How to Immediately Give Yourself an Advantage over 95% of People

The other day I was perusing the Star Trek subreddit, as is my wont, and I discovered a peculiar post.

The post’s author was having trouble adapting to the corporate environment:

A few years ago, I started working on corporate, and the aggressive environment I found was a big challenge to me at the time. I honestly didn't know how to give the best of me as a professional while dealing with the power struggles, vanity and politics I had to face every day at the office.

As always when I'm kinda sad or anxious, I'd binge Trek every night to calm down my nerves. It was then it came to me: one of the many reasons I love Trek so much is because the Enterprise (specially the E-D) is my perfect workplace fantasy.

Let me interject for the non-nerds in the audience.

As per Gene Roddenberry’s vision, Star Trek portrays humans in a utopian future. Most conflicts in on the Starship Enterprise have traditionally been external (the Romulans! The Borg!) or internal (Riker has to deal with finding out that his clone exists). 

Humanity is at peace with itself in the 24th century. Soap operatic conflicts between crew members are kept to a minimum. On shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation, people get along, work together, and never compete with each other.

Totally fake, right? Not a good show to model your work life after?

Carrying on: 

I would deal with that job modeling my "professional persona" as a Federation officer in an exchange program aboard a Ferengi ship or station.

For the projects in which I was subordinate to a boss, I decided to roleplay Spock --I'd be economic and strictly rational in my remarks, orient my work exclusively on scientific data and avoiding any possibly inappropriate socialization. When I had to lead a project, I decided to roleplay Picard --acting more passionate about it, carefully and respectfully listening to my "senior officers" before taking decisions, taking full responsability for my actions.

I understand most of those may sound obvious and it really is kind of a silly thing to do, but the thing is it worked. It worked so well, both for me and the company, it seems, as my performance was appraised by my superiors.

I had to ask myself: why did that work so well? Pretending to be characters from a fictional TV show?

For starters, purposefully emulating competent people probably isn’t a bad idea when you want to navigate the work environment. But I think there’s something else going on here.

Most of us go through life on autopilot, to one degree or another. We carry out certain routines because they’re routines. We focus on our immediate environment because it’s all we can see. In the case above, the author of the post was likely dealing with co-workers who vied for power as a matter of course, not always conscious choosing.

In this case, the mere act of having a unique approach--of having a system at all, really--gave OP inherent advantages.

When someone else encounters an obstacle, their “automatic” responses tend to dominate. This leaves them susceptible to purely emotional reactions and poor decision making.

But to someone emulating Spock--silly as it may sound--an obstacle goes through a filter first. There’s an extra layer of deliberate interpretation going on. Even just taking five seconds to consider, “how would Spock react?” is enough to get an entirely different set of dominoes falling.

One person chooses how they react and the other does not. One person has a system and the other does not. One person wades through the corporate waters deliberately, navigating by the stars--the other does not.

In my opinion, having a system for choosing how you interpret the reality around you is enough to give you an advantage over about 95% of people. 

You don’t have to pretend to be Spock to have a system for deliberate interpretation in place. You only need a system. Maybe you like Star Wars better. What would Chewy do? It doesn’t matter. When you insert yourself between obstacle and interpretation, you give yourself added power and self-control.

In any century.