Archive: Letting go of control can open up new opportunities — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

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In business, and in life, we often seek to control everything we can. We try to control our jobs, our careers, our schedules and more. We seek to remove the accidental, the random and unfortunately, the serendipitous. Instead of trying to control everything about your life, you might want to “let go” every now and then and see what happens. In my own experience, wonderful things can often arise.

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Why keep control?

The fact is, I believe we try to control our lives because we are scared of surprises. We think that by managing every aspect of our lives, we will develop a perfect job and a perfect life with no bad surprises to send us off track. Of course, you already know what folly that is. Life throws us curveballs at every turn. For me, any sense of control is fleeting at best. There is always something that pops up and proves the quote, “The best-laid plans of mice and men go oft awry (or astray).” Robert Burns certainly knew what he was talking about when he wrote that in his poem, To A Mouse.

Yet, we still try to control the world around us. I know this because, as anyone who knows me will tell you, I am a worrier. I always want to know where we are going, when we should arrive, where we will park, and in general what will happen? I try to suppress this as much as possible, but it often gets the better of me. Which is why I find it so amazing and energizing when great things happen out of the blue. In fact, I am actively seeking out these opportunities these days — and you should, too.

Why not Let Go

My most recent experiences with letting go has come from attending the local BarCampLA and related events here in Los Angeles. These un-conferences are typically organized only up to a point. The organizers find a date, a location and sponsors, but the conference itself is usually entirely ad hoc. Each attendee selects a topic to present and places their talk on a grid for the day. After a welcome and introductions, away we go.

My goodness is this an amazing concept, but it takes a certain amount of trust and willingness to let go to make it happen. You have to trust that others will have something interesting to say and that they will also want to hear your presentation. In my experience here in Los Angeles, this has been the case each time. I find it something like the magic that occurs opening night of a play or musical. (My degree is in theater, so I have some experience with this.) Whatever troubles might have plagued you during dress rehearsals suddenly melt away and the show comes together on opening night.

Fight the urge

Unfortunately, even in this rarified environment, you still have to beat back the grasping clutches of control. As I attend more of these events, I see organizers who, through fear or lack of trust, want to control every moment of the day. Instead of an ad hoc assembly of presentations, everything is timed out to the moment — turning it into more of a traditional conference than the unconference model they still use to describe it.

Somewhere along the way, the organizers seemed to have lost the trust that everything would work out. They have fallen victim to the belief that controlling the environment insures a great conference. Instead, they might be insuring that the conference never rises above the typical or the mundane. By lacking trust they bring about the very scenario they were hoping to avoid.

Letting go of control, and fighting the urge to control, can open up amazing worlds of creativity, if we let it. You have to trust both in yourself and others, though, that the magic will happen — the show will go on. As a “worrier” I know how hard it can be to let go of control, but experience has shown me just how powerful it can be — at the right time and in the right situations. If you want to give your career a boost, find some place where you can engage the random, the odd, the serendipitous. I can guarantee you will be surprised with the results.


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