Get Your Hands Dirty - How to Figure Out What You Want
In the past 2-3 years of coaching I’ve been getting a lot of questions from people who’re seeking answers around purpose and passion in their lives. I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how to know what to do next. I’ve also seen many people sitting way too long in indecision and what it does to their confidence.
“Follow your passion” “do what you love” is a popular theme of commencement speeches. One that often inspires people in-the-moment but later makes them feel stuck. This paradigm can keep people paralysed and confused whether they just graduated from college or whether they've already climbed a career mountain and are asking themselves “what’s next?”
Truth is, if people knew their passion/purpose in the first place, most would do it in a heartbeat. The same is true for any decision we’re trying to make – if we knew the answer with certainty we would’ve already made the decision.
How are we supposed to know who or what we want to be if we haven’t even spent time really experiencing this way of being in our career? How are we supposed to know if we want to move to a different country if we haven’t spent time experiencing living there? How can we know if we would enjoy something or be good at something if we haven’t done it before?
The pressure we put on ourselves to know something before we actually do it often gets us stuck on the wrong path.
The key is to start doing something. Anything.
To get your hands dirty.
To take little steps towards a direction.
To test out the waters.
Making endless lists, analysing every possible angle, running circles inside your head trying to look for an answer – won’t get you anywhere. The opposite is more likely to happen – more confusion, more stuckness and more frustration. And a headache.
If the answer was up there (aka in your head) you would have already found it by now. It’s not up there, it’s out there. New input creates new output; otherwise you’re just recycling the same thoughts, ideas, patterns and stories.
The bottom line here is this – act before you have a perfect/certain/final answer.
A few years ago I read a piece written by Seth Godin talking about buzzing in quizzes. It's been such a helpful reminder for me, over the years, to act before I’m ready / know the answer:
“It took me thirty years to figure out the secret of getting in ahead of the others who also knew the answer (because the right answer is no good if someone else gets the buzz):
You need to press the buzzer before you know the answer.
As soon as you realize that you probably will be able to identify the answer by the time you're asked, buzz. Between the time you buzz and the time you're supposed to speak, the answer will come to you. And if it doesn't, the penalty for being wrong is small compared to the opportunity to get it right.
This feels wrong in so many ways. It feels reckless, careless and selfish. Of course we're supposed to wait until we're sure before we buzz. But the waiting leads to a pattern of not buzzing.
No musician is sure her album is going to be a hit. No entrepreneur is certain that every hire is going to be a good one. No parent can know that every decision they make is going to be correct.
What separates this approach from mere recklessness is the experience of discovering (in the right situation) that buzzing makes your work better, that buzzing helps you dig deeper, that buzzing inspires you.”
Today’s message is simple (simple, not necessarily easy) –
Go out there. Get your hands dirty. Your heart will know the answer when it experiences it.