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Embracing the Unknown

If you’re going to this year’s Brighton Chamber of Commerce Summit in October, you’ll be aware that it has an intriguing theme: “Embracing the Unknown”.  As change has been a feature in my business and commercial life over the past few years, I thought that I’d pen some words on the subject.

Doing new stuff is hard.  Really hard.  Human beings don’t cope very well with change. Why? Because we all fear failure.  Failure (or the fear of it) stalks us, it follows us around.

Sometimes I think that eventually, somehow, I’m going to be caught out. Uncovered.  People will realise that I’m just a bit, well, rubbish. But it’s not true.

As a copywriter, I get to grips with the unknown all the time: new industry sectors, tough deadlines, very challenging projects.  Sometimes I wonder if I actually can write 350 words on coffee tables, or about commercial carpet cleaning.  But I always do.

How do I do this?  Here’s some advice, which I hope you’ll find useful:

  1. Time for some visualisation, people. Picture yourself succeeding.  What does success look like?  A tough work assignment may be way outside your comfort zone, but so what?  Get your imagination working overtime: imagine the email or phone call from your client to congratulate you on a job well done.  Create in your mind that fantastic piece of work in front of you, something that you’re exceptionally proud of.
  1. Understand where these feelings have come from. OK, sorry but it’s probably your Mum and Dad or a particularly strict teacher at school but them’s the breaks, folks. You can’t do anything about the past but you can be a different person now and you don’t have to be scared. You CAN and you WILL.
  1. You are better than you think you are. Oh, yes you are. You wouldn’t have a business unless you were good at what you do.  The fear of messing up stalks us all so break down the “unknown” bit of whatever you’re facing into more manageable chunks.  Start with the easy bits.  It’s not that bad now, is it?
  1. You’ve already done lots of things for the first time. And, you didn’t die.  You left home, got a job, started a business, went on holiday on your own, learnt to dance the Argentine tango.  The list is literally endless of all the unknown things in your life with which you are familiar.  OK, maybe not the tango.
  1. Think to yourself: what’s the worst thing that can happen? None of us know what the future holds, so a Plan B may be helpful here. It’s also worth thinking about what could happen if you don’t face the unknown:  what could you lose, for example, if you turn down the opportunity to move to a new country, or even a new City?
  1. Finally – and I’m not being weird here – embrace failure. Failure helps us learn and grow and is an inevitable part of life.  The more you fail, the more you succeed.  Understand that the unknown is just something that we don’t know yet.  It may work and it may not.  But it’s always worth trying.