For more than 7 years I worked as a radio anchorman. Basically, all I had to do was to read the news out loud. Into a microphone, that is.
Working as a radio anchorman is interesting. A lot of people get to know your name, you enjoy a few perks every now and then and, what seemed to be pretty cool at that time, you get to be recognized at parties, if you tell your name loud enough. “Oh, you’re the guy who read the news at Pro FM! Didn’t know how you look!” Yeah, back in my twenties working as a radio anchorman seemed a very interesting thing to do – not to mention it was incredibly easy: I was basically living by talking outÂ loud.
The Need For Change
But at some point I felt the need for a change. I was doing pretty good both in terms of money and career, but still… It was at that time that I started to be interested in the online world too. I’ve always been fascinated by the digital world, but never been interested in build a career on top of it. But after working a few years in the traditional media world – which, by the way, is not a very friendly place to be, always challenged, filled with gossip and back talking – I felt the need for a change.
In 1997 I quit my job as a radio anchor and applied for a job as a quality assurance engineer at a Franco-Romanian company. What’s funny about getting that job is that I never had any specific training for that. The company needed a person who knew French very well, who didn’t know programming very well, and who was able to write long – and sometimes, very long – reports in French. That was, apparently, what a quality assurance engineer had to do.
I admit I didn’t exactly knew what I had to do in the first weeks. I got an office in an isolated room and a computer. I was all alone in there. Nobody came to tell me what I have to do, they just informed me about the projects that were developed in the company and that was pretty much all. I also admit that I didn’t insisted much to find out what I have to do. It was a comfortable situation. For a few weeks I did practically nothing. Becoming friend with my colleagues and scratching the (infant, at that time) internet for whatever crossed my mind doesn’t really count at work, I guess.
But after a month or so, my supervisor came and started to work withÂ me. In a few days we completed a small training. I finally discovered what I had to do. And also discovered why the fact that I didn’t know how to program was somehow an advantage. Because part of my job was to test all the apps, confront them with the specifications and write reports for the clients. They didn’t need a programmer approach on those app, but a customer one. Based on my reports, a client could accept or reject the app, and also pay or not pay the required amount.
The projects were really boring, like software for assurance companies, with a lot of niche specific features, or software for managing parks or supermarkets. Nothing fancy, just a lot of windows, menus and forms. Things were spiced a little bit by the fact that the terms were in French. Did you know that “onglette” means a tab controller? Or that a “requette” means in fact “an SQL query”? Well, these little things made that job a little less boring.
I started to test a few projects and also begun to write the documentation. In a few weeks we were visited by some clients. It was the first client session after I started to work in the company and they used my reports to evaluate the work that has been done. Until that time, I didn’t really had any social interaction with my colleagues. We were only talking during our lunch break and the only conversation subject was about jokes. We were actually telling jokes for all our lunch break. Also, the fact that I wasn’t a programmer made me a little bit alienated. I wasn’t from their league, I was just a strange guy who gave up a fancy job at a radio just to write stupid documentations in French.
The client visit went well and they did pay for the work. Everything was cool. I was also happy by the fact that I’ve written dozens and dozens of pages in French. Now this seems strange, I agree, but at that time something as small as that could make me happy. 🙂
Anyway, a few days after the first client visit I noticed a small change on my desk. It was a fresh cup of coffee. Ups. A fresh cup of hot, strong coffee. At first, I thought it was a mistake. So I went to the kitchen and asked if somebody forgot his fresh coffee on my desk. Nobody did. One of my colleagues told me, with a rather shy voice: “it’s your coffee. You don’t take sugar, don’t you?”. “Nope, I didn’t” I responded, puzzled. Back I came and enjoyed my coffee, as puzzled as I was.
A few days later I also noticed a little change during our lunch break. Every time I was entering the kitchen, (that was the space were we all meet for some chit chat), there was like half of a second of silence. First time I saw this, I gently went out and checked out my zipper. It was closed. Huh? What are they staring at, then?
After a few more days, as I was entering the kitchen in the first lunch break of the week, one of my colleagues got up of this chair and offered it to me. I was completely overwhelmed. Not only the whole behavior of my colleagues shifted, but I suddenly wasn’t an alien anymore. They talked to me, they were looking for my company, they were even doing some small errands for me, if I asked them.
Then it hit me. The whole situation changed after the visit of the clients. At that point my colleagues realized something fundamental for their job: I was validating them.
If I was writing a good report, the client would have pay. They would have cash in their wages. I was a strong link in their financial ecosystem. So, they needed to protect me, or at least to have a (very) good relationship with me. It never went up to the level of bribing me for a good review, no need to think that far, but they completely changed their attitude towards me.
And the fact that I was validating them remained. I was a very important person to them and that change completely their behavior.
After 1 year I left that company and started to work for myself. Never met any of my colleagues again.
The Validation Process
We do a lot of things in our life for validation. The simplest one I can think of out of the box is a job. You have a supervisor who validates your work, and who pays you accordingly. Or you have your own business and you have a client who validates your work and pays you accordingly. Either way, somebody else have to validate your work first.
But a job is just one of the simplest validation processes. We do expose many more activities for validation. We need to be validated socially, by our peers, our colleagues. We need to be validated by our friends.. We need to be validated by our spouses or kids.
Every time we do something to “please” somebody else, we’re triggering a validation process. If we perform as the peer expects, we receive validation. If we don’t perform well, we don’t receive validation.
Sometimes validation comes in form of money. You did your work well, here’s the money. Sometimes it comes in form of emotional support. We had a “friendship contract” and if we fulfill it, we both receive validation from the other part. If we disappoint each other, we don’t give or receive emotional support.
