This post is a follow-up to my post about The Art of the Ask from earlier this year. In this post, I explore deeper into the last of the Asks I talked about – the Self Ask.
I’ve always been inclined to say a resounding “YES!” when someone has suggested a project, a collaboration, a new possibility to explore new ways of doing things, new areas outside my core competence and new technologies, territories or practices. There’s always a little bit of a feeling that I don’t want to let people down, but much stronger is the feeling that I want to explore new challenges and new possibilities, and the more the better.
One good thing about this is that I’ve become quite well-versed in a lot of different fields – jack of all trades, if you like. This is often a very good thing as it makes it possible to see obstacles and challenges from different angles, finding new possibilities and new solutions.
One drawback is that is has become more difficult to answer the Self Ask in an objective and honest way.
The Self Ask is at the core of any project. It is the examination of oneself, one’s own abilities, one’s own ambitions and possibilities. Where it can be tempting to shrug off this Ask – especially if other Asks, those of funders and audiences and collaborators, have been answered to full satisfaction – this is still the Ask that will determine, to a great degree, whether you are going to enjoy seeing out the project to its conclusion or live to rue the day you took it on.
When I ask myself “Do I want to do this project? Am I able to do this project? Will I enjoy doing this project?” the different parts need to be weighed against each other. If it’s a project that registers positively on all these questions, it is a no brainer. But other factors can play in.
I might not enjoy a project, but it is comfortably within my core competences and it pays well enough for me to want to do it. It might be a project that I feel will bring me far out of my comfort zones but that I probably will be proud of having done afterwards. Or it might be a project that I want to do, that I would enjoy to do but that I don’t know enough to pull off yet. Then it’s a question of putting in the hours to learn what needs to be learnt – or doing it on the fly.
For the Self Ask, it’s possible to get away with all of these different scenarios, as long as you trust yourself and are honest with yourself. If there is one person in the world you don’t need to lie to, it’s yourself – so if you for instance simply feel you should do a project because it’s expected of you, and none of the above questions can be answered to satisfaction – think really hard about whether you actually should do the project or not.
Focus on the Self Ask, write down pro:s and cons and your own assessment. The only way to get it right is to do it right from the beginning.