Chapter 34 Summary

Don’t Obsess Over What People Think

It is Pausch’s experience and belief that people spend an inordinate amount of time every day worrying about what other people think of them. It is a useless pursuit and a waste of time. The scientist in him has got it all figured it out: if people never worried about what other people might possibly be thinking about them, the world would be thirty-three percent more effective both at their jobs and in their lives. (In truth, of course, Pausch cannot substantiate his figure of thirty-three percent with any statistical data. He says he likes exact numbers, whether he can prove them or not, and he plans to stick with this one.)

Pausch regularly worked with teams of people on all kinds of research and projects. He used to tell everyone in his research and other groups that they never had to spend time worrying about or trying to guess what he thinks about the work they are doing. If he had something good to say, he would say it; if he had something bad to say, he would say that, too. If Pausch was unhappy about something he saw in the research or among the team, he spoke up. True to form, of course, he usually spoke directly and with little or no tact.

On the positive side, Pausch believed he was able to be a reassuring presence for members of his team. He wanted them to understand that if he has not said anything—good or bad—to them, they were doing their work in an acceptable manner and have nothing to worry about from him. In his mind, no comment at all represented his implied consent for the job they were doing.

His students and colleagues had to adjust their thinking about the way they expect and receive feedback, but they soon came to appreciate that about working with Pausch. As a consequence, he believed his people were much more productive since they did not spend needless time and energy obsessing over what he might be thinking of them. He says that is because most of the time what he was thinking was simple: he was thinking that he was glad to have people on his team who, because they are not worrying about what he thinks, were thirty-three percent more effective than everyone else.