Learn from the past

Einstein receives attribution for the maxim that “doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results” is one definition of insanity. If Einstein’s true, and his body of work supports his veracity, then a good many people are just plain bonkers.

Over and over again humans choose paths leading to dead-ends. Even when given a second (and a third and a fourth…) chance, they regularly choose futility.

When I began writing, I was forced to fake it ‘til I made it. Without clips, clients, or any kind of substantial work, I learned to bluff my way forward. I ended up getting work, some of it offering valuable experience to someone finding his way as a freelancer.

Ten years have gone by. Good things are happening for me on the book front. Malcolm Gladwell talks about 10,000 hours as being the length of apprenticeship that a craftsman (writer, musician, web developer, and carpenter) needs to put in before he is proficient and skilled enough to succeed. As Gladwell posits, it’s not always innate genius and talent that brings us success—sometimes just logging time, getting better brings good things our way. Of course, we all know people working their asses off and going nowhere—but that’s a different post.

I’m over that 10,000 hour threshold as a writer. I have clips, three books, and I know I’m a much better writer than I’ve ever been. I’m also well over 10,000 hours as someone skilled at collaboration and leading groups forward and meeting outcomes. During this period of transition, there has been a temptation to choose short-term solutions over considering the bigger picture. It’s easier sometimes to go back to the same old well to pick up a few dollars. No matter how much success comes our way, we still favor safety over pulling out all the stops. Opting for the latter is fraught with risk and even opens up that can of worms called failure. There are worse things, however.

On Sunday, a former co-worker stopped by. He still works for the power company where we shared employment from 1987 to 1995. So much has changed in the world of public utilities, and the place where we both worked is no exception.

I was relaying to him my story about my hours being reduced at my primary employer. I told him about my various projects that I’d been able to line up and put in place over the past five weeks. He mentioned that I was “lucky” that I knew how to do that and then he indicated how if his current job ended, he didn’t know what he’d do.

It wasn’t easy getting to the stage where I’m at in my life, and there was very little luck involved. The journey to this place, a place where I know I need to be, has been littered with obstacles, rabbit trails, and an occasional dead-end. Despite occasional bumps in the road and setbacks here and there, I’ve continued to push forward from that day in July when I walked away from the security option chosen by my friend, Dan. My life now has a narrative arc that his lacks. I have stories and experiences to draw upon, knowing that security doesn’t get us to the place where I’m at and where we should all be looking to go.

Btw, Dan can learn the art of reinvention, or learning to learn. Unfortunately, most Americans stay at a company until it’s too late before learning the important transitional skills that we all need for the 21st century world we’re living in.

With success and time, we learn the things that the universe is trying to teach us. Even those experienced in change and reinvention occasionally revert back to Einstein’s definition of insanity. We’re afraid to say “no” or trust that something bigger and better is coming along. When we do this, it makes us miserable, slogging along clinging to our scarcity model, instead of trusting our intuition and choosing the things that will push us one step up the ladder, instead of pulling us back towards the ground.

Are you choosing abundance, or still clutching scarcity close to you? Try doing something different today. You might just find the results you’ve been looking for.