Overcoming Fear

I really enjoyed Keith Klain’s Pursuit of Scrutiny blog post. It prompted a few responses in me:

* I need to get my work out there so that I can determine better what I’m doing well and where I need to improve.

* Having material to get out there is a necessary first step. Unfortunately, my journalling has taken a complete nosedive. I need to get back on track with this.

* In order to get back on track with journalling, I need to get better at taking notes and organising my thoughts.

Keith’s post resonated with me because I’m the kind of person that likes to get feedback on how I’m doing and where I can improve. However having worked as a contractor for a few years now, I’ve found that it’s not always easy to get feedback on the projects you’re working on. If your contract is renewed, that’s usually a pretty good sign, but it doesn’t much help in terms of identifying where and how to improve your work.

So I started to think about how I might be able to get my ideas out there to try to get the feedback (or scrutiny as Keith describes it) that I’m looking for.

It seems like there’s a few obvious routes:

  1. Social media, Twitter in particular, puts you in contact with a whole bunch of people. Having been fairly active over the past year or so I’m following/being followed by plenty of people who will quite happily pick me up if I say or write something stupid (see comments on some of my previous blog posts!) I could try to be even more active and use Twitter as a feedback loop. LinkedIn might be an option too. Also forums, STC for example. StackExchange in particular seems to have a strong reputation based framework.
  2. Blogging is another no-brainer.
  3. Discussing trends in software engineering/testing etc at meetups is a great way to hear about what other people in the field are doing and how.
  4. Doing a lightning talk or short presentation at a local meetup takes this a step further and means that I need to be a bit more organised in terms of my thinking. I also get to work on my presentation/communication skills.
  5. I could do the same in a conference setting, taking 3 & 4 several steps further, potentially by way of writing a paper to be published in a journal or other publication (e.g. The Testing Planet).

There’s also some less obvious mechanisms. For example developing a friendship or coaching relationship with somebody who already has the skills you’re looking to improve upon.

There would be a lot of positives to following through on any of the above. In most all of them, I would certainly receive the desired feedback.

First steps for me however are to get my journalling and note-taking back on track, as mentioned above. The tools for me to do this are readily available, To some extent I just need to cultivate the discipline of using them.

Keith’s post stirred another thought though. He identifies the root cause of his need for scrutiny as being insecurity. It started me wondering why I haven’t sought out this kind of feedback more in the past. I believe the answer is fear. Fundamentally, fear of not being good enough. Fear of not being original enough. Or even worse, fear of simply being ignored.

I don’t think fear is a good enough reason not to strive to improve ones craft however, and I’m going to try to do better in 2013. I’m going to strive to get better at doing the things I need to, including note-taking and journalling, as a means to an end. To keep moving forward I need to subject myself to the scrutiny of my peers and discover where and how I need to improve my thinking and skillset. I take heart from the quote below, and offer my thanks to Keith for again setting me on the path of improvement.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt, Excerpt from the speech “Citizenship In A Republic” delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910

- Simon

5 thoughts on “Overcoming Fear

  1. Good luck getting back on track !

    One bit of feedback – you say blogging is a no brainer but unless you write something really stupid or controversial it can be hard to get feedback ( see my recent blog post that encouraged people to comment on blogs ) That can be just as scary, writing stuff that you think no-one cares about or no-one is reading.

    I lurked for ages before writing my first post to a forum, my first comment to a blog and then my first blog. Even now I still get a momentary panic when I’m about to hit the Publish button

    I’ll make you an offer – if you dont blog at least once a month then I’l get on your case and get you to do so. If you do, I’ll provide feedback. Deal ?
    🙂

    1. Thanks Phil.
      I actually read your bog post, and was going to leave a comment until… Fear of being unoriginal kicked in. 🙁 I have a very bad tendency to second guess myself and this often leads to me abandoning potential comments/blog posts/tweets etc. Hopefully this is an area I can improve on also.
      Deal sounds good. Not sure I want you on my case though! 😉

  2. Nice post Simon, its great to see someones emotions being stirred by the writings & ideas of another.

    I enjoy reading what you have to say, I wish you would say more!

    I’m relatively new to sharing my ideas & as such I take a fairly modest approach to the content – typically British, I don’t want to ruffle too many feathers! It takes confidence to hit that publish/send button when you’re putting forward an idea.

    I’ve built up to this pinnacle by getting feedback privately.

    Have you had a Skype coaching session with James / Anne-Marie or Michael? Its a great way to get feedback in private. I’ve found that (as well as the actual coaching) a great way to learn how to “take” feedback.

    I also approach people who I respect in private & ask them for feedback over a coffee. So far, the people I have spoken to haven’t laughed at me or tried to make me a laughing stock amongst my peers.

    As for being unoriginal – pff – its all relative. What might be unoriginal for you may be original for someone else (MB’s relative rule…). If it helps you to hone your idea, get it written down & out there.

    Good luck Simon, I look forward to reading more stuff from you. Failing that, I look forward to the Terminator getting on your case 🙂

    Duncs

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