The Most Brilliant Thing You Should Avoid

The other day I had an insight into one of my most challenging habits as a leader and how I could stop it forever.

The way it happened was: I had just finished talking to a new coach about my work when I found myself suggesting that we have lunch sometime. And almost as soon as I did, I realized, “I shouldn’t be having lunch with this woman.” She’s probably not going to become a friend, she’s unlikely to become a client, and even though I enjoyed our conversation it was hardly one of the most powerful I’ve had this month.

Then it hit me. The only reason I wanted to have lunch with her is because I could feel how impressed she was, and I wanted more.

Stop Being Brilliant

As leaders we all meet with people simply to show off our skills and demonstrate the vast knowledge we possess. We do this not because it adds value, but because they make us feel good about ourselves and entitled to the power and position we possess.

The problem is that every brilliant thing we do out of need for approval holds us back. They prevent us from doing the deep work that actually helps us become better people and they prevent us from focusing on the parts of our business at the edges of our comfort zone. But we don’t have to do this.

Instead we can choose to face the existential crisis that every successful leader and creative must face. We can choose to create value beyond our own ability, and feel this discomfort of not knowing who we are when people don’t need us. It’s a tricky edge to walk, but also one of the most powerful ones any leader and innovator can face.