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Nick Ang

How to deal with career uncertainty

Ever since I became an adult, there’s always been someone around me noticeably lost in their life. I’ve been there before and expect a good chance of going back there again further down the road. It’s a privileged problem to have (not that I want it).

I don’t have a solution for this twenty first century epidemic, so if you were hoping to hear one… Sorry.

But there’s one thing I’ve become increasingly convinced is a good solution for duration of the uncertain, everything up in the air phases in our lives. That thing is picking up a skill.

Just a few years ago I was a lot more idealistic than I am now. To be more accurate, I was an optimistic idealist (OI) back then. Now I’m more of a pragmatic idealist (PI).

OI me would say things like, “I can make X happen, I just need to decide that X is what I want to be working on and put my feet down to achieve it.”

PI me would politely rebuke and say something like, “Nah, while I believe you have the mettle to pull it off eventually, you can’t just make X happen. Nothing just happens.”

What I mean by that (since I’m PI me now) is that a lot of the things we’d like to do in our life requires skill to accomplish, and skill takes time to nurture.

A skill is like a plant. It usually starts off looking pretty hopeless, small and unable to take root. But as you dedicate time to water it day after day with practice, its growth will be palpable, and then it will be real and noticeable. With more or less consistency in terms of practice and with some time, it will flourish with beautiful flowers full of colour.

Accepting that as fact, then, means the smartest thing we can do while we’re up in the air is to try and pot a plant (or develop a skill). Once the pot is bought, the soil added and moistened, and the seed is sown, every day that passes will be a day of growth.

If you work on a skill while trying to figure your shit out, at least every bygone day is a log of accumulation instead of depletion. That in itself ought to bring the spirits up. And if it doesn’t, trust that being good at something (ie. possessing a strong skill) will lead to more opportunities by the laws of economics, supply and demand.

The miracle of a flower from an unlikely little pod of a seed is just an eventuality.

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