Happy woman in front of orange background presenting big red gift

A couple of weeks ago John, one of my all-time favorite clients, called me up almost in tears. John is a teddy bear of a guy, the size of a linebacker with a genius IQ. As a successful software engineer, he’s done well in his career so far, and yet his company just passed him over for the second promotion in a matter of months.

“They didn’t even interview me,” he told me.

I know his resume, and when he read me the job qualifications, it really did sound perfect for him.

“Actually,” I told him.  “This is a great opportunity, but you won’t be able to grab the gifts if you fall into the blame traps.”

“What are blame traps?” he asked.

Blame Trap #1 – It’s the other guy

  • Those %*#& guys don’t know what they are doing 
  • They’re afraid I’ll show them up
  • It’s a political thing – no one has a chance in this operation

Blame Trap #2 – It’s me

  • I’m not good enough, smart enough, tenured enough . . .
  • I was too pushy, ambitious, greedy . . .
  • I didn’t really want it anyway, it would have meant more work and the risk of failing was too great.

If you feel like “It’s the other guy”: you are probably just deeply afraid that it might actually be you, and it can feel easier to keep up your defenses and project your anger outward.

If you feel like “it’s me”:  you might be feeling equally terrified: What if it were all true?  What if am really that way?  I couldn’t live with that possibility. We are afraid our faults or weaknesses are ALL of who we are and it’s devastating. That’s the trap. But your vulnerable points are never all of you. And luckily, you do not have to be perfect to have Yippee in your life!

I explained to John that if he doesn’t fall into these traps, there’s a big FAT opportunity waiting for him – the opportunity to learn about himself through others. 

“But you have to be willing to be vulnerable and ask some questions.”

John, a go-getter who really wants to find his personal yippee, agreed right away.

So I explained that no matter how hard it is, he should probably schedule a meeting with the people who passed him over so he could ask them what (the hell!) they were thinking and gain more information. First, he needed to sit down and have a meeting with himself.

Conversation with Me

  1. I have gifts and talents that can bring value to many situations.
  2. Whatever I hear about myself is something to consider, not necessarily to believe.  I get to discern what part applies to me and leave the rest.
  3. I’m NOT trying to rescue this opportunity or get a reconsideration.

Conversation with the Other Guy

  1. I accept the decision you have made and appreciate the chance to be considered.
  2. I’m committed to always upping my game and it would be a great favor if you’d be willing to give me brutally honest feedback.
  3. What did you see as my assets in this situation?
  4. What did you see as my liabilities?
  5. If I were ever to seek a similar situation in the future, what suggestions do you have for my being a more compelling candidate?

This is not the time to tell them why they are wrong, which is good, because that would be really awkward. It’s a time to listen and take notes. Then thank them for their time and willingness to talk. Take what you’ve heard and check it out with people who know you best.

Where is the grain of truth?
What are you committed to exploring?
What is the gift you’ve been given?

John found out that he was coming across like he didn’t really want the job. He portrayed himself as being in really high demand because of special talents. This is true, he is in high demand, but he still has the time and energy for this promotion! The grain of truth, the GIFT, for John was that his fear of not being good enough had led him to act “overly important,” which then led to his being seen as “not good enough. In other words, he created the very outcome he was trying to avoid!!

In order to get the job, John didn’t have to act anyway at all; he just had to be himself. He had everything he needed to get the promotion. And more!

That’s a big gift: Yippee is not about being braggadocios or self-effacing: It’s just about being REAL.

Gifts come in a lot of strange packages, and sometimes they look exactly like rejection!

When you feel rejected, passed over, or at a dead end, start asking questions!! You might get some surprising answers that can actually open you up rather than shutting you down.

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About The Author

Elizabeth B. Crook's picture

Elizabeth B. Crook is CEO of Orchard Advisors. For over twenty years, she has worked with CEO's and entrepreneurs to think and act strategically to grow their companies' bottom line and have more overall satisfaction. She has a gift for making sense of complex situations and mapping them so creative and practical approaches emerge. Clients speak of her insight, skill, authenticity, and willingness to ask the hard questions in a gentle way. 

She is also the bestselling author of Live Large: The Achiever’s Guide to What’s Next. Recent media features include ForbesFast CompanyDaily WorthPBS Next AvenueThrive Global, Conscious Company, and BetterBook Club.

A mother, grandmother, and ardent hiker, she lives on Music Row in Nashville. 

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