The Danger of Knowing Yourself, Becoming Formidable, Self-Efficacy, and More

Bring Ambition Newsletter - December 18, 2020

First and foremost, a warm welcome to to all new subscribers! Thank you for being early adopters in this experiment.

In the Bring Ambition Newsletter, I share 5+ things that are fascinating me lately in the world of professional development, the psychology of performance, meta-learning, lifestyle design, and more. You'll find unconventional, tactical resources, cool gadgets, mini-essays, and interesting articles, to name just a few...

Without further ado, enjoy this week’s edition of the Bring Ambition Newsletter!

1.) The Danger of Knowing Yourself

Here's a big realization I had recently:

In the past three weeks I've been trained and accredited to use two different personality assessment tools to better serve training and coaching clients. [1]

The biggest lesson for me? Beware of labels.

Counterintuitive, right? These are assessments used to measure and define the dimensions of one's personality.

But in personality and beyond, once you slap a label on yourself, you shut the door to other possibilities. You limit your potential.

Think about the labels you've applied to yourself, or the ones others have given you. Have they been empowering or frustrating? How much have they helped or hurt you?

In reality, being unidimensional is the exception, not the rule. Human beings are unbelievably flexible, creative, adaptable. That's our superpower.

The point of a personality assessment is really to raise self-awareness. To understand your preferences, and what drains vs bolsters your energy. It's not to stick you neatly into some category and leave you to decay.

Even Carl Jung, the psychologist whose theories inform many contemporary personality assessments, stressed the ultimate importance of Individuation - the lifelong process of integrating all aspects of your personality, psyche, experiences, and subconscious to become more well-rounded, versatile, and formidable (more on this later).

You want signposts, not labels. Indicators that point you in the direction of maximizing your potential, not some narrow identity that limits your growth. You want to crush the unhelpful scripts running in your head ("I just can't do ____, because I'm ____").

You can double-down on your strengths, but don't use them as crutches. You can learn to flex your style and shore up your weaknesses, so long as you remain judicious with your energy levels. 

Just remember: a label is nothing more than a starting point.

[1] MBTI and Insights Discovery, for anyone interested.

2.) NEW Article:

I just posted Self-Efficacy: The Key to Performance, which quickly became the most-viewed article on the Bring Ambition Blog.

Whatever your performance area (work, academics, sports, etc.), the first step to excellent performance is to understand where it comes from. A big part of that answer is self-efficacy, the beliefs you have about your own capabilities, effectiveness, and ability to marshal the resources necessary to produce specific performance outcomes. In other words, your sense of how well you can execute in order to be successful in an endeavor.

This article explores the concept of self-efficacy, how it differs from self-confidence or self-esteem, and more, complete with a story about a man who surfs tidal waves.

3.) Being formidable

What got me thinking: Earnestness by Paul Graham

Paul Graham is the founder of Y Combinator, a fund that invests in and mentors early-stage startups. He frequently writes about what makes a good startup founder, e.g. in the article above:

"The highest compliment we can pay to founders is to describe them as 'earnest.'"

He goes on to say that earnestness, coupled with being formidable, makes a founder unstoppable.

He's just about covered the "earnestness" angle. But the article resonated with me because, if I had to explain the point of Bring Ambition, it's about becoming formidable. Helping excellent people get even better.

Being formidable is a cross between being effective, tenacious, relentlessly resourceful, and of course, ambitious. It's being willing to ask “What's the worst thing about ____ that needs to be fixed as soon as possible? …and then actually fixing it (Fill in the blank: Insert something personal that you really care about, like a pet project, your business venture, or... yourself).

4.) Tool I'm experimenting with:

New Home Needs vs Wants Checklist. Plan on buying a home/condo/etc.? Use this nifty checklist to determine your must-haves vs nice-to-haves-but-not-deal-breakers. Be strict about what you identify as a must-have, and feel free to add in your own items at the end.

5.) Article I'm reading (+ a nice infographic and video):

Kurt Vonnegut's 8 Shapes of Stories. If you’re interested in Joseph Campbell, archetypes, or the hero's journey, then you'll enjoy this unique take from Kurt Vonnegut. He explores the 8 "shapes" of stories, which was the basis of his master's thesis. Bonus: my favorite Vonnegut book.

As always, I'd love feedback on this newsletter. What did you enjoy? What's the worst thing about it that needs to be fixed as soon as possible? Reply here, or you can reach me on Twitter or Instagram.

Have a great weekend!

Jon D'Alessandro

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