If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, Any Road Will Get You There

Achievers have an innate sense of purpose powering them through troubled times and if at times they didn’t know where they were going they were willing to take the risk of finding out. On the other hand, if you look at some people who are in a secure profession albeit in roles that they dislike, coasting towards the end of their working lives, you will find one thing in common, regret! The regret of not taking the risk to avail opportunities, the regret of unfulfilled desires and the regret of never knowing what their true potential really was.

The Paradigm Of Confusion

Some of the greatest discoveries that hastened development, were by people who decided to go way out of their comfort zone. In the process, they ended up achieving things that were way beyond others.

Christopher Columbus considered one of the greatest adventurers of all times, is one such example.

In 1492, he set sail from Spain not knowing where he was going. When he landed in America, he didn’t know where he had reached and when he returned from his voyage, he didn’t know where he had been. Yet his achievement was remarkable. He discovered America.

Just think – if Columbus had decided he would sail only to places he already knew or had visited what would the outcome of those voyages have been? Would he be remembered even after 500 years? Possibly not!

The business world is no different.

In October 2007, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia created the initial concept for Airbnb during an Industrial Design Conference held by Industrial Designers Society of America. Their concept had not been tried before and was certainly risky. If the Airbnb founders had decided that their idea was infeasible and impractical would they have ever aggregated over 300000 accommodations across 65000 cities in 191 countries?

Show Me First Your Penny Syndrome

I remember a nursery rhyme I was taught as a kid that goes-

Simple Simon met a Pieman,

Going to the fair;

Says Simple Simon to the Pieman,

Let me taste your ware.

Says the Pieman to Simple Simon,

Show me first your penny.

The Show Me First Your Penny Syndrome is seen in several places in the corporate world. Many people seek an assurance that their endeavour will succeed before they even undertake it. Some people want an assurance that they will be promoted before they even put in efforts on the job and get results.

Even in personal life, people starting an exercise program want an assurance first that they will have a sculpted physique or figure as the case may be, in a specified timeframe before even embarking on the workout program.

Consider a simple thing like reading a LinkedIn article, we check and see where all it has been featured and how many people have liked it or commented on it, before we even click on the article.

The fact is-

In the real world, there are no assurances.

Even if Michael Phelps were to teach someone to swim without that person ever getting into water, it is unlikely that person would swim the moment he or she entered the water. No amount of teaching on land will prepare you to swim until you get into water.

The point is no one can give you an assurance that you will succeed at what you do. You have to try it yourself to succeed at it.

People who are really successful are those who are willing to go after what they are passionate about, regardless of how difficult or infeasible, it may seem at that time. When you attempt something that you have not done before, it can be understandably tough or daunting. When you take on something that many people have tried and failed at, you would be quite jittery.

In the famous Star Trek TV series, there is a tagline that goes.

‘To go boldly where no man has gone before.’

Come to think of it, the pioneering spirit has been a hallmark of innumerable achievements.

The pioneering spirit works equally well whether you are doing something that no one else has done before or simply doing something that you have never done before. Richard Branson is no stranger to business. Yet, when Branson was toying with the idea of venturing into the airline business many people told him that this was a risky venture and that he was better off staying out of it. He ignored their advice and went forward. The rest is history.

The real path to growth traverses unseen trails. 

If you want to see how much you have grown over time, look for the new things that you have done where you have gone way out of your comfort zone regardless of how it turned out. Even if you did not succeed at whatever it is you did at that time, what you learnt would be invaluable.

Interestingly anything that you now do with finesse, was once something that you had never done before.

Even when you don’t do something right the first time, it could still have value for you.

The British inventor James Dyson, industrial designer, and founder of the Dyson company is best known for inventing the Dual Cyclone bagless vacuum cleaner. What is less well known is that, while developing his vacuum, he went through 5,126 failed prototypes before getting it right. He also exhausted his savings in the process. He is now worth an estimated $4.1 billion, according to Forbes. According to the Daily Mail, this inventor owns more land in England than the Queen herself!

Creating a mindset of possibility can power you to win over insurmountable odds. Some of mankind’s greatest achievements have been attributed to people who dared to dream of things that were considered impossible until then.  Orville and Wilbur Wright are credited with building the first airplane. They made their first flight in December 1903. The fact that this had never been done before, did not stop them from imagining it and turning their imagination into reality!

Powerful accomplishments don’t come with passing effort!

The ability to settle for delayed gratification is very valuable. It applies to many facets of life. If you consider professional growth the need to work long hours, be away from your family, take responsibility for a business etc. can have an impact on your personal life. However, it comes with some long-term benefits for your career.

The point is- you need to pursue your dreams!

If you don’t build your dream someone will hire you to help build theirs. – Tony Gaskins




About the Author:

Srinivasan is an independent consultant working in the area of strategy and technology interventions in the public sector domain. He has worked in companies like IBM and TCS and has over 30 years of experience spanning 24 countries.

Srinivasan R

Management Consultant at Independent Consultant