To see what self-awareness has to do with overcoming obstacles, researchers look at how people use it.
Take David Chang, who started out with a humble noodle bar, Momofuku. It wasn’t going anywhere.
Instead of blaming someone, he subjected himself to a brutal self-assessment. Instead of worrying about what to do, Chang and his cooks stalked the greengrocer for inspiration. Then they started cooking as though it were their last meal. They invented wild combinations of ingredients, producing mash-ups like a Korean-style burrito.
The crowds came to eat.
This uncommon but effective process is called double-loop learning.
It requires that we honestly challenge our beliefs and summon the courage to act on the resulting information. Chang questioned every aspect of his approach, including methods, biases and assumptions.
Similarly, tennis champion Martina Navratilova questioned her assumptions after a bitter loss to rival Chris Evert. She began exploring every aspect of her game, which led to startling innovations in cross-training and diet that were unheard of at the time.
Bottom line: No one’s idea of a good time is a brutal assessment of assumptions that may have led to their failure. But that’s what winners do.
— Adapted from The Art of Doing: How Superachievers Do What They Do and How They Do It So Well, Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield, Plume/Penguin.