Image: Shelf Appeal
“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.” –Eleanor Roosevelt
I’ve spent the last couple weeks cleaning up the blog, relaunching this weekly newsletter (more on that here if you missed it). Some running, some weights, and when I tweaked my foot last week, mending it back to health.
I’ve been reading and writing a bunch too, including dusting off old, unfinished posts, which I’m excited to share in the coming weeks.
But mostly it feels like I’m procrastinating on making a decision:
What project do I work on next?
My big project over the last three years was working to build the Escape school. Now that I’m no longer doing that full time, aside from the occasional workshop, film or freelance writing gig, I have time on my hands. I want to sink my teeth into a new project.
The question is – which project do I choose? What do I really want to work on?
It reminds me of a moment during my 2012 wandering. Four months in I found myself in Munich with a friend. I needed to leave Germany and the Schengen Zone as my 180-day American visa was ending. I spent literally two days in cafes staring at Google Maps trying to decide: where do I go next?
With an open map and no plans, the world was quite literally my oyster. I could hypothetically go anywhere. It was so liberating that it was paralyzing.
If this isn’t the blessing / curse of modern day in a nutshell, I don’t know what is.
Our first world 21st century problem isn’t that we have limited choice; it’s that we have endless choice.
In his book How to Find Fulfilling Work, Roman Kznaric says:
“In the pre-industrial period there were around 30 standard trades — you might decide to be a blacksmith or a barrel-maker — but now career websites list over 12,000 different jobs. The result? We can become so anxious about making the wrong choice, that we end up making no choice at all…”
Psychologist Barry Schwartz calls this the “paradox of choice.” Infinite options equals paralysis from analysis. Instead of selecting one of the many wonderful options, we risk choosing none of them. And round and round we go.
So – how do we choose?
In a conversation about writing and business, Jonathon Fields asks Seth Godin a similar question:
“We wake up in the morning and say ‘I can do this, this, this, or this…’ How do we decide where to invest our energies?”
“It doesn’t matter what you pick. It just matters that you pick.”
“The reason people don’t want to pick is because then they have to claim it. ‘You picked THAT? You didn’t pick THIS?’ Better to pick nothing
When I was a book packager, we had a database that had 245 book ideas in it. Every Monday we would come in and say ‘So which one should we develop now?’ And it would be so easy to wait until Wednesday to pick. And I’d say ‘It doesn’t matter. Just pick one!’ That’s not the point. The point is to do it.”
How do you choose what’s next? I’d love to hear your thoughts – hit reply on this email or let me know in the comments below.
Next up, I’ll explore frameworks for making hard decisions. Read more here.