The concept of squiggling was born from my experience in start-up land. Creating a new business and ‘going it alone’ is an emotional rollercoaster. And often that is all that you feel, alone. It’s daunting, scary and often confusing. It’s also exciting, fun and intensely rewarding.
I liken it to being in the tumble-dryer; it’s hard to know which way is up.
For the longest time I thought that the critical component of squiggling was intuition. I have always feel ‘guided’ in some sense through the process. It was something I understood but it was equally impossible to explain.
With intuition we tap into a different mode of ‘thinking’ which is more deeply conscious. I call it background processing. We are privy to more information in the course of our daily lives than we can possibly absorb in the moment but we do accumulate the information. Instead of being immediately available for use, that information is stored for later access.
Those pops of ideas and ‘AHA’ moments, the sudden connecting of dots, are all that information coming together in the form of knowledge. That is how I think about intuition. It is powerful and most importantly it is unique to you. It’s the sum of your experiences, no one else has exactly this knowledge. Which makes it incredibly valuable. Success is born of uniqueness. Paying attention to intuitive knowledge allows you to build valuable competitive advantage into your business.
Recently I realized that there is something more important than intuition. Intuition will not help you if you are struggling to embrace the turbulence that accompanies starting a company. Or running a company. Or frankly starting anything new in life. If you are stuck in the tumble dryer, with no ability to steady yourself, the turbulence will win.
The crux of this turbulence is change. When you create something new you start a process of change. And that process of change is constant, relentless and incredibly unsettling. The solid ground is removed from under you. It is like you are in deep water and you cannot find the bottom no matter how much you stretch your toes. The problems are never ending. One of my guiding principles is that “once today’s problem is solved, you will move on to tomorrow’s problem.”
The shorthand response to this is to resign yourself to it. Shrug your shoulders and give in to the discomfort because human’s just don’t like change. It’s just the way it is.
I don’t think it needs to be this way. Yes, it’s different and not always enjoyable but how can we find a way to align ourselves to the change, to the turbulence. As a squiggler I have designed my life to embrace change, I orient myself to change and I know that the headwinds are designed to show me the direction I need to head. Willingly and sometimes unwillingly. I have learnt that change is not a curse word. Sure there might be an expletive that accompanies the initial re-orientation: whether a funding crisis, a client crisis or an employee drama. There are moments on the rollercoaster that I don’t enjoy, but the ride sure is a thrill. It’s ok to acknowledge the inconvenience of the immediate problem but our work is to find the opportunity within that. And I have seen many of you work through these problems and come out gloriously on the other side.
Change is not a four letter word. Say it with me, say it to yourself, say it often and say it always. Change is in fact our business; it’s our job. Our job is to solve problems. Our job is to find the open door when another closes. Staring at the closed door shows us only the past. Searching for the open door shows us not just the way forward but the bigger opportunity that is waiting for us.
It’s easy to say of course, the real work is to make this your practice. Make problem solving and change your daily work. Which makes it critical to find quiet time and create space. So if you are busy being busy, watch that. I spent too many years feeling like our friend the Tasmanian Devil in a dustcloud of busy-ness; resisting change, frustrated and defeated by the doors that closed. I do a really great impression of a control-freak and I still trip myself up from time to time. You will too. Be kind to yourself, take a breath and know that not only can you solve this problem but you can solve the next one, and the next one and the next one.
Change is not a four letter word. Change is the magic that will take you to your destination, it just might not look exactly as you planned it. Put the plan away, that was yesterday’s good idea. What is today telling you to do?