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Why Naivety Can Be Your Most Powerful Asset

Updated: Oct 17, 2018

Psst! Feel like you don't know what you're doing? Here's how to embrace that naivety as the hidden blessing it is.

Impostor syndrome, Hamish and Andy, Who What Wear, Coveteur, The Sartorialist

Psst! Everyone feels like this

Back when I worked at Collective Hub magazine, I interviewed approximately 34,567 entrepreneurs and start-up founders. I spoke to everyone from @whowhatwear founders Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power, and @thesartorialist, aka Scott Schulman, to @coveteur founders Stephanie Mark and Jake Rosenberg (you can check out that story here).

Collective Hub | Covetuer

Want to know the ONE thing that kept coming up again and again as they shared their stories from lightbulb moment to ‘making it’? That they didn't know what they were doing when they first launched their businesses - and that their naivety was a gigantic blessing.

Clueless = fearless

So many of the interviewees shared that they were kinda clueless when they started out – and if they’d known exactly what was going to be involved (in terms of both know-how and sheer 24/7 hard work) in their journey before they began… they wouldn’t have done it (!).

I’m not sharing this to make you tremble in your little cotton socks, but rather, as a reminder that sometimes, it’s best not to know everything at the outset.

After thinking about this, I did some research and found that it's a common thread among many people's stories. It seems that being a little, uh, clueless at the beginning allows us to forge ahead where otherwise we might let fear block our progress.

Mega successful entrepreneur Hillary Kerr, co-founder of Who What Wear and My Domaine, talked about this very thing recently on her podcast, Second Life (ep.32):

“I always say that when Katherine and I started our company, I knew enough to do it, but not enough to not do it. There was a level of ignorance about what we were taking on that I think really helped. Because if I had fully understood the scope of what we were attempting at that moment in time, I think it would have terrified me. I don’t know if I would have understood my own capacity to work, or my own capacity to be all in, and it was one of those things that at the time, I was in the middle of it, I wasn’t going to stop, but if I had known ahead of time it was going to look like that… I’m not sure. I hope I would have taken the plunge, but I don’t know that I would have!”- Hillary Kerr

I also found an interview with Andy Lee from mega successful radio duo Hamish & Andy where he talked about this very thing from their early days in radio:

“We had the blessing of naivety. A lot of the decisions that we made we would never make now because we would be too scared – there’s too much at stake.” - Andy Lee

We ALL have a fear of failure - so the upside to not knowing how monumentally you may be poised to fail - or how much hard work will be involved in ensuring you don't - is, you step right in, blissfully unawares and happy to continue on your merry way, minus the fear.

It's ok not to know everything

And, it helps to know that many successful people STILL don't completely know what they're doing! We love this honest quote from jewellery designer Samantha Wills, about not knowing all of the things, and smashing all of the goals regardless:

"Being creative was my hobby. I didn’t study it, so it feels very fraudulent to have a creative venture that is a business. I also get asked a lot about fashion – I don’t really know a lot about fashion. I know what I like, but because I work in the industry, people think I know what I’m talking about, like I always get asked, ‘What’s the next big jewellery trend?’ I have no idea. I just design what I want to wear." - Samantha Wills

Naivety = dreaming big

Put simply, being naive fuels us to set ambitious goals. Most of us (unless you're say, Beyonce) tend to set goals that are just enough outside our comfort zones to feel like we're stretching ourselves - but not so far that we feel like we may break! If we're unaware how far say, quitting the nine-to-five and launching a coaching business, is going to test us, we're a lot more likely to take the leap. If you wait around until you feel like you're completely qualified, clued up and ready? It'll probably be too late (or worse, you'll find an excuse to back out).

Being a little bit of an 'impostor' in your field means you don't have all of the clues when it comes to just how many all-nighters you're going to have to pull to make your business a success - and that can only be a good thing when you're about to launch your dreams, right?

So if you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing? Thank your lucky stars above – nature designed it that way, so that you’ll keep on keeping on. (Oh, and yep, we all feel like that, most of the time!).

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