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My Biggest Mistake: The Professional Mask

I take the microphone and sing my heart out.

It sounds awful.

A grandpa on the countryside of Vietnam – he is half my size – just invited me to his house for karaoke.

Only Vietnamese songs available.

I don’t know when to start singing, what is the required pitch, and how to pronounce the words.

Still, countryside grandpa tells me - via Google Translate – that I am a great singer.

His 5-year old grandchild is more honest: after 20 seconds of my performance she leaves the room with fingers in her ears.

I love the honesty of children.

A virtue we often lose as grown-ups.

Children are completely free.

They don’t worry what other people will think and simply express what is inside them.

Growing up, we are shaped by unwritten rules and social norms.

Sometimes these are helpful guidelines, but too often they are stories we make up in our head to protect our image.

We win our reputation. We lose our authenticity.

I see the same happening in corporate offices.

I have been guilty of this too.

A Paradoxical Path to Excellence

When I came out of university and started working I thought: OK, now the seriousness starts.

Multinationals, big brands, and knowledgeable people.

I wanted to come across as competent.

So I was hiding behind a ‘professional’ mask. 

Swallowing a question because it could be a stupid one.

Not speaking up because I wasn’t sure.

Avoiding a personal story because it may not be suitable for the corporate world.

My thoughts, emotions and behavior were not congruent.

As a result, I wasn’t real.

I was striving for excellence.