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Avoiding Precious

Making Career Fulfillment Easier

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Some artisans deliberately put a flaw into their creations. 

Why? 

To make things feel less precious, and to get their work across the finish line and out into the world. It makes me think of the process of writing my first book, currently in the editing stage. Truth is, I have a hard time finishing things. I like to say that my weakness is that I get something 98% done and then have a lot of trouble, stewing over that final 2%. I find it hard to birth something new into the world, consumed with the thought that I may have forgotten something super important that will negate all of the rest of the bits of wisdom I’m sharing. By following the technique I explain here, I have been able to get out of my own way with this tendency in myself.

When you contemplate making a change in your career proactively, whether deciding to move into a new job or pivot into a new career arena, it can be easy to get stuck in analysis paralysis, for example as you try to finalize your career story as expressed through your resume and LinkedIn profile.

The solution to this? Drafting and putting out something that is slightly unfinished, and then letting the collective energy of the other help you from there. Okay, that sounds counterintuitive, I know. But what I mean is that the trick is to get things to “good enough,” meaning to a place where you can put it out in the world and get others to engage with your content and help you hone it further, if necessary, to get it across the finish line. 

Here are a few examples of this concept in action:

  • For your career story, get a draft of your resume out to your close connections and solicit some feedback, or conduct a few informational interviews and ask for input on how best to position yourself for the role you seek.
  • For a work project, roughly sketch a few conceptual ideas out on paper or a whiteboard and then bring your team in to discuss and refine.
  • For an article or social media post, set a timer to limit your effort and then put it out in the world and see how it resonates with your audience, learning from it for what you do next.

This is not to suggest that you put out sloppy work; rather, it is to focus your attention on what is most important in your message and trust that it will be enough to move you in the direction you seek, getting the current task off your plate and onto the next step. It is tempting to overinvest time and effort in heads-down work; to move forward successfully, you need a balance of quiet, heads-down reflective effort with connection with others to bring your vision of a vibrant, meaningful career into reality. 

If you tend to fall prey to analysis paralysis, ask yourself, “What does good enough look like for now for this project?” Find ways to temper your expectations so that you don’t overwhelm yourself with the prospect of completing something to your normal expectations. Instead, consider embracing such concepts as:

  • Framing projects in milestones or phases
  • Taking a staircase approach, with the next step taking you further up the staircase
  • Starting with a quick and dirty draft, and then refining and seeking feedback from there
  • Integrating learnings over time
  • Taking an iterative approach

When you talk to yourself – and others – consider using terms like:

  • Noodling 
  • Drafting
  • Tweaks
  • Micro-adjustments 
  • Practices
  • Chapters 
  • Phases
  • Sandboxes
  • Incremental improvement
  • Ongoing feedback
  • Iteration
  • Refinement
  • Editing
  • Evolution over time

Deliberately avoiding precious can help you cover more ground with less effort toward your desired outcomes. Establish a practice of avoiding precious, with processes for refinement built-in for a sense of checks and balances, and see yourself taking more risks and surfacing more innovative ideas, feeling safe to experiment on the path to greater meaning, fulfillment, and impact in your career.

This article originally appeared on the Merideth Mehlberg Group website.

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