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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Failure-attracting tendencies in career

In my career research, I have found that some traits 'attract' failure. I call them FAT - failure attracting tendencies- traits. These traits are such that they constantly tend to place a person into a 'structure' that leads a person unwittingly into a situation that attracts 'failure'.One such FAT trait is 'Inability to ask for help' from our friends, elders, mentors and our well wishers. Be it finding the right course or the right job after graduation, we need to obtain information from others to guide us. We should not be like Manoj.

I met Manoj, of about age 30, during one of my family trips to South India. Early morning, after waking in the morning, he asked for a sweet 'Sonpapdi'. I thought he wanted a high dose of calorie. Later i discovered that he keeps on eating lot of sweet during the day. I found that he also liked vegetables cooked in Masala. Not surprisingly, he complained about 'acidity' on day 3 and vomited. Reasons for acidity were obvious to any objective observer. When i checked with his wife and family members, i discovered that Manoj refuses to listen to any advice or seek any help on his food habits. Does it require an astrologer to predict that Manoj will face a major health challenge in his 40's?

Why doesn't Manoj ask for help even when he is suffering? Answer to this simple question is not so obvious. In my research, i have found that people like Manoj stop asking other's help or suggestion because his earlier experience of getting help from others has not been 'reinforcing'. This happens due to three reasons.

Firstly, people like Manoj do not know 'when to ask for help'. Without this knowledge, they seek help for everything. Others perceive them as naive simpletons, ready to be exploited. Secondly, even when they know 'when to ask for help', they do not know 'whom to ask'. They ask wrong people who do not have the requisite information and therefore provide too generic advice ! Thirdly, even if they sometimes know when and whom to ask for help, they do not know 'how to ask for help'. They ask wrong questions, and get inappropriate answers. In short, every experience of asking for help results in 'bad' experience. Either people exploit them for asking for help, or even if they manage to find the right person, because of wrong questions they get help that is too generic. This 'reinforcing' cycle consolidates their hypothesis that 'asking for help is not useful'. Slowly and surely, they stop asking for help from others. They become like Manoj.

Over a period of time, due to this accumulation of bad experience, Manoj becomes 'dead' to suggestions from his friends and family. Because people also exploit Manoj sometimes, Manoj stops listening to others. And because Manoj always get generic advice, he feels his case is different from others and therefore other's suggestions are not useful for him. In short Manoj stops listening to other's suggestion and advice.

This however creates a curious situation in Manoj's life. He not only stops listening to advice on 'food habits', he may also stop listening people's advice on other important matters of his life. He 'closes' the system around himself, and isolates himself from others inputs and feedback. He becomes blind to his own mistakes. This creates a classic 'recipe' for an impending failure !

On the other hand, developing this skill of asking for help ( when, whom and how to ask for help) makes a big difference in a person's career. I have found that many students, professionals and entrepreneurs face more than 'normal problems' in their career because they cannot ask for help.

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