Byron's Babbles

It Is What It Is

Posted in Artist, Creativity, Curiosity, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 20, 2023

Those who know me well, know that I sometimes use the phrase “It is what it is.” When I use it I really do mean it. I never use it as an excuse or explanation for inaction. For those who hate the phrase, hear me out. A character, Reuben, in the great historical fiction novel, Threads West An American Saga by Reid Lance Rosenthal often uses that phrase. The context is usually that there is nothing that can be done so an alternative needs to be created. An example was wanting to use a shorter trail, but an avalanche had block the trail. Reuben commented “It is what it is” and began plotting a new way up the mountain. For me, recognizing something for what it is begins to make it possible to get creative with alternatives. I’ve always believed I use and believe the phrase because of being comfortable with the unknown. Sometimes we have to let things exist in their uniqueness. Sometimes there just is not an objective answer.

As a creative/artistic person I am okay with things being ambiguous. If something has the potential to unfold into different actual states than its current state it may very well be ambiguous. By allowing things to be ambiguous we get a richer, more nuanced understanding of them, which may lead to a new insight or invention. “It is what it is” can suggest a world of possibilities.

“It is what it is” is a statement of potential. The statement indicates acceptance of complexity and ambiguity. It can also be an anthem to accepting limitations. Sometimes we can’t control everything. Sometimes things just are what they are. By recognizing that we can add to the statement and say, “It is what it is, but we can…” Sometimes the contexts we are put in are malleable. We cannot control everything in our lives and organizations, but we can make a choice to learn, grow and become a better version of ourself.

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