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The unplanned life

By The Assam Tribune
The unplanned life
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Mark Laitflang Stone

"So Mark, what are you planning to do with your life?" At 16, this wasn't just a question. This was a life-altering question that had the power to evoke a very physical reaction that began in my stomach. The concerned uncles and aunts frowning at you; the older, much wiser cousins glaring at you; your loving parents smiling at you with glorious expectation written all over their faces!


The weight of it all makes you feel like you're a "nobody" till you have a plan. If you know my story, you'll know that I chose an unconventional path for myself early on in life. From my first job at a florist shop at 16 to building a passionate team of life-coaches and trainers in Northeast India, I've made a conscious decision to answer this question through my choices. The truth is that for most of us, the answers are unclear. No matter how far down the road you are in your leadership journey, or how deeply ingrained your career path is, this is a reality check for each of us.


My pool of personal wisdom is built on the concrete foundation of years of mistakes and mis-steps, but the lessons they have left me with, are beautiful. No one told me growing up that it was all right NOT to have a plan. I hated the empty spaces that followed the questions about my future. So many young people today do not have answers to what's next, and even if they did, so many more choose to hide their dreams from plain sight because they don't line up with what their families expect or understand. You're fortunate if you are surrounded by supportive friends and parents who refuse to let you confine your horizons to what's considered normal.


Honestly, I never knew the exact path I was supposed to pursue, or the goals I would choose to embrace. I had a tiny dream that drove me in my youth – recognition. I wanted my life to matter and for it to be counted amongst the galaxy of greats we grew up admiring. I think we all do. We deserve to be seen, to be heard and to thrive in a life less certain. We deserve to step in to our lives with courage and excitement, to explore every possibility that lights us up inside. To claim experience over certainty and learning over loss.


If you haven't had anyone tell you this before, please allow me to be the first. It's completely all right to not have a plan. In fact, I recommend it. Not having a plan allows you to stay open and ready for anything. Some of the most successful people I know will tell you that their purpose found them when they least expected it. COVID-19 and the great lockdowns have changed our world forever, but there are some timeless truths that remain.


Everything counts

We will regret the things we did not do. Careers have shifted and the skills we now need to thrive have changed. The paths we were once told to take for granted do not exist anymore. Staying open allows you to sink your teeth into every experience you're blessed to come across. Feel it all and know it all and you will discover what speaks to you and what doesn't. Knowing what you "do not want" is as powerful as knowing "what you want".


Claim your dreams

While you may not have a plan, you must be clear about your dreams. There's so much power in the simple act of writing down exactly where you see yourself in the future. The exact role or path needn't be clear to begin with, but I'm certain we can all start with a feeling or quality. How do you want to feel? What are the values you aspire to live by? What is the quality of the life you know you deserve? Do not be ashamed of the magnitude. Your dreams are yours alone and they will live through you or die with you. The choice is inevitably, ours.


Find your tribe

I love the word "tribe". To me, your tribe is an insanely close-knit group of people who share your zeal and want more from their lives.Tribes can change through life and sometimes circles can expand. I hope you aren't the smartest person in your tribe. That's a comfort zone and that needs to change. You are the company you keep. I've said this a thousand times across campuses, businesses, and teams over the years. The next time someone asks you what's next, here's what you should say: "I'm not sure where I'm going but I know how I'm going to get there." Stay open to experiences,claim your dreams and let your tribe push you across the line.

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The unplanned life

Mark Laitflang Stone

"So Mark, what are you planning to do with your life?" At 16, this wasn't just a question. This was a life-altering question that had the power to evoke a very physical reaction that began in my stomach. The concerned uncles and aunts frowning at you; the older, much wiser cousins glaring at you; your loving parents smiling at you with glorious expectation written all over their faces!


The weight of it all makes you feel like you're a "nobody" till you have a plan. If you know my story, you'll know that I chose an unconventional path for myself early on in life. From my first job at a florist shop at 16 to building a passionate team of life-coaches and trainers in Northeast India, I've made a conscious decision to answer this question through my choices. The truth is that for most of us, the answers are unclear. No matter how far down the road you are in your leadership journey, or how deeply ingrained your career path is, this is a reality check for each of us.


My pool of personal wisdom is built on the concrete foundation of years of mistakes and mis-steps, but the lessons they have left me with, are beautiful. No one told me growing up that it was all right NOT to have a plan. I hated the empty spaces that followed the questions about my future. So many young people today do not have answers to what's next, and even if they did, so many more choose to hide their dreams from plain sight because they don't line up with what their families expect or understand. You're fortunate if you are surrounded by supportive friends and parents who refuse to let you confine your horizons to what's considered normal.


Honestly, I never knew the exact path I was supposed to pursue, or the goals I would choose to embrace. I had a tiny dream that drove me in my youth – recognition. I wanted my life to matter and for it to be counted amongst the galaxy of greats we grew up admiring. I think we all do. We deserve to be seen, to be heard and to thrive in a life less certain. We deserve to step in to our lives with courage and excitement, to explore every possibility that lights us up inside. To claim experience over certainty and learning over loss.


If you haven't had anyone tell you this before, please allow me to be the first. It's completely all right to not have a plan. In fact, I recommend it. Not having a plan allows you to stay open and ready for anything. Some of the most successful people I know will tell you that their purpose found them when they least expected it. COVID-19 and the great lockdowns have changed our world forever, but there are some timeless truths that remain.


Everything counts

We will regret the things we did not do. Careers have shifted and the skills we now need to thrive have changed. The paths we were once told to take for granted do not exist anymore. Staying open allows you to sink your teeth into every experience you're blessed to come across. Feel it all and know it all and you will discover what speaks to you and what doesn't. Knowing what you "do not want" is as powerful as knowing "what you want".


Claim your dreams

While you may not have a plan, you must be clear about your dreams. There's so much power in the simple act of writing down exactly where you see yourself in the future. The exact role or path needn't be clear to begin with, but I'm certain we can all start with a feeling or quality. How do you want to feel? What are the values you aspire to live by? What is the quality of the life you know you deserve? Do not be ashamed of the magnitude. Your dreams are yours alone and they will live through you or die with you. The choice is inevitably, ours.


Find your tribe

I love the word "tribe". To me, your tribe is an insanely close-knit group of people who share your zeal and want more from their lives.Tribes can change through life and sometimes circles can expand. I hope you aren't the smartest person in your tribe. That's a comfort zone and that needs to change. You are the company you keep. I've said this a thousand times across campuses, businesses, and teams over the years. The next time someone asks you what's next, here's what you should say: "I'm not sure where I'm going but I know how I'm going to get there." Stay open to experiences,claim your dreams and let your tribe push you across the line.