You Don't Know What You Don't Know

Note from Sarah: This article was originally sent via my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers receive essay style pieces like this before anyone else. Click here to subscribe!


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One of the interesting things that comes with doing the job I do is that folks end up talking to me often because they tried to (this is a common query) build a website themselves.

The marketing they've received tells them "Anyone can design a beautiful website." Or "SEO is built right in so you don't have to think about it!" Or "Connecting your domain is simple and easy!" "You can build an online store while watching Netflix."

So, by the time they get to me, they feel, well, frustrated and confused.

Oftentimes they apologize for asking me lots of questions, for not understanding technical terms, for not being able to just "get it" immediately.

This truly makes me sad. There's absolutely no reason you have to know #allthethings. That's a lesson I learn over and over again.

For example, I used to be awful at email marketing. (I know, I know, funny since I'm all in on newsletters now.)

I battled with MailChimp and it made me feel stupid every time I used it. I felt like I had to know how to master it because, heck, I work with technology every day! But then I talked to experts and it turns out, the type of email I do doesn't work great with MailChimp. I was using the wrong tool for the job. So I tried some other tools out and found one that did the thing I needed it to do. But even with that said, what did I do? Found an expert who offered a quick and dirty online course in making my new system do what I needed it to do. That was $50 well spent so I wouldn't make complicated, expensive mistakes down the line.

Or, when we bought our tiny fixer upper house we knew it was cold. Like, "OMG this house won't ever get warm" cold. We spent a maybe three winters trying everything: sealing windows, adding insulated outlet covers, you name it, we did all the things that the Internet told us to try. House was still cold.

Did you know that there are companies whose whole job is figuring out why your house is too cold or too hot? They're like magic! Turns out our insulation was compressed, we didn't have proper ventilation (y'all, attic fans are magic) and a whole bunch of other things I knew nothing about were the root of our problem. It also turns out that for an expert, the miserable, cold house was pretty straightforward to fix. 🤯

I wasn't even asking the right question because I didn't know what to even ask about or where to start my research. Whoops.

My point is, this happens to us all.

You may be a top notch contracts attorney, an awesome zero waste expert, an amazing florist who can pull together wedding flowers during the dead of winter, an interior designer who can meet even the toughest client budget, or residential drain expert who understands that weirdness of Portland's old sewer system (yes these are all real people I know, including the drain guy), but you probably have a lot of questions about a lot of things.

So why apologize for asking questions or or feel badly for not understanding something that's outside your wheelhouse?

I'm trying to stop because it's a ridiculous self-expectation that I know how to do #allthethings and not stress when I don't understand when someone who does something all day long explains something to me that I don't quite understand.

One of the reasons I write this weekly newsletter is to try to demystify this stuff that people feel that should know with practical, actionable information. If you have a question that you feel like you should know that answer to, let me know—it may be a newsletter topic down the line. (I may have to find an expert to give me the answer, though!) 


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