Are you afraid of the light?
Do you remember how it felt to be scared of something as a little kid? Do you remember that feeling of being scared of the dark or being anxious about new experiences? Do you remember throwing tantrums because you just didn’t have the right words to get across to someone else how much feeling there was to have about something or everything?
I remember hysterically crying at the top of stairs for my mother because I was afraid of our cat, whose name was terrifyingly “Vanilla”. I remember sleeping with the lights on for a month after watching Nightmare on Elm Street.
There are many times in my life where the world felt not only bigger than me, but also totally uncontrollable for my purposes within it. Vanilla and Freddie Kruger may seem trivial even funny to be scared of now, but at the time my body was using all sorts of biologic tricks in telling me to avoid proceeding further.
And I was listening.
When setting out thinking about teaching my first thesis class, those same anxieties and feelings of uncertainty returned vividly and came equip with strong waves of biology to knock me around.
I was shocked by the feelings I had regarding my own self worth and my ability to deliver such a lofty deliverable: 15 students better off for my involvement.
While reflecting on these feelings, I posited that my reaction is not all that uncommon when pursuing a new creative endeavor, as architecting a thesis class is. In fact it occurred to me eventually that acknowledgement of this feeling may be the best place to start in advising these future students of mine.
Because it is scary to start. It is scary to bring first light into seemingly permanent darkness. Just like being a little kid who is standing in a darkened doorway, we can be paralyzed from proceeding. Procrastination, self-loathing and frustration-induced tantrums lurk in these darkened doorways.
When you start a thesis program, you start with very little certainty and very little information about what is ahead. You are told that if you already know the answer, you haven’t chosen the right question. In order to move forward, you have to breathe deep, take chances, bare the brunt of many masters and dive into many a shark tank. Not only do you have to deal with your fear of the light, you have to deal with the expectation of newness that is implied in your mission.
Innovation is not often just lighting up a part of the world that exists already. It is about pushing past the edges of our now. You have to find a light that no one has yet turned on, a room no one has yet explored fully or at least not with your lens.
What if the room is full of scary trolls? What if the room is full of people who look just like you and are trying to do the same thing as you? What if the room is full of people laughing at your ideas? What if the room is empty? What if the room is just boring?
These are all potential realities and understanding that is part of the journey. Because knowing is not doing, but doing is knowing.
As a thesis advisor I have taken it as my mission to help navigate 15 brave souls through the meandering and obfuscated path that ends with them holding a graduate degree.
I look forward to sharing my journey. You can download the map I made for them if you want to get a sense of where we are wandering week to week. My first lecture deck on projecting into the void can be downloaded as well.
Thanks for Reading.