What To Do When You Don't Know What To Do
What To Do
when you don't know what to do
In the beginning of the year, I wrote a long post summarising my 2016 making lofty goals for 2017 to make my business reach new heights. I had the planners, I had the excel sheets, I had the release and marketing plans, ready to go. I was so going to do it. Except I wasn’t feeling any of it at all.
I had felt stressed out and unhappy about my business for a while. I was doing too many things to too many people; teaching, branding, coaching, business planning, online courses… I was doing what others asked of me, instead of getting really clear on what I wanted.
Deep inside, I wanted to expand way beyond business and marketing. I wanted to write about life, work, creativity, art and business – the things that I am endlessly interested in. I wanted to write about life goals, and all the struggles and epiphanies involved.
I realised that I didn’t want to focus so much on marketing, but on writing. Not so much on business, but on creating a body of work. I wanted to go back to my artist’s roots, and create something that I was proud of. Something that came from the heart, from my life.
I didn’t want to an online business, but a good old-fashioned blog.
I felt great resistance. It was too broad, too personal, too “life-bloggy”. I sure as hell wasn’t going to get into sharing my dinners and children or post cute outfits. I wanted to write about the deep stuff; personal growth, and complex thoughts about the world and life. But I didn’t really know what that was going to look like. The pieces didn’t fit in my head. I was going around in circles without being able to find a direction.
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. ~ Steve Jobs
This is one of the most loved quotes of Steve Jobs. I love it too, but I’ve often wondered how do you actually do it. I had a handful of ideas, hunches, things that pulled me, ideas that intrigued me, but I didn’t really know how to connect the dots.
I love to reverse engineer things that inspire me. That means looking at the finished thing and trace the path back to learn what the dots were and how they were connected. I love reading autobiographies from artists and business people and learn how they arrived at where they did.
Reverse engineering is, of course, the opposite of following the dots, and trusting that they will show the way. It’s tracing the way back to the beginning, trying to learn and understand from the paths of others. This is useful and very interesting, but it can also make you focus too much on what others have done, and not pay attention to the dots around you.
When the path is still ahead of us, and the dots scattered all around us, how do we go about making the connection? How do we know which dots to follow? How do we get to the point where we can look back and say “Aha! Now it all makes sense”?
I had to find those dots and somehow connect them, and the only way that I could think of how to do that was to just start experimenting.
Ok, so I didn’t know what I wanted to create, but I knew that I wanted to createsomething. I have many passions and interests and I started to just mess around with them. I was taking photos and playing around with them. (All the images in this post are some of the ones that I made).
I went back to an old passion of making cosmetics. I specifically dove into fragrances. I bought dozens of little vials and mixed them into my own little perfumes. Scents are such a fascinating world!
I was writing. Just what came out, just ideas that came popping in my head. Most of it made no sense, but some of it stuck, and I kept going towards the direction that felt good.
I put together a Pinterest board and simply collected images that I loved. I didn’t even know what I was going to do with them. I pinned dozens of photos that I felt drawn to without much further thought of what it all meant. I just wanted to bookmark images that for some reason or another felt attractive to me.
It was only after I’d done the pinning, that I stepped back and looked at what I’d chosen and it was curious to see the themes, visuals, colours, and moods that emerged. The same themes kept repeating over and over.
And then something started to emerge...
I also looked at the images I had been making. Just random photos of things that had felt drawn to. And there they were again. The same colours, moods and themes.
I looked at my words. The things that had been swirling in my head. The desires that had been bubbling under the surface. The ideas that had forced themselves through. I had rejected those topics so many times, diminished them in my head, brushed them on the side as not worthy of my time. But stubbornly they returned until I couldn’t ignore them anymore.
It was so obvious to see, after it was all there, side by side.
All those little pieces started to come together. All those little fragments of ideas, those little half-baked, unpublished blog posts, they all started to look like something that made sense when put together.
Those little dots all around me had started to come together and they created an entity that made sense to me. All these things that I felt deeply drawn to, but couldn’t quite match, started to fit together.
The sum of those little parts was so much greater than what I could’ve imagined in my head. I couldn’t have planned it beforehand. I had to create it all first, and I had to see it all laid out in front of me, in order to understand what it all was going to become.
That’s what that Steve Jobs quote means to me. That’s the practical application of how to connect the dots. Not just the warm rush of inspiration, but the actual steps to take.
Ok, back to the blog.
So, what next?
I've unpublished almost all of my existing post. I’ve pulled out all of my courses and other offerings. I’m no longer in the business of online business. I’m going to be writing a blog and see where it takes me.
What can you expect going forward?
* I will write about work, life, and creativity – together and separately because everything I’ve been writing about lately seems to fall into one of these three categories. * I will write about habits, goals, and mindset – because those things are the tools that you create your life with * I will write about growing an audience and all the business-ey stuff involved, but it will be in the context of blogging * I will share my own goals and experiments – because I don’t want to teach or preach, I just want to share how it’s been working for me * I occasionally interview people who are on a similar path – because interesting people are, well, incredibly interesting. * So that’s where I’ve arrived, and that’s where I’m heading.
I hope you continue to read my stuff and enjoy it.