Of Course It Would Be Like This

Of course it would be like this.

I find myself saying this to myself a lot lately. I’m not the first person to think this and I’ll undoubtedly not be the last. But this statement has become a mantra for me lately. Of course version 3 of 10 would look like this or of course it would take x amount of podcast episodes before you would see any organic growth. 

For whatever reason, I gravitate to long term goals, like really long term. Like I want to be a part of moving 53206 from being the worst place to raise an African American boy to being the best place. The thing about big goals is that there rarely is a playbook or a series of benchmarks for success. Most of the time you are making up the benchmarks as you go, trying to look for small wins amongst stacked tasks you hope are kicking the ball down the field far enough to keep pace with whatever your idea of success is.

For about two and a half years, I have been a part of a team that has a goal of transforming an alternative school into a project based learning high school. While that is a thing that happens, at least I think it happens in other places, it doesn’t happen regularly enough to have a prescribed set of procedures that could be turned into small goals which leave a trail indicating success. There is no playbook for a large-scale systemic change like that one. Yesterday, I found myself talking through goals with the team and kept thinking of course this is what it would be like. 

We have an excellent vision for what winning is. We know it backwards and forwards. What we lack is a vision for what 40% or 75% of that vision would look like. That’s a classic inroad for self doubt and a failure narrative. I say that because 40% of your vision for whatever you are working on isn’t typically defined, because who sets a definition for a shittier version of what you want to accomplish. Progress is almost never linear. You might live in 40% for months before jumping to 75% almost overnight. You might make slow methodical progress, burn out, regress, rest, and spring back multiple times over along the journey. 

It reminds me of a line from one of the greatest movies ever made, Getting There – starring Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen. Mary Kate and Ashley take a road trip to the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics shortly after turning 16. A bunch of stuff happens and upon reflecting on the trip, the twins remind themselves it’s all about the journey and not the destination. Of course it would be like this reminds me that while having a strong vision – you have to see it before you see it, in order to see it – we rarely know what the path the journey to getting there will take. Of course we would see this frustration or of course this seemingly inconsequential issue would threaten to derail things or of course growth would follow this model and not the one I sketched up years before. 

If you are engaging in the work of creating something that has few clearly defined paths, if your territory has yet to be charted, push back on the temptation to judge your current set of circumstances without engaging in the mental exercise of attempting to frame the situation you find yourself in as a smaller part of a larger story being told because of course it was going to be this way. It’s better to take a cue from Mary Kate and Ashley and embrace the messiness of the journey because sometimes getting there means the car you got for your 16th birthday gets stolen en route to Salt Lake City and then you get separated from the group you were riding with on the coach bus you boarded in hopes of still getting there on time and you have to hitch a ride with a farm girl in a clapped out truck who just happens to be the daughter of an orange grove mogal who then flies you to the olympics on his private jet. You simply never know exactly what journey getting there is going to look like.