Stay, Go, or Get on the Bus of Opportunity
You don’t always know where the next change agent will come from. Sometimes for me it’s been a slow burn dawning realization, or a building itch, that’s coalesced into me one time up-ending the entire table of my former career in favor of a motorbike and the wide open highway. Other times a new piece of information is the agent, like when I put down the phone after a recent conversation with my boss, and in the wake felt like my head was bursting and struggling to decide what to do next.
If going through the altMBA has taught me anything it’s that good decisions are bets. Professionals make decisions based on the likelihood of good outcomes which may or may not occur. My work is to examine the possibilities and the odds. So in this case, do I get flattered by my boss’s offer to leap into a new job in a new city, into what might be seen as a more prestigious role, but which requires we start again, dragging my family through another move, our third in five years. What are odds of those things getting us to where we want to go?
The Bus of Opportunity
Maybe in the day and age of Jim Carrey we’re more inclined to expect inspiration from our comedians, but I certainly wasn’t expecting life advice when I watched South African (now New Zealand-based) Urzila Carlson take the TEDx stage in 2014. In such a disarming way that experts have of pointing out their own humanity, Urzila wove us a story of her own self-doubt and blindness to opportunity in her early stand-up days. I was transfixed. Preach! And then she hit us with the punchline, from none-other than the bus scene from Dumb-and-dumber, where for those who are too high-brow I’ll just briefly say is when the bus of possibility pulls up and the two dumbers wave it on down the road, wistfully jealous of whoever gets on.
The point is. We all have the bus of opportunity right here in front of us. No use waving it down the road for someone else to board. The door is open, you’ve paid your ticket. Get on. For me this is the opportunity of leveling-up right where I am, right here, right in my current life.
Leap or Level-up
This whole episode of decision making for me has boiled right down to do I chase the next thing, or do I knuckle down and do the work of leveling-up with what I’ve got. I think too often there is a glamorizing of leaping to go chase the shiny next big adventure. And I’m not one to knock it, says the guy who traded flying helicopters as a career to go ride a motorbike around South America. But when you get that our of your system it can be a useful idea to learn how to roll up your sleeves, to not go when it gets hard, to not leap. To stay and to spiral your way up. And to bring your community with you.
It’s slowly dawning on me that the hard things will require you to go through the dip. The valley of despair. And you won’t have the stomach for just about all of the possible range of options of what to pursue. But you will have the fortitude for a few of them. So choose wisely. For me, I’m choosing. My final analysis is that my odds of learning how to transform an organisation from the inside are good if I stay, poor if I go. My odds of leveling up my intrapreneurship are golden if I stay, terrible if I go. And the bus of that possibility has been here all along.
What the Staying Decision Gives You
I walked into the board room of my senior leadership on Wednesday with one thing on my mind — how to understand their worldview and gets us all aligned. To share our respective stories of what was happening and what was needed. And that was not the kind of conversation I could have had if I wasn’t all-in. Holding something back. Hedging my bets because I’ve got an escape route if it all gets too difficult.
I got my green light for the projects I wanted, not because I was more eloquent or better grounded than I’d been any time before. It was because I was more committed. I’d pushed my chips into the centre of the table and dared my leaders eyes-unwavering to do the same. And they did.
Be grateful for the change agents that send you reeling and lurching for a way to decide. Cherish them. They will make you do the work of examining what you truly value. And then when you’re clear, go make a massive noise and get stuff done.