on insecurity, change, our inability to know that who we are changes, and what all that means for work

i recently listened to the shifting time episode of the ted radio hour. the 3rd segment was with dan gilbert. his 6-minute ted talk, when do we become the final version of ourselves, is about about how bad the average person is at predicting their own change and how the only constant in our lives in change. the big line he ends with is this

“human beings are works in progress that mistaken think we’re not.”

almost all people are able to say “wow! who i was ten years ago is so different now than who i am today.” despite our ability to do that, most of us are unable to recognize that who we are today is different from who we’ll be in another ten years.

to me, this has several implications on things i think about a lot.

1. in line with jungle’s #5to9 thinking, it makes the idea of “a career” seem totally nonsensical. if we are going to be different ten years down the road, it definitely doesn’t make sense to plan for a static career trajectory.

2. it also lends credence to our belief that the ability to describe “what you do for a living” is becoming increasingly irrelevant. what any individual does from one project to the next could be totally different. of course, that doesn’t obfuscate the need to specialize and optimize, but i do think it means one could play multiple roles on different projects over time. 

you could even develop several different areas of expertise to keep things from getting boring. in a post-(industrial)-work world, that also allows people to set themselves apart by combining different specializations (ex: designer a does ux, ui, and color theory whereas design b does ux, web design, and web development).

3. in work and non-work contexts, it makes long-range life planning largely irrelevant. some things won’t change, like the need for food, shelter, and companionship. but other things, like housing needs and resource needs, are very likely to shift. my friend alex taylor said today that this explains the mid-life crisis. and then i thought, it also explains the quarter-life crisis, the crisis of turning 30, and every other life crisis. it’s not that people made bad decisions at the outset; it’s just that they changed and didn’t anticipate that they would.

there’s more, but i’m already over time!

two relevant quotes and a video (thanks to jason spicer for the video):

“everything changes, everything is connected, pay attention.” — jane hirschfield (thx erin g-h)

thx, jason spicer, for the video

“The notion of security is based on the feeling there is something within us which is permanent, something which endures through all the days and changes of life. We are struggling to make sure of the permanence, continuity, and sfety of this enduring core, this center and soul of our being which we call “I.” For this we think to be the real man—the thinking of our thoughts, the feeling of our feelings, and the knower of our knowledge. We do not actually understand that there is no security until we realize that this “I” does not exist.
—alan watts, the wisdom of insecurity