ana muenzner

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Serendipity – It is ok not to know! It can be actually better…

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“What do you do professionally?”

Again this question that has been following me again and again! This was when I first met Luiz Fernando e Luiz Thomas, two consultants who work independently in Curitiba[1].

I wondered: If we had not created professional labels, what else would we talk about in our small talks or when introducing ourselves?

Some people ask straight away “have you already found a job?” Family members even worry about that. Most people get surprised when I mention that my background is civil engineering and regional planning but I am going through a professional change and still in the process of redefining my profile.

Here the common reaction: “Civil engineering? That is the perfect time to come to Brazil! The market is lacking engineers and you will find a job very easily.”

Then I usually explain that I am not exactly looking for a job, but for a professional activity that, yes, provides my income, but, even more, it provides fulfillment and a sense of purpose.

Sometimes I dare to explain that I am searching for something where I can “be” my Work. I want to use my highest potential in the work I do and that it makes a difference in people’s lives. I want to leave my legacy and contribute to make the world a better place to live. Of course this is also possible working as an engineer, but my experience in the field thought me that I could be of much better use in another field where my natural talents, tendencies and passions come together. This professional move was necessary for me to get there. Otherwise I would have accepted being a frustrated engineer and would probably not be using my highest capacity – in opposite, I would probably be contributing to the statistics: “48% of the people are unhappy with their work” (Jornal Hoje, Edition from 11/07/2011)[2].

That same day I met Luiz Fernando and Luiz Thomas, who also dared a career move like me, I learned that we all had similar questions:

“How do I take the first step?

How do I come up with a creative idea that responds to real market (and society) demands?

Will I ever be able to make a living from this?

What if I fail?

Maybe I SHOULD wait until the children finish school to step away from my job… and THEN I will make a career change.

WHEN I finish my MBA, I will feel more prepared… THEN I will do it.”

That is the WHEN/THEN/SHOULD game. Maybe, maybe, maybe and… Basta! Luiz and Luiz decided to take the risk and just start to put their ideas in practice. They became aware that those excuses were just delaying a career change. They were avoiding taking the risk and trying something new. It is hard to leave the comfort zone although intuitively we all know that we can go much further and do something beyond our possibilities if we just take the risk. It is all about crossing the threshold, dealing with your fear, accepting that people will say “you must be crazy”, and do it anyway.

I think that the toughest time is the transition. You’ve gave the first step, you’ve started the move and now everything is unknown and unpredictable. You will have to resist dark times, maybe the financial security will be threaten and you will have to develop resilience to resist the ups and downs and not give up. You may catch yourself saying:

“Am I on the right path?

Gosh! Maybe I should have taken that position as an engineer…

If I just had taken that safe opportunity…

If I had done that concurso to be a civil servant… now my life would be guaranteed…”

I have observed that most of the people who survived this phase and continued believing that everything would be all right, like Luiz and Luiz, have something in common: intentional serendipity! Luiz Thomas was the first person who introduced me to this concept and I had no idea of what he was talking about….

Later on I found an interesting TEDx talk from Corey Ford, CEO of Matter Ventures, a $2.5 million incubator and start-up accelerator. It was very inspiring and relieving to hear from Luiz and Corey what is actually happening with me in this phase of life. I am experimenting with new ideas and diving into the space of not knowing. I feel a strong sense of possibilities arising and I am navigating through them until one pops and can be described as my “Work”. I don’t know yet how to describe my Work, but I have a clear idea about the purpose of it. What I am sure about is that I can see the potential of different situations and systems to be transformed and elevated to a different level. What these situations and systems have in common is the creative and innovative potential for transformation and my belief that I can help them to go to the next level. How am I going to do it? That is not clear yet. But this is ok for now. For the first time in my life, it is ok not to know what to do.

Corey Ford calls it “The drunk walk” of an entrepreneur. He defends the theory (and the practice) that this prototype-driven approach can work, as he speaks in this video:

As he says, real innovation happens not through perfect plans, but it comes through making some hypothesis, taking little experimental steps, learning and adjusting, learning and adjusting, learning and adjusting… so that you end up in a place you never ever could have predicted, but it is much more feasible, viable and desirable than anything you could have come up with if you were just sitting down trying to come up with the perfect plan.

Innovation is all about how you increase intentional serendipity. You cannot plan for it but you can increase the chances to make it happen.

What I have discovered along the way is that, once I decided to give a try to what I truly care about and to accomplish things that really matter to me and to others, I found a powerful force beyond myself and my conscious will, a force that helps me during this transition, nurturing my quest.

I guess this journey is going to be a test for my commitment to the direction I have taken. It will offer opportunities to trying, experimenting and failing. The drive to learn and serve a bigger cause, the need to know my fundamental nature, and the joy of doing something I love are the basic elements that will make this journey possible – We become what we behold (Dean Brown).


[1] Luiz Fernando de Azeredo Costa é consultor em gestão de mudanças organizacionais e de processos, coach e oferece treinamentos e educação corporativa alinhados com a real necessidade do cliente. www.azeredocosta.com | Luiz Thomaz é consultor de planejamento estratégico, financeiro e tributário e atua como coach na área empresarial, para sócios, diretores, gestores e líderes de rede; bem como, para profissionais que buscam aumento de performance, mudança e melhoria na qualidade de vida. www.thzdesenvolvimento.com.br

One thought on “Serendipity – It is ok not to know! It can be actually better…

  1. Awesome, Ana, we’re twin souls…

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