Saturday, July 25, 2009

Moonlighting: Unidle Hands in the Evening (and on the Weekends)

One of my favorite Bible scriptures is Eccl. 11.7, "Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well."

I like scripture's admonition to avoid idle hands in the evening as you never know if evening and weekend activities will become as successful as what you do during the day. This lack of idle hands during the evening (and weekends) is what we call "moonlighting". I am often dismayed by the amount of spare time people invest with life activities that neglect the development and contribution of their gifts. Days, then weeks, then months, then years, then decades, go by sometimes and they cultivate the easy habits of acquisitiveness and consuming rather than the more challenging and rewarding habits of developing and contributing. We then wonder why we are poor in talent, achievement, pocket, relations and impact.

We are all gifted but like with faith, gifts are dead without works (practice). Having witnessed such lost opportunity, I often urge my coachees to spend more of their evenings, weekends and and days, if they are unemployed, working on projects that use and cultivate their talents of delight. I encourage them to to do this on a volunteer or paid basis, and to put this experience immediately on their resumes as it helps them qualify for better opportunities in their present and next jobs. Such investment also plants the seeds of possible businesses that generate alternate streams of income.

I stress the importance of starting immediately and committing to practicing consistently over time in order to develop a level of mastery and a good reputation among the customers of their gifts. I relate how I started teaching when I was 27, and career coaching about the age of 35, on a moonlighting basis. In the 16 and 8 years I have been practicing these in the evenings on weekends, (and even within my day jobs), I have gained a degree of mastery, a reputation and an alternate stream of income. This moonlighting has allowed me to contribute my talents of delight, teaching and coaching, and provided me with more pleasure (and income for that matter) than the easier tasks of acquisition and consumption of entertainment, sports, shopping, etc. that too many of us are too prone to using our evenings and weekends for.

Let's all heed the admonition of Eccl.11.7 and consider how moonlighting can enhance your career and life. And as always, please do share examples of how you have used moonlighting in this way if you have.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Being Confidently Unsure

We all profess that we do not know everything. For sure, there will always be instances where we are asked a question that stumps us. That said, I think its important to remember that there is a difference between "not knowing" and acting as though we are "incompetent because we do not know". The former is reasonable and proper, the latter is unnecessary and potentially damaging.

A mentor once taught me that "you do not need to know everything as long as you know who knows, or where the answer can be found." Consideration of this axiom is critical if you want to develop the ability to be "confidently unsure". Often I encounter people who don't know something, which is one thing, but then they are viscerally ashamed and unnerved by the fact that they do not know as though they additionally lack confidence in the fact that they are resourceful enough to find the answer. This always tempts me to doubt their competence. I wish that this person were more skillful in: 1) simply expressing that they do not know, 2) expressing why they do not, 3) assuring me they will find the answer, and how, and 5) engaging me in a collaborative discussion about my suggestions for how they might find the answer.

Understand that as say this, I have compassion as this is hard-developed skill on my part. I internalized from my upbringing that I should always know the answer to every question, and that not knowing was a sign of stupidity or laziness revealed as a lack of preparation. I have matured to understand that this is not the case, though I still struggle with this at an emotional level at times. I have learned to reframe to understand that "no one has every answer but everyone has almost all the answers" and that it is better to maintain the posture of the "curious student" who can learn more than the "incompetent" who should have known it all.

Additionally, I now accept that those who think I am stupid are going to think that no matter how many answers I can produce. They will even make my correct, answers out to be wrong because they are not into giving benefit of any doubt. That is more about them than me. These types will always be with me. It is part of being in the world. It is just a test that can be passed, so its good to let this go.

So all that said, let's study to be more "confidently unsure". If you do not know, own up to it. That is a part of your humanity. Assure people you can find the answer and even collaborate with them to get suggestions on how you might. This is a mark of resourcefulness, a key success skill. Be accountable to find the answer in the timeframe and format you committed to. Do not vaccillate, dissemble, give shaky body language, be overly apologetic, or self condemning. Doing this inspires others to worry about whether you can find the answer. Even if you really cannot find the answer after all your searching, you can confidently own up to that by being ready with an explanation of all the methods, contacts and resources you used in trying. This shows the effort you put in and will often trigger some memory in the person you are engaging which then helps you do get closer to an answer.

Be confident even when you are unsure!