Making It Up As We Go

I’m going to let you in on a secret. Some people may not want you to know this; others may wish that you knew it the whole time, but I’m going to say it out loud.

None of us really know what we’re doing. We all make this shit up as we go.

No joke.

It doesn’t matter who you’re talking about, the nearly universal truth is that they’re making this up as they go. The reason it doesn’t look like they are is usually because they’re both really good at faking it and they’re basing the things they’re doing on lessons they learned while doing other things (which is not the same as already knowing what you’re doing).

I’ve known people who have literally written the book on subjects that have admitted they felt just as lost as I did most of the time. This isn’t something that changes in your life – with the possible exception of when you do the same thing over and over again, but I would think that brings its own kind of hazards.

I’ve even known people who were literal pioneers in their fields and they’ve admitted that they don’t really know what they’re doing. In fact, nobody did until they figured it out (and that’s why they’re pioneers – because they’re the ones that figured out a new way of doing something).

I’ve been writing software professionally for something on the order of 20 years. I’ve been writing software in general for roughly 30 years now. I don’t think there’s been a day that I’ve done it where I’ve actually known what I was doing, and that’s okay.

You know why? Because I know that, even though I don’t know what I’m doing, if I try, I can generally find a way to get it to work. The biggest challenge is starting. After that, momentum takes over and I even tend to enjoy figuring things out.

Most of the other professionals I’ve known are the same way, and it doesn’t seem to matter what the profession is. The consensus seems to be “nobody knows anything. Starting is hard. Continuing when you have momentum is easy (relatively speaking)”

Get out there, impostor syndrome and all, and embrace the fact that you don’t know what you’re doing with the realization that you can figure it out. It may take time and experimentation, but you’ll get there.

You aren’t alone. You aren’t broken. And, if you need it, you can always ask for help.

I have faith in you.

To quote Better Off Dead:

“Go that way. REALLY fast. If something gets in your way… turn


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