What is Impractical Advice?

This blog isn’t called “impractical advice” for no reason. 

When my husband died unexpectedly, in his mid-forties, with no history of health issues,  everything in my life jolted to a stop for a while.  One of the weirdest things I had to do was set the navigation system on my car–every time I went somewhere. Work, the store, home from work even–the automatic pilot in my head had stepped out.  Thank you, universe, for technology.  I was lost emotionally and personally.  It would take years for that capability to return and I could remember where I was, who I was, and where I was going.

So, the navigation system became part of my life.  I got good at it.  It helped me to focus on where I was going–but it also helped me to make sure I brought along everything I would need when I got there.

At this time of year, we in the West often write “new year’s resolutions.”   Usually it’s about our weight, our health, savings, and so forth, but it sometimes a time for thinking ahead with more seriousness. Winter’s the time for dreaming.  It’s dark, it’s cold, the new year is here–what’s ahead is hazy and perhaps a bit scary. 

Last week, I had lunches with two of my young colleagues at different times and at different places. They couldn’t be less alike — one had a doctorate and was going into a science vocation, the other was a struggling mid-level content developer for a large organization. Both were female and both were having the same problem. Then a third colleague sat down to lunch with me and gave me a pause with her problems. I could clearly see the thread now. They were all stopped in their tracks by indecision.

We are often  waiting for someone else to move, and depending on those moves, we will then make our move.  This is probably not a wise course of action when deciding the overall plan for change in our lives.  It’s good to have a plan for change. Think of it as a kind of navigation system.  

Last year, I tried to develop a blog with help from a friend–but she wasn’t really ready to write yet.  I was doing the pushing and she gave me lots of energy to get started and to keep it up, but ultimately it Did Not Work Out.  For about six months, I had been waiting on my co-blogger to write something, then to write more, and then to write even more.  That wasn’t going to happen.  She wasn’t ready.

This past week, I’ve had several conversations about the problem of moving forward.   And all of us have needed to work on the exact, same homework: Write a Mission Statement for Your Life.  (Yes, me, too. People often lay in our laps the very problems that we ourselves are struggling with.)

Suddenly I realized,  it’s me in the parking lot again, trying to program the navigation system. 

We find this theme in all of the most useful books and media on changing our lives and becoming successful.  We’re told to ask ourselves, “Where are we Going in All Aspects of Our Lives?” From that ancient geezer of self-help career books, What Color is Your Parachute to the more new-fangled and pretty wonderful Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, every book out there tells you to think about all parts of your life to figure out where you’re going.

Otherwise, you get home, without the milk from the grocery store, without the son at band practice, and without your housekey, which you loaned to your oldest daughter so she could come borrow the stand mixer. Been there, done that.

We have to have a vision, or really a set of visions that work together to get us from where we are now to where we want to be.

Over the course of my many years (oh gads, so many!) I have discovered that it is just like setting the navi!   You have to consider ALL the things you have to get done.  I had to program in getting my son to school, picking up groceries, seeing the doctor–all the things that had to get done if I was going to make it from point A to point B (or even to one of the many mid-points along the way) without having to double back or find myself  out of gas, running in circles, and well, crying at the stoplight.  And you have to check, to make sure the navi-system isn’t taking you the long way round or into the thick of wall-to-wall traffic.

Writing a Mission Statement? Ha! If I had map, I wouldn’t be so lost  . . .and now you’re telling me to write my own map?  What?!? 

So that’s what’s impractical about this advice. Practical advice helps you deal with the running toilet.  Practical advice is about physics, chemistry, and how to read the org chart at work.  Practical advice is important and helpful, useful and gets things done. Impractical advice is about getting our lives together when no practical solutions exist for the problems we have.  

In this blog, I’ll discuss the readings I’ve done, the classes I’ve taken, and the experiences I’ve collected in dealing with life collapses, trouble, and change.   I’ve discovered that  the secret is the same as Eric Ries laid out in book I read a few years ago,  The Lean Startup.  We have to tune, steer, and adapt to the road.  We have to change our plans, sometimes just a little, sometimes alot.     Writing the mission statement is like sketching out the map or running the navigation system.  It’s not the solution. It’s about thinking more carefully about the journey and laying down the bare bones of where we want to go along the way.

I’ll also be talking about blogging, as a component in the career that has no name, the career I’m creating for myself.  So there are in some ways, this is an audience within an audience: those interested in figuring out how to design their lives in the big picture; and those interested in creating and producing a successful blog.  I know a good deal about the first, far less about the second.  Still, I am looking forward to sharing what I know.

Happy Holidays.  Here we go. Getting started.



Author: Lola

Recovering academic, real-life, honest to cornflakes anthropologist (Ph.D. and fieldwork and everything), tech-head and social media researcher.

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