Yesterday got me. A husband out of town. A week full of back-to-school presentations. Two kids resisting the alarm clock daily and coming home exhausted each evening. I had very few thoughts yesterday, and even fewer words prepared to articulate them. So, today you get a double dose which actually works out perfectly because these two topics are so closely related.
Trusting in the unknown is cliche, I know. We see it all over the digital landscape through memes and inspirational Pinterest boards. This is not the “trusting in the unknown” that I’m referencing. Not really, anyway. Trusting in the unknown often refers to situations; going to try something new that you’ve never done before. What I’m referring to is self. Trusting in yourself to not know, and being vulnerable enough to admit it to others.
Margaret Wheatley says it best in her remarkably honest text, Turning To One Another:
“We have to be willing to let go of our certainty and expect ourselves to be confused for a time. We weren’t trained to admit we don’t know. Most of us were taught to sound certain and confident, to state our opinion as if it were true. We haven’t been rewarded for being confused. Or for asking more questions rather than giving quick answers. But the world now is quite perplexing. We live in a complex world, we often don’t know what’s going on, and we won’t be able to understand its complexity unless we spend more time in not knowing.”
In a time where I find myself feeling like I need to be everyone’s everything, it was an incredibly revealing experience to say to others, “I don’t know. I need you. I need you to be my something this time–my guidance, my mentor, my answer to this question, my eyes that haven’t looked this direction before.” I had to get comfortable saying, “I know I’m supposed to be leading you, but to do that well I need you to lead me. I need you.” In doing so, two-way dialogue reached new depths and my listening skills sharpened. More importantly, unlikely relationships formed. Everyone has a skill set, assets, they feel strongly about. Many times we are too busy to notice them. When you stop someone and tell them you are in need of what they can offer, a seed sprouts. An incredibly profound seed.
Often times as leaders we feel we have to have all the answers. People look to us for that, and expect it. What also has to be recognized is that no one person has all the solutions, nor is there a single one to to varying situations we face. They are complex, layered, and confusing. They are not simply resolved. We are always going to be faced with limited time. But we don’t have to always present ourselves as satisfied to quick, easy answers that don’t truly satisfy us. Doing so perpetuates passiveness and honors nothing beyond the surface.
I went in to my summer school role as a blank canvas, allowing myself to be newly fashioned. I let people see beyond my exterior. What I would become was unknown. Each day, I was built up and created in new ways. New strokes were added, and bold colors scattered. Those who held the paintbrushes have forever left their mark.