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Is there a way to rewire your brain to transform the fear of the unknown and self-loathing of mistakes into real learning and wisdom?

The three most important words to know how to use are as big as: I love you, I’m sorry, and Thank you.

They are: I don’t know.

Nice alternatives are: I haven’t got a clue; Great question; I have no idea; and, Beats the heck out me.

Being able to remember stuff is not so important any more. Most of the world’s knowledge is a google search away.

What we need to know is how to ask a really good question. Then, how to make sense of the results.

Good questions start with, I don’t know.

When should you use “I don’t know?” A lot at the beginning. As you gain wisdom and experience, you will use it more.

Then be willing to live with the fact that there might not be an easy answer, or that it’s not clear.

One of my favorite quotes is by Isaac Asimov who said:

“The phrase that heralds new discoveries is not Eureka (I found it), it’s, That’s funny.”

Uncertainty is the foundation for creativity, innovation, change, and progress.

photo of Heather Bussing on HRExaminer.com in black and white

Heather Bussing, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board


From that place of insecurity and uncertainty, we do our finest work.

Still, for many of you reading this there’s a part of your brain where an alarm is sounding. Admitting that you don’t know something feels a little like failing or making a mistake. Here’s how to deactiavte that inner alarm.

It’s okay to fall down, screw up, make mistakes, and figure it out by doing it wrong. Transformation is a process. It usually isn’t pretty.

The hard way is how I’ve learned everything that’s important to me.

Take learning to ski. There you are at the top of the mountain in your cute jacket and sunscreen lip gloss. Then you notice the snow, and cold, and wind, and how weird your feet feel in boot jail. It dawns on you those feet are attached to very long slippery boards. The only way to hot chocolate is to skid down a mountain. What were you thinking?

Suddenly, you have a whole new appreciation for gravity and friction.

So you fall on your ass all the way down. Small children go zipping past, laughing as you hobble up the hill to collect your other ski.

When you get back to the lifts wondering if your tailbone is broken, your warm dry cheerful friends tell you to do it again. You wonder if you should kill yourself or just kill them.

The bad news is, it never ends. You will always be learning something new and screwing up while you do.

The good news is, if there is no end, then any place in the process is no better and no worse than anywhere else. It’s just an infinite number of points on a infinite line. So, it’s always okay to be exactly where you are — even when that place feels rotten. It’s just the place for this moment. And it will change.

No matter what, you will never be fixed, perfect, or even normal. There’s no such thing.

As long as you can see a tiny ways past your fear, you are doing the right thing. Even when you can’t see, and just want to hide under the covers with a pile of dark-chocolate salted caramels, you are still doing the right thing. Rest is good.

Stop judging yourself about where you are — you’re there. You won’t be there long. The more you beat yourself up and tell yourself it’s not okay to be there, the more stuck you will feel. So your worst fears came true. Now there’s nothing to be afraid of.

Start where you are. It’s not like you really have a choice. If it sucks, okay. So it sucks. What’s the next right thing?

Try not to act from a place of fear or anger. That’s not always possible. Make amends when you do. Take responsibility for what is yours. Don’t take responsibility for what isn’t yours. And if you’re confused about that, confused is a great place to start.

You get do-overs every minute if you need them.

Some of my “best” achievements and events turned out to be huge mistakes. (Don’t have children with your starter husband.) And some of the most difficult things I’ve gone through also had precious gifts. (Sometimes you marry the wrong guy to get the right kids.) Sometimes the best and worst are the same thing.

So when things are going sideways and nothing feels right, you’re just in the process of learning something new. Relax, and keep going. Keep saying, I don’t know. Keep making mistakes. You’ve got this.

Apply chocolate as needed.