Shannon Experiment #1: If I Don't Know What To Do...

Each week, Shannon or Kerri picks an ArtistCEO experiment to undertake for 5 days and reports back to our email list. Shannon was up first and announced her experiment on Monday 11/12 on Facebook live.

You can click the image to watch the experiment announcement on the ArtistCEO Facebook page or skip down to the recap below. PS - If you want to hear an audio version of Shannon’s recap, (complete with 6am loopy-ness and her trademark honesty from the podcast) scroll all the way to the bottom.

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The Experiment:

To explore not knowing. As an artist, I’m good at living in the unknown and trusting that when I do know, I will take action. As an actor, I’ll just keep showing up and doing the work, exploring until a decision becomes clear. My CEO often thinks she needs to know the answer right away. So for this week, my mantra was…

“If I don’t know what to do, I won’t know what to do, until I do, and when I do I’ll do it. So there!”

What I Did Each Day:

Haven’t noticed many moments where I feel like I don’t know what to do. So far no obvious or dramatic results. I suppose in general has given me a light gloss of relaxation. Eased off on a couple of things that I haven’t known how to move forward on… I let them go completely until I do know.

Becoming more aware that I sometimes conflate habit with knowing what to do; and that I am less in touch with a genuine knowing than I would like. Experimenting with taking small pauses just to check in with myself.

Becoming more comfortable with taking moments to sit in the unknowing. Doesn’t always change what I end up deciding, but does give me a moment to connect in with myself and confidently confirm my next action.

Another consequence I have noticed is that I have become less decisive, because now I’m doubting that I actually know what to do. This is good because it can create spaciousness, but it also can encourage procrastination. When checking email, I didn’t have an immediate response, so I would sit in the unknown waiting for what to do. And eventually, if I wasn’t completely sure, I moved onto the next email… Which unfortunately meant that I didn’t actually answer my email. I now have a backlog of emails... hmmm.

Today something interesting happened: I was on a very important meeting with a very important client, and they asked a question. I didn’t know the answer and I could feel my body become anxious. But I waited and breathed, waiting for the answer to arrive. Then, someone else on my team answered the question for me. And another time, the client noticed I was pausing, and they filled in the silence for me, rephrasing the question and giving me more information. It was great to experience the sensation of refusing to do anything if I didn’t absolutely no the answer, and sometimes the answer arose from outside of me.

Friday Summary & Take-away
Definitely need more time to experiment with this one, since so much of it is overriding ingrained habits.

However, even just committing to the experiment brought a quality of easefulness and stress reduction. When I think I have to know what to do, I experience tension in my body, as if someone springing a question on me or expecting me to show up in a certain way is akin to a tiger in the wild pouncing upon me unawares. But of course, what kind of state is that to live in? Walking through your day worried you might be ambushed at any moment? But to commit to, and be comfortable with, not knowing creates a kind of relief and permission to just be. It’s trusting that even if the tiger pounces, you’ll know what to do.

Audio Diary

Transcription (The full Shannon audio dairy effect is best heard, not read. But in case you lost your earbuds (like Kerri did last week….D’oh).

I’m recording my experience about experiments, so there! I’m recording my my experiemps…This is another episode of Experimemps. Brought to you by…

Hello, I’m Shannon DeJong and I will be your host today on Experiments Experimemps. I mean it’s 6:12 in the morning, what do you expect? I’m lying in bed. Oh, how intimate…Not like that. I’m cozy because I’ve slept in, but I’m going to think about and talk about what I learned this week with my ArtistCEO experiment of “If I don’t know what to do, I won’t know what to do, until I do and then I’ll do it. So there.” Still could be shortened…

What have I learned? Well I started to take notes during the week and I will review those, but I also felt like recording and thinking top of mind, loosely, stream of consciously, loosely about what I learned this week. I guess it’s my natural instinct at this point to record an audio recording because that’s the way I do it on ArtistCEO. 

Well, let’s start off with a check in, shall we? How are you audience? We’re good! Great, I’m so glad to hear it. Except for all this other stuff. I’m sorry to hear that. Though I can’t hear it because I’m on this side of the microphone. But I hope that you are doing well. Me? Thanks for asking well, I don’t feel like super great, but I also don’t believe that anything’s wrong because that’s just silly because life is just good. But sometimes you know life is good, you just can’t see it. I know life is good and I know everything’s great, I’ve just gotten a little too in the weeds on some things and I’m too kind of blinded by my emotional experience of things that sometimes is triggered…

Basically I have this huge cloud of ick or resistance go up anytime things don’t go the way I want them to go. It’s a bad habit but I can’t help it. It’s just the way it is. 

I don’t like it when things don’t go the way I want them to go. And I try to be more Buddha nature, more  easygoing, more grounded, more level-headed, more CEO-temperament-like. Which a lot of the time I am and other times I’m not. Like right now I’m just not.

I’m feeling passionate and reactive and emotional and defiant and tempestuous, if I may. You know…like an artist might - archetypally. Artists are also very level-headed and grounded. They have to be  to have enough patience to work on things long enough to see them to fruition, like a CEO.

But the difference is artists tend to work solo and CEO’s tend to work communally because they have a team. And therein lies the rub. Because when I’m an artist I can bend and stretch and react and cry and temper tantrum all I want and it’s part of my process and nobody needs to see it. In fact, I’m okay with it because I know it’s part of the process and I just let it blow through like a big storm and everything’s fine. I wait until the clouds clear and the sun comes out and I feel lovely about life again. 


