Today is November 9 and the year is 2014. There will never be another 10/9/2014. There will never be a chance to "redo" today or the previous week. This is morbid, even depressing, and yet, it is also the greatest source of motivation and inspiration for living life now and into the future.
You know, sometimes I have to remind myself why I write, and constantly think about, these topics. When I think on it, I think about the times in my life when I had little hope and living through each day was a struggle. I then think about how, even now at a time when I have plenty of things to be positive and grateful for in my life, I still struggle on a regular basis.
And I realize that this is just life and to stay a step ahead of it, one must be prepared. Then, finally, I think about the fact that there is no paradise, or utopia, or perfect place we can ever get to. Life will never be perfect, and no matter how good it gets, it won't stay that way forever.
To answer the question of why I write and think on these topics so much (which, from my point of view, becomes redundant pretty regularly), is it is my way of being best prepared for what life decides to throw my way.
I can't control the future, but I can be as best prepared for it as possible. And to not be prepared is to hand over my destiny to the randomness of the ether that is time and space. No thanks. I'd like to have some control.
And that's why I write and think about life, death and being the best I can be.
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“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” ―Beverly Sills
Humans are strange creatures. We live our entire lives making plans for things we think we want while taking action we think will get us there and then get upset if we are detoured from what we we thought was supposed to happen.
Are we clairvoyant?
What makes us think that we have any idea about what will happen in the future.
Why are we so arrogant? What is our obsession with avoiding failure? Why do we expect ourselves—and others—to be perfect? Why do we care so much what others think? Why do we shape our appearances, beliefs, and the things we do on a daily basis to satisfy the fickle opinions of other people?
Science has answers to these questions, and I have my ideas, but these questions are meant to be rhetorical. Ask them of yourself.
When we make plans, we formulate expectations based on those plans. Consider what a business plan is—it’s a set of “projections” based on a certain timeline of what we expect (hopes) will happen.
As plenty of smart people have said, “No plan of battle ever survives contact with the enemy” (Helmuth von Moltke), or as John Lennon is frequently attributed as saying (incorrectly as he only adapted the phrase into his music—the quote is attributed to Allen Saunders), “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”
No matter what history has shown us, we still audaciously believe we can set a plan for the future while expecting it to come to fruition as is. Then, when the future doesn’t live up to our expectations, we kick and scream, and usually, give up. We are basically trying to predict the future. Obviously, that’s dumb for many reasons.
Maybe we need a different approach?
I say yes.
Most people are not fond of approaching life as an experiment. This makes sense because scientific testing takes work—and humans don’t like to do work… in case you forgot. Testing requires you to try more than once. It could take a couple tries or a hundred (or a thousand in the case of the incandescent lightbulb). We want to do it once and get it right because we are either lazy or arrogant, sometimes both.
But the thing is… a testing mindset is the best way to approach life.
Every single thing in your life is a test that provides feedback. If you make iterations based on this feedback, you have a framework for finding success in anything in life. Life will literally lead you the way. This is so simple, yet few do it because it’s hard. You have to embrace failure, and you have to put in the work. And most people do everything they can to avoid both.
Start thinking like a scientist.
A testing framework can be used for the largest and smallest instances of your life. What you don’t realize is, you’ve been doing scientific experimentation your entire life.
Think about it…
How did you figure out what your favorite drink is? You tried a few options and made a decision. And that was a successful executed scientific experiment. Just because the drinks weren’t lined up in a lab in random beakers does not mean that it was any less “scientific.” You’ve been applying scientific testing to things your entire life—cuisine, food, fashion, books, art, music, people, professions, jobs, etc.
Just as you test different ingredients in the kitchen to learn new recipes and techniques, you should test life.[/caption]
Everything in your life has been a test so far, and as far as personal preference goes, we are all pretty good at figuring out what we like and don’t like. But when it comes to things like money, success, purpose, and happiness, we get stuck. We expect to get it right the first time. Choose the right career and be happy. Find the right partner and be happy. Find the right friends and be happy. Find the right hobbies and be happy. Buy the right house and be happy.
And so on...
Honestly, when the hell are we ever right the first time on anything? Come on. Not to mention the fact that our tastes and preferences are constantly changing and evolving.
Why do we think that we are supposed to choose perfectly the first time around when making the most important choices of our lives?! And yet, this is exactly what we, society, friends and family expect us to do.
It might take you trying 10 careers to find the one you love. It might take the same number of partners to find the one you want to marry—and then it could take a couple marriages to find the right marriage (hopefully not that many). It might take living in a few houses and a few cities to figure out where you want to live. And so on.
The thing about this expectation-based behavior is it’s easy to fix. Start approaching these choices scientifically: Test until you find what you like.
That’s it. Just like you would try a new dish (or taco) at your favorite restaurant.
You have to TEST life!
I know what you are thinking and the answer is NO: This approach does not trivialize the important decisions in your life. It actually does the opposite: it creates a deeper investment because you are able to find what works and what doesn’t based on experience, which gives you more confidence in your decision.
So, what does this look like in practice?
- Take internships and part-time jobs to learn and get experience in various industries
- Date as many people as it takes to learn what you like and don’t like instead of settling with what’s readily available
- Take courses in school until you find something that interests you (and if you don’t find anything, keep searching)
- Seek friends that uplift you and make you better, and remove friends that hold you back
- Start and stop as many businesses, careers, or projects as necessary until you figure out what feels good and brings you results
Ultimately, if you pursue the things you want to spend your time doing, the rest tends to figure itself out. This should be obvious considering the fact that we are all going to die one day and we will never get a chance to repeat the time we spend. Yet still—because it’s easier—most people take the easy route and settle for their first, or easiest, decision. That is, in my opinion, the reason there are so many people stuck in crappy relationships, jobs, and situations.
Never settle for the first in anything. Test then iterate. Life will lead you to exactly where you need to be if you approach it scientifically with a curious and open mind!