I used to always be in a rush.
I had to graduate college in 4 years (I even picked a major I didn’t care about and went to Summer school a bit to make that happen), I had to put out a CD by X date, I had to be a profitable trader within 6 months, I had to go to a 1 year MBA program – because 2 years was just way to long, and I had to go NOW, I couldn’t put it off for another year.. I wanted to be a millionaire by 30, etc, etc. All of these time constraints and goals on everything…
We’re told growing up, or at least led to believe, that you grow up, you turn 18, go to college, graduate in 4 years and then get a job… and then you’re done. You’re grown up now. Or maybe, it’s get a spouse, a house, a few kids… now you’re done.. now you’re grown. Like that’s a goal… we just want to grow up, in a race to grow up before X date….
Why though? Does growth stop at 18? at 25? No? Maybe at 30?
My thinking has slowly started to evolve on this. When we’re young, we look forward to these ages 18, 30, like everything stops at that point. We can’t see past that. But, really there is no rush.
I started to realize this when I would meet with professionals in Singapore, people who had lived all around the world, in the midsts of their careers, marketing managers and MDs, CEOs, and managing partners at consulting firms, and they would give me career advice, they would tell me: “Your career is a long road. You’re still young, you have plenty of time to make mistakes…” Man, what are you talking about? I’m still young? You don’t even know how old I am! I was 26 then. I thought I was old. I wasn’t some 22 year old college grad any more…
Or maybe its some of the books I’ve read lately that have changed my thinking and long-term perspective: Radical Honesty: “everything is futile”; George Valiant’s work around adult development and the Harvard Grant studies: “Why is it we know so much about childhood development, but hardly anything about adult development? Does development stop once you hit adulthood?” The answer is a resounding “NO” by the way; Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You to Be Rich: short-term saving plans, long-term investing, “just get started”, what you do doesn’t matter so much, 85% of it is just getting started.
But… really I think it was the last 8.5 months I spent in Taiwan: where I started to really take studying Chinese and training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu seriously. And, I had to give up goals, because I couldn’t see them. It was just too far out, too impossible to predict. In order to take these things seriously, you just have to imbed them into your life, make them a part of your everyday. What am I supposed to say? “I’m going to be fluent in X amount of months/years”? But actually what does “fluency” even mean? I’m fluent in English and I’m currently in the UK and I don’t understand what the British are talking about approximately 20-30% of the time. And, once you reach “fluency”, then what? You stop with Chinese? Because, you’re done? Or, for BJJ “I’m going to be a blackbelt in X number of years” Man, who can predict that? It may take 7 years, it might take 20. What if you get an injury? What does it even matter? Oh, and when you get a blackbelt, then what? That’s the goal. Now you’re done, you can stop training. Plus, when you start to take up these long endeavours like BJJ or Mandarin Chinese, you realize this whole “I’m going achieve X by date Y” is so laughable that only complete newbs really say things like this.
I’m trying to wean myself away from goals.
Not just in BJJ or Mandarin, but in everything: career, finances,…. Life.
But, that doesn’t mean I’m not still working at all of them everyday.
You get better at something through constant work, constant reassessment, constant refocus.
In fact, I’m probably working more at all of it now, because I’m learning to enjoy and experience the pursuit and process. Not chasing some end goal.
Pursuit and process.