In this episode, I am sharing why I think it is okay to begin even if we don’t have all the answers right away. I am also sharing my personal experience as to what it looks like when we are building a creative work and life practice that would work for us but we don’t know what it could look like yet. I’m sharing encouragement for you to begin even if you don’t yet know where you are going.
Links that I mentioned:
- Book: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
- Figuring things out as we go with Giulia – Season 1, Ep. 4
- Owning our stories with Hira Sameer Ahmed – Season 1, Ep. 1
- Sign up to the fortnightly letters
- Ask me a question or send me a DM and connect with me on instagram and let’s keep the conversation going.
Transcript of the episode:
Today, I want to talk about a lesson that I keep learning and keep coming back to. It is okay to not have all the answers before we begin or take the next step.
This one comes up for me a lot and I am pretty sure it has come up for you in the past or maybe it is something you are currently struggling with.
I’ve always had this desire to start something of my own that will allow me the creative freedom and fulfillment.
After graduation when I was building my corporate career, I always told myself I do not have the time or the energy to figure this out for myself. To be really honest, a. It was not a priority and b. I did not know I was allowed to dream like that, or that it was possible for me and that I could go against the should dos as I was following all the should dos. I was in the fight and flight mode.
And the worst part of all it was that back then I didn’t know what that dream was for me. Only now after all these years and after dipping my toe and being in the messy middle, I can say that the dream is to have a creative business alongside a creative practice that would give me the creative fulfillment, freedom – freedom to design my own days, more time to do the things I love doing, to support my introverted self really and of course, financially sustainable one.
All that time, I never realized I had the power to change following the should dos. That I always had that power to find out what works for me. To dream and to see what’s possible for me.
I was a multi-passionate, I still am one and I am pretty sure I will be one in the future as well. I used to think I don’t know where to begin and I used to think because I don’t know what I want to be doing, that somehow means it is not for me. The kind of stories we tell ourselves.
Before coming across this term ‘multi-passionate’ I used to think there was something wrong with me. That I lacked the self-discipline, or I had commitment issues as I was unable to stick to one thing. I wanted to learn all these different things and I wanted to experiment, explore but I didn’t know where to begin or take the next step, so I didn’t. I stayed there at that very place for a long time.
It all changed for me when I moved as it felt like a chance to start afresh and be whoever I wanted to be. It felt like a privilege to be able to dream and learn that it is possible for me if I am brave enough to try.
Okay, so now I had the dream and I started researching, how to make a creative business online as a multi-passionate. I took the next super safe step. I found a course that promised me a successful business as a multi-passionate. I invested in that and I ended up resenting it mainly because there were strategies, blueprints, and formulas and they were not working for me. They did not sit well with my values as a person. I am sure they work for some people but they sure weren’t for me.
In retrospect, I can tell you that at that point I needed to learn to listen to my intuition. I needed to learn to trust myself. I needed to learn to trust the process. I needed to find out what works for me as I was trying to build a business alongside my creative practice. Making it a sustainable business was my dream. I needed to cultivate the confidence and courage to keep going even if I didn’t know what I was doing because that is how I believe we find our way. By engaging with the process. By being in that messy middle.
By no means am I suggesting here that your creative venture is only worthy if you end up monetizing it or earning money from it in some way? It could be and that would be nice too but that’s not it. I am a big believer in doing things just because. To enjoy the process and to experiment. Not every hobby of ours has to/ must turn into a money-making machine and I don’t believe if it is not making you are doing something wrong. Nope. I am not saying that but that is an important conversation for another day. A whole another episode, I guess.
Even after researching all the strategies in the world, I was still not ready to take the unsafe step. To actually put my work out there. The good-enough version. It felt like a good enough version because I didn’t have all the answers. I was spending countless hours on the internet trying to learn everything I possibly could just to make sure that I knew exactly what I was doing.
I wanted to be sure that I have researched enough, learned enough, and figured out the exact steps to the whole thing before I even start. That’s partly my perfectionism at play as well but we’ll talk about perfectionism in great detail in another episode.
As human beings, we have the tendency to lean towards certainty as it feels safe and in the process, we forget that things never really are certain. The current global situation around the coronavirus pandemic is a great reminder that things are never certain. We don’t know what it is going to look like in six months’ time, in a month’s time or even tomorrow. But I don’t want to make you feel bad for wanting to have certainty.
After all, it is human to want to have that sense of security.
I think our cultural and social timelines train us for this. We want to do things only when we know exactly which step to take to get where we want to go. This is the training our school systems and cultural timelines give us. You go to school. Grade 1, take the tests, go to grade 2. Pass the school, go to college, university. Go get a job. And goes on. This way of being in modern society sets the tone for the rest of life afterward. This makes us feel things are supposed to be like this. All figured out. A syllabus, a curriculum. Everything pre-planned and figured out.
Talking about this reminded me of the time soon after my graduation. I am sure you can relate to this as well. Soon after, I remember feeling lost. Which way now, where to. So lost! I remember feeling this way as there was no plan. Nothing to look forward to or have an anchor to my days while I was waiting for my day job to begin. Before that, I never had that time. I always woke up to be somewhere, doing something I was supposed to be doing. Something that was pre-planned for me.
The thing is: we feel paralyzed to begin when we think we don’t have all the answers, we have not figured it all out yet and sometimes we spend a whole a lot of years standing at this very place.
You can probably see from my own example that I’ve found myself going around in circles and ending up here at this point – too paralyzed to begin because I don’t have all the answers (yet).
If I drill down, at the heart of it is almost always the fear of failure. I want to know exactly what to do and when to do it so I can be sure that I am not going to fail.
