The Value of your Wandering Years
I read a fascinating article in Fast Company about Steve Jobs and his wandering years when it hit me how so many people (uber successful or not) are praised for their production. The wandering years of trial, and often failure, (which actually got them to this fantastic destination of recognition) are no where to be found.
These years are valuable to our over all success but how do we reign in the lessons of these years and braid it into the story of our success?
I think having "down time" in success is inevitable. Whether we spend that wandering around, aimless it may seem, or trying out a new role; there's so much valuable information to glean from the space we create when we unplug, by choice or not.
Stop checking email. I can get trigger happy and refresh my inbox continuously waiting for important feedback, contracts or project details. Some times it's just a correspondence that I'm excited for but I have.to.stop. It can be a distraction to wait impatiently for someone else to tell me to move ahead, so I stopped waiting. If Project A isn't moving forward rightnow then what else is there right infront of me that I could be working on? Maybe Project C which is in incubation could be woken up and will take off. In the mean time, I bet those emails I'm waiting for will be answered. If not? No worries, I'm still busy.
When things aren't going the way you envisioned it might be time to start dreaming again. Things might be out of our control, but we can always control what we want. Try heading to your favorite coffee shop or local bar and bring a book that inspired you previously. Or a magazine you haven't read in ages. Pick something up that you remember feeding your creative side the last time you felt on top of the world. A conversation with a coworker? A blog you haven't checked in months? Something tactile like painting or drawing, crocheting or running.
Take the time:
Leave. Start walking, get in your car and drive, travel. They're not called the "Stay put and watch nothing change years" for a reason. You have to wander. Wander without your computer, or instead take a camera. Unplug from twitter and engage through instagram. Look for something new in the same old places. I promise, ideas are born this way.
Disengage. It might be time to retreat for an extended period of time. A weekend away, a week off? A month on the road in an RV? You can think of it as a vacation, but what if you thought of it as an escape instead? Make it a time to do something, not to intentionally not do things. Vacations on the beach are great for unplugging and relaxing, a weekend with intentional energy to create or do something you love - that's another. Do that. Are you a painter, writer, bird watcher at heart? Have you always wanted to hike near waterfalls or camp on the Appalachian trail? It's time for you to allow yourself the space to wander, not disappear.
Some of the best rejuvenating ideas or starting points come out of a lack of (formal) direction. When you take the boundaries away, either figuratively or simply emotionally, your view of how things work or what needs to change often becomes clearer - which will make it easier to take action steps towards a new goal, or a revised goal that wasn't previously working.
Once you come back from your time of wandering, maybe it's an intentional vacation or time away, it might be years or days or hours - you should find that you have renewed focus on your goals or perhaps the pivot point to make a dream a new reality with small changes. The delays that were troubling you might offer the insight needed in-order to push forward.
Have you experienced wandering years (days, hours)? What did you do and how did coming back from the experience enhance your productivity or working environment?