At What Point Do You Stop Trying To Fit In?


Friday, 4.22pm

Sheffield, U.K.

You gotta keep trying to find your niche and trying to fit into whatever slot that’s left for you or to make one of your own. – Dolly Parton

Life happens one decision at a time – and at any given day you wake up and you are where you are.

Because of those decisions you made.

One of the things I believe is that if something is well designed you don’t need to force it to do the right thing.

For example if you have a good product that the market needs then you will be able to find customers, especially in this day and age.

Of course such a statement is unprovable – and not particularly helpful.

There are many cases where very good products were ignored for a long time before they were finally adopted.

Like the clockwork radio invented by Trevor Baylis, for example.

The challenge we all face is whether we do things the way we are told or the way we want to.

For example, any job you start, any organisation you join, any club you belong to, will have goals and rules and targets.

If the contribution you make is measured in terms of these targets and they can becoming all consuming in some cases.

These goals are there for what seems like a good reason – to provide direction and motivation – but they can also change the purpose of the organisation they are meant to be helping.

But, you say, surely they are the same thing – the goals you write down must match your purpose?

Not always.

Let’s take a hospital, for example.

The purpose of a hospital is to treat sick people and make them better.

The primary purpose anyway.

Let’s say you set a target that every patient must be seen within four hours – then what happens?

People start to focus on the waiting time statistics – and they do everything to make sure it’s inside the target.

That includes sending people to different hospitals or creating an application process to be allowed to wait in the first place.

Very quickly the primary purpose of the hospital becomes the management of waiting times.

And that’s not the same thing as treating patients.

This is an admittedly simple example but it’s a fact that the purpose of organisations are often subverted without them realising.

Deming used to write of many organisations being stable systems for the production of defects, for example.

Now, the point I’m trying to make is that when you try and fit into a plan or process something is always compromised along the way.

In many cases, especially in the early days of your career it can seem like you have no choice – you do things the way the boss wants or you find another job.

You spend your time forcing yourself through square holes.

And this takes effort – complying with the rules and reports and structures and processes can be exhausting and unrewarding.

But the alternative is finding a you shaped hole to go through – and that also takes effort.

You need to find out what you’re shaped like – what’s unique about you and why you’re different and where you fit.

That takes time and experimentation and error.

But eventually, if you’re lucky, you’ll figure out what shape you are.

And then it will be easy to squeeze through a hole shaped like you.



Karthik Suresh

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