I recently read a Harvard Business Review article that shared an important piece of advice for leaders. That piece of advice is the idea that there is sometimes something very powerful in simply saying ‘I don’t know’ when it’s the reality of a situation. It’s not possible to always have the answers, and in many situations, personal and professional – sometimes it’s just not possible to predict and forecast.
Growing up, I passionately and purposefully chose to go the alternative route and I never quite knew why. When I was told to ‘sit down at the table’ and asked ‘why’ – I distinctly remember saying with so much conviction – ‘I don’t know.’ Now, looking back, I know damn well why.
I butted heads with those that loved me, I know that if you needed an 85 to get into the National Honor Society, I would purposely keep my GPA at an 84.3. If no girl ever ran for president in high school, I sure as fuck would. Skip a cruise for spring break, build houses in Appalachia. Yup. Drive for hours the night I got my license and was supposed to go 10 minutes. Ticket to prove it. Get fired from retail in two days, and work landscaping. Take drug tests for my coworkers. Study on school nights – at House of Blues. I took a lot of risks, never fearful, and never once felt I paid a price despite the sometimes painful consequences.
I didn’t know why. And I didn’t know what. Or who I was on a mission to be. Partially because I’m confident that I could be anything to anyone and in any situation. And growing up the way I did, albeit superbly blessed and fortunate, there was a path to acceptance and normalcy. The path was college prep, university, grad school, marriage, kids, and happiness. At the ripe mature age of 21, I felt I was there. Going to make it happen. After feeling lost in my directionless world, I made a decision and stood with it, something stubborn people that like to prove a point, can do oh so well.
What I did at that time was give up on allowing myself to say ‘I don’t know’ and I sold myself short on ‘who I would be next?’ I never explored it. I never made the mistakes I should have. If I could go back, I’d offer to anyone trying to figure out what or who they will be next – is to not conform. And not to figure it out.
And if you made the choice to force a wrong decision right – don’t feel you have nowhere to go. I know now, that the only true fear I have in life is feeling stuck. I will always have a fight in my eyes. I will always want to explore what else is out there. Haters will say that it’s a matter of never being satisfied, and maybe they are right, but I think it’s so much more, and I’m not ready to concede.
Relationships fail. Careers peak and valley. Somedays you say fuck 456 times. But the reality of life is that we are really only stuck if we allow it to be.