Have you tried explaining that to an alien?

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I’ve written before about how to help someone new at work, and getting feedback is one of my favorite topics related to being better at your craft. It just so happens that a very underrated way to practice giving and getting feedback is to be in charge of “onboarding” new people to your team (or company, division, chess club, etc), for they are aliens.

Have you ever tried explaining what you do to an extraterrestrial?

Imagine an alien comes to earth with the intention of working here on planet earth. Imagine you bump into them at Starbucks one day and, despite the fact that the alien is drinking tea and not coffee, you strike up a friendship over a shared love of the Starbucks breakfast sandwich.

Anyway, they want to see how you work so they shadow you for a bit. They eventually land their dream job and need you to shadow them to make sure they don’t screw it up. All along the way, your mind is blown by the questions the alien asked you never thought about. You notice things the alien does that you never considered.

You end up learning just as many new things about your world and how you can improve as they do.

You even try drinking tea! It’s not good exactly, but at least you can say you tried.

See, an alien will see and try things in a way another human can’t. The same analogy applies to your new people and your work.

I recently started working on onboarding new people full-time (we’re hiring) and it’s an incredibly uplifting and endlessly fascinating experience. New people are excited, energetic, and positive! They make me see things from the perspective of an alien. Everything is shiny and new.

In this week’s issue of The Art of Noticing newsletter, the topic of seeing life as an alien is front-and-center. The two excerpts below are perfect examples of the benefits of this way of experiencing life:

In an interview late in his life, Saul Bellow explained that over the course of his celebrated career he had learned to experience everyday life as an alien seeing Earth for the first time might. “I’ve never seen the world before,” he explained—a mindset that allowed him to regard everything he encountered as if it were a thrilling discovery, a revelation: “A beautiful, marvelous gift. Enchanting reality!

In Jen Sincero’s book, You Are a Badass, she describes the Alien Exercise for rebooting yourself and getting some clarity. Imagine you are an alien and you’ve just landed on Earth — into your body and life. Take notice of all the connections, opportunities, skills, possessions and people who love you and can help you. What would you do and how would you feel? I think this is great for brainstorming projects, ideas and new ways to enjoy your day-to-day life.

While anyone can and should try adopting an alien mindset in their work and life, newly hired people are actual aliens. They can show you as much or more as you can show them. Seek out ways to work with them and help them.

Just don’t say I didn’t warn you about the tea.

“It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.”

Napoleon Hill

Comments welcome!

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