storefront of Merry + Bright
In every business there are things you can see and things you can’t.
Take this stapler, for example. That’s something I can see in my business.
And that half-eaten Chocolate Orange. I can see it no problem.
The lovely things on our shelves, our beloved customers and my husband patiently dusting our roll-top bath are all things I can see when I look around my shop.
And there are lots of obvious things on show in your business too.
But let’s talk about the things which aren’t so obvious.
As I’ve often reflected, human beings are weird creatures. No, we are.
You wouldn’t catch an otter opening up the back of a troublesome remote, rolling its paw over the batteries and expecting that to somehow make it work better, would you?
Or observe a meerkat, having repeatedly failed to hoover up a piece of thread, pick it up, examine it closely, then throw it back down on the carpet and try again.
We are WEIRD.
And one of the things which makes us so charmingly eccentric is our tendency to believe that if we can’t see something with our own two eyes, it isn’t there.
The problem is that many of the things which shape our businesses, and our lives, are completely invisible to the naked eye.
Your assumptions are one of them.
Have you ever said to yourself:
- “There’s no point writing to that shop about my work. They won’t be interested.”
- “I need to have X amount in savings before I can really take my business seriously.”
- “If I approach a retailer about stocking my stuff and they say no, I won’t be able to handle it.”
- “For my wholesale business to succeed, I’ll have to do networking and self-promotion. I’m just not that kind of person.”
- “The idea of creating a thriving business from doing what I love sounds great. But it’s a dream. Stuff like that doesn’t happen to people like me.”
Most of the time our assumptions are invisible.
Think about it this way. You’ve got a jug of water, right? You pour it into a clear glass vase. The shape of the vase determines where the water goes.
So if it’s a tall and straight vase, you get a tall and straight volume of water. If it’s a modern, squiggly vase, you get squiggly-shaped water.
Your business is the water and your assumptions are the vase. In other words, what you think determines the ultimate shape of your business.
This can be a problem when assumptions are so strongly ingrained, they don’t feel like assumptions at all. They feel like facts.
We sigh and say, “That’s just the way the world works,” when, actually, it doesn’t have to be that way.
I’ve done it. We all have.
So what can we do about it?
Here are my four remedies for assumption-itis:
1. Get the facts
Instead of relying on how you think things work, learn how they ACTUALLY work. Do some research. Enquire. Ask a designer you admire how they got started. Find out how shopkeepers like to be approached.
2. Equip yourself
Use your shiny new facts to work out what you need to learn. Go look at blogs. Go to the library. There’s a wealth of information out there. Un-chink your armour.
3. Start asking for what you want
Assumptions keep you quiet. They stop you asking for stuff because they make you think you already know the answer.
So put them to work. If an assumption says you won’t be able to get the hang of twitter, test it by quietly having a go.
If an assumption says you won’t be able to cope with hearing “no,” then turn things around. Investigate the art of gently but fimly saying “No, thank you” to stuff that doesn’t float your boat.
Does that charity fundraiser in the street crumble into dust when you say “No, thank you” to setting up a direct debit?
Does your friend vaporise with shame when you say “No, thank you” to going on a blind date with some guy she met at the dentist?
Assumptions are theories, and like any theory, they have to be tested.
So how about you start testing yours? Chances are you’ll quickly see which ones you can ditch.
Right now, for example, I’m about to test my assumption that I can’t get seven segments of Chocolate Orange into my mouth at once.
Yeah. We’ll see about that!
Clare Yuille teaches creative people how to sell their work to shops. Click here to get her free starter kit.