Change Catalyst with Shanna Mann: Strategy & Support for Sane Self-Employment

≡ Menu

Not Knowing What You’re Doing Is The Very Definition of The Human Condition

I get angry at the self-help/personal dev industry sometimes. Success Strategy this and 5 Ways to Transform Your Life that, all so much garbage in that it perpetuates the idea that someone, somewhere has all the answers.

It makes me feel stabby.

But for the sake of keeping it classy, I’m going to spit out some Latin. You will ignore the pretentiousness of this and agree that I am classy. I’m stabby, remember?

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

There. That’s what a university education in the humanities gets you– — — a seven-syllable phrase in a dead language that says, “You pulled that explanation out of your ass.”

More kindly stated, it means that just because b followed a, does not necessarily mean that a caused b.

Bear with me, this is complex.

This means that when you say things like “Do X to get Y results” even if you say “I did X and got Y, so you can too,” it doesn’t constitute proof.


Having tried a whole bunch of stuff, some that worked, some that didn’t, and eventually working your way to the place where you feel qualified to say what does and doesn’t work, based on your experience, doesn’t mean that your experience is objectively true.

Now, I’m not knocking people (people like me!) who say, here’s what works for me, here’s why I think it worked, maybe it will work for you. Even if you state it really strongly, like “The 5 Traits You MUST Have to Succeed in this Economy!”

I’m rapping my knuckles on the skulls of those who feel like failures because what worked for some other guy didn’t work for them. It’s ludicrous!

This is why Logic should be a curriculum class.

All anybody who gives you advice is working on is a theory. It may be an extremely strong theory, with a lot of evidence to back it up (I like to think mine are).

It may be a crappy little theory with holes big enough to drive a bus through (here’s one I saw last week. Do NOT get me started.)

Even this article is merely a theory. I could be wrong. I could be right. Most likely, I’m objectively neither of those things but I’m hoping the theory has enough merit to overcome its obvious drawbacks.

And what’s the moral of all this?

Nobody Knows What They’re Doing. Nobody Has the Answers.

At best, they’ve got a working theory.

The reason this is applicable is that I see people shooting themselves in the foot every goddamn day because they don’t know what they’re doing and they think this means they’re not ready; not ready to start, not ready for success, whatever.

Now, I realize that few people actually come right out and say, “Yeah, I really don’t know what the hell I’m doing. Pretty much winging it, if you want to know the truth. I hope it’s going to all work out, but your guess is as good as mine.”

But that’s the reality. We’re all just doing the things we figure will help us create our desired outcomes.

If we get success, however we define it, we then turn around and start reverse engineering our success. Why? Because we’re all a bunch of control freaks. We can’t stand the idea that we didn’t directly influence our success by something we did or didn’t do. We refuse to believe it was a complete fluke.

And what’s more is nobody wants to believe it might be a fluke. Even people who are like “haha! what do experts know?” (people like me!) still obsessively create theories about what works and doesn’t work about their lives.

I’ve ranted way too long about this already, but here’s what I came to say:

Darlings, if you’re holding back on anything until the day when you feel like you know what you’re doing, please know, that day will NEVER come. Never.

You’ll just get used to winging it.

Sarah Goshman and I are having a free teleclass on the subject of dealing with overwhelm: Permission Slips for Perfectionists, Overacheivers and Control Freaks: Strategies to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Your Own Success. If this sounds like a topic you’re familiar with, we’d love to have you along to jam with us Wed, April 18. Click the link to sign up!