It’s OK If You Don’t Know All the Details

by | Mar 5, 2017

I was at a pitch event for social entrepreneurs earlier this week, and I connected with someone whose project really resonated with me.

We had an email exchange the next day and it raised something that is oh-so-common in many people who want to create change in the world…


The Fear That We Have to “Know It All” Before We Can Start


My lovely new connection said it this way as we got deeper into conversation and I asked about her project:

“I had an immediate fear / resistance point that ‘details are still emerging’, but I know that not exploring them will only keep them hidden!”


Details Are Still Emerging…


The way it usually works is this:

We have an idea and we want to share our enthusiasm. We want to tell our partner, friend, post on Facebook…. but we can’t quite get it out, or the words we can find don’t do justice to the quality of the idea.

Or maybe someone asks, “What are you up to these days?” and you stumble over describing it; you kinda know, but your answer falls flat.

And that ‘not knowing’ can make some of us feel uncomfortable, which then creates an expectation that we have to do something — get to work on the project so that those details become clearer.

We want to think it into existence.

Another friend described it like this: “I need to work with someone to get my ideas out of my head — I’m going to hire someone to write a business plan for me!”

Getting the idea out of her head, though, wasn’t the problem.

The problem was that her idea wasn’t yet fully formed; she didn’t know what she wanted the business to be, and hiring someone to “put it into a plan” would only create more stress through the pressure to respond to the inevitable demands that person would make on her.

Her idea needed time to mature while it was still inside her head.

Yes, of course, there are things we can do to explore in the direction of what we want; things we can do that will spark concrete ideas and add more flesh to the bones of what we are creating.

None of those activities involves  thinking it into existence.


It’s Ok Not to Know


The one thing I DO know about the creative process is that starting to feel some judgment about how poor we are at describing our ideas is not the way to help them flourish.

We’re well-trained (especially in the West) to believe that clarity is a good thing, and that we need to take massive action to get there.

Well, I disagree.

Ideas gestate in their own time, and the only thing you’re going to get from all that thinking is yet more frustration.


Your Manager May Not Understand This


And yes, I know that this is all very well when we are in control of our ideas, when we work for ourselves or lead a team.

I do understand that it doesn’t feel so comfortable when you have to report to someone else. A manager or an investor.

They want results now.

Heck, you probably want results now, which is why you’re putting all that pressure on yourself!


It Isn’t All or Nothing Though


When you’re trying to bring a new idea to life, bear in mind that it is never all or nothing — you will always know something about your idea.

There is always something to describe, even if the larger part is still fuzzy.

Just start there.

Say what you know out loud and don’t criticise yourself for not knowing the pieces you don’t know. The idea will come to light in its own time, like a seed that germinates after many weeks or months in the soil.

If you trust the creative process, that is.

And, sometimes, it takes a skillful coach to work with you to help you see what is already there, and how you can move into action with what you have.

With love,



P.S. All of my clients are people who started out not knowing what shape their idea was going to take. That didn’t stop them, and it didn’t stress them either. Well, it didn’t stress them after we had a conversation! If you have an idea, no matter how fuzzy around the edges, and you know you want to bring it into the world, I’d love to hear more about it — please connect and tell me more.

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