There’s no script for your career

Last week I discussed the concept of implying too much precision in a business model. I also see a similar error when people plan their careers. Often they analyze and study every possible nuance of a new job or career decision when they would be better served by simplifying the decision.

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo recently gave great career advice along these lines during his commencement address at the University of Michigan. Using his experiences as an improvisational comic and as a CEO, he points out that we can’t accurately predict the future with the precision necessary to plan a career. We must live in the moment and rapidly adjust to changing opportunities. I think this concept is widely applicable across a whole range of business decisions. Rapid reaction is much more valuable than precise planning.

This video is only about 17 minutes and well worth watching, but I’ve included some of his most compelling quotes from the speech below.


Dick Costolo quotes from his May 4, 2013 Spring Commencement Address at the University of Michigan:

“You can’t plan a script. The beauty of improvisation is you are experiencing it in the moment. If you try to plan what the next line is supposed to be, you’re just going to be disappointed when the other people on stage with you don’t do or say what you want them to do and you’ll stand there frozen…Be in this moment. Now be here in this moment. Now be here in this moment.”

“You have to figure out what you love to do, what you have conviction about and go do that. Here’s the challenge…There’s no script. When you’re doing what you love to do, you become resilient because that’s the habit you create for yourself. You create a habit of taking chances on yourself and making bold choices in service to doing what you love. If on the other hand you do what you think is expected of you or what you are supposed to do and things go poorly or chaos ensues as it surely will, you look to external sources for what to do next because that will be the habit you’ve created for yourself. You’ll be standing there frozen on the stage of your life. If you are just filling a role, you’ll be blindsided.”

1 Comment

  1. Ah, so very true! The days of planning or thinking you can plan your career is long gone. I also agree the resilience is a badge well earned in the trenches…and you can often surprise yourself and others with your ability to attempt to “play the cards you are dealt” the best way you can with the info you have at that moment!


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