In this life, you should aim to be a zero.
Which sounds really negative…except, it’s not.
Famed Canadian astronaut Colonel Chris Hadfield had a great way of measuring the way a person contributed to any given situation: people are either a negative one, zero, or positive one.
A negative one drains from the situation. They’re not helpful and create problems or add to the workload of those around them. They are the people you don’t want to work with or spend a significant amount of time around.
On the other side of the spectrum are the positive ones. They are the people who don’t just fill the needs of the situation, but add value. They bring skills, knowledge, attitudes, and attributes that are of significant use in the specific situation.
The only problem? A lot of people spend their time attempting to be positive ones when they aren’t really at that point. At best, this can lead to being much too eager to prove themselves, and at worst is extremely arrogant.
The fix? Enter the zeroes.
Zeroes may not be notable additions of value, but they certainly do not cause problems in the situation in which they are placed. Instead, they spend their time looking for ways to cause the least amount of problems and friction while being positive additions.
Wannabe plus ones plow ahead and do what they can to prove themselves. Zeroes look out for the people around them, and quietly hone their skills.
“The best way to contribute…is not by trying to prove what a wonderful addition you are. It’s by trying to have a neutral impact, to observe and learn from those that are already there, and to pitch in with the grunt work wherever possible.”
Zeroes are humble, and in this life, all the best plus ones act like zeroes. Hadfield describes a plus one he worked with as acting “though he considered himself a zero: reasonably competent but no better than anyone else.”
So, aim to be a zero folks, because no task is really above you. Work hard, avoid creating problems, squash arrogance, and learn as much as you can. You don’t have to prove yourself-just seek to add value where able and to alleviate the burden of those around you as much as possible.
On the way, you might just turn into a plus one.