Level up

I’m a planner. This may not come as a surprise to some, but there you go.

I might not always like it, but I can’t seem to stop myself from wanting everything always figured out – and ready – beforehand.

But someone I know used the phrase “levelling up” the other day, and a few days later I realised that’s where planning has it totally wrong.

Let me explain: imagine a video game. Once a player has completed everything or achieved enough in one stage of the game, they ‘level up’ to the next level. They go from being a Level One Player to a Level Two Player.

But they haven’t actually prepared for level two. They didn’t go because they proved they were ready for and could do everything needed in level two – they went because they were finished with level one so it made no sense to stay. It’s only now they’re actually playing in level two that they have to face the level two stuff and learn how to deal with it all right then and there.

What I’m saying is, you don’t “level up” because you’re ready for the next level. You “level up” because you’re done with the one you’re in.

If you think at it from a planner’s point of view, they’d want to know what’s coming in level two, think it all through, learn what they need to do, maybe come up with a strategy or study some new skills so they’re ready for level two before they finish level one – so they could pass an entry test, if there was one. But that’s not how video games work. It’s not so much an entry test into the next level, but a finishing test of the level you’re in. You level up when you’re done with the level before – it has nothing to do with proving you can handle the one that comes after.

And if you waited until you were ready for the next level, you’d never start. Video games don’t tell you what’s coming next – the only way to find out is to play them.

I’m really loving this analogy for life. We don’t get to go up a stage in our lives because we can prove we can handle it – we go because we’re done with the one before it. We’re not supposed to know how to navigate the next level or how we’re going to complete it. You finish with one level, so you get thrown into the next. Complete your current stage, then dive into what comes after – and whatever that throws at you. Learn as you go. Trust you can figure it out on the fly.

Basically, it’s meant to be frightening. You’re meant to always be pushing yourself. Don’t wait until you think you’re ready. If you’re running around outside the safe entry level trying to pick up every coin for a perfect score, you’re doing it wrong. You’re meant to be a little scared, a little out of your depth, discovering things as you go and missing a few power ups here and there. Just get through.

And then start the next level.

Totally unprepared.

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