How to cover up your fatal flaw

When did it become acceptable to embrace the characteristics that others have identified as detrimental to our mutual professional success? 

I suspect many of the people who trot out their fatal flaws are attempting to create a defense shield to protect themselves from further criticism:

"You will not speak of my fatal flaws because I have mentioned them first and am therefore immune to your potential condemnation."

It’s a classic offense-as-defense strategy.  That approach may work for a while but eventually it prompts some pointed questions: 

"If you know you talk too much, why do you continue to take up all the air time?"

"If you know you are considered dismissive, why do you believe it is in your best interest to denounce the perspectives of anyone who thinks differently than you do?"

"If you know you overpromise and underdeliver, what makes you think people will continue to take you seriously?"

"Why do you assume steamrolling over others is a sustainable strategy?"

It is good to be self-aware. But demonstrating self-awareness, while at the same time showing a lack of discipline to fix issues of concern, is worse than being clueless about our shortcomings. When people close to us offer consistent and considerable feedback about a behavior that is not serving us well, we need to listen up.  Dismissing feedback that does not comport with the way we see ourselves is understandable, but it is not strategic.

The most effective people I know sometimes whimper for a bit after receiving constructive criticism, but they quickly put a plan in place to modify the annoying or offending behaviors. By doing so, they demonstrate respect and appreciation for those brave enough to share difficult truths that are offered with the very best intentions. We need our colleagues to help us be better, but they can’t help if we’re not listening. 

Allison Vaillancourt writing in the Chronicle of Higher Ed   

The people who can help you see yourself for who you are

Romantic partners and close friends might be more informed, because they’ve observed you more—but they can also have blurrier vision, because they chose you and often share that pesky desire to see you positively. You need people who are motivated to see you accurately. And I’ve come to believe that more often than not, those people are your colleagues. The people you work with closely have a vested interest in making you better (or at least less difficult). The challenge is they’re often reluctant to tell you the stuff you don’t want to hear, but need to hear.

Adam Grant writing in The Atlantic

The Advantage of Disadvantages

The big dream in our society is that if we work hard enough, we will eventually be able to experience a life without limitations or difficulties. It is also one of the biggest sources of friction in our society, creating disappointment, unnecessary suffering, and missed opportunities to live a full life. Some people spend their entire life waiting for that which will never, and can never, happen.

Limitations are not necessarily negative. In fact, I’m beginning to believe that they can give life definition, clarity and freedom. We are called to a freedom of and in limitations—not from. ...Unrestricted water is a swamp—because it lacks restriction, it also lacks depth.

The conclusion we arrive at all depends upon how we look at our limitations. Consider this late-night phone call I received one night. The voice on the other end inquired with great enthusiasm: “What does it mean for a horse to be handicapped!”

She hadn't identified herself, but I knew who it was. Leigh is a very special friend, and we’ve been through much together. She not only suffers from severe cerebral palsy, but has faced other, sometimes even more severe, difficulties- like losing her family at an age too young. Her feistiness and tenacity are not only her hallmarks, but are a contagious influence on us all.

I responded to her question, “Well, Leigh, I’m not exactly into horse racing, but as far as I understand they usually handicap the strongest horse by adding a little extra weight to make the race more fair."

"Yeah, I know!”

The she asked: “What does it mean if you handicap a golfer?”

Well, Leigh- again, I’m not really sure. But as far as I understand the rules, they handicap the best in order to make the game more exciting. The better the golfer, the larger his handicap.”

“Yeah, I know. And what does it mean when a bowler is handicapped?”

After we explored a number of sports, always reaching the same conclusion, there was a rather long pause. Then she said, with bold simplicity. “That’s it!”

That’s what, Leigh?” I replied, not understanding.

“That’s it! That’s why God gave me such a big handicap.. because I’m so special!”

It was one of the finest statement for tenacious dignity in spite of circumstance that I have ever heard.

Tim Hansel, You Gotta Keep Dancin

We're all a Mess

I have spent the past five years peeking into people’s insides. I have been studying aggregate Google search data. Alone with a screen and anonymous, people tend to tell Google things they don’t reveal to social media.

While spending five years staring at a computer screen learning about some of human beings’ strangest and darkest thoughts may not strike most people as a good time, I have found the honest data surprisingly comforting. I have consistently felt less alone in my insecurities, anxieties, struggles and desires.

Once you’ve looked at enough aggregate search data, it’s hard to take the curated selves we see on social media too seriously. Or, as I like to sum up what Google data has taught me: We’re all a mess.

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz writing in the New York Times

The Flip Side

Most people are aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, but many people miss the flip side. While someone might be weak on confrontation, the flip side is that they are probably good at finding creative ways to get along with others and create harmony. Someone might be prone to make rash decisions and yet that same quality makes them ideal in times of emergency when quick action is critical. On the other hand, some people who are slow to act may have the upside that they are through and reliable. When you find your own or someone else's weaknesses, don't forget the up side.

Stephen Goforth

wired to blunder

We're hardwired to make blunders and avoiding them requires nearly superhuman discipline. Four tendencies conspire to sabotage our decisions at critical moments:


We think we're smarter than we are, so we think the stocks we've chosen will deliver even when the market doesn't. When evidence contradicts us, we're blinded by...


We seek information that supports our actions and avoid information that doesn't. We interpret ambiguous evidence in our favor. We can cite an article that confirms our view but can't recall one that challenges it. Even when troubling evidence becomes unavoidable, we come up against...


We like leaving things the way they are, even when doing so is objectively not the best course. Plenty of theories attempt to explain why, but the phenomenon is beyond dispute. And supposing we could somehow fight past these crippling biases, we'd still face the mother of all irrationalities in behavioral finance...

LOSS AVERSION (and its cousin, regret avoidance)

We hate losing more than we like winning, and we're terrified of doing something we'll regret. So we don't buy and sell when we should because maybe we'll realize a loss or miss out on a gain.

These tendencies are so deep-rooted that knowing all about them isn't nearly enough to extinguish them. The best we can do is wage lifelong war against them and hope to gain some ground.

Geoff Colvin (from his Fortune Magazine article "Investor March Madness: We're Wired for Blunders, but can Improve Odds")

Irritation with Others Mistakes

The imperative person has very idealistic expectations. Only the best is acceptable. Frailties, common to our humaness, are despise. The result is a strong tendency to look up on anything less than ideal with disdain. That's why imperative people often admit, “I get irritated when other people make mistakes.” or “I tend to do an important job myself because someone might not do it right.” Or “I get impatient when other people can't understand what needs to be done.”

So, clutching onto our high ideals, we tend to hold ourselves above others. False superiority is felt. Condemnation is communicated. Annoyance is a constant companion. Relationships suffer. (All the while), the impaired person must cling to correctness.

Les Carter, Imperative People: Those Who Must Be in Control

The Pit

You have become acquainted with disappointments, broken dreams, and disillusionment. Crisis seems to be your closest companion. Like a ten-pound sledge, your heartache has been pounding you dangerously near desperation. Unless I miss my guess, negativism and cynicism have crept in. You see little hope around the corner. As one wag put it, "The light at the end of the tunnel is the headlamp of an oncoming train." You are nodding in agreement, but probably not smiling. Life has become terribly unfunny.

Tired, stumbling, beaten, discouraged friend, taken heart! The Lord God can and will lift you up. No pit is so deep that he is not deeper still. No valley so dark that the light of His truth cannot penetrate.

Charles Swindoll, Encourage Me