Do the work, trust the process – and enjoy the uncertainty

by Joanna Pieters | Follow her on Facebook here

A friend emailed me this week, under pressure of leaving a job, fitting in demanding professional training and networking her way into a new role, with her husband away and the summer holidays racing towards us.

This is the kind of overwhelm that comes when we have a long list of things that feel essential, all of them with uncertainty in them.

We ask ourselves:

Will I ever find another job?

Can I get the clients I need?

Will I ever find the new home we’ve been dreaming of?

Will I ever be the coach/writer/parent I want to be?

And then, since we can’t give any of those questions a 100%, unequivocal yes, other questions follow:

Am I wasting my time?

Am I any good?

Should I give up?

As I’ve been working on my new podcast, The Creative Life Show, I’m plagued by the voices of doubt, pretending to be sanity.

Why are you launching a podcast?

Don’t you know they’re lots of work?

Why should anyone listen? 

Shouldn’t you be doing something else instead?

Here’s what Jonathan Fields writes in his wonderful book Uncertainty.

‘One of the single greatest determinants of high-level success as an innovator or creator in any realm is the ability to manage and at times even seek out sustained high levels of uncertainty, bundled lovingly with risk of loss and exposure to criticism.’

What I know is this.

This is all perfectly natural.

If we only ever start something with a guaranteed outcome, we can’t ever achieve anything at all remarkable or interesting.

A long time ago, in an MBA finance class, my lecturer told us:

The possibility of reward is in direct proportion to the amount of risk you take.

If you take a tiny risk you can only get a tiny reward.

A big risk can give a big reward (or a big failure).

A long-term, energy-draining project is always a bigger risk than a small, easy one. But do you want a tiny reward or a big one?

What about my friend, overwhelmed by pressure and opportunities? This is what came to me.

Do the work. Trust the process.

So many of our life-changing projects need long-term, hard work. Finding a new job. Moving house. Launching an art gallery, a gardening blog or a project for your boss. Getting clients. Raising a child. Finishing your book.

We don’t get immediate results. In fact, it often feels as though we’re getting absolutely nowhere.

But the thing about doing the work is this: we practice.

We get better. Each time we show up with our intention and our actions, we do something more convincingly and effectively than last time.

  • If you put in the right applications, make them as outstanding as you can, talk to the right people, learn how to show up well in an interview, you will get a job.
  • If you keep calling potential clients, building relationships, adding value, being of service, you will get work.
  • If you keep actively and consciously working on your skills – your sales skills, your coaching, your leadership, your writing – you will become an expert.

There are a couple of caveats, of course.

Your process has to be sound. If you’re not getting any response after a dozen applications, get some help to improve them. If you can’t find the ideal building to open your art gallery in the area you want, research some new possibilities. If no-one is buying your work despite you getting out there consistently, look at your positioning and your presentation. Keep asking yourself how you can do it better.

You have to show up. A couple of half-hearted attempts at applications, a handful of phone calls, a 30-minute attempt to write a blog post won’t cut it. Stay engaged, stay connected.

Do the work. Trust the process.

When I was job-hunting after my MBA, in a terrible economic climate, I made 93 speculative approaches and applications, 91 of which led nowhere.

But then I was offered two ideal jobs within 24 hours. Coincidence? I doubt it. Honestly, my final letters and interviews were probably about a zillion times better than the first. 

Launching my podcast, I’ve had guests I’ve approached tell me they’re too busy, or others not even reply. I’ve encountered problems totally outside my zone of genius, or comfort. And it is a lot of work.

But:

  • I’ve been recording wonderful, inspiring conversations with extraordinary creative achievers, and the buzz is electric.
  • It’s sparking so many new ideas for new products, books and courses.
  • It’s leading to unexpected new opportunities about speaking, training and coaching, which is the other work I love and that that pays for me to create free things for you.
  • I’m creating something I’m really proud of, and can’t wait to share with you.

And I haven’t even launched it yet.

I’m doing the work. I’m trusting the process.

I’m trying to enjoy the uncertainty, knowing that it’s part of the creative journey. Trying to remind myself that the alternative is, well, boring

We don’t always know where something is going to lead, but we know we need to do it.

And then, when you have space when you’re waiting, use it.

Use it to breathe, deeply. Use it to remind yourself of what you’ve achieved by doing the work. Use it to re-energise yourself. Use it to remind yourself of why it matters to you.

This isn’t fluffy.

This is deeply practical.

You can’t hurry the chocolate cake in the oven, no matter how tempting it smells. You can’t make your summer tomatoes ripen in the spring. The ‘interesting’ result of your daughter’s attempt to cut her own hair will grow out in the time it takes, and no faster.

Do the work. Trust the process.

Embrace the uncertainty. Because it’s so much more interesting than the alternative.

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2 Comments

  1. jane Darvill-Evans

    I love this, Joanna. Inspiring words. Particularly like the re-framing of uncertainty as positive and a time for creativity.

    Reply
    • Joanna Pieters

      Thanks, Jane – I’m so glad it resonated. Yes, I think we’re taught to value certainty from very early, but learning to find the value in the unknown is a much more interesting journey.

      Reply

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