Friday, November 28, 2014

Thankful for Fledging

In January of this year I started a brand new job in a new field. I have always loved writing, but I had never done it professionally. Suddenly, for the first time in my life, I was working in an office, writing full-time, and doing projects I had never done before.

In my 20's there were so many things I wanted to do, but was deterred from starting because I felt like it was too late or I wouldn't be naturally good. Back in college I had a gym membership at the YMCA, and it had a climbing wall. I had always wanted to try climbing, but at 20 years old I remember sighing to myself and thinking, "everyone else probably has been climbing since high school, so there is no point starting now when I'd be so behind."

I don't know exactly how my mind-set shifted, but throughout my 20's, it did. I think it takes time to come into ourselves and not feel embarrassed to be new at something. I think we also have to give up needing to be the best, or even good at something in order to justify doing it.

Basically, what I was getting at was the importance of a growth mind-set, which I didn't quite have the language to describe until now. In my work book club we just read The Confidence Code, and one part really stood out to me. The authors write, "The starting point for risk, failure, perseverance, and, ultimately, confidence, is a way of thinking, one brilliantly defined by Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck as a 'growth mind-set'.

The key to creating a growth mind-set is to start small. Think about what you praise in yourself or your kids. If you praise ability by saying, "You're so smart" or "You're so good at tennis; you're a natural athlete," you are instilling a fixed mind-set. If, however, you say, "You've worked so hard at tennis, especially your backhand," you are encouraging a growth mind-set.

Making a distinction between talent and effort is critical. If we believe that somehow we're given talents at birth that we can't control, then we're unlikely to believe we can really improve on areas in which we're weak. But when success is measured by effort and improvement, then it becomes something we can control, something we can choose to improve upon. It encourages mastery.

I was at the perfect point in my life to start a new career path and not feel intimidated or overwhelmed by it. I remember going to the final interview, in a downtown skyscraper, with a panel of six interviewers, and just feeling very matter-of-fact.

One interviewer asked me a question about how I would fit into the business culture never having done it before. I invoked my experience of traveling in 28 different countries and that I was no stranger to immersing myself in unfamiliar cultures.

I also said I was good at observing others and not making any sudden moves. "Don't worry, I wouldn't go into a client meeting wearing a mumu and drinking a margarita!" They laughed. "Then again, you guys offered me a beer when I got here today, so maybe BYOMargarita would be normal!" More laughs. As nerve-wracking as the interview was, it was also fun. I committed to being sincerely myself, but without taking myself too seriously or being apologetic of what I didn't know.

This year I have thought of myself as a fledgling writer, and my team has been very nurturing and protective of me taking baby steps in my position in a supported, gradual way. I accepted that I had a lot to learn, and in return, I never felt pushed out of the nest before I was ready. I had time to let my writing feathers grow in a little thicker, a little stronger.
Nest I found, Orcas Island, 2009
I've been able to embrace being a fledgling in other areas this year besides writing. I took a Basic Climbing and Mountaineering class, and learned a ton of new skills. Turns out, learning to climb a decade after feeling deterred is still not "too late." Even a fledgling climber can do exciting alpine climbs, and a fledgling mountaineer can summit Mount Rainier.

Recently I was out on Orcas Island and ran into an acquaintance who lives out there. He asked what I was doing in Seattle these days, and I told him tech marketing writing. "Wow," he said with a laugh. "Sounds really boring!"

For me, it couldn't be more opposite from boring. It provides more learning, challenge, growth, community, appreciation, and stimulation than I've had at any other job. I absolutely love it, and I'm so happy that the fear of not being the best marketing writer didn't stop me from applying. Being a newbie has hands-down been one of the best parts of 2014, and I highly recommend it.

No comments: