How Being a Good Person is Holding You Back

Years ago my wife and I built a new house. We were excited to move in to our new home and start the next chapter of our lives. Everything was new. The paint was fresh and the stickers were still on the windows. The wood floors, oh those wood floors, were amazing.

Whenever someone walked into our home, the first thing that they would typically say was, “The floors are gorgeous!”

For the first few weeks, I was a tyrant about those floors. I didn’t want the kids to scratch them with their toys. I didn’t want a piece of furniture to mar them as it was being moved into place. My desire to keep them pristine was causing me to behave like a jerk.

Then one day, it hit me. What if I thought about the marks on floor not as a sign of imperfection, but as a sign of our lives and times in our home?

Suddenly, the Lego scratch was a reminder of our little boy. The mark from the couch being moved caused me to recall the night my daughter had a sleepover.

Here’s my point. I was caught up in what has often been called the thick of thin things.

My desire to keep the floor perfect (a thin thing) was impacting my ability to create beautiful moments and warm memories (thick things).

What Dolly Chugh Taught Me

I recently interviewed bestselling author and New York University Stern School of Business professor, Dr. Dolly Chugh for the Leadership Lab podcast.  We discussed her book, The Person You Mean to Be: How Good People Fight Bias. It was a terrific and informative conversation which ties in well with my wood floor experience.

After living in our home for a short bit of time, the floor wasn’t perfect; it was flawed. I too am far (FAR) from perfect; I am flawed. And, so are you. Striving to keep the floor perfect held it back from being the beautiful and sometimes messy example of a lived in home. Working to come across as a good person holds all of us back from being a beautiful, messy, and better version of ourselves.

What Are Your Wood Floors?

I don’t know where you are in your journey, or what roles you fulfill in your life, but don’t let yourself become caught up in the thick of thin things. Here are a few questions to get you thinking about the thin soup of things that might be trapping you:

  • Do you ever become overly focused on how things get done and lose sight of where you and your team are actually going?
  • Have you fallen into the trap where the metrics look great on paper, but no one is learning anything?
  • When was the last time you boldly asked – or attempted to find the answer to a question – knowing that inquiring upsets the status quo?
  • How often do you prioritize short-term relationships over the people that are closest to you and most important in the long-run?

Dolly Chugh is right. Striving to be a good person is holding all of us back. I for one am going to embrace being a bit less good and lot more better.


Photo by Neven Krcmarek