You'll Never Feel Ready

You'll Never Feel Ready

This quarter a new person joined my team. We've been focused on getting her onboarded, trained, and prepared to lead customer calls. She's very bright, ambitious, and she's made great progress. Yet when we discussed her first customer call, she was nervous -- she didn't feel fully prepared and was anxious about not knowing everything. But me being on the other end, knew her level of knowledge and knew she'd be fine.

Never feeling ready

We both realized she wouldn't feel comfortable until she ran her first call. She had to actually do it to feel comfortable. No level of knowledge or practice was going to supplant her nerves.

In all areas of life there's a cycle of growth worth exploring: That comfort, anxiety, learning, and action area all interrelated. When you're feeling comfortable, maybe you aren't growing. When you're feeling anxious or scared, it's okay poor child, know that you are just leveling up and maybe it's time to take a leap. Alternatively, when there's all action and little knowledge (or reflection), there's no growth, repeated errors, and you're too comfortable doing it the way you've always done. But when there's all learning and no action what's left is all erudition, fear, and paralysis.

Find the cycle

It's important to know where you are in this cycle. But more importantly, it's vital to know the best ratio of time spent at each step. There's no absolute answer, as it varies for each situation, person, and domain. But generally, I think it should vary between two approaches depending on your level of mastery.

  • Just Starting - If you are just starting out, it's better to learn quickly and be biased toward action. You are likely more fearful and procrastinating. Don't spend too long acquiring information, doing is where the growth is. Learning chess? Play 100 games straight first, then pick up a book.
  • Mastery - If you are closer to mastery, it's better to study and gain deep domain expertise. You know the fundamentals through repetition. Now its time to question your approach, action less. Experience at chess but stuck at 1300? Maybe it's time to study.

Of course these are generalization and of course they don't always apply. But there's power in knowing the tradeoff between comfort, anxiety, education, and action, and picking your head up to assess where you currently reside.

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