I don’t know.
I say this a lot.
It drives my girlfriend crazy. What do you want for dinner? What do you want to do this weekend? Uhh, good question.
I want her to be happy, so I’m willing to go along with just about anything she wants to do. I get it, she wants me to make some decisions too, stop being so agreeable and have an opinion.
It’s exhausting, having to make every decision.
Tell me about it.
I feel like it’s all I’ve done for two months, every day. From choosing a piece of software to track my projects, to choosing a kick-ass direction for an interactive piece, to guessing at how to find that next client, I’m suddenly making all of the decisions. I have to, because I’ve taken my career into my own hands. I spent far too long waiting for someone to give me decisions to make, somehow thinking that was realistic. I just wanted to make some of my own.
So I did. And it’s hard.
I knew there’d be many facets of running a business, particularly within the realm of building websites, that I didn’t know, that I’d need to learn, to make this thing happen. I’ve tried to nose into the business side of places I’ve worked in the past but nothing brings out those unknowns like necessity.
Fear tricks us into keeping our “I don’t knows” buried deep inside, thinking we’d look like a fraud, that we’d appear not to have all the answers if we admit our uncertainty. We already have a hard enough time dealing with our imposter syndrome, why throw away our black & white to paint with another shade of gray?
Thing is, no one has all of the answers, regardless of experience. You can always apply what you’ve learned previously to the next problem, and that’s what makes experience valuable. But you’ve got to accept what you don’t know and go off looking for it. Rummy’s popular response applies here: there are known unknowns, and unknown unknowns. There’s always the chance that something will come out of left field and leave you stumped.
“I don’t know” shouldn’t be an unspeakable phrase, however it requires a “but.” Flippantly sharing my ignorance will get me precisely nowhere, while investigating these unknowns is the first step toward “now I know.”
I don’t know what this company is going to be. But I’m going to figure it out, over time, as I go.
I don’t know where the next check is going to come from. But I’m going to keep looking for people I can help with the skills I have and the work I will put in.
I don’t know how the Internet and the technology industry will evolve in the very-near-to-distant future. But I’m going to adapt to what it throws at me.
I don’t know the best way to improve your business with the services I offer. But I’m going to work like hell to find the best possible decisions that will provide realistic and measurable value.
I don’t know if I’m going to succeed and I don’t know if I’m going to fail. So why worry about it? I’ll just keep moving forward.
I’ve never struggled with brutal honesty, sometimes to my disadvantage. That faint sound you hear are the nodding heads of my former co-workers who are reading this. I’ve got a combination of high passion and high expectations that leads to a lot of questioning. I’m trying to channel this energy into positive outcomes, to find the best options for my clients’ needs. I’m trying to make honest a little more earnest, and I’m trying to use it to overcome those unknowns and grow my fledgling business.
I’m not going to back down from the fact that I have a lot of research to do, and I’m not going to hide that fact from my clients. They need to understand that anyone who comes to them with a ready-made solution, without having done any research, isn’t providing them with the value they seek from a new website. “I don’t know” is what opens the door for thoughtful creation.
As I try to approach each day, each phone call or email, and each meeting with optimism and confidence, I’m always reminding myself to embrace what I don’t know and focus on how that will drive me to find the answers.
“I don’t know” is driving me to provide something thoughtful, something considered, something that works.
I’m officially throwing myself in and I’m not going to concern myself with the fact that I don’t know the answer. Im focusing on how I’ll figure it out.
Now that that’s out of the way, I can focus on writing about what I do know.