As a CEO or any kind of leader, you’re in front of your team and then you look like a big baby throwing a temper tantrum and that’s not very attractive, is it? So, that’s just the background of that. But I have been feeling like I don’t like things, but the good thing is that it gives me information. Anytime I’m angry or frustrated or any of those hot, negative as we perceive them know resistance and bitterness and resentment and petty petty petty. But not so petty because they tell us where our energy is and they tell us where our boundaries are and they tell us what our desires are, so lots of good information. 

I tend to, honestly, submerge those feelings, I’m not very comfortable feeling angry in front of people because I don’t think it’s professional, you’re supposed to have a cool level head. But I’m not a CEO or leader who is cool, calm and collected all the time, I’m not Marcus Aurelius if you catch my drift.

I’m an ArtistCEO and I’m sometimes mercurial and dynamic and tempestual, if you will. Wow, for 6:30 in the morning now I’ve got my vocabulary chops on point, if I may.

So that’s all to say that that’s the setting with which we bring in this experiment of exploring not knowing what to do. And so I have been showing up in several instances not knowing what to do and then waiting in that stillness until I do know what to do and it’s been interesting because sometimes I haven’t noticed any difference. Maybe because I felt confident that I knew what to do and so there was action and motion. And other times I showed up and I realized that I didn’t know what to do and the momentum was toward action even though I didn’t know what to do.

I think there were a couple moments in particular I found enlightening, where my impulse was to start talking. My impulse was to fill gaps and fill lulls, it was to look like I knew what I was doing because I interpreted it as a weakness because I was in front of a client. I showed up to a meeting and realized I didn’t feel as prepared as I wanted to be because of the important of the moment and meeting and relationship and that I also didn’t feel as confident about the work as I wanted to. I felt very confident about the subject matter, I felt very clear in my knowledge and power as a specialist, as a subject matter expert - I’m laughing because of the jargon, not because of my expertise. I laugh at myself when I default to jargon because it’s good to do so otherwise you start taking yourself too seriously. But that’s okay, jargon is important, we need it to communicate certain topics that are loaded with corporate background. But I showed up, I was in this place of unknown, I didn’t know what to do. I had some insecurity, some lack of confidence, and I chose to not act and I chose to not speak even though it was uncomfortable and I chose to give myself permission to search for what I did know or what I wanted to bring forward and it was uncomfortable and what I did find, except for that little gem of information, which is good because I don’t want to talk out of defensiveness or insecurity - that’s not a power position. Which I am working on because I know in my role as a leader it’s important for me to hold presence and have capacity for power and when I say power, y’all, I hope you know that I don’t mean power over anyone or anything, but rather power in myself and a self-mastery is what I mean by power. The natural radiance and energy and presence that comes from one who is self-contained and self-mastered - even if it’s a lifelong process. 

So - seeing where I lacked that was important and then a funny thing happened because other people stepped in for me. Other people on my team took that space as an opportunity for them to speak and wherever they were speaking from, whether they were speaking from a place of insecurity, or wanting to fill the silence, they spoke for me. Which was good, it was fine. I didn’t know what to say. If I don’t have anything to say, I shouldn’t always speak. So that was nice, actually. 

And then other times the other person spoke, meaning the client in this instance. Whether they just wanted to fill the science - silence - we all want to fill the science! Filling science, with fiction…but I digress. Whether they want to fill the silence because that’s such a common tendency for all of us or whether they realized maybe I didn’t have enough information to reply, something happened where I didn’t necessarily need to know. Because then the situation shifted until I did know and then I swooped in and spoke what I knew to say when I had a clear action, when I had a clear message, when I had something to share.

That was one learning experience which was very interesting. Let’s see if I have another.

Well, there were some places I felt where I wasn’t successful. I could feel that I truly didn’t know what to do. There was not a knowingness, a confidence that I’m looking for when I say “know what to do.” I didn’t. And I felt the discomfort, I felt that arise in me, I felt the mantra of, “If I don’t know what to do, I won’t know what to do, until I do” rise up. And it was so uncomfortable I overrode it. That was interesting, the places where I lacked capacity to sit in this place of not knowing what to do and especially if it was around insecurity or feeling like I don’t know what to do not because I’m not sure or clear, but because I’m hovering in a place where I feel like I should know so I’m not just waiting for an answer to arrive for myself, but rather I’m trying to get away from this place that’s uncomfortable. Because I’m interpreting not knowing what to do as a form of weakness. So that was interesting. Sometimes I couldn’t remain in the unknown space. 

So that’s a nice marker. Sometimes I knew what to do and I didn’t need to wait. Sometimes I didn’t know what to do and I waited and something else happened. And then sometimes I didn’t know what to do and I couldn’t not know what to do. So that’s your morning report. Good morning, I hope you have a fabulous day and I’m going to keep thinking about this because it’s Friday and if somehow this makes it out into the world and you have questions, hit me up. I think it’s a fascinating exploration. And let’s talk about it. Instagram @helloartistceo. Or Facebook or and let’s chat. 

I’m going to learn more because life is a learning experience, right? Right. Alright. Hugs and kisses. 

- Shannon

Kerri Lowe