I was walking through Warsaw with incoming Praxis participant Leisa Miller the other day and she was sharing with me how she’s been able to shrug off much of the things in her life that used to hold her back.
Our CEO, Isaac Morehouse, has expressed a similar attitude in his book “Don’t Do Stuff You Hate.”
I started thinking about my own life and realized that the best decisions I’ve made have not been ones where I jumped on an opportunity that was before me. It’s been the decisions where I quit something that was suffocating me or holding me back.
I don’t mean quitting small things either, by normal standards.
I was the starting quarterback in high school and Class President. I quit.
I was a Deans List student in college. I dropped out.
I was making incredible money as an independent consultant. I stopped taking clients.
You could say I’ve adopted “opting out” as a way of life. The moment a past goal no longer aligns with my present and future visions, I cut it from my life. This shocks some. It saddens and offends others. But here’s the thing — doing this has made room for the life I have today.
I’m Director of Marketing at Praxis, a company I love. I’ve gotten to visit 4 continents this year and speak all over the world. I’ve got an incredible group of colleagues, friends, and intellectual allies who inspire, educate, and enliven me daily.
I’ve had time to build and discover these things because I’ve been close to dogmatic about reinventing myself over and over again during the last few years.
Here’s one more thing: if that life ever starts to feel stale, boring, or stagnant, or my goals change and take me in a different direction I’ll quit again.
The Myth of the Lifelong Conveyor Belt
An uncomfortable truth I’ve observed as I’ve gotten more experience in the real world is that most people will continue along a life path they hate simply because they’ve invested a lot of time, money, or emotional energy into it, or because of the social status it brings them.
I’ve seen kids go to law school even though they want to run a business because that’s what they wanted for so long and quitting is terrifying to them.
I’ve had college students tell me they’d drop out but they’re scared of what their friends and family will think.
I’ve known graduates who accept a job they despise because they’ve “worked so hard to get there.”
We feel shackled, in a sense, to our past identities, and in allowing it to be so, we let the world pass us by.
In the interest of helping all of us, I’d like to propose a new way of looking at our lives. Instead of treating our life path like a conveyor belt that, once we hop on, we can never hop off, we should view our lives as a constantly evolving process.
We should embrace the ebbs and flows, ups and downs, and make room for new opportunities by removing ones that we no longer find fulfillment in.
We should do away with the dogmatic “just stick with it” mindset that we’ve been conditioned into since childhood and think critically about whether we really want what we currently have. And then we should opt out accordingly.