Monday, May 5, 2008

Feeling Dumb May Be the Smartest Thing You've Ever Done

Have you ever felt like the dumbest person in the room? If not, I highly recommend it.

I just returned from the SOBCON08 in Chicago. That's a conference for bloggers. That means a bunch of people knew a whole lot more than I did about everything blogging, web-related and a lot of technical stuff. I had dinner with people I were convinced were speaking Klingon at times.

"Well, you've got to take the XRwhingerwhammer jitbat and use it to open the Latvian mother's code or it will take you to the goose ginger," said Lorelle VanFossen.

People like Brian Clark and Chris Garrett, co-author of "ProBlogger" would nod and jump in with: "But don't forget the hangman's fifth gibber or the pickleman's lockdown."

OK, at times I threw in something if if I knew what they were talking about. But I did a lot of listening and asked a lot of questions. It was pretty reflective of a weekend where I spent most of it asking:

"How do I?"
"What's that?"
"Where do I find that?
"How does that work?"

And of course, the ever present: "Huh?"

But I had a lot of "A-HA!" moments as well. It felt like a giant, weekend-long V-8 commercial because I was slapping myself upside the head so much. "Why didn't I do that?" I thought (slap). "I could have done that!"(slap) "Why didn't I think of that before!"(slap)

David Bullock had the answer: Everyone feels that way. No one knows all the answers, and we're all going to make mistakes along the way. What you DO know is of value.

So, as much as I was often confused and feeling pretty dumb, I really enjoyed every minute of it. I started to get it. I started to understand. (OK, maybe not all the tech talk, but I took a lot of notes so I could look up stuff later.)

I had a weekend of mental gymnastics, of being around people that made me feel dumb -- but were also really nice and willing to let me learn from them and ask questions. And here's the thing: By jumping out of my comfort zone and exposing myself to people and ideas and thoughts and viewpoints that were new to me, I started to see possibilities and opportunities and new paths for myself and my career.

And that was really, really important. At a time when newsrooms across the country look like Tony Soprano and his gang have been there because so many bodies have been whacked, it was really energizing and uplifting to know that I didn't have to give up what I love doing, I just had to think of it in different ways.

I can't think of any better career advice for today. I want you to think of talking to someone today, of experiencing something this week, that makes you feel dumb. Ask questions. Learn. Grow.

I dare you.

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