The Importance Of Not Holding On: Part 1

This is a story about an Excel add-in that makes tracing back formulas and building finance-focused spreadsheets much easier than the standard Excel options.

I had been working in commercial finance for a few months and was getting the hang of my job. The technical aspects were mostly fine, although sometimes when opening up another person’s Excel workbook and trying to figure out how it worked, I’d get incredibly lost. One of my colleagues and my manager were both using an add-in, Macabacus Lite, which they both recommended I try out as well. However, another colleague who I worked with more closely, pointed out to me how the add-in replaces keyboard short-cuts we regularly use in our work. That and the fact that both my manager and colleague who recommended it had strong financial backgrounds and experience using the add-in, was enough to convince me that it would be more trouble than it was worth.

A few months later, my manager was walking me through a spreadsheet on my computer and was having trouble showing me how it all fit together without having access to the Macabacus add-in she was used to. Eventually she gave in and just took me over to her computer, it was that big of a difference to her. This was the first time I’d seen the add-in being used properly, I’d only caught glimpses of them using it before, and while I could see how it would be useful, it didn’t seem to me that anything else I was working on would really make me need it.

Finally I began working on more complex projects and gave in to the suggestions, installing the Macabacus Lite add-in and giving up the keyboard short-cuts I’d been using for so long (which I had been using less by now).

Not long after I installed Macabacus I found myself really wanting the short-cuts back to normal, as the alternative of using the mouse was far too slow for my liking. I asked my add-in using colleagues, “How do you do this without using the keyboard short-cut? It’s driving me nuts.”

The response, “I use a different keyboard short-cut that does the same thing”.

… wait a minute…

Let go

The only obstacle to installing the add-in was having to learn a new keyboard short-cut?

Because I followed the advice of my other colleague who wanted to hold on to using the short-cuts, and I didn’t ask about what alternatives there were in the beginning, we were both losing out on learning something really useful.

When we encounter someone doing something in a different way to us, something that we feel competent in, it is easy to dismiss their way and carry on with our own. Sometimes we do that because we don’t want to struggle with something new, sometimes it’s because we don’t see any reason in doing it their way and sometimes it’s because we assume our way is better.

Now that I’m using the Macabacus Lite add-in, Excel models that I’d been introduced to and started using were much easier to make sense of than before, thanks to the formula-tracing features in the add-in. It has a lot of other features too, but this is the most useful one by far and I’m glad I finally let go of my old way of working and found a better one. (If you’re interested, that’s from a feature called Pro Precedents which is indispensable for tracing and understanding sources of data in formulas).

Holding on can mean you’re holding yourself back from opportunities. Opportunities to work smarter and opportunities for learning.

Every once in a while, it’s valuable to stop and think about what ideas or beliefs you might be holding on to that could be holding you back. It’s easy to think about regular limiting beliefs that hold us back, such as, “What if I’m not good enough?”, but there are perfectly logical and reasonable beliefs we have that hold us back too.

In my example, I understood what I needed to do well enough and a way to do it, and I held the belief that there wasn’t another way to do it. When we do something and it works well for us, it’s difficult to consider trying out new ways of doing the same thing, even when they may open up other opportunities.

If we encounter someone doing something in a different way to us, there is an opportunity to learn for both of you. Maybe your way is better and they’ll be grateful that you showed them your way, but maybe their way is better, or maybe it’s even the same but it allows them to do something else that you can’t do your way.

And sometimes, people will do something in the most difficult and illogical seeming ways. In these cases, you can learn something about the person by digging deeper.

Remember, holding on to what you know is not going to help you grow. If you want to be great at something, you should be open to every approach and every method that others are using.

The only thing you should hold on to is your curiosity.

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