Stop talking and start listening.
Scott BromanderBlockedUnblockFollowFollowingFeb 10Photo by Jeremy Perkins on UnsplashMy mentor is sitting with me.
They’re explaining where I went wrong in my code.
All I’m doing is listening with the intent to interject and defend myself, trying to regain perceived lost ground.
I want to explain in a desperate attempt to save face.
I know what they are saying has value, but I try and preserve mine, improperly understanding what my value actually is.
The whole process is incredibly painful.
Painful because my pride is under attack.
I’ve personally been in that situation countless times.
Becoming a software engineer via social immersion is an excellent way to onramp quickly, but it can be excruciating.
It also was hands down one of the most difficult times in my life.
All of that said, I am incredibly thankful for that time in my life — I needed it.
Almost a decade later, my code has been implemented into projects for six of the Fortune Top 100 companies.
I cannot share details, but there is something exciting about a tech giant asking for your help solving their problem – followed by phone calls attempting to poach you away from your digital agency.
Never having to worry about career security is indescribable, when considering that prior to this phase in my life, I was facing a layoff with no real marketable skills.
The single biggest trait that contributes to your growth.
Let’s not beat around the bush, if you are here just to see the trait, let’s get you in and out.
But I would encourage…medium.
comIn an earlier post, I talked about the importance of humility in learning.
But how we tactically execute humility in our day-to-day growth is a vast series of topics I want to start writing about.
There is absolutely no better place to start than this one simple lesson:Stop talking, you are about to learn something.
Let me set up the scenario for you.
You have spent the better part of your morning struggling with a problem at work.
At least a solid two hours have been spent on trial and error in a desperate attempt to gain traction on the issue.
You spot where you think the issue is, but need a quick answer.
Instant Messaging is quickly opened up,“Hey, can you help me with this one little thing quick?”A long pause.
In those moments you justify your question again in your mind, and anything more than a quick response will annoy the hell out of you.
At least that is the defence Pride is putting up.
‘Typing…’ appears in the message application.
“I will be right over, let’s take a look at it.
” Your heart sinks — you know in the moments to come, you are going to have to account for what feels like your entire life, all while simultaneously having a panic attack.
Your mentor comes over to not just answer your question, but get to the root of your understanding.
They know that the problem you are having is not what you think it is.
The little fix you are trying to get in is symptomatic of a lack of understanding with the system as a whole.
They ask you to explain where you are.
You think you are having a problem at Step 7, but they are astute enough to know that you actually have no idea what’s going on in Step 2.
As they begin to explain where you went wrong on Step 2, defensiveness kicks in and you start trying to explain why you think you did it right.
You are grasping at straws.
We are wired to survive.
Exposing our short comings is anti-instinctual.
Ever been here?.I have been here – so many times.
In my career, I have not only been a Software Engineer but also simultaneously an educator.
Currently, I help people transition into amazing careers that use programming.
They have been truck drivers, day traders, stay-at-home moms, librarians, data-entry specialists, pizza delivery drivers, to name a few.
I see so much of myself in my students.
‘Kids’, I call them — but I believe they are peers to me, as I myself, did not get serious about programming until well after college.
I have seen and done what they are trying to do.
I empathize with them.
I know it’s not just the code, but also the pressures of family, finances, and life that are factored into the mix as they learn this new, complex skill.
I know all the struggles they have gone through to get where they are when they are sitting with me, and I know where they are heading.
I’ve done this with almost a thousand people.
I am so deeply invested in them – because I project myself on them.
There is something I want you to understand.
I think the world of you.
I am so incredibly proud of you for taking control of your life.
I know you are wicked smart because I put you through the wringer to get to this point that you are at.
I know the dark, unsure, scary place you are in because I have lived there.
I want you out of there just as much as you want out of there.
I want you to be confident in your uncertainty.
Even if you are not sitting with me, you are sitting with someone who is invested in your growth.
We, your mentors, are dedicated to your growth.
It’s not that we don’t hear you.
It’s not that we don’t think you are smart.
We do hear you, we do think you are smart.
But we are also assuming you want to grow.
We are listening, analyzing, and correcting because we care.
We are invested in you and we want to spend time on developing you.
Others did it for us, and we want to do it for you.
I could not see in myself what my mentors saw in me.
Without their foresight, I would have not gotten as far as I am.
When we enter that defensive stance, the one where we are trying to self-preserve through over-explanation, we miss such an important piece of our growth.
There will never be a better time to teach you something than when you are cognitively primed to receive the answer.
In that precise moment of struggle, you are dealing with a specific set of problems, and your mentor can spot the exact fractures in your understanding.
Right then, they can apply the lesson that will seal those fractures.
But they need you to stop talking and listen.
Resetting yourself to not defend, but listen and understand, accelerates your growth.
When humility kicks in and you are able to set aside what you believe your mentor may be thinking about you, you are able to fully immerse yourself in growth.
Growth becomes the only focus at that particular moment.
You are asking a specific question and are able to get a specific answer.
That is what your mentor wants for you.
They are there to help.
If we sit and defend, their help and assistance become invalidated.
They leave the conversation wondering why you asked for help if you weren’t going to listen in the first place.
Or worse, they just think ‘you’re not cut out for it’.
Once I understood that and made the correction, my growth and subsequently, my career exploded.
My questions became more advanced because my fractures in understanding back down the line were being patched.
Once I got comfortable in understanding that the experience of working with a mentor was not about my ego, but about my growth, I received more than I thought possible.
But I had to just stop talking and start listening.