Feeling out of your depth

I am about to leave on a three day cruise. Telling you about this might seem like I am falling prey to the Facebook tendency to only share the good bits of our lives and make them seem better or more exciting than they are. But I am going on the cruise, a speaking commitment and an opportunity to connect with several hundred IT Directors, because I am always looking for work.

My work mostly comes in short bursts or one off events. It all comes through word of mouth. If I don’t keep meeting people, and those people don’t keep talking about me and my ideas, work stops coming in. This feels vulnerable, it sometimes makes me scared. I wouldn’t have it any other way but it is not always easy.

One of the challenges of working out loud, which I wrote about on Monday, is being willing to talk about mistakes, things not going well, or even just finding things difficult and feeling out of our depth. This is a big ask, especially in work where your ongoing success depends on being seen to be competent and your abilities are measured by others.

In a recent podcast Megan Murray and I talked about vulnerability and the benefits that come from being willing to be vulnerable. Others respond well if you are brave enough to be open about things you find difficult. We learn more from each other if we stop pretending that everything is easy. We get to address problems if we admit to having them. We get to share those problems and hopefully their solutions if we reach out and connect with others who are also struggling. We get to work things out together. This seems like a good thing.

2 thoughts on “Feeling out of your depth

  1. Elizabeth Harrin deals with part of this in her excellent book on dealing with Imposter Syndrome. Although more targeted at project managers, projects can be quite a macho environment and admitting your lack of knowledge can be uncomfortable. I always think it’s like a class of kids, once one is brave enough to stick up their hand and admit they don’t get it, everyone else feels a lot more comfortable piling in. I will admit that nothing worries me more than when I put up an Aunt Sally proposal I have only had time to half bake and it is met with mute acceptance and minimal challenge. This Conspiracy of Silence problem is dangerous and leads to products akin to the Emperor’s New Clothes. Some fairy tales are firmly rooted in real life.

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