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Does anyone really know what they are doing?

I noticed something. I was running my hands through my hair again. A lot. Enough that my thick wavy hair was now spiked out like a troll doll.

That’s my sure sign: hey! I’m anxious!

The next question I ask myself: why?

I’ve just spent the last week carefully preparing (with an amazing team) the next episode of the Reboot Podcast, a wonderful conversation between Jerry and Sharon Salzberg titled: “Does Anyone Really Know What They Are Doing?” I must admit there was a tiny part of me that kind of felt like I was beyond my anxious moments of not having it “figured out.” Like nights past 10pm (hey, I have a 1 year old) or forgetting to pay bills on time, I just assumed I had grown out of this. Cue: Running my hands through my hair this morning.

In the intro to the episode I share a personal story from my startup past, a moment that instantly came to mind when I was listening to Jerry and Sharon talk about the anxiety of not knowing:

“We have no idea what we’re doing, we’ll never figure this out.” I bemoaned to Coach Jerry. This was many years ago, long before I was recording podcast intros, I was Jerry’s client, and I had just spent a very, very long Memorial day weekend working with my 3 co-founders. We were cooped up in a dark apartment, frantically trying to perfect our “make or break” pitch. The pitch was a still a disaster, we were exhausted and fighting. I felt shame. “Why can’t we do it but Company Z can?”

Jerry smiled. “Ahh, Company Z. Their team was in here last week — you know what they said to me?”

“We have no idea what we’re doing.”

“You my friend, you are now seeing how the sausage is made. Welcome to being an Entrepreneur.”

I remember that session well. I remember the relief that came with the normalizing. “You mean I’m not the only one that feels this way? You mean it is ok to not know what you are doing? You mean it’s OK to not have it all figured out?” The weight of being a fraud had been lifted for a moment. That sense of being broken, temporarily mended.

So I found it very interesting this morning, sitting at a coffee shop, to notice my hands running through my hair. Clearly I had not grown out of feeling this way, I doubt you ever do, but I do think I have a new perspective on this.

First, I’ll let you all in on a little secret: I don’t have it figured out. I don’t know it all, and the vast majority of the time I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m going to make a lot of mistakes, give a lot of wrong answers, and try a lot of (probably) foolish things. That’s AOK.

Secondly, everyone, all of us, feels like we have no idea what we’re doing at one point or another.

Sometimes it feels like life is this endless chase to remove all the uncertainty, to bring order from chaos, to remove or ignore the fear or anxiety- but wouldn’t we miss it?

In this episode, Sharon tells a beautiful story of the Dalai Lama speaking on a panel at Emory University with Alice Walker and Richard Gere where he was asked, “Does great creativity have to come out of great suffering?”

After a very, very long pause he answered:

(paraphrased): In Tibet something is considered wonderful, beautiful, and creative depending on what happened to the creator in the process.

You, the one who you become and what you give while you create, are the ultimate source of beauty.

So what if that anxiety, the hands running through my hair, the wrestling with the uncertainty, is ultimately the source of energy and beauty? What if I were to embrace the anxiety of not knowing and use it in the creative process instead of chasing it away?

I think I can live with looking like a troll doll a bit longer…

This post was first published on Medium on August 28, 2015.


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