Lean In To Uncertainty

Sometimes, you find yourself in the right place at the right time. I was lucky enough to attend graduation at Colby College this year, my alma mater. Returning to Mayflower Hill stirred up plenty of memories, but listening to Amy Walter and Joe Biden speak forced me to pause and reflect on the last few years since I graduated. Inspired by two of my political heroes, here's what I'll remember from graduation day.

Why You Have to Lean In To Uncertainty

I'm a planner. It's almost a compulsion, really. Whether I'm traveling to far off lands or figuring out which road I'm going to take into the office, I have to write everything down, in a list, with the plan. 

The idea of being uncertain, of not knowing what to do next, terrifies me. It's why I've chosen to put my head down and stop thinking about possibility and potential and focus on executing this project or this blog post or that thing, right now. It's because when I let myself drift off into the clouds of what could be, I lose sight of what is.

And yet, that's exactly what we have to do to be successful. Not just at work, but in life. There's more than one cliched quote I could put here about life being a winding road or a box of chocolates or literally anything other than a straight line. And it's the same with careers. Even though everyone knows there's no such thing as a corporate ladder or 30 years and a pension or anything stable, that's still part of the dream.

Life Isn't Linear

Source: https://www.colby.edu/news/wp-content/uploads/sites/17/2017/05/Hat-toss_IMG_5277-768x512.jpg

Source: https://www.colby.edu/news/wp-content/uploads/sites/17/2017/05/Hat-toss_IMG_5277-768x512.jpg

But when you talk to people, you hear that they "fell into this" or "just started doing that." There's nothing so easy as Degree --> Job --> Retirement anymore. To be successful and innovative, you must draw connections between disciplines, see the world from another angle, make two and two equal four and a half because you can. 

Related: Connect the Dots

I remember graduating and feeling relieved that I had an answer to the constant "What are you going to do with your life?" question. But I'm now realizing that's only a tiny fraction of the answer. The only way to understand fully what you're meant to do or meant to be is to keep living—to lean into the uncertainty that you'll never truly know until the moment has passed.

Lead By Your Values

The real key to success—it doesn’t come from getting the right internship. It comes instead from knowing your own values and your own value. You don’t have to know what you want to do with the rest of your life today. But you need to know who you are and what matters to you.
— Amy Walter, National Editor Cook Political Report

I think Amy Walter says it all here. Because life doesn't follow a set path, and has no clear direction, to be able to navigate all that requires a compass, not a plan. Plans change and seem more like dreams. Instead, know who you are and what you stand for, and the rest will fall into place the same way life does: In a linear, uncertain fashion.

Above All, Engage

When things are uncertain, it's tempting to retreat into social media or Netflix or whatever security blanket we've crafted for ourselves. Instead, we must engage. There's too much to accomplish, too many problems to solve, to sit and wish our lives away. That doesn't mean you have to quit your job and run for office, or quit your job and go to Africa to save orphans (or whatever other problematic idea you have in your head about the world's problems).

It means, engage. With the people around you. With the world around you. With the ideals and that compass you have to know what's right and what isn't—and to act, instead of wait.

So act.