Interpersonal Edge: Bet on yourself!

Interpersonal Edge: Bet on yourself!
Tribune News Service
By Dr. Daneen Skube From Tribune Content Agency
Question: I have new career interests, but am not sure I have the skills to take on jobs in these new areas. I would not want to take a new job and fail to be up to the task. What do you advise clients when they’re not certain of success in a new venture?
Answer: What I tell clients, as American author Henry Van Dyke advised, is this: “Use what talents you have; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sing best.”

If you’re going to bet on anything, bet on your ability to quickly learn the skills to do what you love.

Neurologists have even discovered the health benefits of taking risks to try new things. The concept of “cognitive reserve” means you try fresh and hard things that keep your brain young and agile. Research tells us that cognitive reserve is a huge factor in avoiding dementia.

I advise my clients to engage in interests where they lack skill and be willing to do anything they enjoy often enough that they can improve on. The idea is that anything worth doing well is worth doing badly, at least at first.

When we study whether natural talent or interest contributes more to a successful career, passion always trumps natural talent. It turns out that when we love an activity we’ll work on it harder and get better than if we just coast on innate aptitude.

A common career test asks participants to imagine a party full of all kinds of professionals. Then the test asks the participant which group they want to join. Would they gravitate to the scientists, the educators, the sales people, or artists? We know that interests and not natural skills predict successful careers.

In order to get an emotional paycheck along with your financial paycheck, you’ll have to put your ego in the backseat. As an adult, none of us adore public failure and others witnessing our mistakes, but if we cannot fail, we cannot learn anything.

As much as our culture worships those who appear perfect, perfect people are stuck in a perfect world. Perfection can never grow, or adapt. Pride may goeth before a fall, but perfection guarantees falls because we cannot learn. We cannot regain our balance if we’re stuck in a permanent posture of perfection.

Cultivating an attitude of constant curiosity and fascination with everything you do not know allows you to makes mistakes with enthusiasm. Consider each failure as a sign you’re getting one step closer to improving your skill and options.

You’ll also find that those around you will likely become helpful and supportive if you come to projects with curiosity and what Zen Buddhists call, a “beginner's mind.” The Zen Buddhists consider Zen a way of seeing that is free of expectations. A benefit of this attitude is you avoid judging or labeling things as "good" or "bad" because you enter experiences without preconceptions.

The most important question we can ask about new career ventures is not how can we guarantee success, but how much we’ll regret not trying. People at the end of life say it’s not what they did that they regret, it’s what they never tried.

If in doubt take on new ventures, bet on yourself, fail with enthusiasm, and watch your skills and career expand. Gambling on yourself is the richest and most interesting risk you can take!

Question: I tend to be impulsive in what I say. I often find I open my mouth and insert my foot. I’m trying to pause before saying things, especially things that will undermine me at work. Is there any tip you give clients that can help them with verbal impulse control?
Answer: Yes, I advise clients to work on tasting their words before they spit them out. Empathizing with your listener will keep you safe from mouth/foot syndrome at work.

(Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel’s “Workplace Guru” each Monday morning. She’s the author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.)

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