Double black diamond

Kathryn Crawford Saxer Career Transition

I often tell my coaching clients to stop thinking.

“Thinking is all bad,” I say. “You’ll just think about why it won’t work.”

This comes up with clients working on a career transition. Clients who are dreaming about doing something new. Maybe something risky.

I often tell these clients a ski story that I’ll also share here.

This winter, I was skiing a challenging run (Snake Dance, for you locals). My kids were waiting for me at the bottom of a particularly steep, narrow little section. Lots of trees and rocks. Risky.

I was eyeing the drop, trying to get up my nerve.

“Don’t think about it, Mama,” my 12-year-old daughter called up to me. “Just go for it.”

So I did. I stopped thinking about how scary it was and just skied down the damn hill.

I like using this story as a career metaphor because it illustrates how too much thinking can slow us down.

A career transition is a big research project, combining relationships, experience, persistence and luck. It can be intimidating. Overwhelming. It can be very tempting to think about why it won’t work.

“Once you have enough information to make a thoughtful decision, then you get to start thinking,” I explain to my clients. “Right now, it’s all about action. About doing. About getting yourself out there and talking to lots of different people.”

No thinking, I tell them, just gathering information.

“I want you to just start (metaphorically) skiing,” I say. “Who’s the first person you’re going to talk to about this career transition idea of yours?” Strategizing and prepping for these conversations is a learned skill.

I remember heading up Chair 2 at Alpental this winter and watching a skier look down The Fan. Her companions were calling up instructions and encouragement. She peered over the edge, thinking about it.

She was still there as we rose up over the hill and out of sight.

First published in The Seattle Times. Read my archive of Seattle Times Explore columns.