Friday, April 4, 2014

in over your head

Two conversations yesterday led me to consider the importance of being "in over your head."  I first interviewed a long-standing faculty at Concordia (41 years), Dr. Larry Meissner, and when I asked him about his journey and how he learned to become the person he is, he kept coming back to people giving him opportunities that he never should have been given - and how he consistently found himself "in over his head."  Later in the afternoon, one of my faculty and I were chatting about an opportunity which could be coming his way - he looked at me and said he felt that perhaps he might end up "in over his head."  Over the past two weeks, I have had conversations with people that I walked away from thinking that if I said yes to what they were asking about, that I too would be "in over my head."  Scary? of course...Possibilities for growth? tremendous!

So here are two lists that might help you 1)get yourself in situations that are "in over your head" and 2) help you manage those projects in which you find yourself "in over your head:"


  • find ways to meet really cool (and really smart) people
  • ask good, open-ended questions
  • shut up and listen
  • never say NO too quickly
  • find possible partners who are willing to explore and create with you
  • do new and cool things yourself
  • be really good at what you do
  • introduce others to one another
  • show up at places you would not normally be
  • ask to be invited to conversations outside your area of expertise
  • keep your contacts and relationships going
  • raise your hand to ask questions and make suggestions

  • remind yourself that great things happen only when people are "in over their heads"
  • learn to enjoy the ambiguity of these types of projects
  • believe that there are people a whole lot smarter than you
  • find those people who are a whole lot smarter than you
  • ask for help from those people who are a whole lot smarter than you
  • find resources to help pay for the time and energy needed to go into these type of projects
  • remember that it is sometimes okay to say NO and pass on certain ideas and projects
  • if no one is going to die, go ahead and's OK to fail
  • take a breath...pause for a moment...enjoy the scenery...and then get back to the project
  • learn to collaborate - projects like this can seldom be accomplished by yourself
  • trust that you have been put into this situation for a reason - God works in mysterious ways
  • consistently check your own purpose for why you might be "in over your head"
  • hang out with others who are ":in over their heads"
Final thought: you may not be the type of person who enjoys being "in over your head."  That's okay...if we all were "in over our heads" we would all drown. There needs to be those who will first put on their own oxygen mask and then place the other one over the person next to them...that's the beauty of collaboration, partnerships, relationships, and friendships.  Maybe your role today is to look for someone you know who is "in over their head" and offer a word of encouragement or the time and expertise to help them in their project.  You never know if by doing that one act of kindness, you might soon find yourself "in over your head" - and if so, I hope you enjoy the swim!

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