I met with a master’s candidate in my office this week. This student is bright, self-sufficient and motivated.
She was asking me about how to narrow down the list of things she wanted to accomplish, post-graduation. I began by asking her what she wanted to do.
30 minutes later, we were still running down the list. She was playing mental ping-pong with herself, pinging from one job/hobby/interest to another.
I listened to her ambitious list of items, all worthy of energy and attention.
“You can’t do all of this – at least not this summer or fall. You have to focus, narrow it down…and concentrate on two or three goals. That way you can devote enough bandwidth to accomplishing what you want to do.”
She said she liked writing things down on paper. “Okay, that’ll work. Write all of your ambitions down, then start crossing off items. Try and get down to three. You want to volunteer, you want to edit media and you want to work in (a specific job). How are you going to deliver on this promise you are making to yourself?”
She shrugged. ‘I’m not sure.”
“How old are you?”
“Perfect. You have time to fail!”
“But I don’t want to fail!”
“If you are trying out two or three things, surely one or more of them is not going to work out, at least not now. This word failure is always assumed to mean disaster. Not true. Sometimes you have to do things to know that you ultimately shouldn’t do them.”
I walked over to my office window. I opened it halfway.
“The window is open for you. Crawl through it. You don’t own much and not much owns you. This is one of the few times in this life the window will be open. You have time – time to try, time to fail, and most importantly, time to develop some passion. It doesn’t come pre-loaded in your brain. You need time to develop it.”
“By the way, you mentioned (specific job) four times since you’ve been in this office. I think you are giving yourself the answer. It was there all the time, you know…”
Whether you are 23 or 43 or 63, there are those times when the window opens. It may come organically; it might be shoved in your face by a layoff. The window always closes. When it’s open, even a crack, crawl through it.
There is opportunity waiting for you on the other side.
John Scott is a