“The difference between what the most and the least learned people know is inexpressibly trivial in relation to that which is unknown.” — Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
You can stop pretending you know what you’re doing. I know you’re making everything up as you go (hoping nobody notices). It’s OK though – that’s not where your problems are coming from. Rather, your problems are coming from the fact that you think other people know what they’re doing. It’s an illusion that’s wreaking havoc in your life. It’s causing you to doubt yourself. It’s causing you to hide your challeges from others. It’s even paralyzing you at times. No one else knows what they’re doing either. They’re making everthing up too. Relax into your ignorance. Open up. Experiment.
I’ve got a client who’s a master at encouraging “not knowing” in his organization. He’s created a culture that welcomes openly admitting when you’re stuck or don’t know what to do. Following is an example in his words. “Let’s say we’re in a meeting, and someone says they’re going to take a lead on a project. I always ask the follow-up question, ‘Do you have a clear idea of your next steps?’ It challenges them to check-in with themselves. If they say yes, I ask them to briefly outline their approach. If they say no, the team helps them think through it. I never want someone walking away from a meeting without a plan for moving forward – even if that merely means doing more research. I’ve noticed that if we’re not clear with each other, plans are left vauge and action stalls. The truth is, we all struggle more than we like to admit. To work, the process has to be a 2-way street. I also have to admit when I’m stuck and need help thinking through something. It sends the signal loud and clear that others can do the same.”
1. Practice admitting when you’re stuck or don’t know what you’re doing (perhaps in safer environments at first).
2. Open up to others to help you begin to find answers to your challenges.
3. Begin to notice the sense of freedom that can come from not having to “know” all the time.