grey. We do not live in a cartoonish 2d black and white fairy tale. I’m not going to give an easy quick fix if it there isn’t a useful one.
- I’m “All over the place”: there is no one clear direction in my pieces. This is because that is usually the case in the real world. The evidence does not unambiguously lead to one direction. The evidence is all over the place. Painting a picture with one clear unambiguous direction seems to me irresponsible and sometimes dishonest.
The Simplicity-Complexity trade-off (Beautiful Inaccuracy vs Useless Ugly Truth)
Those points relate to the simplicity complexity trade-off. I’m told by critics that “simplicity is beautiful”. My response is: Yes it is, but it is often gloriously wrong as well. Truth is sometimes ugly not only because it hurts but also because the real picture is anything but simply, tidy or symmetrical. It is confusing, unfamiliar and all over the place.
The tradeoff is this: the simpler our account is, the more easy to comprehend and implement it. However, it becomes more prone to error. The exceptions to the rule increase in such a way that you start suspecting that the rule itself is an exception.
I make my account complex to increase its accuracy. But then it becomes harder to comprehend o implement. And if people don’t understand a concept then it is useless to them.
Also, sometimes the account is so cautious that it becomes a tautology saying nothing at all. If I tell you the direction you should take is “maybe north but also likely to be south or it could be the case that is east and I can’t dismiss the west” then I absolutely gave zero direction. It’s 100% accurate and useless. When qualifications like “maybe” are used in my pieces in every other word, the piece turns into a fancy sequence of tautologies.
Simplicity is a high miss risk strategy while complexity is a low hit low miss one.
An example of a too simple model is the hyper naïve use of personality assessments. People love personality assessments. It is looked at a as a simple told that would allow us divide people into four categories. It even becomes more simplistic when those categories have animals attached to them. If you’re a Lion then you’re always strong. If you’re a parrot then you’re always charismatic. If you’re a dolphin then you\re always kind. If you’re a bee then you’re always meticulous. It’s fun, easy to understand and apply. It is seductive to turn a confusing world into a simple one like this where you not only can label yourself but everyone around you. People new to this kind of thing can think that they’re now privy to a secret tool that allows you to comprehend all the complexities of human relationships. The problem is: this is a horribly horribly inaccurate picture human beings. We’re a mixture of all these personalities and our behaviour can change significantly depending on the context.
The opposite way is not to use any labels or categorizations. We will be accurate but that because we’re not saying anything and what we’re not saying anything we can’t be wrong but at the same time we can’t do anything. Life becomes a completely unpredictable and directionless. We cannot live or act as if we have zero presuppositions or labelling. If I’m meeting someone new in Amman, I will begin speaking in Arabic. Based on my preconceived notions, that person speaks Arabic. There’s a chance that this person is a tourist who doesn’t speak Arabic but we give with the default or at least with the best guess.
In short, my flipside is analysis paralysis, epistemic learned helplessness and debilitating honesty. These are things that makes people tell me “You stop sailing boats” “You put the knot in the saw” (Arabic expressions for negatively complicating issues).
I hope I’ll find a framework to overcome these obstacles.
Hopefully, I’ll be able to increase the percentage of positive feedback like this:
Positive Feedback from Others
Keep in mind that these are informal comments, so the language might not be grammatically correct.
Farah Beno (RAHAF, a blog-based magazine and a fellow Amman Writing Club member) described me as having “deep insights and rich resources” when she featured my Zero or Negative Impact: Career Clutter Causing an Existentialist Crisis on her blog. She also commented on my Please Hold On: Your Question Will Be Answered in a Few Years
” Your ability to express your thoughts away from hard academic jargon makes one wants to read your pieces… What makes your writing powerful, which I hope you keep doing in future writings as well, is that you present an informed kind of opinion, especially that we are overwhelmed with blogs where anyone and everyone has an opinion and puts it out there which so often turns to be plain rubbish.”
Dalia Al-Shurman, Founder of Amman Writing Club (AWC) commenting on the latter piece:
“(You need to make a living off of creating Facebook posts because they’re great!)
Your use of references is intricate, and intriguing… The academic additions to a creative work in your case I felt enriched your piece. The psychological aspect, too, and connections, and maintaining coherence, though it is a complex piece, I admire. My only comment would be, maybe, edit form or structure. Other than that, I would definitely be in the audience if this were a creative talk, or lecture, like Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own!”
Have we reached an impasse? Solutions
I do not think the optimal solution to differences between people is to simply put them in the same room and hope that by osmosis we will reach the optimal point in spectrum before killing each other. I think a better way is to engineer our relationship in such a way that would benefit us both given our strengths and weaknesses.
This is a preliminary attempt to optimize my profile given my weaknesses.
A- Work Arrangement: Finding a supervisor or a partner
We means me (Hashem) and my work partner and/or supervisor
- Finding the ideal supervisor/partner: Having a supervisor who is more experienced that me in the SPECIFIC field that I’m working in such as Judgement and Decision-Making psychology (NOT general work experience) who can take informed decisions when I’m in analysis paralysis. That way we/I can move forward without having all the responsibility on my shoulder.
- We divide the project into consecutive milestones, after every milestone, I present my partner(s) with my research results/recommendations and then they choose which of the results/ recommendations we will go with. This way, less responsibility on my shoulder+ we move /progress instead of being stopped by my analysis-paralysis. Then, I start working on the second milestone based on their choices from the first and so-on and so forth.”
- Finding the ideal client/consultee:
A-a client who understands the inherent risk in any action / decision we take in life.
B- a client who can forgive me beforehand for any of my shortcomings and mistakes.
Solutions that just involve me
- Reading and applying books on perfectionism and guilt to understand myself and books about control freaks and bullies to understand those who cause me pain. One of the best beneficial insights that I gained over the years in order to combat perfectionism is “limited resources”. The idea is as follows:
- Perfectionism makes sense only if we have an infinite amount of resources such as time.
- We don’t have an infinite amount of resources so we’re bound to lose points on some of our projects.
- Even if perfectionism allows us to lose less points on issue A, anti-perfectionism still is a better option because it would allow us to lose less total points on issues (A,B,C) combined. We would score less on issue B and C in case of perfectionism because we would have depleted more resources when we get to it. The law of diminishing returns is especially important here.
|Issue A||Issue B||Issue C||Total|
- We are bound to have mistakes in life. I can let it slide if I’m not the person in charge.
- Print out and have in view re-assuring phrases like “to the best of my knowledge” “our best guess”.
- Seeking an expert in OCPD/perfectionism.
Positive and Negative ways to describe where I land on the spectrum of 3 trade-offs
|Quality before Speed||Painstaking, meticulous, diligent||Slow, nitpick|
|Content Before Form||Sophisticated, Nuanced||Sophist, convoluted|
|Meaningful, Insightful, Deep||Hard to comprehend, too complex, not user friendly|
|Accurate, true, evidence-based||Ugly, demotivating|
|Means Before Ends||Honest, fair, principled, ethical||Naively idealistic, not in touch with the real world , self-righteous, hypocrite|
|Unprofitable, not business savvy|