the first 15

So here’s an idea…

Next time you’re confused or frustrated or stalled out with something about your work, instead of casting widely for direction—searching the web, reading blogs, polling friends, blah blah—assume you already have or know the answer.

From me, that’s saying something. You know me…I’m a Google groupie, the one who read encyclopedias for fun when she was a kid.

But now there are 40+ years of life behind me and I’ve seen a lot, read a lot, worked a lot, thought a lot about a bunch stuff, lived in many places, met plenty of people, had some notable successes and fucked up reasonably often.

Which is not to say I can’t learn something new. I can and do every day…whether I want to or not. Heh.

And yet tearing down and rebuilding my business hasn’t been a far-flung effort. It’s mostly reaching back and tuning in. A search and rescue mission for what works best—

  • What have folks most heartily thanked me for?
  • What words have friends used to describe me to other friends?
  • What do I want to be known for?
  • What saps my energy?
  • What lifts me up?
  • What tasks do I avoid?
  • When am I happy?
  • Whose company do I enjoy?
  • Whose company do I avoid?
  • What do all my personality and skills assessment results have in common?
  • What has felt satisfying?
  • What has come easy?
  • What can I talk about with 100% confidence?
  • What’s easy for me that others find challenging, difficult, or impossible?

Now, I didn’t approach these all at once and I didn’t invent the questions. A great side benefit to hanging around with life coaches is the Inquiry that’s often lobbed across a lunch table or flies down a phone line.

The questions come quick and (for me) the answers come slow…but they’re always worth the wait and often a surprise.

And so here’s the thing.

I was in the shower—where great ideas live—talking myself through a tried-and-true process for my Pick My Brain sessions, and said, “Well, if I can’t get a running start at their problem in 15 minutes, I can’t help them at all.”

Which is exactly what I told bosses-of-the-moment when I was temping 20 years ago. They’d ask if I knew anything about Blah and if I didn’t I’d ask for 15 minutes to give it a try. If I made headway–great! If not, then we only spent a quarter hour.

Sidenote: My 10-year stint of working with databases began with 15 minutes of lemme-see. Just saying.

And so I have a history with, and trust and confidence in, this small initial push. I either move forward or I don’t, and I mostly do, which is great, but the larger point is: I’ve never made it a regular part of my work though I know I can depend on its results.

Like, just today a complete stranger emailed me about a Pick My Brain session: Here’s my situation, do you think you can help?

First, I went a little deer-in-the-headlights because that’s what I do when I encounter new people, new problems. Then I took a peek at his projects and had no flippin’ idea what would help. Nuttin’.

So I put in a load of laundry, ate a snack, read a few pages of fiction. Then I went back to my desk, re-read his backstory, took another peek, and three or four ideas bubbled right up. I emailed my thoughts and he’s interested in talking next week. Voila.

(Apparently my brain needs all 15 minutes even if they’re not spent directly on the problem. Good to know, yeh?)

And so the first 15 is a tiny tiny thing among decades of memories, but recollecting and honoring it is easing my work and helping me help.

Which brings me back around to you.

If you’re struggling with some aspect of your work, I vote you approach it like the solution is within reach. Like it’s something familiar. Like it’s already well known.

And if you could use help with that, tell me about it. If there’s something I can do, it won’t take long to find out ;-)