Entrepreneurship is full of unknowns.
People like us have a strange relationship with the unknown, don’t we?
While not knowing what to do next can be stressful, the unknown is also where we can thrive. True entrepreneurs create where there’s white space. And so in a weird way, we love the unknown.
Really, we need the unknown.
But that doesn’t make facing the unknown easier. We’ll all smack up against situations in which we don’t quite know what to do next.
For those times, here’s an approach you can take that will help you navigate the white space.
Think of everything you think you know.
This may seem silly at first, but hang with me.
Maybe you’re wondering, “If I don’t know what to do next, what good would it do to think about what I already know?”
There are three reasons this is a good first step.
First, you might actually know the answer. We surprise ourselves sometimes with our own genius. But genius needs space to grow. Dedicating a little time to think about what you think you know might be just enough space to answer your own question.
Second, this little exercise will lead you to resources that might have the answer for you. You’ll start to see patterns. Your brain will work hard to make connections that you couldn’t see before. That’s crucial.
Third, you’ll have an even better idea of what you don’t actually know. Filling this in will highlight the empty space.
When I do this, I write it out. Penning things out is a creative activity for me, and I’m a visual person. That works for me. I know someone who prefers to do an audio recording then listen back to it. That works for him.
See if you can find what works for you.
Once you’ve taken a few minutes to think of what you think you know, take the next step.
Seek out a person for advice.
You’ve gotten your thoughts out in the first step, now it’s time to bring those to someone who can really help.
I’ve used plenty of approaches when I reach this step.
My favorite approach is to go straight to one of my mentors. Mentors are crucial in these types of situations. I haven’t faced too many obstacles that my mentors haven’t. They’re fantastic resources.
If my mentors admit that they don’t quite know what advice to give, they’ll usually pass me along to someone in their network.
But what if you don’t have a mentor or the time to find one?
You’ve still got options.
One approach is to go to the fringe of a network. Here’s what I mean. Let’s say you’re looking for advice on a startup. Figure out who the leaders are in your local startup scene. Don’t go to them. That can come later.
Instead, look at their connections. Those people will be at the fringe of the network.
Go to them, and ask them questions.
They may not have the answer, but they may be willing to connect you with someone who does. Heck, it might even be the person who’s at the center of the network!
The point is to find a human.
While other resources are fantastic, they’re limited by nature. There’s only so much a book or blog can tell you. And they can’t have a conversation with you.
If you don’t know what to do next, you need conversation to work through the issue.
Find a human.
Digest, then be absolutely unafraid to make a decision.
You’re armed with new perspective from all of your conversations.
Now it’s time to put on your entrepreneur hat and get to work. Understand that you still may not have all of the information you wish you need.
That’s the game.
That’s entrepreneurship. And being paralyzed by fear isn’t an option. Make a decision, and move through with it.
Create in the white space.
That’s what entrepreneurs do.
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Photo: Flickr/Wojtek Kogut Photography