“Learning to Trust My Gut”: Keith’s PLB Journey

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At Next Jump, every new hire goes through PLB, or “Personal Leadership Bootcamp.” PLB is a safe environment for new employees to identify their “backhand”—the thing that holds us back from reaching our full potential—and develop practice grounds to tackle it. Keith shared his journey with us on his struggles with trusting his gut reactions.


My journey through PLB has been interesting, for lack of a better word. I think when I first started out, I thought I had everything figured out. To be honest, it was a lot more arrogant of an approach than I had initially imagined. I thought I was very self-aware, knew all of my personality flaws, but I was totally wrong. I remember saying to John [Keith’s Talking Partner], we should try passing the first round—no one’s ever done that before and we wanted to be the first pair to do that.

I found out that I was very stubborn and resistant to change. Because for me, I want to have a good reason to change. I was looking for a very strong failure to drive me to change something about myself and honestly looking through the events at Next Jump so far, nothing really stood out as such a strong failure that pushed me to change my personality.

So for those reasons, I was struggling a lot. I was looking for answers from other people. As a very analytical person, I wanted someone to tell me that this is the right path to choose. So it was quite a struggle for me. And I remember a common theme between us was that I was looking for ways to change with a “should” mindset rather than a “want” mindset. Because people were telling me, I should do this, I should do that. That was the wrong narrative to have. I needed to have: I “want” to change this about myself.

So going into the details, I iterated every time I went through a round of PLB. My first backhand was that I hated losing – very outcome focused. This eventually evolved into “I felt like I needed to prove myself,” which then changed into, “I was afraid of being wrong.” The fourth one I arrived at was a little bit closer, which is that I lack care and empathy for people. Basically all of these things were symptoms of what my actual backhand was.

I remember asking my mom, “does this sound right?” And she’d always point out all the flaws in the things that I thought were my backhand. The judges said all of your backhands aren’t quite right. They sound like symptoms that could be interpreted as good or bad. So now I’m left at…what’s the fifth iteration? I never really had an epiphany or a turning point which led to this fifth iteration. But I think that looking back at things that happened – for example, when we sponsored HackMIT – there were so many unknowns. Then going into that, not having any experience, I struggled a lot and I sat and I thought about it and what I came to realize was that I don’t trust my own visceral reactions. This is what has become my fifth iteration of my backhand. Meaning to say that I don’t trust my gut reaction or my intuition, and I don’t trust those gut reactions from those around me. That’s a subtle key point and because of that, I end up suppressing my System 1 thinking [your intuitive thinking or response to a situation]: I don’t feel very opinionated; I take too long to make decisions; I overthink everything. I tend to get too wrapped up in details rather than stepping back and looking at the big picture. And then to relate to my fourth iteration, I end up not having a lot of empathy or I have trouble relating to other people.

So a lot of this came out in Academy [a three-day full immersion workshop designed to share and teach programs around our learnings becoming a deliberately developmental organization (DDO)]. I was silent a lot. I felt like, especially interacting with new people, there were so many unknowns…I could not rely on System 1 thinking, my intuition. Having said that, there’s still a lot to work on, but I’m glad that PLB brought these things to light.

Stepping back, PLB doesn’t have a lot of structure, and I think both of us struggled because of that. But looking back, that’s on purpose. PLB purposely is set up so that everyone has to make it their own and tweak it to their own desires. You have to figure out what you want to change about yourself. For anyone who is currently in PLB or about to join PLB, it’s a little hard to give tactical advice. But, I would say definitely take advantage of coaching, especially your TP. Your TP is your greatest coach. I think that our relationship really ended up working out because we figured out where we sit in the “monkey-fish” spectrum [a set of terms to denote diversity of thinking. For more information: https://bit.ly/2zdoFcW%5D. He’s more of the monkey. I’m more of the fish…maybe. And, realizing that and playing that to your advantage is definitely helpful, and helping each other find blind spots. We eventually figured out that it’s not about passing [PLB] after all. It’s more about exploring and trying new things. Figuring out what works and what doesn’t work and then adjusting to fit your needs. The final piece—more related to me—is that it is important to look for subtle details in your behaviors, but definitely don’t overthink things, which is something I tended to do.

PLB was a good start to our journey of growth. I thank everyone who helped me along the way, especially my TP, and I’m looking forward to our next chapter at Next jump. Thank you.

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