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How do you know when to trust your gut?

How do you know when to trust your gut?

 How can you tell the difference between a gut feeling and doubt? The simple answer is, you can’t. There is no proven way to untangle doubt and a gut feeling, and that’s because a gut feeling is just that; it is a feeling, or is it? Our logical minds clamor for proof, facts, a collection of substantial evidence that can be measured. Our gut just says, “Hey, somethings up, pay attention.” What we chose to do with that information is the difference between logic and emotion, but is a gut feeling just a feeling, or is there more to it than that? Could it be our gut is busy collecting information as well?  How can we tell the difference between doubt and intuition?

Listen to your head, trust your gut

Have you ever had a time when your rational mind stepped in and overruled your gut? I have been in business for many years. Along the way, there have been specific patterns of behavior that tend to repeat themselves. If you are experienced and paying attention, it almost becomes second nature to avoid the relationships you know are not good for your career and gravitate toward the ones that will present new opportunities. Of course, that is a learned behavior, and so is learning to listen to your intuition. Sometimes the learning curve is gradual, and sometimes it can be very steep. In the art world, there are many opportunities to learn this lesson. It is the nature of the industry, and when you are inexperienced or desperate, it is easy to forget those lessons. I am no stranger to the process.

Early in my career, I took on a job I thought was going to propel me to new heights. It looked like a fantastic opportunity. The owner of the company said and did all the right things. I was thoroughly convinced this deal was the greatest thing since sliced bread. In a flurry, contracts were signed, and production began, but something didn't feel right. In fact, right from the beginning, something felt a little off. At the time, I had a sense I was being impulsive, my gut told me to slow down and do the homework, but another part of me chose to ignore my intuition. My logical mind looked at the situation, did the math and assured me my doubt was just paranoia, so I dove in headfirst. I probably don't need to tell you that the company went on to make a lot of money from my work, and when I took a deeper look at my contract, I found I had basically signed away all my rights. The pain of seeing my work doing wonderful things for someone else was a harrowing reminder that what looks right on the surface isn't always what it appears to be.

I wish I could say that it was the last time I would learn that lesson but unfortunately it wasn't. There have been several times in my career when I've made poor decisions. Almost every time, the pattern is the same. I ignore a gut feeling and make an impulsive decision that looks good on the surface. I doubt I'm alone in this respect, and anybody who’s ever made a poor or life-altering decision will usually tell you the same thing. There was a brief, lucid moment they can recall just before making their decision when they sensed something wasn’t quite right.

In most cases taking an alternative course of action is simple. Read the contract, slow down, take a second look, but for whatever reason, we choose to ignore our gut, just like I did, telling ourselves it is silly, or we are being paranoid. So why do we ignore our gut, especially when it’s at our peril? Probably because there’s no easy way to know precisely when we are being paranoid or if when we've actually made the right call. So does that mean we should all collectively hide in our basements to avoid making poor decisions? Of course not, all I’m saying is sometimes our gut has something important to tell us, and it doesn’t hurt to listen. 



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