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Nobody has it “figured out”

I tried not to sell the surprise on my face.

I had spent the better part of the previous hour sitting in a local coffee shop with a gentleman that goes to my church. It was basically our first-ever conversation after having sat near each other in church for most of the last 5-6 years.

I never knew his name. We greeted each other often, but never paused to actually introduce ourselves or anything like that.

After crossing paths at a church board meeting (I recently joined one of the boards), we learned our names, and he found out that I was a copywriter.

He dropped me an email. Turns out, he’s a higher-up at an investment firm in Milwaukee, and his team could use some help with their email efforts.

Not knowing what this would turn into (and as of this writing, still not knowing), we agreed to meet up, get to know each other a little bit, and see if there’s something there to work together in the future.

Then, he dropped the bomb.

The conversation had gone great. We got along very well, shared some laughs, and got to know each other.

Business-wise, there might be a fit there down the line, and we agreed to stick a pin in it and talk about it further.

But as the conversation wound down and we started finishing up our coffees, we talked over some personal things and I divulged a little bit of information about my own struggles in the last few years.

One thing I admitted to him was, at various times throughout the last 5 or so years, I’ve struggled with a lot of self-doubt.

We live in the suburbs and go to a nice church. We’re surrounded by people who have money or at least appear to have money. Everyone owns a house.

Except for us.

When I have had those down years, it’s hard to fight off the thought that maybe I screwed up, chose the wrong thing, and still have to “figure it out”.

I didn’t drone on about this to him, but when I made that last comment, he immediately began shaking his head.

“Oh please… nobody has it figured out. I don’t have it figured out! I still wonder what I want to be doing!”


“Come on…” I tilted my head, looking skeptical.

“Seriously,” he insisted, “I think about it all the time! And look, I’ve been very blessed to do what I do, and I’m grateful for it, but I have all the same doubts you do. Everyone does. I don’t know anybody who feels like they’ve got it figured out.”

He went on to tell stories of colleagues in the finance industry who have struggled with these decisions and ultimately made wrong ones at various times, showing me that the wrong move can happen anytime to anybody… even if they have it “figured out”.

And he told me about his first house, which he hated working on and dealing with until they finally moved.

This guy was around 40 years old. It’s so easy to think that a dude at that age with the type of job and income that he has (which, in my own estimation, had to be in the six-figure range), living in the suburbs with a beautiful wife and two adorable children… that guy has it figured out.

But he wouldn’t accept that line of thinking.

As I start reviewing my 2019, which was a tumultuous year for my career if there ever was one, and I start planning for a promising 2020, that conversation is seared into my brain.

I keep going over it in my head, repeating it line by line.

“Nobody has it figured out.”

Looking ahead with confidence

The year 2019 didn’t end like I had planned. It never does, and that’s okay.

But I find myself feeling a lot of pressure heading into 2020. This is the year I’m committing to a number of things, and now that the gears are turning on my business, I feel the incredible responsibility to keep them turning so that I can avoid those lean years we’ve struggled through for so long.

I want 2020 to be the year we get out of debt, celebrate at Disney World, and start planning for a house.

I want 2020 to be the year that my publishing career becomes a full-time endeavor.

I want 2020 to be the year that I start feeling like I have it “figured out”.

But as I move through this year, I have to keep telling myself that it’s okay. As life changes and evolves, so do my plans. It happens to literally everyone.

And in those moments when I feel lost and helpless and stressed out of my mind, I just have to remind myself that even the guys who work in tall buildings downtown and fly all over the country and wear business suits and manage millions of dollars… sometimes, they feel the exact same way I do.

There’s some real comfort in that.