Early in my career, I was so damn stubborn and rigid with my work that any simple change would throw me for a loop. It took some stumbles to realize that I couldn’t control everything. If only I had connected the dots in the early stages of my career and remembered a lesson I learned during my college years.
It was Sunday morning August 14, 1988. I was having the time of my life in a shore house in Wildwood NJ, having stupid fun while listening to Aerosmith’s Angel and Van Halen’s When it’s Love and other pop hits from that summer. I was turning 21 at the stroke of midnight that night, but I didn’t care. After all, I had a fake ID and was drinking beers in bars for a few years so turning 21 was no big deal. But back to the story.
The summer of ’88 was the best summer of my life. It was everything a kid could ask for before entering his senior year in college. On that Sunday morning I just wanted to go home and get some sleep. I was expecting a ride home from a house mate but he abandoned me, purposefully as I found out, as others in the house conspired to keep me at the shore to celebrate my 21st.
As angry and disappointed as I was initially, I shifted gears and realized that I can’t control this, so I said “what the heck, might as well enjoy this.” Take the same approach with your career. Everything won’t go as you planned. Everything won’t be completely controlled by you. You must expect change to happen unexpectedly. You must anticipate change to occur. You must have Plan B ready at all times. You must be able to pivot quickly and seamlessly.
I’ve worked with some brilliant people in my career and watched a good many of them fail due to their inflexibility and inability to handle change. And I’ve seen some less-brilliant people thrive due to their ability to anticipate and master change.