How not to look stupid

Start by looking stupid.

It’s okay. No one has to see you.

When writing something for the first few times–especially the first time–I find I try to get it all in my head before I write it down. I get stuck in thinking it has to be perfect and since I don’t know exactly what I’m doing, it’s doomed to fall short.

Hence, procrastination. Staying stuck.

But if I tell myself that it can be terrible because I’m going to go over it at least two or three more times, I can start. As soon as I’ve got something down on the page, I’m on my way.

Lately I’ve needed to do new things, or seldom-done things. I call them my new genres: Resumes, summaries, cover letters, introductions, press releases, postcards, and asking for things.

Asking questions–for information or help or anything else–is like doing something new. There’s that fear of looking stupid.

Ask yourself if you can find the information on your own, if you can look it up later, and if that’s okay. If not, ask yourself if that’s really the question (or is another question lurking behind it).

If you’re in a meeting or a class, listen closely to make sure your question isn’t answered while you’re waiting to ask it. (Seriously, this happens.)

Then ask.

Even if you feel stupid for a fraction of a second (and in this case, people do see you), chances are good that at least one other person in the room has the same question, and that person will thank you. (I’d rather ask a question that everyone else knows the answer to than walk out of a room without the information I need.)

How do you get unstuck? How do you approach your new genres or situations? Or, that question behind the question, how do you overcome fear?

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