caminante-en-carretera-2An ancient Chinese curse reads: “May you live in interesting times!”. It actually looks more like a wish, than a curse. However, if we think about the job of the historian, the most interesting times were (and still are) plentiful of events, most of whom dramatic. Here we see that the “interesting times” are basically the ones of instability, or even crisis.

Our time is undoubtedly interesting. With all its challenges and difficulties, it leaves room to new opportunities. But the point is: are we able to see them?

An analysis from the Harvard Business Review, published on the December issue, suggests that we are not, or at least not entirely. According to the author, success almost always requires the ability to face the unknown, the unexplored, and new things. This concerns new situations (a new job, transfer to new office locations) or new relationships. An experiment showed how businessmen who accepted to participate to a networking event to meet new people ended up talking with people they already knew, or with strangers with whom they had mutual acquaintances.

The article also suggests ways to improve our capacity of building relationships with people we don’t know. However, it is important to focus on what are the opportunities to train and use these methods.

As educators, schools and universities are called to provide students with the tools they need to face situations that are out of their comfort zone. Students who come to university today have few memories of the world before the crisis. Their world has always been “interesting”, flexible, challenging. Their attitude towards the unknown is innate, but still scarcely developed.

The greatest part of success is a consequence of the ability of dealing with the unknown, of foreseeing in the long-run, to capitalise on the short-run. We cannot do otherwise, so we just need to roll up our sleeves and learn to face what we are yet to know.

If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. (Milton Berle, American actor)