Sometimes you feel old. You feel worn, you feel tired, you feel lost. You feel like you’ve already come so far. You feel like it only makes sense that you should’ve arrived at some deep, amazing understanding about the universe by now, damn it!
Alas, this is not the way, says a little bird called Hindsight Bias. “You think that you want to know how it all turns out, but it would only ruin you if I told you. Believe me, you’re better off feeling your way in the dark.”
As Soledad O’Brien writes in a letter to her younger self, “Accepting ambiguity will free you”:
There is opportunity – and sometimes joy – in chaos and the unknown. I suspect you’ll find this extremely hard to believe. For someone like you, who is most deeply secure when your path and every step on it are completely mapped out, ‘the unknown’ sounds like being lost. And not just lost in the sense of having momentarily veered off course. Lost, as in completely adrift, not findable. Without understanding why, you’ve always felt that if you take one or two steps off the golden, preordained path you might never be able to get back on.
Being highly organized with concrete goals has helped you be productive, without a doubt. But Soledad – open up the door to a little more uncertainty! Honestly, it’s not a weakness to live this way. Moving forward without knowing where it will lead will be excellent for your career and for your personal life.
It’s liberating. If you stop obsessing about getting your ticket punched at all the “right” stations, you’ll be able to take opportunities that you wouldn’t otherwise consider. Don’t worry about losing control. Accepting ambiguity will free you to think about what’s right for you.
…It’s easy to compete with everyone else. What you have to do, though, is compete with yourself. Rather than just sprint to the title, focus on the integrity of doing work you like. Value the projects you get to be a part of. Those things are far more important than racing against the clock trying to beat people around you.
To remind you, here’s something J.R.R. Tolkien wrote: “Not all those who wander are lost.”
Your sightly more chaotic future self,
– What I Know Now About Success, Ellyn Spragins