How Working Full Time for 2 Years Made Me Think I Knew It All
I Was so Full Of it
I started working full time about 2 years ago and it made me think I knew everything there was to know about my work. I felt smart, confident like my work would change the world. Little did I know, I was the only one that thought so.
Now, I am not an arrogant person by nature but simply working full time for 2 years made me think so. I thought time = proficiency.
Right after graduation, I got a full-time job as a computational engineer which is a blend of programming and engineering.
The first few weeks were like starting any other job, I was nervous and not very confident in my own work. However as I learned more, my confidence in my own work grew. I was even debating with higher-ups on the best ways to do things.
My confidence wasn’t the only thing that grew, my ego did as well.
That meant that I clung on harder to my own ideas. Before I knew it, I thought I knew everything. I fought for my own ideas and was always reluctant to listen to others. I thought I knew best because I had worked full time for 2 years.
Then, I had a rude awakening one day.
It was one of those days where you could feel something will go wrong. It was in the air as I walked out of the house. We were in the middle of a major project and as I walked into the office. My manager messaged me privately.
He told me that I made a mistake. That I had accidentally sent out an email that led to a major misunderstanding. I was so confident in my own work that I didn’t even think twice about checking the emails I was sending out. I was confident that I would get it right on the first try all the time because you know, it’s me.
Well, that mistake caused us a 2-week delay in the project.
I was terribly upset at myself but after all the self-hate and self-criticism. I had this clarity about myself. I understood the error in my ways like never before. I found myself more open to criticism and no longer unreasonably protected my own ideas.
It wasn’t instant though. I spent several months reflecting. Looking through my work and understanding my own behaviour.
Then I came to a revelation. It was so simple but so valuable for me a the time.
I should never think, I know everything ever
It's hard to doubt yourself whilst still being confident in your own work but being open to being wrong can help us grow as people. In Adam Grant’s book rethinking, he suggests that we should all be confident in our own work whilst keeping an open mind that we can be completely wrong. In doing so, we are no longer blind but grant ourselves the opportunity to grow and learn more.
It is a thought that sticks with me every time I am debating my ideas at work. Or even arguing with someone. Yes, I stand firm to my own ideals but when it is so obviously wrong, I try as hard as it is to be open to the fact that I am wrong.
Here is a quote from the book that I often repeat in my head.
I love being wrong, because I am now less wrong than I was before
— Daniel Kahnemen
This is a lesson that has really stuck with me since. Thinking you know everything is toxic and can close you off from amazing opportunities. Not to mention, you risk looking like a fool in front of everyone — like I did.
After this, because I was more open to being wrong. I also found myself open to more things in life which resulted in me being more emphatic, more creative and also just a better human being.
Even if we know this, it can be extremely easy to slip into the idea that time spent = proficiency. So it is good to do some reflecting and rethinking every now and then to ensure that we aren’t overconfident in our own abilities.
Thanks for reading.