When you go to university you learn a lot. The truth is that the majority of lessons usually aren’t found in your curriculum. You learn what the midnight specials are at Burger King, or how to funnel four beers (and hold them down), or that it is possible to stay up for 48 hours straight if you are committed (and caffeinated) enough.
The greatest and most life-altering thing you can learn while at university is that being off-balance is the best possible position to be in. What I’ve come to realize is that this little tidbit of knowledge isn’t just applicable to university, it is applicable to life.
Now why would you want to be off balance? Many people find extreme discomfort in the unexpected. Most feel far more comfortable and self-assured when they are fully equipped or have a sense of control. I am telling you to let go of the reins. Or at least loosen them up a bit. Some of the greatest experiences I’ve had at school have come from letting go and finding myself in positions of uncertainty.
I’m willing to bet that these lessons are more than transferable to the workplace. Starting with this: Control, comfort and expectancy won’t get you anywhere. Being off-balance will. And here’s why:
1. Being off-balance means you are outside your comfort zone. Your comfort zone is a dangerous place to be. It means that you have limited yourself. No one wants to work with someone who doesn’t believe they can be better or go farther than they’ve gone before, just the same as no one wants to be friends with the girl who sits in the corner at a party and talks to her boyfriend all night. Being off-balance allows you to challenge yourself.
2. Being off-balance means that you need to think differently. When you can’t anticipate what’s coming at you, you need to innovate and think on your feet. This allows you to come up with new and creative ways to look at complications and resolve them.
3. Being off-balance forces you to pay more attention. If everything is new, you are more attentive and details don’t slip past you so easily. Much the same as if you are hearing Plato’s Allegory of the Cave for the first time, anxiously scribbling every word your prof says – working on a project that is different from anything you’ve ever done makes you soak everything in. That means no more texting during presentations in the boardroom or browsing Facebook in lectures.
4. When you are off-balance you are more willing to take risks. Risk-taking is essential to growth, as a brand or as a person. When people think of risks they often think of danger or hazard – but the kind of risk I’m talking about here doesn’t have to involve life-threatening situations or massive gambles. Risk can be calculated and still have an element of safety. Measure your possible gains and your possible losses – figure out where you stand. Asking that cutie in your Politics tutorial for coffee arguably takes just as much guts as asking your boss for a raise. Even if they say no, I promise you that once you get over the initial sting, the fallout isn’t as big as you think. Take a leap of faith.
As contrary as it will feel to your natural instincts, when you find yourself off-balance, don’t try to fight it. In fact, push yourself to be off-balance. It may be uncomfortable and it may mean that you will be dealing with the unexpected but you will find that you can adapt far better and more quickly than you think.