I hope you are enjoying your Friday. Welcome back to another episode of Ask Ash, where I interview WatchMojo Founder & CEO Ashkan Karbasfrooshan and ask him questions about various topics, ranging from what is going on in the news, to career advice for students & entrepreneurs.
Today, I wanted to talk about anxiety & confrontation in and out of the workplace. There have been plenty of instances in jobs that I have had in the past where I have seen people deal with anxiety, and nervousness. Being nervous, and having anxiety are two different things, but I’m sure that we all have dealt with some form of nervousness from time to time.
I asked Ash his thoughts on how he deals with confrontation & anxiety, and if he worries about what other people think of him.
1) Do you worry about what people think of you?
Honestly, human beings get to a point in their development and evolution where eventually, they don’t care about what others think. I don’t know if that’s a function of age, a given milestone, a series of accomplishments… but I clearly have seen successful people and newsmakers get to such a moment where they become comfortable in their own skin, confident in where they’re at, or simply realistic enough to realize not everyone will understand, let alone like you. P&G’s John Pepper was a well-liked executive who became CEO after a series of tough, disliked execs. But he didn’t last long, because “he agreed with the last person he spoke with.”
Personally, I got to that point in 2019 when I was 41!
Beforehand, I really did care because I wanted people to recognize that I wasn’t self-serving and was trying to make optimal decisions for the greater good. But eventually, and this isn’t PC but I realized that some people don’t share your perspective, principles, or values. Someone very successful once said you’re going to find yourself around average people… I found that harsh but it’s not false. I found that some people are somewhat selfish, self-serving, envious, bitter, jealous, etc. So it didn’t really seem possible or even healthy to care about “everyone” because not everyone manages the sins vs virtues well, they give in to greed or envy, and so on, so why care about “everyone.” Better to focus on recruiting and retaining good people, even (especially) if they disagree in a constructive manner: It’s impossible to get every single person to share a sentiment.
So, on one hand, I still think that people who say “I don’t care about what others think” are actually saying “I no longer care” or “it’s not possible to have everyone like me therefore I don’t care.”
There are all those clichés about how “it’s better to be feared or respected than liked” and there is some truth to that, but I think that the most successful people just learn to block out the noise, pick up the few signals that help they get better, and stick to their convictions. It’s served me far better and the organization is in a better place now that we don’t worry about “everyone.”
2) How do you deal with confrontation in the workplace vs. at home?
I think it’s healthy and part of life. I don’t understand how you can have improvement and progress without confrontation. Of course, I have a few golden rules about respect, courtesy, diplomacy, and so on but I also tell people to just have a thick skin and not expect people to avoid confrontation or sugarcoat things too much because then it’s a waste of time and the message gets lost.
For me, at home, it’s a bit of an extension of the office because I have this unique reality of having started WatchMojo with my spouse who is along with me one of the five co-founders – all of whom remain involved in the business. That is something I take great pride in and I think it shows a lot about my temperament, diplomacy, and ability to pick and choose my battles. I feel too many people cannot say thank you, you’re welcome, or I am sorry, and that basically creates a lot of needless and destructive confrontations whereas I’ve built more of a culture and communication that is more constructive and ultimately productive.
No company is perfect, no culture is perfect, but show me a 15-year-old digital media company that has remained on top of its game for over a decade, never letting people go over financial missteps while retaining a relatively large proportion of its top employees… they don’t really exist.
So to your previous question, if I was trying to get everybody to like me I probably would’ve ended up keeping the bad apples and driven the good ones away… therefore another takeaway is not to have everybody under the sun agree with you or like you but to focus on those whom you respect and value the most.
3) For someone who deals with anxiety, what strategies do you use that help cope with it?
I definitely don’t want to say that a lot of the anxiety is in one’s mind, self-imposed and not warranted, but I think the key is to just understand how we amplify those sources of anxiety and create bigger tension that maybe does not exist or is not merited.
We live in a society where, unfortunately, we care a lot about what our peers think, what our neighbours think, what our friends think, even though all of those people have their own sources of anxiety and insecurities, so once you start to peel away the triggers that are self-imposed, the ones that are causing much anxiety to become easier to manage.
When I started my career, I was in such a rush to accomplish things and successful, that I wasn’t really enjoying the journey. I would literally write down “breathe relax enjoy” on sticky paper to remind myself to pace myself. Now obviously aside from that, the usual tips are important: a proper diet, lots of sleep, lots of fluids, and having hobbies – whether it’s cooking, playing sports, travel – to have something else to do.
Lastly, if you want to submit questions to Ash directly, you can do so by clicking the link here: https://watchmojo.com/suggest/AskMojo%20-%20WatchMojo’s%20founder%20Ash