Keep Your Ducks in a Row and Other Bad Advice

Normal duck…normal duck…WACKY DUCK!…normal duck….

I love the “duck crossing” street signs in my neighborhood. The third duck in the line seems to be having the time of his life strutting across Main Street.

That little duck’s got attitude. He’s not content to be just another duck in a row.

Have you heard that phrase before—keep your ducks in a row? It means to prepare all the bits and pieces before you embark on a new venture.

That might mean creating a detailed packing list so you don’t forget anything before you head off on a European vacation. Or before a job interview, you might research the company, practice your answers to common interview questions, and make sure your best suit is clean.

I like the idea of “keeping my ducks in a row,” but when it comes to real life, I’d file this nugget of wisdom under Bad Advice.

No matter how hard I try to keep those ducklings precisely in line, 1 or 2 feel the need to make like the wacky duck on the street sign and cut loose.

And that’s OK.

I’ve been much happier when I leave some things to chance and give up on perfectionism. Sure, I still make a packing list before I go on a trip, but that doesn’t stop me from forgetting my toothbrush or phone charger on occasion.

Another example of me not having my ducks in a row was when I had to choose a college major. Most people think about their majors in high school and will apply to colleges that cater to their preferred majors.

I didn’t choose a major until I was in my junior year…of college.

Yikes! My duck wasn’t just out of the row—he was playing Frisbee on the quad with the pigeons.

But by not having my ducks in a row, I was able to take the time I needed to consider all my options and make a choice that I could live with for the long haul. It’s been nearly 10 years since I graduated, and I am still happily working in the field of my college major.

How many college graduates do you know still do what they went to school to learn?

That’s OK too!

Even when you keep your ducks in a row from the start, things can change as you grow and evolve as a person.

Do you keep your ducks in a row? What “good advice” do you ignore?

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  1. Tinfoil Tiaras on February 21, 2012 at 7:32 am

    As always your post is so thought provoking and the accompanying photo made me giggle. I struggle with this because even though I’m quite type A, I’m also creative and I get bored easily (especially in jobs). This means that I have had 6 jobs out of university (in less than 2 years) and I haven’t thought through decisions very carefully. Something I’m working on.

  2. Shybiker on February 21, 2012 at 7:06 am

    Love the third duck — he’s making me smile.

    And I know that you know that I know the perfectionism advice is aimed at me. Or should be. I understand this point in normal life; it’s just in my insecure area that I fall prey to the mistake.

  3. Anna@ThriftyBusiness on February 20, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    All my life I knew I was going to be a historian. Fast forward to second semester of Freshma year… I change my major to microbiology and don’t look back. Sometimes letting your ducks go a little wild is all you need for a successful and fulfilling life in the long run. If you plan out every last detail of your existence you will certainly miss out on random opportunities along the way. Good post Sage – it’s great to keep a fresh perspective about life even when it’s not very intuitive 🙂

    • Sage on February 20, 2012 at 6:48 pm

      Thanks, Anna. “Let your ducks go wild!” That should be on a T shirt. 🙂

      When I try to plan every detail of my life, it backfires. But it’s hard to let go of control sometimes. I’m glad you found a major that makes you happy.

  4. xvavaveganx on February 20, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    That duck sign is so adorable!! I definitely think I’d be the sassy little one lol.

    I have been a planner for as long as I can remember, and very rarely do I ever end up sticking to the plan 100%. I mean lets face it, I have a Master’s degree in communication and I have never worked in my field. I’ve been trying to learn how to go with the flow. It’s strange because I feel like part of me is a free spirit and part of me is very rigid with no spontaneity. It’s a very strange line to walk!

    • Sage on February 20, 2012 at 5:59 pm

      He’s so sassy! It’s like he’s dancing. 🙂

      I think there’s a lot of pressure to define yourself in college, like with your major. But real life is SO different. I’m not at all like the person I was at 20, and being able to adapt is important.

      Being a free spirit and being a rigid person at different times makes sense. I bet you’re able to be successful in many situations whereas someone with a limited outlook might get stuck. I don’t know how you survive your long work hours. I’d crumble under the pressure!

  5. Molly on February 20, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    Aw, I love that duck sign, too! So cute. 🙂

    I didn’t choose a major until my junior year, too. I’ve found that keeping my ducks in a row for certain things is so helpful, but I do keep things pretty loose. Like you said, so much can change.

    • Sage on February 20, 2012 at 5:53 pm

      My neighborhood is overrun with ducks and geese. I think they’re cute, but most people get annoyed with them (and their poop).

      Things change all the time! I can’t believe I thought I had it all figured out when I was in my early 20s.

      I keep lists and schedules for really important things like my day job, but I try to have more flexibility in other areas of my life.

  6. Megan Gann on February 20, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    I’m nearly finished with my degree, and now all I want to do is take more classes to get a different degree. I still love my major, but since I’ve gotten into the practical side of things, I am really really not into doing it for a job. I’ve already changed my major twice, but it partially has to do with the limited availability of majors at my college.

    My ducks are always slightly wobbly and the one at the end of the line is flying in circles.

    I finally got back on the horse last night and hammered out about 800 words towards my growing story (13k and growing!), but I’ve written scenes all over the place, strayed from my outline and keep procrastinating. Fingers crossed I can finally take today and get back to work.

    • Sage on February 20, 2012 at 5:50 pm

      I love that your ducks are wobbly and flying in circles. It’s better than being boring or complacent.

      College majors are tough. It almost feels limiting to try to define the path of your life when you’re only in your 20s. That’s probably why few people stick with their majors in the real world.

      I remember you saying that you’re a writer. 13000 words is really impressive! Writing your story’s scenes out of order makes sense to me. Sometimes you just have to write when you’re inspired and not in the order that you think you “should.”