I write really slowly. Always have. Which became a problem back in law school…
In the first year of law school, your grade for an entire year in many classes is based on a single exam. And, most exams were essay. Old school, handwritten, blue-book style. The exam would offer a 10-page fact-pattern scenario, followed by a single question that read:
Please identify every potential cause of action, the parties involved, the arguments on both sides, the applicable laws, then resolve each one and explain your reasoning.
You’d get about 3-hours. Most people would read the fact patterns, then about 20-minutes in, start furiously filling the pages of blue-books with everything they could think of.
Not me. I couldn’t. I write so slowly that I knew I didn’t have the time to spew a mountain of words onto the page and trust that most hit the mark. While most people around me ended up filling 5-10 blue books, my cap was about one.
For me, every word needed to hit the mark.
So, I got into the habit of reading the scenarios, then just sitting quietly. Often for two of the three allotted hours. Thinking. Ruminating. Formulating, constructing, arguing and resolving in my head, with only the occasional note to recall my process when it was time to write. My M.O.—modus operandi—was almost entirely internal. It had to be, because I knew, once it became external and I began to write, every word had to count.
It got to the point where those around me got freaked out on a fairly regular basis…
They were either concerned that I’d frozen under pressure or confused and annoyed by the relatively small volume of content I would generate, compared to them. And, truth be told, it freaked me out, too, walking to the front of the room to turn in my single blue book, while those around me handed in stacks of the same made me question my own process.
But, that was my personal M.O.—my “modus operandi. My authentic process.
And, I knew from prior experience that when I relented to the pressure to do what everyone was doing simply because that’s what everyone was doing, it always ended in frustration and disaster.
Interestingly enough, this same process has become a large part of the way I operate today on a professional/entrepreneurial level.
I have developed a reputation for “coming out of nowhere…”
To me, that’s kind of laughable. No such occurrence.
Because, while people see me hit the ground running at an unusual clip for a newbie, what they don’t see is the massive amount of quiet research, study and practice that has gone on internally, often behind closed doors for days, weeks, months or years before.
And, I’ve discovered, too, that my M.O. is so different from most people that it can lead to conflict…
Because we all tend to think that everyone operates similarly to the way we operate. And, we also generally believe the way WE do things is the BEST way! It’s gotten us this far in life, so why wouldn’t everyone do everything the way we do it…the best way?
We don’t acknowledge or validate the M.O.s of those around us, because they’re so different from ours.
How often have you found yourself asking someone or silently wondering, “why in the world are you doing it THAT way?” And, the answer is often, because that’s THEIR M.O. It’s the way they operate, their personal problem-solving, lifehacking, moving forward style.
You may not like or agree with it. And, yours may, in fact, BE better in terms of productivity or objective results.
But their process is an integral part of who they are. If you attack it…you attack them.
If you take a moment to step back, acknowledge and try to understand the difference in operational style, you’ll have a much better chance of
- (a) discovering why someone’s doing what they’re doing,
- (b) working together more effectively, and
- (c) maybe even bringing them around to explore whether they can get comfortable trying out your process, if you believe and can demonstrate it truly is “better” and not just different.
So, for example, because my process is hugely internal, I spend a lot of time in what appears, from the outside, to be time “lost in contemplation.” But, in reality, what’s happening on the inside is an intensive analytic process (okay, so maybe I spend a solid chunk of time just zoning out too, hey, I’m only human!).
What most people do on paper goes down largely in my head.
That can leave those around me (read “mindblowingly cool, rockstar wife”) wondering why I seem to be slacking off or stalled for extended periods of time, when in reality, there’s a ton of work and progress going on, but it’s happening in a way that is hard to see or validate from the outside.
Knowing that my wife’s process is almost the exact opposite from mine, then, I try to check in with her and let her know what’s going on in my inner world on a regular basis.
When I can remember to do that, we both end up pretty content.
And, when I don’t…things don’t go nearly as smoothly.
So, I’m curious, what’s YOUR M.O.?
What’s your big picture process?
Does it match well with those closest to you or strongly conflict?
And, how do YOU handle this?
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