Why It’s OK to Be Completely Confused About a New Project

Today I was reminded of something really amazing: it’s ok to have absolutely no idea what you’re doing as long as you’re trying to figure it out! I’m currently on a project that leaves me so frustrated I want to pull my hair out. Part of the reason is that it’s very technical and that’s just not my background. The other difficult part is that this program has been up and running for about 20 years now with multiple changes over those 20 years, so trying to wrap my head around it all is a bit overwhelming.

So, I was given a task for this project dealing with cost estimations for changes to the product. Now, I have never done that before for anything let alone a very technical program upgrade. I seriously just sat and stared at my screen and wanted to cry as I tried to make sense of the things in front of me. I even e-mailed someone a bunch of questions and that was no help because answers aren’t particularly useful if you don’t understand the underlying facts surrounding them. It left me partially brain dead and unfocused for a good portion of the morning.

i have no idea what i'm doing

In the afternoon, though, I was brought back to life! The lead of the project stopped by my office and asked how I was doing. I told him very honestly that all of this stuff was way over my head and I was getting very frustrated. His response, “It’s ok to be confused. We expect you to be. No one is a master at everything. That’s why everyone on this project is here to teach you so you can help out the next newbie.”

A wave of relief poured over me. For the first time in my life I wasn’t expected to be perfect. Actually, it was expected that I wasn’t perfect! However, it was anticipated that I ask tons of questions (which clearly I’m already a master at), set up one-on-ones to get first hand guidance on tasks, and put in real effort to learn what I needed to. Seems like the smart way to go about things in an organization right?

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in a lot of places. Oftentimes, bosses expect you to jump on in and be an expert at everything you’re doing, but I’m telling you now, don’t fret! It’s ok to be confused and frustrated when you’re put onto new projects! How else would we learn new things if we only took on work that we were experts in? So, even if you’re scared of looking like a fool, step on up and try something new. Ask questions and for help if you need to. There will always be at least one person who is willing to show you the ropes. All you have to do is get out of your own frustrated, embarrassed head and ask for some guidance. One day someone will be asking you for exactly the same thing!

Now, it’s your turn! Have you ever been confused about project work? What did you do to help you overcome the challenge?

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2 thoughts on “Why It’s OK to Be Completely Confused About a New Project

  1. Pingback: Learning to Swim in the Deep End: 3 Tips for Handling Challenges at Work | Strong Suit

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