Disappointment & Confidence

I wrote this in English because it is a habbit I have: when I’m frustrated, I wrote in English.

It feels safer and warmer because it seems no one will take time to read it carefully when the language is switched.

Today one of our freind told me she decides to resign to brew her drawing skill dedicatedly. She is working with us since Myriad, then Palm4fun, then Testbird. And she is not just a colleague for us, but a talent, honest freind. So I feel kinda upset.

But I know it will happen sooner or later since we join Testbird.

It doesn’t have to be her, but it will happen.

It doesn’t have to be Testbird, but it will happen.

I know it because everytime when you join a new team you will have the disappointment and confidence problem.

On the very first day of the new job. When you walk in the building knowing practically no one. Everyone is pleasant and nice… almost too nice. Everyone (including you) is not quite themselves because everyone understands the power of the first impression. They’re watching every single move and attempting to interpret how these moves might be perceived. It’s exhausting and it doesn’t reflect the natural steady state of the team.

You listen. You talk to every single person who is willing and you slowly form the impression of the tangible and intangible aspects of this group of people. A picture slowly forms in your mind of how it fits together and, as an aside, it’s almost always wrong because your brain hates discord. As quickly as possible, your brain wants a framework that efficiently predicts what is going to happen next. Your initial framework is a calming hodgepodge of past experience combined with your three most recent epiphanies, and you call this weak sauce, 「The way they work.」

And this poor assessment goes both ways. It’s the beginning of the disappointment. You discover your model for them is incorrect. They discover that you are not who they expected. It’s the end of the honeymoon and the fact the end has begun is progress, but it mostly feels like disappointment. You’re in an unfortunate hole. It’s buyer’s remorse. It’s understanding the world is never, ever that simple.

You sense their disappointment, so you listen harder. You push yourself to talk with a wider variety of unfamiliar humans, because you continue to erroneously believe that one of them could tell you that elusive one rule that would explain this particular clan’s culture in a immediately useful and revealing way. You read every decrepit wiki page. You attend every meeting. You’re attempting to rebuild yourself in a new culture and it’s exhausting because you took all of this for granted in your prior gig. You had built blazing fast intuition, but it took months…perhaps years.

Or maybe never.

How can you start climbing out of the disappointment? The only way I know is through small, unexpected wins.

Find something small enough that you can fix it without breaking other things.

No one expected you to fix that; no one even knew it was broken; and no one thought it was that important. When you fixed it, no one really noticed. When the consequences of the fix became obvious, they thought, 「She/He can do that? Hmmm….interesting.」

Your fix is your first legitimate reputation defining moment, because while people were told who you were, they didn’t believe it because people don’t believe what they have not seen.

Disappointment vanishes slowly and quietly each of these small wins. The wins don’t feel substantive or impactful, but they continue to incrementally define who you are to the rest of the team. They start to build a realistic model of you in their minds. You’re not who they expected, it’s not what you expected, but after three months you start to think of this strange place as home.

I wish all the best for her and hope she take the time to relax and learn, and come back not just with her enhanced UX expertise, but also with the knowledge that everybody boarding on a new ship will have the same disappointment problem and you can always conquer it with small wins.

Good Luck!