We do our best work when we let ourselves stay in the zone of not knowing and let our intuition guide us.
“The road seen, then not seen, the hillside hiding
then revealing the way you should take, the road
dropping away from you as if leaving you to walk
on thin air, then catching you, holding you up,
when you thought you would fall, and the way
forward always in the end the way that you followed,
the way that carried you into your future, that brought
you to this place, no matter that it sometimes took
your promise from you, no matter that it had to break
your heart along the way…”
I woke up to 7″ of fresh snow. I knew immediately that I wanted to immerse myself in the moment…fall into the hush of the woods, the falling snow, the isolation, the quiet of it all.
I bundled up, laced my hiking boots, put on my headlamp, and set out on a hike long before sunrise. Snow crunched beneath my feet, while my golden retriever, Sophie, sprang through drifts in deer-like sprints. We were entranced by the sensation of sinking into the cottony world of contrast: bright white snow and total darkness.
About 1/4 of a mile onto the trail to the summit of Whiteside Mountain, my headlamp completely conked out. I dug into my pocket for my cellphone and used its flashlight to shine a sliver of light about two or three feet in front of us.
Moving Forward in Darkness
I spotted tracks and stopped to investigate. They were hoof prints, so I knew the elegant buck I had had a close encounter with a few weeks prior was amongst us. Having his company made me feel less trepidatious about pushing forward with limited visibility.
The safe areas for where to place my feet faded in and out of my sight. Rocks, gullies, and patches of ice were covered in snow, and I didn’t know their location until my feet were right on top of them.
We kept climbing.
I stopped thinking about anything other than safely ascending the mountain. There was nothing else. Just the snow, the mountain, Sophie, and placing my boots in a rhythm. I lost all my landmarks and had no signposts for where on the trail I was. How far I had come. How far I still had to go.
We kept climbing.
As the sun neared the horizon, the sky brightened a bit. I gained confidence and relaxed into the moment. Less forcing and more allowing…I let myself be guided forward and up.
Pushing through Uncertainty
We made the last turn. I could see the opening in the trees. The summit was near. Sophie recognized where we were and pulled hard on the leash, wanting to run to the finish line. The moment we got to the top, the clouds swirled in bursts like dye in water. And then they parted, revealing the tiniest slice of a nearly-new moon.
We stood and gaped in the quiet and watched the sun rise. Pierce through strands of clouds and shoo away the rest of the storm.
I connected with the part of me that always demands a plan, to know the way, have absolute certitude. I gave her a nudge and asked her to remember how it felt to stand here on this mountaintop—having pushed through darkness, apprehension, and uncertainty.
I asked her to please remember all of this the next time the road disappeared from view.
As entrepreneurs and creators, we often get stuck in our businesses and in our art. In those moments, when we don’t know what to do and are hesitant to push through the uncertainty, we want to grasp the edges of the known and stay put.
Mistakes Are Required for Our Best Work
Of course, what we are wanting to do is avoid making mistakes. Get it wrong. But what if making mistakes is required for us to get better at our work, our craft? What if stepping forward where there is no road is the missing ingredient that ends up infusing us (and what we offer to the world) with excitement, freedom, and untold possibility?
These are the very things our ideal market is craving from us. Our prospective clients and buyers understand immediately if we have stepped out beyond the edge of our knowing. Done the work.
When the road disappears from beneath us, we begin using our intuition more…we start trying things we haven’t tried before. The essence of whom we are starts to show up. This energy is precisely what we want in our enterprises and in everything we create.
This is what makes incredible work. It comes from not knowing. The very thing we are trying to avoid. The elusive thing we are trying to surface takes our time, our patience, our courage.
When we move in darkness, we mine the jewels of craft, creation, joy, and connection. This is the real conversation we want to have (and the one our ideal clients long for).