Today I want to talk about being… dumb:
- It’s okay to do dumb stuff
- Just don’t be dumb on purpose
- And how to get out of your own way
It’s okay to be dumb
Sometimes you do dumb stuff.
Like when you’re learning something new. Or when you are taking a risk that has a big reward. And even when you don’t mean to be dumb (but find out later you were.)
And that’s totally fine.
Without the willingness to be — or look — dumb, you might:
- Never ask for help
- Try something uncomfortable
- Miss an opportunity to learn a new skill
So, is it good to be dumb?
Well, sometimes. But it depends on if you knew it or not at the beginning. And not as in, hindsight told you that you made a bad decision. Instead, it depends if you meant to be dumb.
But who sets out to be dumb?
Don’t be dumb on purpose
I remember hearing this phrase from Jim McCarthy at a Core Protocols bootcamp.
And I thought to myself, “why would I ever be dumb on purpose?” But then it became clear that I was doing a lot of dumb stuff on purpose. Which made me uncomfortable. Then quickly curious.
What am I doing that is dumb on purpose and how can I stop?
Being dumb on purpose looks different to everyone:
- Nitpicking stupid details in a code review… might be dumb.
- Sending that angry email without sleeping on it… might be dumb.
- Proposing yet another change to your work flow… might be dumb.
- Deploying critical production changes on Friday at 4:55pm… might be dumb.
- Telling your boss you’re just not feeling like coming back to the office… might be dumb.
But being dumb on purpose is usually:
- Ignoring past outcomes
- Knowingly doing future self harm
- Taking actions that do not align with our stated goals
How to just be dumb on accident
You’d be way ahead if you were only dumb on accident.
And you can get there by applying some heuristics to your decisions:
If you wouldn’t advise your friend to do what you’re about to do…
You are probably trying to convince yourself an emotional decision you already made.
If you’ve done something like this before, and it did not go well, but you’re about to do it again…
You are probably just wishing that this time will be different.
If you haven’t considered how your decision could go wrong…
You are probably rushing into a choice and will suffer the consequences later.
If you haven’t asked for help recently…
You are probably setting yourself up for a painful correction when you get unexpected feedback.
Limit your downside
Frequently ask yourself, and your teams, “are we being dumb on purpose here?”
You’ll be surprise how often the answer is “well, maybe.”
See you next week!