The most striking piece of research I found is that people who have an inaccurate self-assessment, who don’t have high self-awareness, derail. They get fired or demoted six times more frequently than people that have an accurate self-conception. It’s not about thinking that you’re great at everything. People who understand what they are good at can move around their weaknesses or the fact that they have a vulnerability. People who think they’re good at too many things or have a difficult time facing the music end up failing six times more frequently than those with accurate self-conception.
For sure. Let’s unpack.
Who said this?
A guy named Carter Cast. He’s the former CEO of Walmart.com. Please note I said .com and not “former CEO of Walmart,” and I think that’s an important part of this guy’s story. Some of the stuff he says and writes is a little bullshit-y, and I need you to think on this. Walmart didn’t care about digital until maybe 2–3 years ago. They still barely do. So he essentially ran a division that needed to perform, but the true top dogs probably didn’t care that much. Just understand that.
Right. It’s a big deal.
But why is it important?
Cast frames this around work archetypes. So you’ve got “characters” like —
- Captain Fantastic: Type-A go-getter who helps no one (we’ve all worked with this guy)
- Version 1.0 Guy: Can’t change or learn anything new (ditto)
- The Whirling Dervish: “I’m so slammed!” (100x yes)
All of these people lack self-awareness. Here’s how:
- Captain Fantastic: “I’m the true star around here. I don’t need anyone else.” (Good luck.)
- Version 1.0: “This one thing I do well — I move shit from Column A to B — will keep me set for life here.” (LOL.)
- Whirling Dervish: Isn’t really productive; rather is just busy. There’s a difference.
When you lack self-awareness, you’re basically just running yourself in circles or setting yourself up to fail/get chucked under a train when revenue erodes.
How is that productive?
It’s not. But why do we keep doing it?
In the simplest terms, no one really understands what “work” is.
So there’s that.
Work is a place you spend so much time, right? Well, as a result, it has deep psychological ties. Deep. And we try to ignore that and make everything about process, then lie in big meetings and claim it’s all about “purpose.”
Let me set it straight for you.
For the people that run stuff = it’s about money.
For everyone else = it’s about proving you are relevant and worthwhile.
That’s really all it is.
But because we need to lie to ourselves to get through it a lot of time, self-awareness isn’t exactly at a premium.
Makes perfect sense, but also derails careers and team productivity.
Can we get more self-awareness?
At an individual level? Sure.
At a corporate level? Absolutely not.
You can go listen to some “thought leader” meowing about purpose and all that, but it doesn’t matter for shit.
At a low-to-middle level, work is about tasks. Boxes. “Tell me that was completed.”
At a higher level, it’s about money.
Pretty much that simple.
It’s just a question of whether you can fit self-awareness into that pie yourself.