Fear & Other Tough Stuff: I don't know howWhat do you do after you say, I don’t know how?

  • I’d like to find more meaningful work, but I don’t know how.
  • I’d like to start a blog, but I don’t know how.
  • I’d love to try travel hacking, but don’t know how to do it.
  • I know it’s time to negotiate a higher salary, but I just don’t know how.
  • I’d really like to sell some of the things I make on Etsy, but I don’t know how.

We don’t come out of the womb knowing how to do tons of stuff, do we? But it’s amazing how often I don’t know how is a showstopper.

As if we should intuitively know how to do things. And if we don’t, then it’s just not meant to be. End of story.

Boy, that kind of learned helplessness makes me uncomfortable.

So here are three simple tips for what to do after you say I don’t know how.

Tip #1: Follow I don’t know how with, but I’m going to figure it out. Mindset is key here. Staying stuck in I don’t know how is disempowering. Embracing your curiosity and resourcefulness will be important to the outcome. Practice going beyond the I don’t know how part—in your thinking and your actions.

Tip #2: Google it. It’s mind blowing how much you can find out about how to do something with just a little research. If I look at my search history just today, I can see I’ve been finding out how to use a teleprompter, how to turn off Wi-Fi assist on my iPhone, and how to create a conversion pixel for a Facebook ad. None of which I knew how to do when I woke up this morning.

Tip #3: Ask someone for help. Not necessarily someone who’s done what you’re trying to figure out. I mean, fantastic if you know someone who started a blog or does travel hacking or has negotiated a higher salary. By all means ask them for the inside track. Otherwise, even asking a friend to help you brainstorm can be beneficial. Get used to saying, I’d like to do X, but at this point I don’t know how. Can you help me think through possible steps for figuring it out?

Often we stop at but I don’t know how because secretly we’re afraid to do the thing even if we did know how.

For instance, knowing how to go about negotiating a higher salary won’t necessarily take away the fear you feel actually asking your boss for the meeting.

So we use but I don’t know how as a buffer. If we don’t know how to do something, then we don’t have to venture outside our comfort zone to actually do it.

But sticking with only what you know how to do today is guaranteed to keep your world small. And “safe”—but in the suffocating, stifling kind of way.

When’s the last time you said you wanted to do something but didn’t know how—and that was the end of the story? Which of the three tips will you use to move forward?