Learning to Be Awesome at Anything You Do, Including Being a Leader by Tasha Eurich (Transcript)

Tasha Eurich at TEDxMileHigh

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When was the last time you had no idea what you were doing? Okay. I’ll go first. How does that sound?

A couple of years ago, I decided I wanted to learn Spanish in preparation for a trip I was taking to Mexico. I know French, I thought how hard could it be? So I did what any self-respecting member of the 21st century would do it to become fluent in a language. I downloaded a Flashcard app on my iPhone.

Okay. Flash forward a few months. My two girlfriends and I had just arrived in Cancun. We leave the airport, we get in the cab. And I decide I’m going to make some small talk with the cab driver. So I confidently state: [Mexican language] Some of you know where this is going now. Okay.

And the look on the cab driver’s face made it instantly clear that I had not just said I’m excited to go to the hotel because I’m tired. What I’d actually said was I am sexually excited to go to the hotel because I just got married.

So needless to say I thought exposed and embarrassed. But what about you? Maybe you are struggling to run your business, fighting to master a skill you need to do your job, or just trying to lower your golf handicap. Have you been meaning to get a mentor or take a class or in my case find a Spanish tutor but you never really got around to it.

You know what I’m talking about, right? It’s that thing you’ve been dying to master. And if you’re a type A person like me, it probably haunts you in the form of a line on your to-do-list that you never cross off because you’re so bogged down in the tyranny of the urgent. Have you experienced that?

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So whether you’re a business leader, an employee, a hobbyist or a beerly cocky player, how much time and energy do you invest to become totally awesome at what you do?

Here is my big idea. When it comes to your own development, you can’t keep waiting until you’re less busy or for someone else to do it for you. No one will truly invest in you but you.

Now my life’s work is to help leaders be better. This passion began in my childhood when I saw the power of leaders to transform people’s lives. Shortly after my parents divorced, my mother started her own business and it didn’t just support our family, it supported the families of the 25 people who worked for her.

And now as a grown-up and an organizational psychologist, I apply the scientific principles of human behavior to help leaders and companies succeed. But a client of mine recently explained what I do far better than I ever could. Here is what she said: “Leadership is my Everest and you are my Sherpa”. Pretty great.

So in the last 12 years of being an executive Sherpa or coach, I stumbled upon a pattern: Three steps for radical improvement that don’t just apply to business leadership, they apply to anything you want to do better. And today I’m going to share them with you.

But before I do that, you might be thinking really anything in short yes, whether you’re a bodybuilder or a bartender, a surgeon or a screenwriter, a violinist or a volunteer, if there’s something you want to do better, these three things will help you become totally awesome at what you do.

Okay. Three things. So we get started. Excellent.

All right. Step 1 is to know thyself. Here is the bottom line: Most people are completely delusional about their own skills and capabilities. It’s true. And I can prove it. Researchers Justin Kruger and David Dunning [Cornell University] uncovered this phenomenon which they modestly named the Dunning-Kruger effect. But some of you might be more into NPR than science and you might know it as the Lake Wobegon effect.

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So in a series of four experiments, Kruger and Dunning found that most people completely overestimate their talent. What was even scarier at least to me was that the least competent people were the worst at recognizing their incompetence. Are we bad people? Rarely. Are we stupid? Not usually.

We just live in a world where people hardly ever tell the truth. We’re polite, we’re busy, we’re afraid and then there is the classic frontal attack of: Can I give you some feedback? Now if you don’t run the other way when someone says that to you, you’re probably feeling a little defensive when you hear what they have to say. Aren’t you?

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