Looking When You’re Not Looking

I’m learning something in life, over and over again. I’m learning that a lot of the best things happen when you’re not looking for them. Maybe you’ve heard this from people before, sometimes in the context of romantic relationships. It’s a classic; they were seeking hard, and missing, and failing, and trying harder, and missing bigger, and the whole time the best thing was right under their nose. Common denominator in these situations? Stop looking.

This is the kind of situation that played out when I made a major job change a few months ago. I got a message from the interim executive director of the faith-based nonprofit where my wife works asking if I could help them with the new website they needed on the heels of a big shift in focus. (I’d been building websites and coaching people on digital strategy on the side for a couple of years.) I happily scheduled a time to chat with her. At that time I’d been working for a large nonprofit financial services organization, in many ways the opposite of this small nonprofit ministry. I scheduled the call during lunch and hopped into a huddle room. Here’s how the conversation began: 

ED: “Hey Jared, thanks for making time to chat.”
Me: “You’re welcome. I’m excited to see how I can help. I know things are shifting quite a bit there.”
ED: “Are you at a place you can talk? Is the door closed?”
ME: “Uh, give me a second…(closes door)… Alright, I’m all set.”
ED: “How much do you like your job?”

That wasn’t quite what I expected. They weren’t just looking for website help. They were looking for some to lead their digital strategy, and then help dozens of churches and other ministries make an impact through smart digital engagement and relationship building. I’m now four months in to that thing I wasn’t looking for –and I love it. I hadn’t been looking, but soon I was able to return to working from home, which works great with two kinds at home. 

So, as I learn this lesson over and over again, here are a few ideas I’m going to employ for the rest of my life. Maybe they hit home for your current situation.

1. Stop looking
This is hard, especially if you aren’t satisfied with the current state. The job, the relationship, the house, whatever it is. Let me make sure to clarify: I am not saying don’t apply or don’t go to the open house. I am saying take a break from the dissatisfaction, stress, and whirlwind. Settle in and try to embrace confidence in the future, even though it’s blurry at best.

2.  Always be looking
That sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? One of my most influential mentors worked as an executive director at one nonprofit camp for just shy of 20 years. He told me, as he was getting ready to begin a new role, that he interviewed at different places at least twice a year most years he was at the camp. If you are open to the idea of something amazing ahead, and even go so far as to take the first steps, one of two things will happen: You’ll either go, and it will be amazing, or you’ll have affirmation that you are right where you belong, at least for the moment.

3.  Ask others to look
Help your tribe foster an attitude of constantly keeping an eye out for opportunities that might be amazing for you, and most definitely return the favor. Ask them to keep an eye out for you personally and professionally, and seek out places where your puzzle piece fits perfectly. 

Have you got stories of incredible things happening when you weren’t looking? Share one in the comments, and happy looking. And not looking.

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