Taking the Plunge: A Year Later


It’s hard to believe that it’s been exactly one year to the day that I took the plunge into uncertainty. I had recently quit my job, had moved back to LA, and was gearing up for a nine-month sojourn in Taiwan before returning to grad school. I had no idea what I was doing. Some supported my decision and called it brave, while  others called it selfish and reckless. Regardless, the decision to leave had passed. I had made my bed, and it was now time to lie in it.

A year later, and I’m amazed at how much my plans changed. I never stayed in Taiwan for nine months. I studied for a semester, then briefly traveled around Southeast Asia before returning back to the States. I deferred (then declined) my offer for grad school; instead, I found a career with a great company working on some really cool projects.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from this past year of uncertainty, it’s this: JUST DO IT!

Quit thinking so much. Just do it.

Obviously, easier said than done. As a researcher, I tend to think a lot – in some cases, way too much. Moreover, as someone who has a low tolerance for risk, thinking through possible consequences is just a logical part of the process of decision making. To the point that thinking about something feels more important than doing something about it. The issue, however, is of course that we get into analysis paralysis. You know, that feeling where you’ve spent weeks (or months, or even years) thinking about doing something, without ever having done anything at all. This has got to stop. I’m serious!

The Just Do It Test

Over the course of the year, I’ve developed implicitly a quick test to help me in all my decision making. It’s really simple actually. I just ask these three questions:

  1. What do I want to do? (i.e., specific objective)
  2. Why do I want to do it? (i.e., commitment assessment)
  3. What will it take to do it? (i.e., resource allocation)

It’s my own way of thinking whether something is worthwhile to pursue. While there’s nothing earth shattering about each question, the difference I think is that I always impose a time limit to consider these questions. For me, that time limit is one season.

Especially for really drastic changes, such as quitting one’s job, embarking on a new venture, or other endeavor, I think a full 90 days provides more than enough time to really assess the pros and cons of any major decision. If after three months the answers to these questions change, I either drop the plan and cut losses, or head back to the drawing board to consider alternatives. Some might find a full season too much or too little time, but that duration is reflective of my own personal tolerance for risk.

So there you go. Those questions are what helped me to really get through this year of uncertainty. It helped me decide not to stay in Taiwan, to travel around Southeast Asia, to move back to DC, to not go to grad school, to find a career, etc.

I’d love to learn about what are the critical pieces you consider whenever you need to make a critical juncture!


Reflections on Uncertainty

Me atop a mountain on Thanksgiving day, 2012, during my 5 month sojourn around Taiwan/Southeast Asia.

Me atop a mountain on Thanksgiving day, 2012, during my 5 month sojourn around Taiwan/Southeast Asia.

Several months ago, I willingly plunged head first into a period of uncertainty. I knew what I wanted to do and was willing to risk everything to follow my gut, but I feared the consequences my decisions would entail.

Last days always leave me with mixed emotions: excited and anxious for what is to come, reflective and appreciative of what has passed. As I look back on the past months, the three things that I’ll take away from this unique period of my life are:

The people met, places seen, and experiences had. Novelty to anything, both concrete and abstract, is something that I constantly seek. I enjoy being stimulated and challenged. I knew my experiences abroad would enable me to achieve a high degree of stimulation, I didn’t expect to be just as deeply stimulated and engaged once I returned.

Dealing with uncertainty. Being comfortable with discomfort is truly a skill. I don’t think I’ve totally succeeded, but my tolerance for the unknown has increased exponentially throughout my travels and time back in the States.

Beating to my own drum. Societal pressures and perceived obligations might make fulfilling our own dreams seem unrealistic, risky, and an endeavor that only the wealthy can pursue. Living life on your own terms is truly a liberating feeling. I hope everyone can learn how to address the fear and risk involved in order to self-actualize.

Surfing the Sea of Uncertainty


The world is a chaotic place. Plans provide a guide amidst the chaos. In reality though, it’s impossible to control for life’s uncertainties. Uncertainty is scary, at least for me. How do you overcome uncertainty? Through planning. Not just one plan. A Plan B is an absolute must. It’s also worth thinking about a Plan C.

For most of my life, I thought plans were necessary in order to accomplish anything. Not just rough guidelines, but the whole works. Tasks. Checkpoints. Deadlines. All crucial to ensure goals are achieved. Sometime over the past year though, I’ve come to believe that plans, while helpful, should at best serve as a guide, not followed verbatim. Why?

Life happens. Current actions certainly influence the likelihood of future circumstances, but the future is never a sure thing until it is the present. As much as I’d like to believe, it’s impossible to ensure everything will run according to plan (or plans).

I haven’t completely thrown out the usefulness of planning. I still do it all the time. I still believe it’s better to have a plan than no plan at all. One of my favorite bloggers wrote recently,

“We are not walking a path, but surfing a sea.” Leo Babauta

I completely agree. Plans help us navigate the sea of uncertainty. They provide a path, at best a sense of direction, to our goals; however, life has a habit of throwing us off our compass. It took me a long time to realize this. It took even longer to figure out how to overcome these unforeseen challenges.