Do You Suck? Self-Awareness and Ego Check

By: Alex Shattuck

Know your strengths and weaknesses. Leverage this awareness and mindset to maximize efficiency. Do this even if it means spending money.

Years ago I had a leak from an upstairs bathroom that caused damage to the first floor ceiling below. I had a plumber take care of the leaky pipe, but to do so he had to cut out a nice sized chunk of drywall. Now personally, I’m one of the least “handy” men I know so when I saw this I asked the plumber if he had anyone he could refer me to for the drywall repair. I went on to get this drywall guy on the phone to let him know I’d like to hire him to fix the drywall. I explained the size and details of the problem. He was a super nice guy and went on to describe in great detail all of the steps to complete such a task and ended with a, “so yeah, the last thing you’d want to do is waste a few hundred dollars on this when you can easily do it yourself and save money.” I had absolutely no understanding as to what he was trying to get me to do, and was not any closer to being able to solve this problem because of his instructions. I was still lost in the sauce but did what many insecure males would do in that situation not wanting to seem unmanly. I responded with a, “Well yeah, of course!”

As soon as I hung up the phone I immediately regretted not coming clean and confessing that I can’t even build a Lego set, let alone repair drywall. This is actually true. One Christmas, my gift was a huge ship Lego set. I took one look at it and then let my older brother put it together. If you ask my brother about my inability to complete these types of tasks, he will be quick to share with you his theory. 

“Alex never developed that side of his brain because I did all of those types of things for him.” 

So yeah, I was now stuck with a hole in my ceiling and no game plan as to how to fix it. At this point in my life though, I didn’t have as great a grasp on protecting my time as I do now so I decided I would take this on myself and prove that I was man enough to complete such a task.

After several failed attempts, many Google searches and YouTube videos, multiple trips to the hardware stores (yes plural), I finally was able to say the task was complete. Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t complete it the right way, but I was able to McGuiver my way into putting it together enough to feel good about my work. I felt good about the outcome but what I didn’t feel good about was the miserable experience I had throughout the process and the amount of time wasted on the project. What would have taken the professional under an hour, took me the better part of six. I would have gladly paid him a very inflated amount for that job if he would have given me an out, or if I would have come clean about my skill sets. 

This story isn’t necessarily about me not having self-awareness, but more about ego. Having a self-awareness problem means you don’t know you suck. Having an ego problem means you know you suck, but don’t leverage that awareness because you cater to your ego. Some struggle with self-awareness AND ego. When you can start to become more self-aware AND keep your ego in check you will be closer to a self-optimized state.

Having a self-awareness problem means you don’t know you suck. Having an ego problem means you know you suck, but don’t leverage that awareness because you cater to your ego.

  Let’s look at the story through a financial lens. I will start by asking a question: Was this a smart financial move on my part because I saved a few hundred dollars on a contractor, or was this a bonehead decision because of the value of my time? For me the answer is clear. For simple math, let’s say my time was valued back when this took place at $250/hour. That means I spend $1,500 worth of my time to save $300. ($250×6 hours)

Now if your time is worth $20/hour and you are a handy man or woman and complete such a task in an hour then that’s another story. Let’s do the math: the difference between $300 and $20 of your time plus $30 in materials still puts you ahead $250 on this task. 

Continue to work on becoming more and more self-aware. Be honest with yourself and solicit feedback from individuals that will give you honest feedback. Do this while keeping your ego in check and you’ll maximize your time. Be complacent here and you’ll never be operating in a true optimized state. 

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