Written by Jenny Blake

Okay, so “I don’t know” is more of a three-word phrase, but you get the idea. When pondering a life change, a relationship or a career, how many times have you said, “I don’t know” with a big sigh and a dejected, deflated tone?

“I don’t know” is not a disease to be cured. It is not a flaw or a shortcoming, or a circuit of your brain that needs fixing. Nor is it problem until you make it one; until you use it an excuse to shortchange curiosity and exploration around whatever subject you are stuck on.

When talking with friends, I am guilty of sandwiching my “I don’t know” response between shame and frustration. Shouldn’t I know whether this decision or direction is THE RIGHT ONE or not?

Notice the all caps . . . we treat knowing as some holy grail, when in fact, “I don’t know” is a doorway to freedom. It marks the start of a new adventure, a new path to be explored. I will repeat myself in saying: if we already knew, we would likely be bored.

Gordian Knot refers to a problem “solved only by bold action,” and harkens back to the time of Alexander the Great. What if the next time you answered someone with, “I don’t know,” you said it with pride? Pride for the thorny new question you are groping your way through, something holy and worthy of your growth and evolution.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” 

—Zen Master Shunryo Suzuki

“I don’t know” requires humility, beginner’s mind. It means admitting what you don’t know. You can transform not knowing by seeing it as the opportunity that it is. Use it as a teacher to uncover new aspects about yourself, your values, and your desires, and ultimately, your ability to serve others in an even fuller way.

Sometimes the sediment that “I don’t know” leaves behind as it flows in and out of our lives is compassion—for everyone else who is in transition, in-between or unsure about questions big and small.

The idea that you need to know—and right now at that—is constricting. It suffocates creativity.

I don’t know is a gift. Treat it with reverence. Shine the light of acceptance, attention and inquiry, and watch it transform in its own time.


About Jenny

Jenny Blake Headshot - Author, Speaker, Career StrategistJenny Blake is the author of Life After College and the forthcoming book The Pivot MethodShe is a career and business strategist and an international speaker who helps smart people organize their brain, move beyond burnout, and build sustainable, dynamic careers they love. Jenny combines her love of technology with her superpower of simplifying complexity to help clients through big transitions — often to pivot in their career or launch a book, blog or business. Today you can find her here on this blog (in its 8th year!) and at JennyBlake.me, where she explores the intersection of mind, body and business. Follow her on Twitter @jenny_blake.

Written By Davis Nguyen

Stand-Out_revise-198x300My mentor Keith Ferrazzi taught me that the quality of my life is equal to the quality of my relationships.

In every domain of my life I found this to be true—from having a workout buddy who pushes me to go for the extra rep every morning to having a group of friends who cheer me on during dance performances even when I make the occasional blunder. In addition, outside my personal life, I saw how the quality of my relationships can also impact the quality of my working life.

During my last two years in college, I had the honor of working for many generous, giving, and connected individuals including Keith Ferrazzi, Susan Cain, and Life After College’s own Jenny Blake. From working for each of them I see how important their networks were to their success.

You Don’t Need an Ivy League Education to Build a Network of Supporters and Influencers

In Dorie Clark’s Stand Out, Dorie tells us that having a network to help you and your idea stand out isn’t only available to the Sheryl Sandbergs and Ivy League graduates of the world. You too can build a network of influencers. One strategy to build a network of influencers? Growing your network through interviewing.

Growing Your Network Through Interviewing

Long before her book was published, Dorie would reach out to influencers she admired and asked if she could interview them for an article she would write up for Forbes. Over two and a half years, Dorie wrote over 250 articles and made connections with influencers she admired.

Why did Dorie’s strategy work?

Imagine that you had a book that just came out and someone offered to publicize it on Forbes. Would you take the offer? Of course you would.

The secret, if you haven’t figured it out already, is that when Dorie reaches out to these people to interview, she makes the interview about helping the other person and not about her. Each article she writes answers the question: “how can I best help this other person?”

And if you develop that same mindset of asking how you can help others be successful, you’ll be able to connect with your favorite influencers, too.

When it came time for Dorie to release her book this year, the hundreds of people she had been connecting with took the time to help her. On the back of her book, you’ll see many of the influencers whom she connected with over the years including Adam Grant, Pam Slim, Ryan Holiday, and Keith Ferrazzi.

I think Dorie would agree that her book wouldn’t have been as successful had it not been for those in her network who helped her.

You can do it, too

Dorie’s association with Forbes enabled her to get in touch with many influencers. But as Dorie writes, “even if you’re writing for your own personal blog, the vast majority of people will agree to an interview.”

But if you do want the credibility that comes from having a big name, major publications are always looking for 20somethings to write for them, like Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and Forbes.

You don’t have to just dream about meeting your influencers; you can begin meeting and interviewing them today.

Interviewing your influencers is just one of the twelve strategies Dorie Clark outlines in her book Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around it on how to build a network, audience, and community to spread your ideas.

Book Giveaway

We’re excited to give away a copy of Stand Out by Dorie Clark to three lucky Life After College readers. To enter, leave your email and answer to the following question in the comments by Friday, May 8th:

Comment to Be Entered to Win:

Who is one of your influencers?

Looking to grow your network right now?

Doors are open for the private Momentum Community that I have been telling you about, and I would love for you to be a Founding Member! With Momentum, you will get access to all my best tools, templates and resources, as well as the ability to ask me anything and collaborate with tons of other smart creatives, for just $1/day. Founding member enrollment is open until this Sunday, April 26. Click here to learn more and enroll »


Davis Nguyen

About Davis

Davis Nguyen (@justdavisnguyen) is currently on a year-long quest to connect with his influencers. Want to know how to connect with your influencers?

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