Questionnaires are the last place you should start. Especially if you’re trying to find out something extraordinary about yourself. In fact, no matter how hard they sell themselves, multiple choice questions can’t give you insights into your own life. Can they?
If it’s an online quiz, then I’m delighted to take it. Especially if it will help me find out which Friends character I’d be (Gunther), or if I’m good at grammar (mostly). Anything that might tell me something about myself that goes beyond the superficial? Sorry, no, my scepticism gauge just shot up to 100.
It was because of work that I first encountered Belbin and the realisation that, no, I wasn’t a completer finisher.
Doctor and monster
If you’ve not come across it before, Belbin is a personality test. It’s full title is The Belbin Self-Perception Inventory. Just as many people mistake Frankenstein to be the monster, it was Meredith Belbin who invented the test. Even though it’s the test not Meredith who wears the moniker.
Under normal circumstance I would have looked at its grand title then done some eye-rolling and hurried past. Much in the same way as you do when you see the guy wearing the Free Hugs T-shirt. After all, questionnaires are about finding out whether a website can guess my star sign from 10 simple questions. (It can’t.)
The position I was in though meant I couldn’t just ignore the test. I had just started a new job and they’d paid a lot of money for the training and tests. Like all good psychological insights, it was mandatory.
There’s no need to worry about your results
Calm should be the order of the day. Whatever you do, don’t try and over analyse these results. The trainer spent a lot of time going through this. Don’t panic. After all, Belbin is designed to tell you where you fit in a team. There’s no good or bad; right or wrong.
Then again, completer finisher was my lowest score. In fact, when I got my results, I had to check if the score had even bothered to turn up on the sheet.
It was official: I’m not good at finishing things.
There is something upsetting about finding that out. worse still, this was an answer that had come from myself. It’s not like when your friend says ‘the worst thing about you’ and you can just turn off.
This message was from deep within me. Not from the bit that knows how to work the coffee machine and loves Rachel. Or that knows ‘They’re waiting for their table over there‘ is correct.
No, this news had shot from my own unconscious. This wasn’t a proclamation from the loud, flashy king. It was a whisper from the hidden adviser who sits behind the throne and mutters in the king’s ear.
What I couldn’t work out was why this little bit of knowledge stung.
Stop me and ask
After all, I finish lots of things. If anyone wanted to stop me in the street and ask me to list something I’ve finished then I could get straight on that. Not top ten, admittedly. Five from the top? OK, it could take a little bit of thinking, but main three. Not. A. Problem.
Finishing matters. It’s achievement. It’s not glory. That’s winning. Finishing is wiping the sweat from your forehead and standing back to admire what you’ve created. Not finishing is losing.
At the risk of sounding like one of those pretend school teachers that the Daily Mail imagine cancel sports day, even coming last isn’t losing. You got there; you did it. Look behind you: those guy scratching their balls on the sofa. they’re the real losers.
Damn. While I was looking the other way, I accidentally became a motivational poster. what next: there’s no ‘I’ in team?
I am a finisher. I am, dammit. My top three things I’ve finished are:
- Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
- Underworld, by Don Delillo
- The Betrothed, by Alessandro Manzoni
OK, it’s good and bad that my top three are all vast novels. It means I read a lot, which is generally good, but is that really the height of my achievement?
Surely, it’s a curtailed life if it’s achievements lie in consuming things other people have created? Also, it denies the longer list of books I have abandoned before the final page.
Or worse, let’s look through my computer’s hard drive. It’s an unholy rabble of deserted and forgotten writing projects.
Don’t go through my hard drive
I’m begging. Don’t try to read any of the two-page plays: the curtain falls with the pistol still not fired. Here, there’s a folder full of execrable verse. A whole folder full of poems, each of them half built. You can see the rafters and there’s no glass in any of the windows. All those novels that taper down to sketches and bullet points. One of them gets as far as ‘Once upon a time’ before deciding better and leaving the reader to fill in the rest for themselves.
Fine, I think. Thanks Belbin, you’re right. Look at that mountain of things that I’ve left undone. Every single thing just left to wind down, like a faulty clock.
Yes, okay. I get the point. (Part of me was desperate to just leave this denunciation here. Sort of on that bum note, with everything loose threads and out of shape. Like a badly made sweater.)
So, when I read my questionnaire results, I knew what that burn was. It was my own sense of failure, presented in full colour, on graph paper. Somehow, I’d set myself a task that I was failing at. I couldn’t finish anything other than three books with large page counts.
But looking at the cases where everything fell off isn’t going to change that. That’s just looking at a whole heap of metaphorical ball scratching. You can’t learn anything from that.
Instead, look at the things you have achieved. There are a few finishing lines that I have managed to cross.
And if you’ve crossed them once, you can cross them again without tapering off. Even if it makes you sound like a motivational poster, every now and again.
Written in response to the daily prompt ‘Taper’.