It’s my birthday
A few weeks ago, I wrote about why I call people on their birthday. TL;DR: it only takes a few minutes and it’s a great way to catch up and show that they matter to you.
That’s for other people’s birthdays, though. Since mine is right around the corner, I wanted to share what I do for my own birthday.
Growing up, I never really cared about my birthday. It seemed like an arbitrary thing to celebrate. I’ve since come around to it, but not in the typical sense of “let’s celebrate me”. To me, birthdays are just an opportunity to reflect on your life and get people together.
One of my favorite parts about birthdays is that it’s an excuse to get your favorite humans together. For most, that translates to an in-person celebration with local friends and family.
While I do that as well, it doesn’t cover everyone. Many of my friends are scattered across the globe. To catch up with them, I did something different for the last two years: virtual birthday get-togethers.
Most people are too busy in their own lives. They don’t make the time to catch up, even though they’d like to. A planned “celebration” helps overcome this activation energy. It’s not really a celebration, though. The birthday is just a forcing function to get the group on a call together. You wouldn’t skip someone’s birthday just because you didn’t feel like it, right?
I love hosting these because it helps nurture remote relationships. Not just mine, but the entire group’s. There are only so many individual conversations you can have throughout the year. There are some people you only get to talk to in group settings. Yet, you still want to stay connected. It facilitates these exchanges and lets everyone stay updated on each other’s lives.
Time will tell if this becomes a tradition. It got off to a strong start in 2020, but it remains to be seen how much of that was due to the pandemic. Everyone that was locked up at home then is out and about now. Regardless, I’m going to try. Worst case, I only catch up with a few people.
This year, I’m adding another ritual. This one is a tad selfish. Then again, so is wanting presents or special treatment. And we’ve normalized that.
I’m going to ask for the gift of feedback. Let me explain why.
Feedback is always important. We all have blind spots - you don’t know what you don’t know. This can apply to business, relationships or general wellbeing. How can I be a better friend, son or brother? Is there anything I do that concerns you? What am I doing well that you would like to see more of? As much as you can introspect, it doesn’t replace an outside perspective.
No Better Time
Birthdays are an apt time for feedback. They are inherently reflective - we take stock of what we’ve accomplished in the last year and set our sights on where we want to be in the future.
It’s also a forcing function. Ask people any other time and they’ll likely defer it. It falls to the bottom of the priority list. But tell them this is what you want for your birthday and they will take the time to do it.
This does raise some valid questions.
Will they be honest? Sure, people may hesitate to give candid feedback because not everyone takes it kindly. This is definitely true for unsolicited advice, but it can apply to direct feedback as well.
My counterpoint: birthdays are the best time, if any, to ask for it. People are more likely to overcome their discomfort when it’s clear that you care about improving and genuinely value their opinion. If they’re not entirely over it, the feedback can be anonymous too. Since I’ll be asking multiple people, there’s a large enough sample size where they won’t be identified. Ideally everyone feels safe sharing, but I am optimizing for honesty. I wouldn’t want anyone to hold back for the sake of our relationship.
Asking for too much?
Am I overestimating what people are willing to do for my birthday? Perhaps. It’s not going to stop me from trying to grow, though. This is just an experiment. Depending on the results, I’ll decide how I want to proceed next year.
Let’s start here. To my readers: have feedback about absolutely anything? Tell me - I’d love to hear from you (you can be anonymous)!
To people I know: there’s a separate form for personal feedback, please reach out for it.
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P.S: You can find more of my thoughts on Twitter @_suketk.