How to Succeed When You Don’t Know What You’re Doing

Itxy Lopez by Andreas Selter on Unsplash

You always knew pursuing your dream would be challenging. You were ready for it — excited, even. But you didn’t know it would be this difficult.

Coldplay said it best:

“Nobody said it was easy. No one ever said it would be this hard.”

Every day, you’re confused about which step to take next. You don’t know what you’re doing half of the time. You’re passionate about what you do, but you’re having second thoughts.

You could quit. But how would you feel about it after? Disappointed. Beaten. Regretful. Is it worth it? Is it worth quitting because something is hard?

As I go about writing my first fiction book, new questions arise every day. I only know what I’m doing about half of the time. The other half, I’m re-starting chapter one and changing ideas.

Just because something is hard doesn’t mean you have to give up. Writing my book is a challenge, but I decided a long time ago to stick to it no matter what.

Why? Because it’s complicated. Not impossible.

You won’t achieve anything if you quit. If you stick to something long enough — even if you don’t know what you’re doing right now — you’ll figure it out.

You Can’t Skip the Climb to the Top

I love tattoos. My problem is that I don’t like the process of getting them. (Most people don’t mind it. Some even fall asleep.)

Still, I want more. I’m willing to put myself through the pain all over again. While I wish there were a short cut to getting permanent tattoos, I know the only way is through.

I’ve got a goal, and I’m prepared to take the only journey available. There is no other way.

That stands true for success. There’s no short cut for reaching your dreams. Whatever challenges you’re facing right now, you don’t have a choice but to tackle them.

You could complain about how hard it is to do your job, but that won’t solve your problems. The best thing you can do for yourself is to admit it, accept it, and get ready.

The Secret to Success is to Keep Going

You want to quit because you don’t know if you can do this. The doubts and insecurities are so loud you can’t help but listen to them.

You feel like you’re crazy (and even a little dumb) for trying this. You’ve never built a website. You don’t know how social media works. You’ve never had an acting gig.

Why did you ever think you could do this?

Honestly, who cares?

If you want it, you have to try. This isn’t about proving people wrong or trying to become successful. This is about you proving to yourself that you can make it — even if you struggle for one year before you finally get the hang of it.

You have to try for yourself. And when I say try, I don’t mean a little go, a half-hearted swing at the baseball.

You have to swing with all your might even if you miss the ball. You have to give your all, and you have to do it for a long time. Not just a couple of weeks or even months.

I may not know what I’m doing exactly as I write my book, but I do know this: because I write every day, I continuously have breakthroughs. I learn and discover new things about my novel and myself.

If you show up every day, eventually, you get somewhere. That’s a fact.

Are You Willing to Do What it Takes?

The answer isn’t yes or no. If you want to do what you love and reach your goals, you don’t have a choice but to do what it takes.

If you want to become a writer, the CEO of a thriving company, or an artist who sells out shows, you have to go through the necessary work.

It sucks sometimes. I love writing, but not all the time. I enjoy editing, but sometimes, I wish I could skip it and watch Killing Eve instead.

Following your dream isn’t always pretty. It can get dark. Pitch black. In this path, you’ll encounter trees with branches so long they scratch your arms and muddy trails that take all your strength.

But you’ll also get to see the sun through the trees. You’ll get clear paths that are aligned with flowers and bushes.

Those moments are everything. Why would you live for moments?


“…what the hell is life… apart from moments?” — Fredrik Backman, Beartown

When Are You Allowed to Quit?

My sister started drawing about a year ago. She’s grown at a fast rate, but she still has lots to learn.

Last week, she was taking a drawing course. She did it for a couple of days before she started over. She couldn’t get her drawing right. After a few more days, she told me she was going to give up. It was too hard.

Do you want to know what I told her? I told her it was okay. Here’s why.

She was taking a very advanced course — one she doesn’t yet have the skill for. She needed to learn a couple of things before she could take that one.

She wasn’t quitting because it was hard. She was quitting because she was being realistic.

She bought another course, one more suited for her that’ll help her grow so that one day she can take that advanced class. That was a smart move.

If you genuinely believe you can’t do something (and you’ve tried over and over again), then it might be better to start somewhere else. An easier place that’ll help you grow before you tackle the more difficult challenge.

If you know you can do this even though it’s hard, you can’t quit.

Be honest. Are you giving up because it’s a way out or because there’s a better path you know you should take first?

Final Words

You’re struggling — I get that. But you only have two options: Keep going until you figure it out or give up.

You’re more than welcome to go with either prospect, but think about where quitting will get you.


Sometimes, when I write my book, I think about how I’m just wasting time. I’m writing, but am I writing anything that makes sense?

Yet, when I look back, I realize I learned new details. Something critical. I wouldn’t have gathered that information if I’d decided to give up.

Whatever you’re doing, stick to it. You’ll get somewhere eventually.

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