We fear the unknown.
Anything unfamiliar can be inherently scary and foreboding, triggering an instinctive need to flee the threat – or at least avoid it – as a matter of self-preservation. The dreaded unknown can manifest in many ways, but the fear can often be defeated, with a little bit of knowledge and understanding. What today may appear to be an immense planet-killing black hole can, given knowledge, perspective and time, be as insignificant and benign as a solitary raisin.
My parents, both university professors, have devoted their careers to the study of railroads; their planning, construction and operation. As a result, my childhood was spent among gears and designs of train wheels and tracks. My memory of my first toy brings the image of a little wooden train. Given my upbringing, it is surprising that neither of my degrees involved anything close to trains or engineering or science whatsoever.
Only recently have I realized that the knowledge that earned an A+ in high school physics was rapidly evaporating, today probably coming closer to D territory. In an effort to get back into shape, I began to read Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes”. Words can’t explain how proud I was to finally come to know that science wasn’t the boogeyman I once thought it was.
Understanding conquers fear, just as it opens doors to new experiences and opportunities.
I still may not be able to reclaim that high school A+, but I’d get a confident B-. Today, I can easily maintain a basic conversation about black holes and talk about the big bang (the theory, not the sitcom) with a layman’s grasp.
Socially, at least, generalists tend to have more interesting conversations than specialists. HR managers gravitate toward candidates with general liberal arts degrees because knowing a bit about everything gives a broader view than a fixation on a finite and specific field. Generalists are more ready to accept cross-training, enabling them to work across departments and disciplines.
Stay open to new ideas, skills, innovation, technology and concepts. There may be a mysterious connection between art history and borehole drilling, launching a satellite and event planning, the anatomy of a cell and hotel management. That which doesn’t appear to be relevant to your work today may be vital to your progress tomorrow.
In a perfect world, we’d all be Jacks of all trades AND masters of one. That knowledge and experience gives us power over the unknown, and the ability to conquer it! And even a threatening black hole may be a portal to new opportunities.
Mariia Tkachenko is regional accounts director for Ukraine and the CIS countries for Signature Europe. She lives in Kyiv, Ukraine.