But some of the most subtle, yet powerful and long lasting validation processes are taking place in your childhood. Your parents are the first and most powerful persons in your life. They’re also the ones who are giving you education, and education is always enforced by a validation process. “Don’t put your hand in the fire, or you’ll get burned”. If you don’t put your hand in the fire, you receive validation: “Bravo, you did well”.
Whatever activities you are performing regularly as a kid, chances are that many of them are becoming unconscious validation processes. As a grown up, you will performing them again and again, without even knowing. Some of them are shaping the choice of your partner, for instance, or the choice of your career. Some of them are shaping the way you’re behaving socially. Some of them are shaping the way you create and maintain relationships.
It’s hard to evaluate how deeply ingrained are all these process and on how many areas of your life are they spanning. Fact is those validation processes are most of the time the foundation for the scripts which are driving your life. They’re also part of the unconscious games you play.
And what’s also very important is that you can get in the position of being a validator without even knowing. That was the case with my job as a quality assurance engineer. Never imagined that I will literally have power over my colleagues wages. Yet still, that’s what I did.
Who Do You Give Your Power To
The people who validates you have power over you. That’s the most important thing about validation.
Every time you expect validation, you give your power away. Sometimes this process is a genuine one, and at the other end there’s a good person who will empower you back. A fulfilling, balanced relationship, in which any of the peers are genuinely supporting each other is a good example for that. Your partner just had a promotion or a personal breakthrough and you’re supporting him. You validate his efforts. Genuinely. It’s joy and enthusiasm involved. Both of you are walking away empowered by the validation process.
But sometimes, at the other end there is a person who chooses to take your power away.
A picky manager who gives you more and more complex tasks without showing recognition or proposing you for a promotion, that’s a disempowering person. He asks more and more from you , but he deform the validation process. You don’t get much validation, and you feel demotivated. Your work will seem more and more meaningless. And will start producing bad results too .That person uses the validation process to disempower you. An empowering person would give you more chances for promotion, or recognition.
One of the simplest, yet fundamental personal discoveries in my life is that every person who uses validation against you is a toxic person. Literally. You can get ill if you still engage in a twisted validation process. You are giving your power away.
Live Validation Free?
Now I know what you think: if we are so deeply affected by this validation process, can’t we just avoid all together? Live a completely validation-free life? That way we could just preserve our power and we won’t give it away.
My honest take is that we can’t. We do need validation in order to function as human beings. We’re not isolated. We’re not islands. We do exchange energy at many levels and we all need that energy. Without it, we will be just shipwrecked persons, trying to preserve and live only on our own energy. Which will eventually drain away.
Validation in itself is a very powerful process. It can leverage huge amounts of energy. It can completely shift the way you perform at any levels: emotional, physical, spiritual. But that shift can occur in any direction. It can take you up or it can take you down.
So I say it’s better to embrace this game, but play it consciously and pick your own validators.
How To Choose Your Validators
Now you understand why validation and the persons at the other end are so important. Because it’s a power game. And it’s about your own power and how you choose to use it.
My personal option is not to give up the validation process, but to enhance it. To get the most out of it. To harness all the power I can get from all these interaction.
How does this work? Well, for those who are reading my blog for at least one year, the answer is quite simple: I’m just using a simple life management framework, called Assess – Decide – Do.
1. Assess The Process
Assess what the validation process involves. Is it money? Is it emotional dependence? Is it social acceptance? Whatever the validation process will enforce, must be clearly defined.
For instance, if you’re going to a job, assess what exactly you wait to receive in terms of validation. Is it only money? Ok, in this case don’t look for (nor be deceived by) social rejection at your work. It’s what you assessed that you want: only money. Nothing wrong with that, as long as you consciously assess it.
If it’s a personal relationship, assess what you want in terms of what you give and what you want back. You want to commit totally or you want to balance it with some personal freedom every now and then? Be crystal clear on that.
2. Decide On The Validator
Decide who the validator will be and how the process will be handled.
If it’s about your job, decide who EXACTLY can give you validation and don’t take into account anyone else. If it’s just your manager, just simply don’t pay any attention to what your colleagues are saying. Get feedback from them, naturally, but don’t give them the power to validate your work.
If it’s a relationship, decide who is going to validate it. Many couple relationships are based on the wrong validator. It’s your wife who validates your relationship, or your friends? Are you dating a specific person because you feel good in her presence, or because what your friends or family will think about you?
This point is fundamental for the whole validation process, just be very careful who is really validating your process.
3. Test And Improve (Do)
This is where you actually implement the validation process. If it’s about your job, this is where you actually do work. If it’s personal relationship, this is where you actually live together. This is the “live” part of the whole process. And at this point, trial and error is the best way to go. Just do a few tries and see how it goes.
If it’s about a job, you’ll see if the results of your work are appreciated. If it’s a personal relationship you’ll see if the other person is empowering you or is trying to confine you in a vicious circle. If it’s a friendship, see if the person at the end is not having any hidden agendas which will break up the validation process at some point.
Rewind and start over.
An Incredibly Fast Homework
Now, that you learned a few things about validation, I’m going to propose you a little exercise, using the simple rules above. It will help both of us to get something out of this interaction. I will be the person who needs validation and you will be the person who can give it to me. The process will be based on this very article. So:
1. Assess This Article
Was it useful for you? Did you learned something? Maybe you don’t agree completely. Or maybe not all I’m saying is of interest or even “valid” for you. Just run a short mental test. Is it worth?
2. Decide On The Validation Process
If you do want to validate me (both by empowering and disempowering me) decide how you’re going to do it: are you going to leave a comment? Are you going to promote the article? Maybe by putting a link back on your blog? Maybe on social media, like Twitter and Facebook? Or even Delicious and Digg? Make your pick.
3. Do It
Just do what you decided above. Leave a comment. Or send this article to your friends. Or do nothing.
You will validate or invalidate my article. 🙂