Recently I attended a Mindsets and Behaviors training course for my day job. A two day session, I found the topics absolutely fascinating. Discussions included personalities, our own and our peers’ methods of interaction, and the concept of adult learning.
Basically, it goes like this:
Unconsciously Unskilled ==> Consciously Unskilled ==> Consciously Skilled ==> Unconsciously Skilled
Interesting stuff, when put in those terms. How amazing and mysterious our brains are! It’s a process we don’t perhaps think about, consciously – no pun intended – but it’s one we’ve all gone through, numerous times. As a student. A teacher. A caregiver. An employee. A parent. When we get a new job. As a parent (over and over again, at least for me, in that arena – lol). And perhaps, as human beings.
Perhaps the best example I can think of in my own life regarding this phenomenon is my career in writing.
I started freelance writing over fifteen years ago, when I wrote my first article – for free – for a local magazine, Small Town Life (which sadly is no longer being published). I’m still grateful to the editor, Jessica, for giving me that chance. I went on to write a few more articles, also for free, and several months later, armed with my clips, I signed up for a membership on a freelancing website, determined to take the next step.
For weeks, I bid on jobs I felt aligned with my skill set, based on my decade plus of experience in accounting and expertise with business related writing. Again and again, other freelancers won out. In fact, I bid on nearly 100 jobs with not even a nibble.
Then one day, I came across a job I knew I was up my alley: a marketing firm needed articles written for a magazine that would be distributed to people with ulcerative colitis. I was diagnosed with UC when I was pregnant and struggled for months before the doctors were able to get it under control with medication. How ironic, and how serendipitous, at that moment, that UC, something that changed my life, could yield something so positive, and change my life – yet again.
Yes. I got the job. And it opened doors. I went on to write for a variety of local magazines, and have been blessed to work with dozens of clients in businesses of every description all over the country, writing all kinds of things, including blogs, articles, corporate profiles, newsletters and manuals.
So what’ve I learned from freelancing for 15+ years? Many things, but perhaps these 4 top the list:
PERSISTENCE PAYS. I could’ve given up after bidding on the twentieth job, or the fiftieth job, but I kept looking, kept trying. And came across the writing job that was the perfect fit. The point is, I was in the right place at the right time when opportunity came knocking because I was, and continue to be, persistent. Don’t give up.
THE DEVIL’S IN THE DETAILS. During the time I was bidding on jobs, and beyond, I tweaked my proposals, my resume, and learned all I could about what other freelancers were doing, how they were doing it and read numerous books on the subject. After each job, I analyzed what went well and what didn’t, how I could be more organized, more proactive, more knowledgeable.
LISTEN. Yeah, there’s a lot of listening that happens as a freelancer. To your client. To yourself. And to your gut. When a piece is done, it’s done. During an interview you ask a question, then shut up. When a job doesn’t feel right, don’t take it. Don’t take a job just to take a job. It’s not worth it. Everyone will be disappointed.
“I DO WHAT I SAY I’M GOING TO DO.” Delivering results, for the client, for an editor, and mostly for myself, by never missing a deadline, and providing quality work, built my reputation – the basis for my business. After I’d worked with several editors and clients, and heard horror stories of freelancers who were no shows, or delivered work that needed to be heavily edited, or that missed the mark entirely, I developed this motto, which I included in my proposals. That’s always the kind of person I’ve been, but I’d never imagined it would serve me so well in business. For me, it became a very personal way of connecting with my client right up front, and delivering results before I’d ever written a word.
I’m still freelancing, but not nearly as much these days, as I’ve turned my attention to writing romantic suspense novels. Don’t get me wrong – I still love freelancing, and the opportunities it’s given me to meet and interview so many fascinating people, but I longed to write stories of my own.
So, back to the Mindsets and Behaviors class. We watched a video narrated by a photographer from National Geographic, he talked about how so many people found so much wrong with the world; that was all they could see. He chose to focus on what was right with the world, through his pictures. As he went on his journey, traveling all over the world taking pictures, he found himself challenging his former thought process: if he could see it, then he would believe it. Instead, he came to discover that if he believed it, he would see it.
Powerful stuff. To sum up, I think I’ve become unconsciously skilled as a freelancer, in some ways. I believe I’m still consciously unskilled, as an author, in some ways. And I think what I’ve learned, coupled with the photographer’s type of thinking that celebrates abundance, there’s no limit to what I can accomplish. Or to what any of us can accomplish.
Life is a journey. We will all always be at different places on the spectrum of adult learning. The trick I think, is to continue to shift our paradigm, so we may fully embrace that journey.
LET ME HEAR FROM YOU: What journey are you on? How have you learned to be consciously unskilled? What lessons have you learned while you pursued your dreams?
Rebecca E. Neely is an author of romance, the paranormal and suspenseful kind. 🙂 Visit www.rebeccaneely.com