Best Leadership Advice: “Know where you are going. Be very flexible with how you get there.”
Yeah, sit with that for a second: “My world is slower and less busy today than it will be tomorrow.”
Whoa. Mind blown. Heart racing. Picks up Instagram to scroll through a newsfeed of cute & obscure animals. Not sure I want to contemplate that too deeply.
But it’s true. Rapid change and constant stimulation have become a way of life – whether we like it or not. For the record, I don’t like it but sadly, I don’t appear to have a direct channel of influence on the evolution of the world.
While technology has helped us be more connected and dynamic than ever before, it’s also stimulated the rapid proliferation of new knowledge. Entirely new sectors, industries, jobs, services and products emerge and disappear in very short periods of time.
Let’s face it, ten years ago I couldn’t have aspired to be a podcaster or an Instagram influencer or a drop shipping expert because these roles simply didn’t exist. Ten years from now, it’s unlikely that the next generation will even think to aspire to roles like door to door salesmen, switchboard operators, or postmen, roles that just 25 years ago still constituted several vertebrae on the spine of the American workforce. Tech companies that weren’t even an idea 15-20 years ago have now surpassed the manufacturing and energy giants of the last century in market share and are only projected to continue to do so in the future.
The world is becoming more uncertain and complex. And while that might feel scary, it’s also kind of exciting – think of all the innovation we’ll get to see and experience in our lifetime that our parents and grandparents couldn’t even dream of. Space colony on Mars? Self-driving cars? Pizza delivery by drone? And these are just the things that we can already see on the horizon. There’s a whole host of products and services that you and I can’t even conceptualize of right now that will emerge over the next ten years.
New knowledge and industries means new learning. That’s exciting too…and also scary. While, once upon a time, the world was changing at a pace that allowed us to backwards plan our lives in 5, 10, 15, 20 year increments, those days are gone. Now, you might set your sights on a job or a life five years out that doesn’t exist by the time you get there.
And yet, so many of us are still attempting to apply a “backwards planning” approach to our career, lives, & relationships – Figure out exactly what you want. Research how other people got there. Follow the steps until you get there. Stick to the plan, and you’ll arrive where you wanted to go.
Except not in the world as it is and continues to become.
I work with countless capable and driven people who, out of habit and social pressure, spend precious hours of heart & mind space mapping out their x year plan only to find themselves frustrated and lost when the rapid rate of change renders a reality that is very different than their plan.
Often they come to me feeling lost, questioning & beating up on themselves. They usually think they are the problem – “What’s wrong with me that I can’t make a workable 5 year plan?”. Or they think the plan is the problem – “It’s just not comprehensive, intentional, detailed, etc. enough.” What they often don’t realize is the problem isn’t actually them or their plan…it’s HOW they are thinking about “planning” in the first place.
I ask them: “What if you could learn how to get from where you are to where you ultimately intend to go in a different, more flexible and easeful way?”
I introduce them to the idea of “wayfinding” – the notion that you can “find your way” to where you want to go emergently by developing a general sense of what you want in your life and then intentionally experimenting your way towards what that horizon looks like in practice over time by moving through cycles of small action and reflection.
I talk with them about the Six Principles of Wayfinding:
- Know & Grow Yourself Constantly
- Get Clear on Your Horizon & Be Flexible About Your Path
- Experiment & Learn Your Way Forward
- Stay Tuned In to Your Present Experience
- Build a Community of Fellow Navigators
- Enjoy Yourself Along the Way
I invite them to get up from their desks, out from behind their computers and out into the world. I encourage them to let go of traditional ideas of “planning their lives” and move into a space of “experiencing & experimenting with their lives.” And I help them build the mindsets, skillsets, and tools they need to trade out those detailed 10 year plans for a clear horizon and a flexible sail strategy that allows them to pivot nimbly as the world changes, as they change, and as they learn more about what they truly want in their work and lives.
Change will continue to be upon us. To thrive in the world as it is and as it is projected to become we need mindsets, skillsets and toolkits that support us in operating both intentionally and flexibly. Wayfinding is one of them.