But you didn't want a camel

Darling friend,

I'm packing for Berlin tonight. I'll be there from tomorrow through all weekend. It's going to be freezing and dark and, in the world's least shocking news ever, I'm going to love every single minute of it.

I'm almost a year on from packing up my life in the German capital, and I still sound like a broken record every single day saying I'm feeling 'not quite settled yet' here in London.

Trust me when I say I'm trying to figure it out, for both our sakes.

But, actually, as soon as I've written that sentence -- that I'm really "trying to figure it out" -- I know I'm in trouble.

Because what does "trying to figure it out" even mean? What decision am I even trying to make, for that matter? Do I actually want to go back to Berlin? Am I just being shit at making this situation work? Is the grass always greener? What do I actually want, and how do I get it?

And how long is long enough when it comes to making decisions about big life stuff?

I'm talking about the big leaps. When you're questioning your choice of job or your city. When you're questioning your relationship. When you're questioning what you thought would be your million-dollar business. When you're questioning your entire career direction.

A friend got in touch recently to update me on her life: "After moving to NYC, I decided the grad school program wasn't for me and I withdrew after just 2 weeks."

Isn't that incredible?

Meanwhile, I'm over here banging my head against the wall.

"Trying to figure it out."

(Ugh. Figure what out?)

I'm looking for answers, that's for certain. But I've only got questions: 

  • How do we know when it's time to make a big decision again?
  • Or, more confusingly, to unmake big decisions? How much time is enough to make sure?
  • How much input is enough to make sure?
  • Is a decision "valid" if you just have that gut instinct that things will be better if only you did _____?
  • Whose permission are you secretly trying to get?
  • Why do you need it?

All of these questions lead me down the same path. To a thing I already know. A thing I have learned many times before.

That you are the only person on this planet who can make those big life choices. You've got to do it yourself.

One of my favorite sayings popped into my head as I was darting between meetings today, and--stick with me--I've decided it really resonates here:

A camel is a horse built by a committee.

It's supposed to mean that too much input leads to a weird, vaguely-familiar-but-definitely-not-correct version of what you were first trying to achieve.

You set out to design a horse. A shiny, aerodynamic thoroughbred. But then other people got involved. You asked for more opinions. People who were designing something from their own perspective. Compromises had to be made.

And before you know it, you've got yourself a camel.

I've used this saying in meetings before and people don't get it.

"But camels are awesome," they'll say. "They can store water in their humps and they're [insert some other fact about camels I haven't retained]!"

That's true. But you didn't want a camel. You wanted to be a stallion.

This is how I feel about "trying to figure it out," . There is danger in gathering too many opinions and data points about big career decisions.

You keep collecting, and you start waiting. Hoping for some magic decision that isn't coming. Wait too long, and you will find yourself bending the design of how you wanted your life to look.

Staying in that city because "everybody else loves it." Staying in that job because it's "too early to quit." Staying in that Masters program because "you don't just drop out of school, ."

In other words: building a camel, when you wanted a horse.

Big love,