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


Is This Holding You Back?

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. 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!

In other words,

We have a fear that we have to ‘know it all’ before we can start. AND we allow that fear to halt us in our steps.

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 Is…

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 before she started to create a plan around it.

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.

But what if that isn’t true? What if it’s actually confusing us more than it’s helping us??

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

Those Around You May Not Understand This

But what if you have a team? A manager? Colleagues? People who are expecting ‘output’ from you, when you’re not quite ready to produce it…?

It’s all very well when we are in control of our own ideas and timescale, but what happens when we work for someone else, or lead a team?

I get this; 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…

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 with what you know. Start with what’s true for you right now. 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. You have to trust that this will happen and you ‘worrying’ the idea, like trying to pull a growing your plant out of its pot, won’t help.

That is the creative process.

And, sometimes, a skillful coach or colleague who understands this process, will help you see what is already there, how you can move into action with what you have, and where to look to see the green shoots of the next stage.

With love,


P.S. All of us, you me, my clients and everyone around us, start out not knowing what shape our ideas are going to take. That doesn’t stop us, and it doesn’t need to stress us. And, if you’d like to talk more about how this works, please reach out to me.