What’s possible when you let the pressure off?
I was working on a proposal for a new-to-me potential client, and it wasn’t going well at all.
The proposal was for a workshop in a new subject area—a topic I wasn’t sure I wanted to develop. I’d gone over the pros and cons and decided it was worth trying for. (Pros: It’s good to stretch into new areas. The niche might have growth potential. I should take the work that comes my way—you never know where an opportunity might lead. Cons: This would take my focus off the niche I was working hard to develop. The deadline was tight. The work would be hugely time-consuming. I wasn’t familiar with some of the technology involved.)
I’d been sweating over the proposal for hours, and I’d written about two paragraphs. I worried that I was being unrealistic about how long the program would take to create. Would this mean a month of all-nighters? How would I learn what I needed to in the time available? I worried about the effect on my other projects. Yet I didn’t want to back down from a challenge. The proposal wasn’t anything elaborate, but I couldn’t find the words to tell the client what I could do for him and why I was right for the job.
Finally, after much angst, I decided to withdraw from consideration. Sometimes, I reasoned, it’s good to say no to an opportunity. I didn’t want to risk losing momentum on the projects I was working on. I didn’t want to promise more than I could deliver in the allotted time.
I slept very well that night. The next morning, I woke up with all kinds of ideas about what I could have asked for, that would have made the project feasible for me. With the pressure off, I could finally see clearly what I needed in order to deliver what the client wanted, and what the deal-breakers were. So, just for practice—as an exercise in identifying what I want and need—I threw together a proposal that asked for those things: detailed examples from the company that I could turn into relevant activities for workshop participants. Assistance with the technology. A fee high enough to assure that I wouldn’t begrudge the hours I’d be investing.
And then—what the heck—I submitted the proposal I’d dashed off when I was free of pressure and thinking clearly.
Wouldn’t it make a great ending if wound up getting the gig? I didn’t, which was fine. The proposal was strong. I valued the experience I’d gotten in asserting my needs.
Admitting what you want and need, and asking for it, saves a lot of time.
Still working on: How can I tap into this understanding when the stakes are high? How do I release the pressure, and keep the focus?