Monday, October 6, 2014

Personal Change

People have a habit of pigeon-holing others.  When you meet someone, they will quantify and classify you.  Sometimes it's good as you're pigeon-holed as:

  • A good person.
  • Fun
  • Intelligent
Other times, you may find yourself being pigeon-holed by others as:
  • Boring
  • Too loud
  • Unprofessional
This pigeon-holing is usually done very early on, and once a box has been put around you, it takes a lot of effort to get people to change their perception of it.  This then leads to a blurring that can be equally hard to shake - for instance if a good, reliable, person makes a monumental mistake once, people will forever think "He's a good guy, and usually reliable, but..."  Sometimes, however, new classifications override older ones to the point that people totally forget the previous classification.  This happened to me in my last job where having programmed Windows for 20 years, just 5 years of iOS programming got me pigeon-holed as "the Apple guy" and so 80% of my previous skills went unused.

Another problem with boxes is that some people, myself included, have a habit of learning new things and self improving. Unhappy with just remaining static, we accumulate new skills and new knowledge that goes equally unused.  Like all years in my life, in the past year I've added multiple new strings to my bow, including learning two musical instruments, improving my electronics knowledge, improving my knowledge of physics, banking processes, perfecting how to bake biscuits (the American kind, that is), cook rice properly, and taken on the new programming language, Swift.  Some of this is applicable to my work as a programmer - knowing how banks work, or knowing how electronics work, or a new language makes a programmer like me become more desirable.  

This means you end up being in the wrong box.  If the box remains unchanged despite these changes, then something is going to break to make you get into a more suitable box.

The two things that can break are:
  1. You stop learning new things and you stagnate because it's not applicable to your job, or your employer doesn't reward self-improvement.
  2. Your current employment stops and you find somewhere that will reward your new found skills.
When personal change means you no longer fit the box that you were comfortable being in, changes and decisions normally follow to correct this.  Being aware of the boxes you operate in and how you influence them is likely the most important thing you can be aware of about yourself.