Ideas and Musings

There Are No Answers, Only Choices

There are no answers, only choice

The search is on. You know the search. It’s the search for answers. We all do it.

  • Why am I here?
  • What is my purpose?
  • What am I supposed to be doing?
  • What is the right answer?

It goes on an on.

We consult career counselors, psychics, tarot card readers, our parents, our friends, our favorite college teacher, and the random guy we sat next to at the bar. We take classes, read books, watch videos, and endlessly Google our questions. We pray to God, beg the Universe, ask the Goddess Kali or the Fates to help us, to show us the way.

It’s a desperate “want”. It’s something that feels like if we don’t have it, we’re wasting our lives or at least making all the wrong choices. What do we want?

We want to be told what to do.

But that’s a bit simplistic, isn’t it? It’s more like…

We want to be told what to do that both feels exactly right and never wavers. We want an absolute answer.

We don’t want to doubt ourselves. We want to know that what we chose was the correct choice. We want to feel secure and comfortable. We want that stamp of approval from everyone we come across.

Side Note: When I was working in Business Intelligence software, this came up a lot. Everyone just wanted to be told what to do. Before we were purchased, our CEO was exploring opportunities in predictive analytics in an effort to give the customer what they wanted.

Does this ever work?

Exciting Beginnings

We’ve all been there. We’ve learned something new, and the slaver of excitement grabs us. We know, in that moment, that this is what we want to do, what we are meant to do. Suddenly we are going all out. Taking the classes, setting up our websites, applying for business licenses, and lining up customers. It feels like we finally found it!

Then, the excitement starts to wane a bit. We notice that some of the things we have to do to achieve our lofty goal are not things we like to do. Or maybe we had an unrealistic idea of what the goal meant and how to achieve it. We start to lose some of our energy.

And the doubts creep in.

  • Did I pick the right thing?
  • Am I capable of achieving this?
  • What about everything else I love? Am I missing out?
  • Were my parents right?

And the tragic thing is that this will happen no matter what we pick to do. Everything we do has both benefits and costs. The costs can make us doubt, especially if we didn’t see the cost up front.

We’re back to annoying everyone by hashing is all out again with them, reading more book, Googling, journalling, and hiring a therapist because clearly our brains are not working correctly. Is some sort of Pharma in our future?

It never ends. I see that now.

Image with life questions splashed on it

There Are No Answers

I read a quote in a book that made me stop and pause. I’m not going to tell you the name of the book because it’s an “on the edge” sort of book and unless you are fully privy to my goal in reading it, you may not understand. It is, however, originally attributed to Stanislav Lem.

“There are no answers, only choices.”

This hit me.

I’ve been on the Merry-Go-Round of searching for answers my whole life. Wanting to know. Wanting to be sure. Wanting a bit of stability in this crazy world.

I’ve felt paralyzed by the questions. Like I shouldn’t move forward until I have found the definitive answers. Always studying, always training, always Googling, always laying awake at night in a panic because time is short, and I still haven’t figured it out. I’m a failure!

Depression sets in.

Or panic and anxiety.

“There are no answers, only choices.”

What if that’s the truth? What if there are no answers?

What if the questions we continually ask ourselves, highbrow as they might seem, are actually hampering us? What if they are a fool’s journey? What if they don’t matter?

Now, you might be getting all riled up at the moment, but I’m not saying to not question. Only that maybe our questions can be more productive.

The truth is that life, especially our own internal life, is horrendously complicated. There are so many variables. Nature, nurture, traumas, love, friendships, education, brain chemistry, accidents (both good and bad), rewards, achievements, family, environment, war, social media, and it goes on and on.

How are we to be able to massage all of these variables and come up with an answer? We’re going to miss something and even if we do come up with an answer, what we missed will end up clouding our vision, bring in doubts and misery.

Side Note: Logically, you can never prove a positive, you can only prove a negative. That’s from Philosophy. In the Tech world it works itself out to be: It’s impossible to find all the bugs. Why? Too many variables plus my brain may not be thinking of every side of the issue. Only crazy software people believe that an application can be truly bug free.

Maybe it’s time to let go of looking for absolute answers.

