The Philosophy of Unreadiness


In order to achieve your ideal career you have to take risks, often when you feel you aren’t ready to deal with the consequences.

When you quit your job and start your own business, it’s very possible that your business venture could fail. When you take a job at another company, it’s possible that the new company won’t live up to your expectations. Even a taking a small risk like negotiating with your boss to change the scope of your responsibilities could have negative consequences.

Unless you’re willing to accept the uncertainty that comes with taking these risks, you’ll never be able to take control of your career. If you can’t face the fear of potential setbacks, you’re destined for dead-end job. Sure, you may get promoted, and you may get that corner office by the window, but fast-forward to your sixtieth birthday, the day when your company hands you a retirement package (maybe) and a cardboard box ( more likely). That’s the day when you’re forced to ask yourself the question you’ve avoided all those years: What did I do with my life?

If you don’t like the answer you give yourself, you might want to reconsider the career choices that you’re making (or, as often is the case, not making). Compared with a life wasted, the uncertainty that comes with taking a career risk doesn’t seem so bad.

We’re all Unready

When it comes to our careers, all of us are unready, even those who know exactly what they’re going to fill into the bullet points on their resume five years from now. Although their jobs may seem secure, it’s very possible that some robot or software program could make their job redundant ten or even five years down the line.

Acknowledging your own unreadiness enables you to see the bigger picture. It makes it easier to take the initiative to learn new techniques and new skills in order to equip yourself with the tools you need to survive thrive in a bewildering job market. It means being aware that your career could change at any moment. The question is: will you make the change, or will you let the change be made for you?

The fact is, you probably won’t know what career decisions are best for you until you make a few mistakes. The trick is to be willing to make those mistakes. The more times you fall face first into the mud, the closer you’ll be to having a clear picture of what you were meant to do.

It’s okay not to have all the answers. No one ever does. Don’t let your lack of knowledge or preparedness scare you away from creating your ideal career. Be willing to be unready.

Photo by: Nicki Varkevisser

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  • You’re absolutely right about this. Learning to be completely at ease with being unready, almost welcoming it even. That’s a great foundation, definitely a development I’d welcome in myself: I’m working on a contract basis, will probably be unemployed sometime in January. I’m feeling unready for that, and yet, strangely willing!


  • Kenji

    Thanks for your comment Warren,

    It’s certainly no mean feat to learn to be at ease with unreadiness. I’m certainly not completely there myself. I’ve found that, however, the closer I get to accepting unreadiness, the easier it becomes to adapt and shift not only to the changing marketplace, but also to my own changing motivations.

    Best of luck with the unemployment–or perhaps you could say, “Self-employment with no fixed income.”

  • Yes I much prefer that definition!!

    I just came across a great quote by Joshua Waitzkin that is pretty complimentary to your ideas here:

    “I have learned that in those rare moments of truth in our lives, we have to be willing to let go of the comfort of our knowledge, our preparation, our sense of control, and we have to flow with an improvisational spirit that embraces chaos, turns adversity to our advantage, and digs into our deepest reservoirs of energy and creativity. Our relationship to the learning process, in my opinion, should be one that prepares us for that freedom under pressure-or more truly, that liberates us to live every moment with that openness to unexpected beauty. Learning and peak performance aren’t about control or memorization or perfection-they are about something much deeper, something more essentially human.”

  • Kenji

    Wow, What an excellent quote! It perfectly captures the ideas in the article.

  • Feel the fear and do it anyway is very practical advice in dealing with uncertainty. We’ll never be fully ready. Cheers.
    .-= Gordie Rogers´s last blog ..Remind Yourself How Good Lifestyle Design Is. =-.

  • Kenji

    Cheers Gordie. Good to see you here.

  • When I saw the title of this blog, I was…I can resonate with it.. I feel unready too for my new website project which can be big or can fail miserably (the part which I’m unready for is leading team of people and being a boss..), but I’m still gonna do it since I love building a business and creating a vision!

    Thanx for great post!

    .-= Adrijus Guscia´s last blog ..20 Great Quotes About Business and Life =-.

  • Kenji

    Glad you like it Adrijus. It’s always great to see people taking risks regardless of how ready they are. It’s heartening to hear that you’re doing the same. I wish you the best of luck on your project. Also, if you like, you can share your story with us. We need to have more stories of people like you.

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