When I was (much) younger I was said to have “squirrely luck”, one of those ambiguous adolescent phrases whose meaning is extracted from context rather than the words themselves. It also opened the door to silliness like “Is that a squirrel in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?” Which is one reason, among many, that I don’t miss my high schools days at all.
Actually, my early career path was deliberately squirrely. Rather than having the standard fixed-in-stone five year plan we expect from our upwardly charging graduates, I oriented myself in specific directions (science and technical interests), pursued near-term goals (college degree) and then waited for my luck to kick in and present opportunities. It turns out that, without knowing it, I was following the approach of strategic career pivots advocated by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha in their book The Startup of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career. (They also have advice on the structure of your networks that I’ve touched on before.) They argued that rigid five-year plans are not flexible enough to pursue opportunities as they arise, especially when you are first starting out and unsure of your way. I lost my squirrels along the way, but am now inviting them back into my life as my career is increasingly uncertain.
Squirrels, of course, are a fixture of our daily lives. We even have a few hardy pioneers here in the high desert around Albuquerque. Ever wonder why there are so many of the little critters about? Turns out, they were deliberately introuced into our parks and urban areas, as discussed in this article.