In life, there will be times in which you will look into the mirror and you won’t either recognize or like the person you are looking at. In my case, it has been because of the following two reasons:
In order to fit into the culture I was working within, I had to be someone other than who I really am.
I had become so conscious of losing what I had achieved, I became so risk adverse that I was playing “Not to lose” instead of “Playing to win.” I refer to it as “When you let your blessings become burdens.”
In the first reason, I was having to wear a mask when I went to work so that I could look, talk and act the part. The longer I wore the mask, I started realizing that I was not taking it off when I got home. One night, I looked into the mirror and didn’t recognize who I was. My breaking point came the next day when I met with my mentor the company had assigned me. He was very senior within the organization. He told me he thought I should start going by “Jim” instead of “James” because he liked it better. I snapped and responded, “If you like it so damn much, why don’t you change your name to Jim.” Needless to say, that was the day my mask came off. As I told people what happened, I found that almost all of them were also wearing masks. Me being myself allowed them to be themselves. The word “Authentic” became part of my personal brand. Once I became a general manager, I focused on people bringing their authentic selves to work, as long as they were respectful to others. I also started freeing up people to work on one project, whether it was within the company or community, that they liked doing. Productivity went up and stress went down. An example being, people worked on their own time to build innovation centers at both Georgia-Pacific and Medtronic. Others started high school internship programs. Also, during performance reviews, I stopped only asking people what their goals were but started asking them what they liked doing. Note: All jobs will have some things about them you won’t like but will have to do. In addition, there will be some things you will have to do to fit in, but you don’t have to lose who you are to do so.
In the second reason where my blessings had become burdens, I found the more career success I had the more my material possessions increased. I was spending more time thinking and worrying about keeping them. They had become my identity and I had become way too materialistic. It dawned on me when I was participating in a strategy session. The strategy would expand my role into an area that was completely new to me. My boss asked me if I were up to the task. I naturally responded, “Yes, I am.” However, in the back of my mind I started wondering if I was, and if I wasn’t, I might lose my title and material possessions. I had never thought about failing before. My strength had always been my adaptability and confidence in my ability to learn. My possessions had become walls, and I couldn’t look past them. I didn’t like who I was looking at in the mirror. I then thought of one of my grandmother’s favorite sayings, “Keep on looking up.” It caused me to realize I was focusing on the wrong thing: The blessings instead of the Blesser. The scripture “I can do all things…” came to mind and my doubt went away. We successfully implemented the strategy.
The mirror test is one that you should take at least once a quarter. If you don’t know the person you are looking at, you are not being true to you. If you don’t like the person you are looking at, look up instead of around.