We're just winging it!

Published 2017

Take a look at your life now. Your home, your career, your friendships, even your nail colour. How did you get here? At any point, did you feel like you were just… winging it? Yes. Resoundingly, overwhelmingly, yes.

Sometimes we’ve all just had to dive in and hope for the best. To trust gut feelings, to trust that things will fall into place. And there’s something to be said for that.

This is not in praise of frivolity, or recklessness. But it is in praise of bravery, in trusting in your own abilities, in believing that you are an adaptable, quick-thinking, fast-learning human being and that it’s ok to – excuse the cliché – follow your dreams.

Studies have shown that women are less confident about themselves than men. Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In stated that women often wait to apply for a job until they meet 100 percent of the hiring criteria – men apply when they meet just 60 percent. We’re less impulsive (which can be a good thing – it makes us safer drivers, and much more law-abiding) and tend to think of all possible outcomes.

All this is something Ceriann Smith has first-hand experience of, and it led to her leaving her PR consultancy job to found the Winging It Club. “Perfectionism and high standards are traits that have plagued me throughout my life,” she says. “Ever since I’ve held my hands up to winging it – trying to do the best I can but not necessarily knowing what I’m doing all of the time – I’ve felt more of a sense of freedom than I ever have done before. It’s about escaping the shackles of perfection and giving ourselves permission to just go for it.”

The Winging it workshops, which Ceriann co-founded with Caroline Britton, gather together panels of interesting women (the next few are in Hale, Greater Manchester, but they’re heading to London, too, soon), with the aim of helping attendees realise their full potential and leave feeling motivated, inspired and emboldened. 

At their most recent event, this panel included a nurse who was signed off work with depression and anxiety and decided to become a yoga teacher (“All I knew was I liked yoga and it made me feel good!”), a secondary school teacher who wanted to launch a children’s boutique (“I just wished there were more traditional handcrafted toys available”) and a hobby inventor who, sick of the mess her children were making, developed a new kind of bib.

All of them had valuable lessons to share:

  • Use a break – whether that’s through illness, maternity leave, redundancy, whatever – to your advantage

  • Use it to re-evaluate where you are now and where you want to be

  • If you decide to make a drastic career change, be practical about it – see a financial advisor, get a pension sorted

  • Tackle one obstacle at a time

  • Find the people who will offer you support

  • Work out how you define your own happiness – is money really the most important part of work?

  • Really, genuinely, can’t do something? Get someone else to do it! Don’t be afraid to outsource some tasks (but be wary of delegating too much, or you’ll take away your chance to learn)

Lucy Estherby, the above-mentioned secondary teacher who founded that children’s boutique – Acorn & Pip – said at the workshop, “I’ve never done this before, but I’m good at it now! My dad always said ‘If you jump, a net will fall,’ and he’s right, it has”.

Denzel Washington’s commencement speech for the University of Pennsylvania back in 2011 also taught a valuable lesson, advocating ‘falling forward’ when we fall: “You will fail at some point in your life. Accept it. Sometimes it’s the best way to figure out where you’re going.”

The general consensus about the first few months of these new ventures was that they felt exciting, inspiring, creative… and intensely scary. But as Caroline said, “Sometimes you have to accept that you’re going to feel fear”.

Practise bravery, not perfection. Stop trying to work to impossibly high standards. Liberate yourself from your own perfectionism. Just wing it.


Karen Staniland-Platt