Side-step a weakness by assuming a new role

As a bit of an add-on to my recap of learnings from professional coaching, I came across the following story from an interview with John Vervaeke on the Tim Ferris show, where John describes how he’s cultivated a role for himself that side-steps his natural constitution. This struck a chord.

John is an accomplished teacher and has won awards for his lectures, but he is self-described as “pathologically shy” in normal circumstances. As he puts it:

“if you were to meet me at a social party, I’m at times indistinguishable from potted plants, right? Because when I don’t have [the role of teacher] available to me, my natural constitution comes out.”

The thing he noticed was that early in his life he compensated for his shyness by assuming a new role, the role of a teacher. It gave him permission to act differently. A purpose.

This felt eerily familiar.

I remember before my first job working retail, I was afraid of talking to people I never met. Then, once it was my job, I didn’t have to worry about it. This is what I do now, I better do it!

Once I did it a few times, it just sort of stuck. Greeting strangers became ingrained. I was no longer afraid.

The same process has repeated for me over and over in different situations.

For example, I am certainly not someone who broadcasts live video online and speaks off the cuff. I’m not funny or witty and the notion of doing this generally fills me with dread. But once I started doing live webinars on building websites (i.e. my work), suddenly I side-stepped that entirely. I had a purpose. This is what I do! And I found I’m pretty good at it despite not being particularly funny or witty.

“We are who we pretend to be” is a quote from Kurt Vonnegut

You can fake it until you make it or seek out a new role. Either can give you the permission to side-step your weaknesses.

Use whatever works.

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