If you are anything like me and find yourself struggling with something similar, feeling stuck with your creative projects and are too scared to pick up because you are uncertain of the future and these are the projects that you adore, absolutely adore with all your heart and you cannot possibly wait to bring them to life but you are finding yourself in the waiting room and you are looking for assurance that you are not going to fail.
As I said before, I am a big believer in experimenting and doing things just because. Allowing our creativity, our creative work to come to life through us, and show us what it is capable of. Okay now, this is reminding me of big magic. In the book, Elizebeth Gilbert talks something about taking the leap and trusting the net will appear but not burning all the bridges behind you. I’ve put it into practice and I can tell from my personal experience that most of the time the nest appears but sometimes, it doesn’t but that doesn’t mean we stop trying, right?
It is a lot about trusting the process and doing it for the process, learning to love the process.
Your creativity doesn’t owe you the success you are dreaming about. We also have to be intelligent about taking the leap. Keeping in mind that our creativity doesn’t owe us the success we are dreaming about. Again in Big magic, Elizabeth Gilbert shared about taking on part-time waitressing jobs while she was working on her manuscripts to pay the bills. So I guess, the message here is, it is about finding what works for you in your unique circumstances.
I have seen so many wonderful humans with amazing ideas and it breaks my heart a little to see them in the waiting room. If you are finding yourself in the waiting room too, this is what I’d like to remind you..
It is okay to not have all the answers. We never really have all the answers. I hate to break it to you but We might never will. It is a journey of continuous learning. There is no blueprint, no magic pill, or no sure shot formula. As much as I’d like to have one or give you the one – I don’t think such things exist if you are trying to build a creative work and life practice that works for you.
As human being you contain multitudes. Layers and layers. We are so similar to each other but we are so different from each other in many ways. What works for me might not work for you. It is a skill to start to learn to yourself and to trust yourself that the answers you are seeking are all inside of you. If only you allow yourself to stand still, still enough so that you could hear them. This is what I call, learning to listen to your intuition. You have to be willing to figure out the answers along the way.
Not that you are looking for, or need to look for permission outside of you but in case it helps here’s my permission slip for you: it is perfectly fine to not have all the answers in front of you before you start. Oftentimes the best work comes forward when you experiment, follow your curiosity and give yourself permission to listen to your intuition and most importantly to create, keep on creating and showing up.
I’m about to share a product design analogy here so bear with me. I promise it will make sense. I remember struggling with this idea while working on my design projects when I was in college. We were given a problem, a problem that needs solving and you needed to come up with solutions that will help solve that problem for the masses. You start researching not only on existing solutions but also on possible solutions that you could think of and you start sketching ideas for those possible solutions. Most of the time you didn’t know what the end product is going to look like.
And oftentimes, that blurry vision that you had in mind wasn’t something that actually came to life when you finally were able to solve that problem. The solution you thought will work after all the nitty-gritty and reaching a stage of prototyping, most often was not working. You had to start all over again from the very first step. But this time you were better equipped as now you had gained a better understanding of the problem you were trying to solve and using the knowledge of the on-hands experience of what’s not working. It was all trial and error. By going through that process, that process of trial and error you finally were able to land on something that did serve the purpose.
Do you see what I am getting at? It is okay, in fact, an important part of the process that you don’t have all the answers in front of you. It needs you to not have all the answers in place. It needs your understanding of the problem you are trying to solve and that understanding comes from you actually trying to solve that very same problem in real-time.
This exact same phenomenon applies to life and to any creative venture. Oftentimes we do not have all the answers but have a feeling of what’s not working and could use a little change. You might not know for sure how you can make it work but you start by trying out different possibilities and hopefully land on something that works for you.
I’d encourage you to let the process guide you towards the clarity you are aching for as that clarity of thought comes with you walking the path and struggling your way out of that mess. It requires courage to show up and walk that path of discovery. Instead of a well-thought-out or all figured out path, how about you think of it as a path of discovery? How about you give yourself permission to begin anyway, experiment, and figure it out as you go?
Sometimes it is going to be easy and other times it’s going to be very hard but that’s part of the process. Right? I know, it is rather easier said than done. But the process is where the magic happens.
Okay, so now let’s tackle another big thing that comes up if you are finding yourself saying but I don’t really know what I want. Which way to go. Where to next. I’d say, You are on a path of discovery, keep an open mind, and explore. Start with what you don’t want. Whenever I find myself in decision paralysis and chaos like that, I try the method of intentional subtraction. It is where I collect information and keep subtracting what I know I don’t want for sure. It helps me in narrowing down. I remind myself that I am one step closer to what I really want. Try it and see if it works for you too.
What you don’t want will bring you much closer to what you really want. It sounds counterintuitive but it works very well for me.
In the end, I want to say start somewhere small and keep going. And keep exploring. Enjoy the ride while you are at it.
And in the end, I want to share a few action steps that I’d recommend and encourage you to take
Drill down and figure out what’s really stopping you from taking action? Is it fear? Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of the unknown, or what is it? Give it a name. Call it by its name and acknowledge its presence. There is something wonderful that happens when we call it by its name. It loses its power over us. We are able to separate ourselves from it which makes it much more easier to find ways around it and to show up despite feeling afraid because it no longer remains a story about us.
Okay and Then write yourself a permission slip to try and fi.gure out along the way.
My last recommendation for you is to listen back to the episode with Giulia where we talked a lot about figuring things out as we go to find some comfort and inspiration. It was the fourth episode of season 1 and I’ll leave a link to that in the show notes.
If you’d like to listen more about my own story of navigating the messy middle and finding what works for me, listen to the very first episode of the podcast.
This is it for today.
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