February 14, 2024

The moment the interview is over, assume you didn’t get the job


You can’t go fast if you’re stuck in the past.

The only way to move forward with any degree of speed is to let go.

Here are a few strategies for doing so.

First, don’t embark a quest to find out why something happened or didn’t happened to you.

By all means, allow yourself to feel sad, rejected, confused and angry when outcomes aren’t ideal. But conducting a post mortem on every single life moment isn’t a prudent use of your time and energy.

If you didn’t get the job, close the deal, or book the gig, well, that’s simply what happened. It’s over. It’s already in the past. Time to move on.

I’m reminded of the best career advice my mentor once gave. She told me, the moment the interview is over, assume you didn’t get the job.

That mantra so profoundly changed my life, it’s hard to find the words for it.

I never looked for a job the same way again.

Because this new assumption emptied me of any expectation for getting hired. It kept me charging forward despite the countless rejections I encountered when seeking employment.

What’s interesting is, my time to hire dramatically reduced once I began adopting that mindset. I started landing new jobs in a matter of weeks, not months or years.

I finally realized, expectations are what let people down, not the outcomes. Outcomes simply are. When we let go of expectations, everything becomes more direct. How we feel is no longer stained by how we thought or hoped we were going to feel.

Another tactic to unhook from the past is not beating yourself up about any event.

Turns out, even if a negative outcome was your fault, being hard on yourself gets you nowhere. This ruthless punishment you administer internally only adds unnecessary pressure. It only locks you into what was.

Speed suggests, forgive yourself for being a human being. Speed suggests, forgive life for being what it is. Speed suggests, learn what you can from your experience and immediately apply that lesson to the next thing.

The opposite of such forward motion is shame. Because when we regret, it’s a waste of spirit.

Look, we did the best we could at the time. Or maybe we didn’t do the best we could. Either way, there’s no benefit to wishing we could go back and change something. Regret paralyzes us more than a bad back.

Talk about velocity killer. Show me a person who isn’t making progress, and I’ll show you a person who is prosecuting themselves for crimes past. And we’re not only talking about major life decisions, like whom to marry, what career to pursue, and so on.

There are also micro regrets that are just as insidious. That shame also keeps us from moving forward. I’ve worked at many companies in my career, all of which included team members whose speed was hindered by regret.

We would be in the middle of launching an exciting new project, and people’s gnawing feelings of shame would start to surface. The fear of missing out, the fear of not being perfect, it all manifested in a petrified posture that screeched our execution to a halt.

People constantly tortured themselves because they were afraid of making the wrong decision. And I’d try to tell them, guys, the right decision is the one we make, and the right path is the one we take.

Naturally, that zenlike mantra only infuriated people further. My bad.

Here’s a third strategy for achieving greater velocity. Let go of your addiction to goals and metrics.

This is a big one in our capitalistic, results driven culture, where everything is either win or lose, success or failure, good or bad. Supposedly, if it can’t be measured, it doesn’t matter.

But the problem with any type of goal is, the person who sets it is different from the person who accomplishes it. You’re not taking into account variable change.

What’s more, failure is just a story. America made the whole goddamn thing up. If you study the etymology of the term, failure didn’t even occur as a word in the public lexicon until the sixteen hundreds.

If you run a keyword search on failure, there are almost zero mentions prior to the fifteen hundreds. Protestant work ethic invented failure as a damning incarnation to control the masses.

All of this to say, if you want to go fast, then let go of success or failure as a metric of worthiness. Focus on a good process and forward progress. Approach your work continuously, rather than as milestones that you either hit or don’t hit.

Hell, thinking back to every job that I’ve held, some of my companies had specific goals, while others weren’t as specific in their targets. But it didn’t impact my performance either way. My work was the same, regardless if there was some magical number I was supposed to hit.

Every day, I still showed up with a great attitude, executed to the best of my abilities with the tools I had at the time, and whatever happened, happened.

In summary, here are the three ways to increase speed.

First, let go of the need to find out why things happened.

Two, don’t beat yourself up about the experience.

And three, admit that goals aren’t helpful.

The last point worth making here is about speed itself. Because understandably, there is a time and place to go slow. There is a time and place to stop.

I’m not so naive as to believe an obsession with speed at all costs guarantees happiness. In fact, there have been many times in my life when I focused on relentless velocity to the exclusion of everything else, and paid the price in the form of stress to my mind, body and relationships.

I’m not here to debate the moral and spiritual value of speed.

We’re all adults here, and we’re smart enough to know that sometimes velocity isn’t our friend.

But in the moments when speed helps, we have to remember that we can’t go fast if we’re stuck in the past.

And it’s funny, because there are over sixteen hundred historical societies and historic preservation organizations in this country alone.

However, history is the number one hurdle to enjoying the present and building the future.

The more willing we are to surrender to what was, the more we can focus our energies on what is, and what might be.

Where do you need to be going faster?