The Power of Not Knowing

If you work in a corporation, you may have noticed how dangerous it is not to know something—the latest office news, your boss’s thoughts, your own job’s newest development. You may spend a lot of time gathering information so you can be in the know. Someone who admits to not knowing is branded as ‘stupid,’ ‘not ambitious,’ or, more dangerous in a corporation, ‘someone not vital to the team,” which means, roughly, “someone we can lose in the next layoff.”

Image from

Image from

How did knowing everything become so important? Particularly since not knowing is the way we get information, the way we learn how to do something new. In the business world, the importance of knowing could lie in the time- and money-cost of training. It takes longer to train someone who doesn’t know than someone who already does. And for a beleaguered supervisor, training takes time away from the job, so hiring someone who already knows the job seems the best route. A reasonable shortcut is on-the-job training. To the person looking for a job, it seems reasonable to exaggerate skills, education, and experience. That makes us know more and get hired. And then perform poorly. How much more exciting if we could admit we didn’t know, but were eager to learn.

The problems start when the job expectations are out of reach of what we know.
This is no different for an artist than a corporate employee. An artist who tells a coach, “I know how to work with galleries,” or “I know what I need to do,” may be covering over an important part of their life that needs work.

Knowing and not knowing is closely related to control. The more we try to control every minute of our lives, the more we have to know. Not knowing relinquishes control. Not being in control can be a big relief, less responsibility, less worry. But it’s scary to most people. Control can help you avoid what you don’t know.

What a relief the phrase “I don’t know” can be. It opens the door to getting more information, to new experiences, to new perspectives. There is a great release of pressure when you are not in control of every second of your life. You are not so disappointed all the time when you don’t know, when control is not the driving force in your life.

In the next few days, when you feel as if you are being pecked to death by ducks, try saying “I just don’t know” to yourself. Take off that heavy backpack of knowing and controlling and instead take three deep, slow breaths. Not knowing is freeing. It allows for knowing something new. Controlling every second slams the door on exploring. If you can’t be comfortable with not knowing, try seeing it as choosing what to know next.

Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach and writer. She helps people explore their “not knowing” how to draw through (c) Quinn McDonald 2007-9

New Year’s Resolution in October

If you’ve read the blog, you know I’m not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions. Fall, a time the weather changes and makes us think of shorter days, both metaphorically and literally, is an excellent time for reflection. And now, when there are about 100 days left in the year, is a great time to start a count-down toward the end of the year and start thinking about what you want to change.

100 days to New Year's Day

100 days to New Year

When New Year’s Day is on you, and you make quick, unconsidered changes in your life, the chances are slim they will last. But 100 days out, you have time to

  • Think about what you want to change in your life
  • Decide if this is a change you want to put some effort into
  • Sort through the steps that will get you there
  • Gather support for the change from friends and family
  • Create the rewards for completed steps in the change
  • Pinpoint the behavior you want to change and the behavior you want to substitute for it
  • Dream up some rituals to keep you on track
  • Visualize success

These steps are much better than deciding you want to lose weight, read more, create more deeply, and then not knowing how. Starting early gives you a running start.
When you jump into the New Year, you’ll have ritual, support, expected behavior and have imagined the result. That’s a plan that will give you some real results.

One more step. If you want real change in your life, hire a coach. Yes, I am a coach, but that’s not the point. A coach offers support and accountability. Ask any coach questions before you start. But a coach is a vital step in success for any resolution or change. You’ll enjoy your new life!

–Quinn McDonald is a life coach and certified creativity coach. She writes and runs workshops on change and reinventing yourself. See her work at