when clarity begets action

I moved into a different role at work two months ago and everything is new to me — new subject matter, new business line, new team. I have a lot to learn and a LOT of questions.

And I’ve noticed that I have to ask questions that are a lot more detailed and granular than what I typically feel comfortable with. I have to quiet down the part of my brain saying shouldn’t you know that? can’t you figure it out yourself? I’ll receive a general answer to a question and then have to follow up and drill down until I have sufficient detail to know what to do with the information. (“Okay, so do you want me to draft the communication?” “Okay, do you want to review before I send it?" “Okay, should I send it now?”)

This process is showing me how very important clarity is to action. So often when we feel like we’re procrastinating, I think instead we just don’t know exactly what to do next.

Maybe you avoid asking the question that would give you clarity because you feel like you should already know the answer. I’m lucky to be in this hew job situation where even though I feel like the answer is probably obvious, it isn’t obvious to me because I’m new and I keep pushing myself to ask.

I also believe that it’s always okay to ask questions because it has to be safe to learn.

And sometimes you might not need to ask your question of someone else — you might just need time to break down your next action item into a smaller step. Maybe you have to make a decision before you can take the next step, and so framing the decision and giving yourself time to think it over is your true next step.

Sometimes the timing isn’t right or you’re waiting for more information to come in. What feels like procrastination might really be background deliberation.

What I’m noticing is that taking the next right action feels goooood, which is motivating me to keep reaching for clarity even when it makes me feel a little bit dumb. Reminding myself that the best time to ask a question is when I have a question.

And then of course sometimes clarity comes from action instead of the other way around but that’s an idea for another day.

On confidence as a gift

Lately I’ve been thinking about the idea that confidence in yourself is a gift that you give to other people. If you have something to share — an idea or an insight that could resonate with other people — but you either don’t have the confidence to put it out into the world, or your delivery lacks strength, the idea will have a hard time landing.

I know I’ve listened to speakers who were uncomfortable onstage and it tends to make everyone else uncomfortable too. We want you to be confident so that we can relax.

Aaron and I recently watched Won’t You Be My Neighbor about Fred Rogers and his wonderful work and television show. Aside from loving the movie and feeling just as comforted by the onscreen presence of Mr. Rogers as I did as a little girl, I was really inspired by the nature of his confidence.

The film shows footage of his testimony to Congress in support of federal funding for public television. By the time it was Rogers’ turn to speak, Senator Pastore, who was leading the hearing, was thus far unconvinced and unimpressed by those who had testified, and pretty surly about it.

Mr. Rogers spoke plainly and gently as he explained his work. But it was also clear that he believed in himself and he conveyed complete conviction in the power and importance of his work. Confidence. At the end of his testimony, Senator Pastore responded simply “I think it’s wonderful.” You could almost see his inner child beaming back at Mr. Rogers.

It’s easy to imagine that confidence should look or feel a prescribed way, perhaps a forceful or especially masculine way. And if you don’t represent that version, it’s easy to assume that you can’t or don’t project confidence. It’s good for me to remember Mr. Rogers, in all his gentle peacefulness, as a beacon of confidence.