Is it 2012 Yet?

OK, I blew it! By definition, and in some states by law, New Year’s resolutions must be filed by midnight on the year before the resolution is to take effect. So here I am a late again, but I’m going to make up for it. I’m filing my 2012 resolution early! And it’s a long winded one so grab that mimosa and settle in….

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When you travel as much as I do life becomes a series of departures and destinations.

Destinations are funny things. We all look forward to destinations as testimonials that we are making progress, achieving something in the process of getting from where we were to where we are going. But every destination starts with a departure, the end of something we’ve left behind. Sometimes that’s a good thing other times not. But in every case it’s departures that put us in motion. Sometimes we choose these departures other times (perhaps most times) they are chosen for us. In either case these are things that, like it or not, give us a chance to shape who we are. A departure forces you to think outside of your comfort zone, to stretch your imagination, patience, and creativity. Departures create anticipation and anxiety, but they also create opportunities we likely had never imagined.

So what departures shaped you most in 2010? Yes, I know, forget about 2010, it’s 2011, a New Year and new clean sheet of paper. Sure, it’s clean, if you were born at 12:01 am January 1st 2011, but you’re just a little bit older than that.

Were you shaped by the economic upheaval, were you laid off, did you depart a job or a career, did your family situation change? Go ahead make the list of all the departures that shaped you.

Now look at that list, look at it closely, and answer two simple questions:

Question #1) How many of the departures on your list were ones that you orchestrated, that you had full control over, that YOU decided on?

Not that many right? It seems that what shapes us most is not our brilliance, our great ability to predict and plan for the future, or our success. All of these tie us to the past and prevent us from seeing new possibilities. It reminds me of an experiment I once heard about where two large glass jars, one filled with bees and one with flies, were placed directly in front of a light. Then the tops of the jars were opened. The bees, being much smarter, flew towards the light, constantly smashing into the glass. Eventually they all died, in the open jar. The flies, being far less intelligent and much more random in their flight patterns all escaped the jar.

I haven’t a clue as to the merits of the experiment but I do know that the uncertainty which looms so large in our lives often opens lids and doors we don’t know to look for. I see it happen in my work with F500 companies, I see it in my mentoring of entrepreneurs, and I see it in my own life. Sure, we all have those things that we choose to do to shape ourselves, departing from bad habits to start a workout routine, leaving a bad  job or a caustic relationship – all those collective New Year’s resolutions that we so faithfully expect to follow through on (at least for today).

But even most of these and all of those things that truly shape a life and define our trajectory through this world; success, love, happiness, sadness, are most often triggered by what we can’t expect. But I said there was a second questions, and this is the one thing we all need to keep in mind as we head into 2011:

Question #2) For each of those departures did you choose a better destination?

This is the part we can control.  Great business, great people, are always looking for the unexpected destinations. If there is a single quality that is most needed to innovate and succeed it is this almost naive ability to embrace the uncertain by constantly learning how to take new directions from it.

And that leads me to my New Year’s resolution for 2012, that’s right I’m skipping a year. 2011 and however many more years I have to stay in motion:

“Embrace uncertainty, learn the lessons it has to teach, look for the possibilities I never could have imagined on my own, and make sure that for every departure life sends my way, I find an even better destination.”

Happy 2011, wherever it takes you! – tk

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