March 22nd, 2013

Learning about yourself.

Today I was given some feedback in the form of a score, along with some written supporting feedback. This score sheet was based on other peoples expectation of me and how this held up against the actual outcome in their own view. The score was between 1-5, 1 exceeding expectation, 5 being something like shut the door on the way out.

When I first looked at the score, I had already said to myself that although quite fun, the score on its own and without the written feedback does little to actually help me. However, I wanted to think about the score a while before reading the feedback.

As I went through the scoring, I was reminded of my first school, of university, and of various other times in my life whereby a score had been used to assess me. Similar to these situations, I listened to my feelings, comparing them to my own expectations of myself, and as is often the case in these sorts of situations, internally debated how things measured up.

At first look I seemed score average, a few below, and one really low one. I thought about it for a while, and concluded this was probably quite fair. I respect the people I work with, and this seemed believable. These were perhaps all areas I am quite sensitive to, and am always trying to improve, and so could easily find a reason for the score as it was as I pondered back over the previous months leading up to this feedback. I was reasonably happy and looking forward to doing better next time.

Then a strange thing happened, whereby I suddenly realised what I had done. I had made a mistake in reading the scores. Despite being told and understanding the score system, I had somehow still managed to get it completely backwards. I had been looking at it all wrong, and actually was scoring average, some above, and one very good score. I was suddenly completely thrown.

After going through a process of justifying my score, the previous incorrect score, I was now trying to reevaluate it all over again, and it just seemed all wrong. I almost felt like I didn’t agree, and yet obviously slightly happier, I was still slightly confused.

What seems to have been a benefit of this mistake, is that I learned more about how I look at myself, about how I evaluate what is important to me, and how I wish to improve, than any written feedback would have provided if from someone else’s point of view. Obviously written feedback from others ‘is’ very important, but this only shows me what others think of me, and not what I think of myself. Never have I been really able to closely consider my own strengths and weaknesses from my perspective, and only was I able to come close through mistakingly reading the score and then having to reevaluate myself all over again.

This reminded me of how we think of our strengths and weaknesses. When I consider myself I say I am not working hard enough, not being organised, and not being disciplined. Otehrs are that my writing is not very good, I don’t read enough, and I am anti social. Although, as you might already know if you have met me, or can presume from supporting this blog, that these are pretty extreme views of myself. I can’t obviously start undoing these ideas of myself by saying I am good at writing, or focus, as I just said I don’t think I am. But I also am wondering, that although I was perhaps not good at these things many many years ago, and so decided to do something about it, I may not be like this anymore. The trouble here, is in an undoing of what we used to motivate our improvements of ourselves, creates a fear these improvements will somehow be undone. The moment I say I am now good at something I once was not, I will immediately judge my ability against my own expectations, expectations that how then increased. I move from perhaps what some might say is modesty, to being quite cocky.

When I think about this perspective of evaluation, it does ring slightly true in how I make music. I have often chose to work with less equipment, or specific or restrictive situations, to allow a lower expectation of an outcome. The outcome alternatively seems much greater than expected, and therefore I am able to respond better, or perhaps more comfortably, to any given situation or direction. The result is more a delivery of restrictions and process through limiting or manipulating expectation. If we expect it to be repetative, simple, abstract, we might therefore be able to get into it. If we expect a rugby ball to be round, we are always going to misunderstand the sport. Personally I don’t get rugby anyway… but thats another story.

This all reminds me of those classic words we have all probably heard in some form or another, uttered by particular types of soundman, going something like; “I think your cables are loose” for us to reply “err no, it’s meant to sound like that”.