Maybe it’s time to think about our choices in more of a business way.

  • What are my choices?
  • What are the benefits of each choice?
  • What are the costs of each choice?
  • Is the choice so good that I’m willing to accept the costs?
  • What is the final “score” of the choices?

Preferences are important, but it’s especially important to consider all the costs. Will you be working all the time? Will you have to train all the time just to keep up? Can you handle it if it takes a while to establish yourself? Are the sacrifices you have to make worth it? Are you willing to do all of the activities required?  (Most people wouldn’t be willing to do what was required to become a billionaire.) Are the benefits enough to sustain you when you’re lost in the costs?

Voice Over Woes

I went through voice over schooling thinking I was going to do voice over. I didn’t take the costs into account and rode the high of the vision. When I got to the end of my training, the costs came up during a meeting with my advisor. A meeting, in retrospect, I should have had months earlier. Costs?

  • I can’t work a day job during the day since that’s when you do your voice over job.
    • I’d have to work nights at a lower paying job until I was established.
    • I’d have to give up Improv because I’d be working.
  • I have to continually look for work.
    • Constantly auditioning for work that most of the time I won’t get.
    • Insecure finances.
  • I have to keep working on my voice.
    • I’m getting older and my voice isn’t the most consistent.
  • At the mercy of the market.
    • I’m not so interested in doing commercials for Healthcare and Insurance.
    • You do what “they” want, not what you want

There is nothing on that list that I’m willing to do in order to do voice over. Do I have regrets? A few. I have some loss aversion due to the cost of training and equipment. But it did help me clarify my values. And it kept me engaged during the pandemic.

Point is that if I’d thought of the costs up front, I may have made better choices.

Lesson learned. I hope…

Interesting Times

I’ve been going a bit nuts. I left my job 1 ½ years ago and I’ve been ready to get back to work. The problem is that I work in Tech and my job, Manual Testing, is an occupation that’s been disappearing.

13 years ago, Unemployment told me that I only had a 30% chance of working in Tech again.

I got the job at MITS and was there for 9 years before we were sold.

I left on my own, so there are no unemployment benefits for me, but I’m sure the percentage is much lower. Especially since the big companies have been laying off people.

For the last few months, I’ve been thinking in terms of answers. What should I be doing? What would bring me joy? What do I love?

I’ve been going to conferences and seeing what’s going on in Tech and I’ve been amazed. It’s the shiny-object syndrome. It all looks exciting to me, and I don’t know which way to turn. There’s something to be said for having limitations.

I love to manual test. The opportunity for learning is great, and really, learning is what I love the most. But this isn’t about what I love, or what destiny had in store for me, or what I should be doing.

This is about what I need to choose right now.

For the Tech world, every recession comes with a huge reorganization. A lot of techies get laid off and then rehired again, but a large percentage of techies are pushed out the door. For good. This can be for many reasons. Either their job, like mine, is disappearing. They may not be staying current. They may not be willing to learn new things.  There may be more people who just are more skilled. A good year of trying to get back in happens before people finally admit the truth and go do something else. It happens every recession. In the end, it makes the industry stronger, but it’s brutal for the techies who are pushed out.

That’s where I find myself. My job has pretty much disappeared. I’ve been skilling up but with the influx of unemployed folks, the odds of easily finding work are not in my favor.

For me, there are choices and choices within choices.

  • Stay in Tech
    • Go for another manual test position
    • Skill up in automation testing
    • Skill up for a completely different job, ie Project Management, Business Analyst, Tech Writer, etc…
  • Find another field

All of it risky. There are too many variables.

Looking for definitive answers is not going to help me with this. But asking questions that can help inform the decision will. Pros and Cons, benefits and costs, along with personal preference is going to help me more than worrying about finding my joy or what I should be doing.

None of it is comfortable. There are doubts abounding.

“There are no answers, only choices.”

The goal is to make the choice. Pivot when needed, but a choice needs to be made. Since all of this is risky, Plan B and Plan C need to be considered as well.

Ask the questions, but let the questions be helpful and at least somewhat answerable. Let them inform the choice, not be the choice.


<big sigh>

Let’s get to it…