There are two ways of choosing the work that you do.

  1. To always stick to things that you are great at. Things that you already know how to do well. Or,
  2. To choose things that are challenging. Things that you may not have the necessary knowledge or skill for.

The first option seems to be the one that’s always recommended for building our professional lives. After all, we get paid to do the things we know how to do well, right? The more we do what we know how to do, the better at it we get. And it applies to you whether you are an employee or self-employed.

This option might be suitable a few months back when our lives were not as disrupted as now. But now that our lives are no longer the same, we might have to choose the other option. Even after this crisis ends, we might perhaps be shifting to a new normal instead. Not the one that we know.

It’s not about faking

No, the second option is not about faking that you can do things when you can’t actually do them.

It’s about saying, “I don’t know, but I’m willing to figure it out.”

You might not think that anyone will be willing to pay you to do that. But you will be surprised.

When you choose the second option, you might be able to set yourself up in a win-win situation if you remain humble about what you can and cannot do.

The main reason why anyone would be willing to pay you to figure things out as you go along is that it will be cheaper than hiring someone who is already an expert. Or they might already have worked with you. And they know your character and have confidence in your work ethic.

But it’s still a win for you. Because you can get paid for learning new things. And this will help build your knowledge and skills. Since they are intrinsic, they can’t be taken away from you.

Learning new things

The thing about learning a new skill is that, without something to apply the skill to, it’s hard to learn anything at all. Most of the time, the only way is to jump into the deep end of the pool and start to swim.

When you take foundational courses in many different disciplines, they are usually taken out of context. It’s a basic skill, no doubt. But even after completing the foundational courses, you will be left wondering how to apply the skill.

Many of you would have experienced this in your education. Things you learnt in your primary and secondary education, or even tertiary education, don’t really teach you to apply to real life.

Maybe you have a job that really needs you to write useful code immediately. In that case, knowing how to print ‘Hello World!’ is not exactly that useful. I need to know how to solve my problem with code, not learn how to print ‘Hello World!’ (which is the first thing you learn in any programming language).

Figuring things out as you go along

It’s about figuring things out as you go along.

As you start to tackle the problem head-on, you will start to understand it. You will then begin to learn how to break apart the problem. No matter how unique the problem is, you probably can break it apart and find that others might have faced a similar challenge previously.

We live in an age where there is an abundance of knowledge available. There are many free resources out there on the Internet. You just have to Google whatever questions you have in mind.

The hard part of figuring things out as you go along is that it is like piecing a jigsaw puzzle together. You have to do the hard work of sorting through the information you found all over the place. Then you would have to start piecing together the jigsaw puzzle yourself. You would then have to learn how to apply the solution to your particular context.

Most importantly, you need to try to see if the solution works. Not just think about it. You need to put the solution into action. That’s the only way to truly know if it works.

When you started learning how to walk, you don’t spend your days thinking about how to walk. You just do it. And fail. Then you try and try again until you succeed.

That is the same way you can approach your work. To seek the challenge. And to try and try again until you solve your problem. Then you will find that you’ve levelled up and picked up new skills to add to your toolkit.

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