Some of my best work happens before I know what I’m doing.

Since I don’t know the “supposed tos,” I am free to be natural, enthusiastic, thoroughly me, listening to and acting from gut instinct. As I start picking up all of the Rules and Shoulds and Oughtas, I also start picking up more and more anxiety about what I might be doing wrong.

I start trimming away the natural me, whittling down to The Me That I Think Others Will Deem Marketable. I temper my enthusiasm, lest I act in a moment of joyful pep in a way that doesn’t comport with HowToBeASuperGreatAwesomeBloggingSuccess.com’s latest 10 Tips list. I tell my instinct to step back, quiet down and defer to someone else’s Super Success Story.

This never really serves me well.

There’s value in learning the ropes. There’s value in exploring the best practices, tips, how-tos and what works-es. There’s also a cost, though.

There is a cost in being so hyper-aware of what and how others are Doing It “Right” that you begin to focus with fervent devotion on Not Doing It “Wrong.”

Because, of course, the implied but not often verbalized question at the end of each of those right/wrong classifications is “According to whom?” I might come across Susie Success and think she’s got it all down pat — marketing, networking, blogging, the whole package. But dollars to doughnuts, someone else successful thinks Susie Success is doing it all wrong.

I can reason it out that it doesn’t serve Susie Success to focus devotedly on what her detractors think, or to spend her days whittling away at her brand in order to make it fit the template that someone else believes is “Doing It Right.” But when it comes to applying that same rationale to myself and my business, my brain freezes up with doubt. “If I don’t attend to all the ways I might be doing it wrong,” I think worriedly, “how will I know if I’m doing it right?”

You can probably see the inherent doubt cycle this perpetuates. I can too, when I view it from a safe, emotionless distance. But damn if I don’t perpetuate it anyway.

How DO you know when you’re doing it right?

Paying attention to the traditional metrics of success–website traffic, audience interaction (comments, retweets, inbound links, etc.), profit, number of list signups–is one way. But success today does not necessarily indicate sustained success. So there’s got to be something more.

Moreover, success–even sustained success–is a facade if it feels rotten. The market of How To Make Money templates and gurus is rich (figuratively and literally). But there is a lot of advice given to that end that would make many of us feel lousy about what we’re doing because it just wouldn’t fit us or our values, and any resultant success would be joyless and stressful. Money and notoriety, without the context of joy and inner peace, aren’t enough. There’s got to be something more.

What if the “something more” is doing it “my way”?

What if that something more is success on your own terms? Doing what you’d do if you didn’t know any better? Boosting or supporting Your Way with some of the tips and best practices you pick up as you go, but letting those how-tos and shoulds be guides rather than definitions of what it means to do it Your Way?

(If you thought I was going to give you a snappy little answer to the questions posed in this post, this is the part where I disappoint you.)

I don’t know what the “right” answer is to this… most likely because there isn’t one. Or, at least, there isn’t only one. Which is kind of the point.

My answer to this may not be the same as your answer.

And Susie Success’s answer may not be the same as Sam Superstar’s. Doesn’t mean any of them are “wrong.”

That is immensely freeing, because it means there’s room for us to carve out those new paths and blaze those trails. But it’s also incredibly unsettling, especially for those of us who are highly motivated by external validation, because it means that no matter how “Right” we try to do things, we’ll always be “wrong” by someone’s evaluation. Always.

Getting comfortable with that duality–that every Right is someone else’s Wrong, and vice versa–is no small feat.

And that leads me back to the fact that I do well before I know what I’m “supposed” to be doing. Until I learn that what instinctively feels right to me might be “wrong” for someone else, I’m relatively confident, even fearless, about pursuing it. And when I’m acting from that place of gut instinct + joy + fearless action, sure enough, things work out.

The fear and hesitation only show up when I start actively trying to do it “right.” Which is also when things tend to stop working out.

I know correlation isn’t causation, but it’s ironic (don’tcha think?) that my pursuit of doing it “right” is what always leads to me doing it wrong (as defined by me losing momentum, lacking confidence, and misplacing all the stuff that initially worked so well).

At the proverbial end of the day, doing it “right” means nothing at all if we’re looking for external validation.

We will always be able to find someone who will tell us we did it perfectly and someone who will tell us we did it miserably. Doing it right has to be an internal judgment call. Success, at its core, has to be a gut-guided metric.

I’m coming off of a rough several weeks, due to a great many factors, not the least of which has been a near paralyzing concern that I’m doing it all wrong. This isn’t a quandary I can solve once and for all today, and I know I’ll come ’round to it again and again.

But for now, I’m acknowledging the value of listening to my instincts, heeding my gut call, and pursuing those impulses I would have confidently pursued before I “knew better.”

There is a value in being aware of what it means to others to do it “right.” There is tremendous learning potential there. But there is also a great(er?) value in being aware of what it means to do it “right” and do it right my way.

And maybe the “right” answer is simply to remember that long enough to implement it before the comparison-induced doubt shows up again. Which it will. And, at which point, I’ll have to direct myself back to this post, sing it out with Old Blue Eyes, and refocus once again.

Sing it, Frankie:

What does doing it “right” mean to you? How does doing it “Your Way” affect or shape your definition of doing it right? What do you do when doubts about doing it right or wrong make it hard for you to move forward? (If singing along to YouTube videos is involved, please let me know which ones you belt it out to!)

Image Credit: Kersy83 | CC License

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