You know more than you think you know

A few weeks ago I wrote the story of The Chicken Sticker where I shared a funny story about getting over the fear of charging potentially 'too much' for your services. I hope it inspires you to let that self-sabotaging story go because, as the story explains, someone, somewhere paid thousands of dollars for me to design a stupid sticker for $1 off a pack of chicken.

Another important self-sabotaging story to let go of is, "I don't know enough".

I feel very confident declaring that yes, 98% of the time you do know enough. You know more than you think you know. Think back - were you ever in a situation you thought was waaaaaay above your abilities and you wrangled through and pulled it off like a champ? I am hearing a 'hells ya!'

For me, I always remember the time I almost worked for one of the big Canadian banks. About 8 years ago, the Royal Bank of Canada used to have a niche financial leg of their business with its own sub-brand, RBC Dexia, and a recruiter put me forward for a Senior Graphic Designer role. While I wasn't jazzed about working somewhere so corporate, the job paid 90k/year and had all the fun trappings of a bank job - great benefits, decent hours, a Starbucks right in the building. And as my husband was still pursuing a music career and only working part-time, it made sense to go for some decent cash and not worry about hustling my own entrepreneurial career at the same time. 

So I get dressed up in my best bank-appropriate outfit (cream blouse, black wide-leg pants, sensible heels), tuck my portfolio under my arm and head to the tall glassy RBC building downtown for my first interview.

It was intense. This was a serious company and a serious role. The people who interviewed me, while very nice, were serious. One guy got especially excited to point out a spacing error on my resume. Oops. Shoot. Not the best kinda mistake to make when you are supposed to be a detail-oriented designer. Nonetheless, the interview went well. I got called for a second, so I went.

This time, I started to freak out a bit. The panel interviewing me - I think there were three people, all men - started to go on and on about complex illustration skills, conceptual talent, visual data management and I don't know what the eff else. It all started to sound just TOO MUCH, TOO HARD and beyond my level of expertise. I started to crumble. No way could I do this job and I feared maybe they knew it, too.

At one point, one of the interviewers  - let's call him Alex - asked me if I would like to see some printed samples of what they were talking about, so I could get an idea of the work they produced. I said yes, of course, and prepared myself to feel totally incompetent among these bad-ass banker gurus.

I was led to a back storage room where there were thousands of RBC Dexia brochures and annual reports etc... Alex picks one up and proceeds to talk about it with grand reverence and painstakingly analyzes its conceptual brilliance and the technical skills used to execute this masterpiece.

It was at this moment I literally tried not to laugh. I was so overcome with relief and laughter at the same time I knew if I tried to speak I would sound like I was choking. So I just kept nodding and murmuring "mmm, ok, uh-huh, mmmm!"

This is what was actually going through my mind: 

"Is this really happening? Are you effing KIDDING MEEEEE?? This is a boring, typical bank brochure (though admittedly, a nicer one than most) with an illustration of a PAPER AIRPLANE on it and he thinks this is cerebral, complex stuff? He/they made it sound so HARD and complicated... And THIS is what they were talking about the whole time? I am going to need some Bailey's in my Starbucks. Pronto."

After this initial mental rant, my brain changed gears and went here:

"OMGeee Alana you are such an idiot sometimes. Once again, you assume everything is so goddam hard and out of reach and you set yourself up for failure. You think everyone is better than you, smarter than you and then hello, here is proof that they are not. They are just normal corporate folk doing a normal corporate job that you can TOTALLY handle. Get your shit together and stop worrying so much."

Indeed, I had so built up the job in my head, and had so torn down my self-worth and expertise, I allowed myself to be totally overwhelmed with insecurity. I allowed myself to be intimidated and then I waivered in my worth. Not my proudest moment.

In the end, I didn't get the job. There was a weird moment in the interview process (made it to a third phone interview) where I knew in my gut it just wasn't going to happen. I think it went to a guy who already worked for RBC, but really, I almost didn't care. Ironically, even though I didn't get the job, I came away with bolstered self-esteem. I knew - I REALLY knew in my bones - I could do the job. And do it well. I was good enough, smart enough and knew enough to pull it off. For that reason alone, I was super grateful I went through the somewhat gruelling interview/recruitment process. I often think back to this experience when I am overcome with moments of doubt, and it does seem to magically snap me back to a positive headspace. A great example of how seemingly crappy past experiences teach us amazing lessons down the line.

And yes, while there are times we go beyond our comfort zone and end up completely out of our depth and we fail - I have a good blog post brewing about that topic! - most of the time, we are able to step up to the plate and Rock the Casbah.

I know more than I think I know.

YOU know more than you think you know.

WE know more than we think we know. 

Keep growing, keep learning, keep stretching yourself - but don't slow down out of a fear you need to know more before you can do more. You will only know more once you DO more, so just go out there and get it done.

To your brave success,