I distinctly remember the first time I had this feeling in a professional setting. I was three years out of college, three years into my stint in management consulting, working for a client who wanted us to do a bunch of regression analysis on piles of data to see how they could respond to the rise of mobile phone service.[answer: stop running and hiding and burying your head in the sand. Mobile wasn’t going away. Kinda obvious in retrospect.]
The terrifying bit was discovering that, on that client team and in the small office where I worked, I was the person who knew the most about what kind of analysis we should run – terrifying because I knew I didn’t know enough, and I definitely knew less than the client expected.
In retrospect, since most of the gap in what I knew was technical I should have found a way to find SOMEONE who could help me bridge the gap. But how to better navigate the regression wasn’t the important bit. The important bit, the part that sticks out is the “this can’t possibly be up to me” moment I experienced. I felt like if it was all in my hands then something was massively broken, it was a temporary glitch in the Matrix and we’d soon get back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Because what did I know?
These moments are hitting people earlier and earlier in their careers, because we’re no longer asking people to walk a path or climb a ladder. We’re starting to recognize that whole industries (music, books, finance, technology, energy, infrastructure, philanthropy, healthcare) are either already unrecognizable or will be within 20 years, so we don’t need young people to master the old tricks of the trade, we need them to reconceive everything.
I can shout that from the rooftops but I probably won’t get you to believe that it all should be up to you, today.
But I bet I can get you to notice the next “this is up to me” moment and have you pause for a second and say, “Wait a minute. Maybe that’s exactly the way this is supposed to be. Maybe I’m the perfect person for the job.”
Because you are.