When you’re 3 years old, you only have one job. Grow.
Albeit it’s not much of a choice. Your biology, and your parents, are egging you on to become bigger, smarter, faster everyday. Now fast forward to your teenage years, biology still has a strong hand in your physical growth – a large pimply, pubescent hand. On top of your parents, you now also have your teachers and peers who are pushing you to be smarter, faster, bigger.
Throughout the first two decades of our lives, we’ve been carefully nudged and pushed to grow in specific ways. Study more so you can be smarter. Play more sports, start working out, so you can be bigger and faster. Join this or that club so you can be more popular, more well liked.
It’s as if society was trying to groom us to grow into brilliant, athletically superior, socially fluent individuals.
Well we know how that turned out.
I don’t know about you, but I came out mediocre in about all those categories. I’m pretty smart, kinda athletic and socially functional – but by no means superior or a special snowflake in any of those categories.
After the 20+ years of growing, we find ourselves in a strange place. All our past nudgers and pushers; our teachers, our parents, our peers, are no longer laying down the tracks for us to follow. Basically they’ve said:
“We’ve done our job. You’re now a standup citizen that can make your own decisions. Go forth and become rich and successful.”
We’ve been kicked out of the system and we’re now overwhelmed by the sheer number of paths we can take.
Do I climb up the corporate ladder?
Wait no, I should follow my dreams as a origami crane artist!
Shit, I think I should learn to program. Marketing is useless, I need hard skills!
I need to find myself. Maybe I should go on a 120 day vagabond around the world.
If you’ve had one or more of these thoughts (yes, even the origami crane artist career) cross your mind a dozen times, don’t worry. You’re not alone, there’s at least two of us in the world.
For myself, it’s completely paralyzing every time I think about what I want to learn and how I want to grow. Is SEO more useful than content marketing? Zen buddhism or stoicism?
I don’t want to waste time.
I don’t want to make the mistake of learning something thats less useful.
I want to capitalize on my resources.
It’s because I want to make the best of the best decisions, in the most ideal way possible, that I find myself lying in bed on a saturday afternoon doing absolutely nothing. The fear of idealism is real and ridiculously paralyzing.
Here’s my extremely sophisticated solution:
Pick something. ANYTHING. And just get started.
Step 1: Acknowledgement
Whenever you catch yourself saying “I just need to figure it out” or “Yeah, I need to think about what I want to do with my life” – Stop and repeat with me: “That is horseshit and I know it”
Step 2: Pick and Plan
Out of the list of 100 things you wish you had accomplished by now, pick one. Then carefully plan out, and I mean with your calendar, to-do list and everything, exactly how you’re going to get it done.
Step 3: DO
As with any new habit, the first time is the absolute hardest. Remember this, so that when you’re about to give up before you even start – you won’t.
Step 4: Remove the guilt
There might come a time when you’re struggling through the learning process, that you start feeling guilty.
“I shouldn’t be wasting my time on this”
“At best, I’m going to be mediocre”
“Why am I learning X when I can be doing Y”
Commit and follow through. You’re better than you believe and your self development is worth the time. You are worth your energy.
Remember that one step forward, regardless of direction, is better than taking no steps at all. As Steve Jobs once said, you can only connect the dots looking backwards. So go out, learn things and make more dots.