Have you ever heard the saying “the enemy of the great is the good”? While you might have, it seems like many people haven’t.
How else can you describe the complacency and comfortability that seem to go hand-in-hand with people’s careers, and therefore their lives?
It’s not that a majority of people despise their career, it’s more like a majority of people are blasé about their career. Sure, there are things they like about it, which, for the most part, keeps them there. But there are also things they don’t like about it, yet instead of taking action to improve their situation, they assume that “this is the way it is,” and continue on their life trajectory as if everything was as great as it can be. But it’s not as great as it can be.
It’s this complacency with the status-quo that’s unnerving. People, by and large, are telling themselves that “sure, my situation is 60% to 70% ideal, but that’s good enough for me.”
Why is that good enough for you?
Shouldn’t we be striving for the full maximization of our lives, so that they get as close to ideal as possible, as quickly as possible? Shouldn’t the trajectory of our lives look something like this, where p(x) is our ideal life, and x is time:
Rather than this, where the Y axis is our ideal life, and the X axis is time:
The former is what a life trajectory should look like: we do what we enjoy now (with no excuses), so that we find things that resonate with our core self, so we can then pursue those things with a passion, and maximize the value of our time early and often. Through the maximization of our time and the active pursuit of enjoyment, we get increasingly closer to our ideal life.
The latter is indicative of a “normal" life trajectory: We do things we tolerate and tell ourselves that it’s to “build skills” or to “pay our dues," with the hope that in the future, things will get increasingly better, so we can retire and live out our lives with a general level of happiness and satisfaction.
The issue with the latter is that there are no guarantees. We aren’t promised a future of “general happiness and satisfaction,” we’re only given the hope of having one. Plus, more often than not, our future, although increasing in satisfaction, generally caps out at no more than 80% to 90% of our ideal life. So, if the future - and our happiness - isn’t guaranteed to us, why are we spending time in the present not maximizing the value of our lives?
Have you ever heard the Warren Buffet saying, “working a job just to build your resume is like saving up sex for old age”?
What a wordsmith! In a slightly shocking manner, Buffet drills right to the heart of the matter: The point of your job, and therefore your life, should always be to increase the value of your experiences. Stated differently, what’s the point of forgoing the chance to go to an amusement park as a kid, so that you can work hard, save your money, and get VIP passes to that same amusement park as an adult?
Wouldn’t there be more value in having that experience as a kid?
If value in your life is achieved through travel, community, merriment and generally positive experiences, for example, why would you give up those experiences to have “better” versions of them later in life? Wouldn’t it be better to travel abroad now, when you have the travel bug, rather than saving up money for ten years so you can take the same trip, but stay in a Michelin-rated hotel? Couldn’t the experiences of travel build skills that will benefit you long-term, potentially even more so than the skills built through your current “traditional” life trajectory?
There’s only one reason I can fathom as to why people continue to work a job or walk a career path they aren't totally happy with: money or status. But what’s the point of increasing your money or status if all it does is remove the ability to maximize the value of your life today, in the hopes that it can buy happiness later?
Ask yourself: If you aren’t fully happy, why are you still here? The answer better be damn good to make you stay.
To me, the mindset that causes us to choose a career path - or life - that doesn’t fully resonate with us is one of scarcity. People are afraid to quit or lose their job, because they think that they’d be down and out, losing a chance to make money, or raising questions with a “gap in their resume.” They operate from a place of scarcity, and believe that they lack the ability to successfully create and take advantage of opportunities, needing a paycheck and a pat on the head to feel safe and successful.
Honestly, what a load of crap.
There’s opportunity all around us. Literally all around us. Rather than harboring a mindset of scarcity, we need to cultivate a mindset of abundance - one that looks at the world as one with infinite opportunity. We should seek to maximize our life through experiences that excite and resonate with us, early and often. Though these experiences, we can create opportunity quicker and more lucrative than following a traditional trajectory and “paying your dues."
Two people are dissatisfied with their job. One has a mindset of scarcity and once has a mindset of abundance.
The person in scarcity believes that the best he’ll ever do is the job he currently has. He isn't fully happy, but he’s safe for the time being, and if he continues on this trajectory, his future is a “sure thing," and not an unknown variable. This gives him a feeling of comfortability that outweighs the fear of leaving his job and looking for opportunity elsewhere.
In the evenings, he probably heads home, emotionally drained from the work day, and can only muster up enough strength to flip on the TV for a few hours before bed. No extracurriculars for him.
The person in abundance, on the other hand, has a different take on things. She knows she’s not fully happy, and although she likes aspects of her work (and most of the people she works with), she knows she'll never be totally satisfied with her current life life. Instead of looking at her current job as one of her only opportunities, she knows that opportunities are boundless. Taking this knowledge, she saves up money for six months, Airbnb’s her apartment, and travels abroad for three months.
Why is she able to mentally do this? Well, because she knows that opportunities are everywhere. She could meet her future husband abroad, she could spot the next hot trend and build a business around it, she could uncover her passion, she could find a new city she’d love to live in, she could do anything!
She'll find and take advantage of insights completely unknown to the person in scarcity, because while he’s too emotionally drained to live, she’s too emotionally charged not to live.
So, while the person in scarcity looks at an unclear future and senses fear, the person in abundance looks at an unclear future and senses greatness. A person with an abundance mindset knows that there are enough possibilities out there that people should never do anything they aren’t fully invested in. They should never do anything they don’t love, because what they love is just around the corner, waiting to be uncovered.
So, not only does a person in abundance actively pursue what they love, but they discover greater opportunities than they would be given at a job that’s “just alright.” They take their lives into their own hands, relying on themselves to become successful. Trust me, you won’t discover any opportunities of value following the same trajectory that got you into a situation of “just OK." It’s time to shake up your trajectory.
But people are soft, sorry. For the most part, people won’t take the chance to live a life of greatness due to the fear that they’ll lose their guarantee of mediocrity. But what’s the point of a guarantee if it caps your life at good, and not great or amazing? No point.
What I’m trying to say is that if you want to do something, do it! Nothing should supersede your path to the maximization of your life. Peter Thiel once asked a class during his Stanford lectures the following: “how can you achieve your 10 year goals in six months?” That’s what you should be asking yourself.
That’s a mindset of abundance. The only reason you shouldn’t be living out your dreams, today, is if you choose not to. So, choose to maximize the value of you life; choose to live life with abundance. You’ll become more successful than if you stayed on your current trajectory and worked toward a sure thing. Trust me.