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No Idea What You’re Doing at Work? Join the Club!

June 16, 2014

Winging it

Do you ever show up for work and feel like you have no idea what you’re doing? Like you’re just winging it? The good news is: everyone feels this way. The tricky part is: a lot of people are good at hiding it.

In a recent post for The Guardian, blogger Oliver Burkeman calls everyone’s bluff about winging it:

Everyone is just winging it, all the time.

Institutions – from national newspapers to governments and political parties – invest an enormous amount of money and effort in denying this truth. The facades they maintain are crucial to their authority, and thus to their legitimacy and continued survival. We need them to appear ultra-competent, too, because we derive much psychological security from the belief that somewhere, in the highest echelons of society, there are some near-infallible adults in charge.

I’m inclined to agree. When you become an adult, you realize that your perception of “adults” as all-knowing authorities was way off. This is not to say there’s no such thing as expertise or wisdom or people who are great at their jobs. But often, being great at your job entails being comfortable with uncertainty, with risk-taking, with winging it at work.

Whether you’re a CEO or a first-time intern, you probably have moments when you ’re blindly feeling your way. Sometimes, we mistakenly assume that we are alone in this endeavor, when it’s actually one of the most universal things about being a professional.

Burkeman also points out that the seed of our worry is that we “compare our insides with other people’s outsides.” We observe others’ outward confidence, and we pit it against our own self-doubt. Stop doing that!

Next time that familiar feeling—“Oh man, I have no idea how I’m going to pull this off.”—washes over you, embrace it. It’s an opportunity improvise, invent, imagine. Rather than retreating into a corner of internal panic, take a breath. You’re exactly where you should be—winging it, along with everyone else.

– Tory Hoen


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