Time might not be on your side
When it comes to time, the odds are in our favor, especially up until our forties and fifties. For most of us.
The problem is that unless you're on death row, you don't know how much time you actually have. We have to operate on the assumption that we'll probably live until we're around 80. In some senses, this is the only rational way to operate as we have to make choices that protect a probable future that could be 50 years away.
It's good to be prudent with planning ahead, but devoting our lives to saving for retirement or holding off until we're 45 to have kids can be a dangerous game- you might have less runway than you think.
We can achieve the right balance by operating with a sort of "doublethink" mindset- paradoxically planning for the future yet understanding and almost expecting for it to all end at any moment.
Gambling with time
Almost any big accomplishment in life requires a long journey filled with sacrifice and inevitable pain. Whether it's building a business empire or simply working your ass off to retire at 55 in comfort, you're not going to get there without giving up a lot of the small pleasures that life can offer. We are somewhat defined by the balance we choose between pleasure and accomplishment.
I've heard Gary Vaynerchuk tell young entrepreneurs that to achieve their stated goals, expect basically nothing "good" to happen in the first ten years. Almost pure sacrifice, and I'm sure he's right (listening to him will make you a lot more money than listening to me).
And I love Gary Vee, so don't think I'm talking shit. But it could be very dangerous advice. I have lost count of the amount of people I've known who got knocked off before the were 40 by death, addiction or disability. It's true that in most cases, making the choice at age 25, 30 or even 40 to completely forego fun or peace for the next ten years will result in huge success. But if you're not around for the payoff or not able to enjoy it, you have gambled huge, and lost.
But there is one way to "win" regardless of when it all ends- pick a path where the journey itself is rewarding.
Working 80 hour weeks is actually enjoyable for some people; they love being busy and wouldn't have it any other way, so for them, the ten year sacrifice isn't a gamble. For an artist, ten years of being broke (probably more like a lifetime) is not a big deal, because they have so much passion for creation.
Where we start gambling is when an artist type wants to have a thriving company- certainly possible, but it's going to be hell. Those ten years are going to be an absolute grind. Again, totally possible. Completely within reach. But if you fail, or if you aren't around or able to enjoy the victory, losing that many years of your life would be devastating.
You don't need a passion to succeed. Determination, patience and hard work can allow to win at virtually anything. Just remember that when you chase a dream that is outside of your passion or requires you to do something you hate, you are taking a massive gamble on a future that is promised to nobody.
Find your balance
Creating a successful business or retiring in style will take a lot of effort and sacrifice even if you are doing something you enjoy, or gain some sort of satisfaction from. But taking that path will at least ensure that along the way, you're putting deposits in a different kind of "account".
It's the account we make a final withdrawal of memories and feelings from, right at the end. For some, weeks or even months of reflection when the end is near and for others- a flash before a sudden darkness. Either way, in those times, the value of degrees, sales figures and most "accomplishments" pale in comparison to the value of:
- Time with family
- Time with friends
- Time with yourself- to learn, to grow
- The universal joys of life like food, entertainment or travel
- The times when we felt that undeniable connection to the universe
Time is not always on our side. It's only logical to plan for a future that is probably coming, but honor those things we remember at the end, as if the end is near. Find that balance, and you'll live without fear or regret about how you lived your life!
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