Sometimes I feel like turning it all in. It would be easier to disconnect from society and shuck all responsibility. The image of a guy living in the woods or on the beach in peace sounds idyllic at times.
Then I remember Jimmy…
A Mentor’s Journey
A mentor of mine, let’s call him Jimmy (not his real name), made all the money he’d ever need in his late twenties. He cashed out of the company he’d built and could do whatever he wanted.
First, he decided to move to Florida to enjoy the weather and try to become a professional golfer. After a while, he realized two things: (1) he was a good golfer, but not quite good enough to be the best and (2) all the rich retired people with nothing to do in Florida were miserable. He said the people he know who built businesses, then retired with nothing meaningful to do were unhappy, mostly alcoholics, and had terrible relationships.
So he left.
Later, after getting into Buddhism, he decided to disconnect from the world and live on a farm. He spent all day plowing his fields and tending to his ranch. Jimmy also did a lot of meditation during this period. In this way, he created a pure environment for mental development free from the worries of the normal world.
While he idolized the monks who lived simple lives away from everyone, it wasn’t for him. Jimmy knew he had unique value to provide to others based on his business experience and his 20-year mindfulness development journey. So he reconnected with the world, now builds some businesses, coaches other CEOs, and regularly practices further development with the elusive aim of true enlightenment.
He’s happy and at peace with this lifestyle.
The Two Questions I Ask When I Feel Like Quitting
First, I ask, “Am I uniquely qualified to provide this to the world?”
Most progress in the world comes from increasing productivity. A basic way to increase productivity is specialization. Let’s say I can raise cows better than you and you can make clothing better than me. We’re best off spending our time doing only what we’re best at and trading – I’ll give you some cows in exchange for clothing.
While self-reliance, living in the woods, and building my own house sounds good, it means I don’t get to spend time doing what I might be far better at (and what might be far better for the world).
So I first try to determine what I’m best at (better than at least 80% of everyone else I know. For me, it’s building businesses, especially through marketing, and helping others build businesses, especially through marketing. That’s my unique skill.
If I am contemplating quitting something, I run it through this first unique skill filter.
Second, I ask, “Can I use it to help others?”
I love exercising, playing sports, and being outdoors. But I get a low-level of anxiety if I spend too much time doing those things. The reason is I know I’m not going to use any of them to help other people.
I recently spent four years doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu. It was fun to learn and the hardest sport I’ve ever done. It’s hard for people who don’t do it to understand that it is the opposite of the get-your-black-belt-at-10-years-old Karate. According to my coach, most MMA fighters would be low-level jiu-jitsu players if that gives you any idea.
However, I just moved to Colorado and I’m not sure I’ll keep it up. We’ll see. But, I’m not too concerned because it is not something I’ll ever use to help others and I’m definitely not better than 80% of other jiu-jitsu players (at least if you exclude all white belts).
Helping others makes us feel good. It’s also good for society. If I’m quitting something which I can use to help other people improve their lives, I need to try to keep going.
If my answer to both questions is “yes” (I am uniquely qualified to provide this to the world and I can use it to help others), I must keep going.
Make it Your Identity
When you just do something, it’s easy to quit. However, when something is your identity, it’s not so easy – you can stop doing it, but it’s still part of who you are.
If there is something you’re really good at and you can use it to help others, you owe it to yourself and to the world to keep going. The best way I know to do this is to start seeing it as part of who you are.
I am an entrepreneur; I can never go back to work for someone else. I am someone who helps others improve their lives based on the lessons I’ve learned; in every new venture, I must use it as a lab to ultimately help others improve their lives.
What do you need to make a non-negotiable part of your identity?
The Power of Not Quitting
A few years into my self-development journey, I had an epiphany. I thought about Michael Jordan and how he became the greatest basketball player in history.
His success, like everyone else’s, came down to two controllable variables: (1) hard work and (2) time. (Luck is a factor too for all of us, but it’s non-controllable.)
Hard work doesn’t mean simply putting in the hours. It means doing whatever it takes to get better. This often means hard mental and emotional work too. Anyone can shoot 1,000 baskets a day for a few years, not everyone will cut out every distraction in their lives to make shooting thousands of extra baskets the default option.
Time is the second, and arguably more important, factor. If you look at the biggest successes in any field, most have been at it for decades. Warren Buffett made over 90% of his wealth after the age of 50. He’s been investing since he was about 11 years old.
If we work hard and keep at it for years – and decades – we can accomplish almost anything we want.
Quitting some things is OK and a good idea. Quitting things we are uniquely qualified at and can use to help others may not be.
When in doubt, keep going a little longer. As Wayne Dyer said, “it’s never crowded along the extra mile.”