It occurs to me that life is like a giant relay race. So, in the spirit of the 2021 Summer Olympics, I’m going to belabor the analogy of passing the baton. Humor me.
Have you ever thought that you’re the only one who can do something correctly? That if you ask your sister or your co-worker to take care of it, the outcome won’t measure up to your standards?
Am I the only person who thinks competency can sometimes be a curse? There’s certainly a distinction between being capable and being amenable. Just because I know how to spot a spelling error a mile away doesn’t mean I’m willing to proofread your kid’s term paper.
While we may think we’re simply competent at something, others may consider us to be an expert. It’s a compliment for sure, yet it’s often undeserved. And it sometimes it can be an imposition, an inconvenience, and even an insult.
My niece, Lisa, is a lawyer. Any time anybody has a legal question, they turn to her. I’m sure that Jason the chiropractor, and Angela the nutritionist can commiserate. What starts out as flattering often times becomes exasperating. Apart from the obvious “just say no,” how can we avoid the curse of competency? Or are we better off embracing it?
How to Avoid The Curse: My suggestion is to align yourself with others equally competent. “There isn’t anybody else,” you say? If you’re struggling to get everything done at work all by yourself, try delegating. Take a leadership stance and teach someone else a specific skill. Provide them with the information and tools to be more successful, and while you’re watching the metaphorical flower bloom, two positive side effects may occur: (1) you are lifting up another person; and (2) you are easing your own work-related stress.
How to Embrace The Curse: If you’re passionate about the areas in which you excel, then what’s the problem? I know I’m a good speller and proof-reader, so I often volunteer to help others. If they view me as the go-to, I feel flattered and honored. On the other hand, if you have discovered the joy of a sourdough starter but don’t want to serve as the neighborhood baker, you might want to explore Plan B. It’s practically impossible to embrace the curse of competency if you’re not all in.
While you’re at it, remind yourself about making smart choices. You can say “no” without being mean or abrupt if you simply don’t feel like utilizing your curse at any given moment.
That being said, maybe it’s time for me to make a smarter choice about using the word “curse.” I think I’ll rename my ability to spot a typo as a talent rather than a curse. And whether you’re building up your leadership resources or nurturing your passion, maybe it’s time for you to do the same. Why not call yourself an expert? Or the anchor in your own life’s relay?