I’ve never liked gut checks. I always believe I’ll fail, that I haven’t the heart to be the man anybody wants me to be. I expect that this is not unusual, that many people are a little raft on a river of self doubt. I also expect that most of those overcome the seasickness resulting from the ride. Get on with it, get it done, and head home to think about something else. Anything else will do. So testing me feels a little cruel: seeing if I can when I do is a bit like holding my tail to see how fast I can run.
I think I failed one recently. I think I sat at a table designed to operate as a forum for a kind of Maoist auto critique of our client relationships and I told everyone how great I was, how good my client relationships were. In doing so I signalled how I am lacking in commitment to improve. Not that I can’t improve, I am well aware of my failings and know when I have to steel myself to overcome them and, most every time I give it a go, I do get it done. But this wasn’t a self improvement exercise. It was something else.
Everyone had to join in and give their management of client relationships a mark out of ten, and with an eye on improving, a low score is the only way to go, just for wiggle room. So that’s what happened, everyone said how ordinary they were. Except me. Not at all, I stood in front of the table array and said I was shit hot. Really.
So I was sent back to the butchers’ paper to have another go and try a little bit harder. So I auto critiqued a relationship with a client I don’t have and did so very thoroughly. I marked myself low and outlined strategies how this relationship might be progressed. I carried on, and advanced the idea that a ten percent improvement in my non-existent relationship would be achievable over the next twelve months. This was deemed acceptable.
Irony was barely plausible.
We went around the grounds and everybody had their bit of butchers’ paper with three or four out of ten scribbled across the top. Everybody demonstrated their commitment to improvement, even their excess of it. Self loathing and self reproach were the flavour of the mentos placed on the table, all blues and reds. To borrow from both Homer and Borges the event was characterised by an incomprehensible reproof that verged upon remorse.
Thing is, I’m not sure who failed the gut check. I think that we were set up to fail, in our own estimation or in theirs, and if you were lucky you failed in both. Lucky me.