When you’re over your head

As you gain a reputation for doing projects that work, it’s not unusual for the stakes to go up. For projects to look and feel bigger, with more inputs, more decisions, more pitfalls.

It can be thrilling, but you can also begin to flounder.

Here are two analogies that might help you decode what’s actually going on…

It’s entirely possible that the water is quite deep. The thing is, if you’re used to swimming in water that’s six feet deep, then sixty feet of depth is actually no different. It’s not more dangerous or difficult, it simply feels that way. Giving a speech to 20,000 people isn’t twenty times more difficult than giving one to a thousand.

It’s worth reminding yourself, regularly, that the work hasn’t changed, merely your narrative about the stakes involved.

On the other hand, if you’re used to surfing 6 foot swells and you find yourself on an island of the coast off Indonesia—where the swells are 25 feet—this is a good moment to sit on the beach for awhile.

Surfing bigger waves is not the same as surfing small waves but with more effort. It’s an entirely different interaction, and it’s not all in your head.

Take a lesson. Take five lessons. Give yourself the room to learn. Don’t jump from 6 to 25 in one day. And don’t assume that just because you’ve figured out how to survive at 25 that you’re ready for 50. Big waves are usually right next to big reefs.

Begin with the question: Is this a deep water problem or a big wave problem?

The internet is filled with deep water moments, and we can get our narrative straight and learn to thrive even when we think the water is too deep.

And our careers often offer us big wave moments. When you see one, don’t walk away right away, but get yourself a coach.

Seth Godin

Seth Godin

Hi. I’m Seth Godin. I’m a teacher, and I do projects.

For more than thirty years, I’ve been trying to turn on lights, inspire people and teach them how to level up. This blog has been appearing daily for more than a decade. One day, if we meet, I hope you’ll share with me your favorite posts. Even better, I’d like to hear about how a book or course helped you interact with the world differently and make a difference.
Seth Godin

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