This article helps to bring home what is important and why we can fall into the trap of leaving big decisions till tomorrow, why can it be so hard to make up our mind?
Beyond that question, this article helps convey a message of what really is important.
I saved this article 6 years ago, I read it again recently wondering why I had gone to the trouble of keeping it…. Well, I definitely know now.
Don’t spend your life making up your mind
“Huntington Hartford. who inherited a fortune from the A. & P. grocery business and lost most of it chasing his dreams as an entrepreneur. arts patron, and man of leisure, died Monday at his home in Lyford Cay in the Bahamas,” reported The New York times in 2008. He inherited an estimated 90 million and lost an estimated 80 million of it
I did the math. Mr Hartford wasn’t exactly destitute, with $10 million left.
He made page one of The Wall Street Journal too. “Died: Huntington Hartford, 97, A&P supermarket heir who depleted a fortune chasing his dreams in the Bahamas.”
In our culture, “What are you worth?” is a question about your finances and utility. Not your character. To be a “success” means you have more at the end than you did at the start. We say “you can’t take it with you” but we behave and judge as though you can.
Certainly, Mr Hartford was lucky to have had enough money to do as he wished Was he a failure though, as “depleted a fortune” and “lost $80 million” suggest? Why didn’t the Times and the Journal congratulate him for spending his fortune living his dreams? “To most Americans, the worst errors are financial and in that respect, I have been Horatio Alger in reverse,” said Huntington Hartford.
Long ago I worked at a job I didn’t enjoy. It wasn’t a bad job; it was secure and pleasant but the job wasn’t fulfilling in the ways I wanted. I spent my spare time tinkering with the simulations. research, and writing that still fascinates me. And the more I tinkered, the more I chafed at my job.
One day I complained to someone close to me, who gave me the gift of a question: “Then why don’t you quit your job and do what you want instead?” I know the option of quitting seems obvious. It had occurred to me many times. But that was the first time I heard the “then why don’t you” part.
Why hadn’t I quit? Because I’d wrapped myself in a thicket of “have to’s.” I have to have a steady income. I have to have the respect that comes with a business card from a leading-edge company. I Have to, not I want to. Assumptions, beliefs, and habits. not wrong but also not laws of nature that I have to obey
When I noticed the self-imposed have-to’s I could question their influence on my decision. I quit my job the next day. I wanted to live my dreams.
In the twenty-five years since then, I’ve gone through fat times and lean. Every time I’ve asked myself whether I made the right decision. the answer is always. immediately. viscerally, yes.
I know I traded security for satisfaction, and sometimes I miss the security. Other people might prefer security to satisfaction.
But for me, so far, it’s been worth it. And when it’s not anymore, I’ll do something else.
I don’t mean to sound glib like “just do it.” Deciding what’s really ‘have-to’ and whether to pursue ‘want-to’ has consequences and risks.
$90 million bought Huntington Hartford a great deal of freedom and safety, more than most of us enjoy. Still, all that money didn’t force him to live his dreams. He had to decide to do that.
Lack of money might be an obstacle to living our dreams. So might the perceived surfeit of time implied by mañana: I’ll do it tomorrow.
I can attest that mañana is especially tempting on agonising decisions. I was stuck for months on such a decision. Two things got me unstuck. One was reframing the decision before me. I’d tried but just couldn’t answer ” What can I do to cause the outcome I want?” I switched to “What are the best and worst outcomes I can expect?” I answered that question immediately. I knew the answer was true even though I didn’t like it.
But what really unstuck me was advice from my best friend, a man I’d known for almost 40 years. He said, “Don’t spend your life making up your mind.” He knew what he was talking about. It was our last conversation, three days before he died of leukaemia.
You spend your life making decisions. Meanwhile, things change. Your values change. Your dreams change. What broke your heart or made your day at 4 is inconsequential at 40. What breaks your heart or makes your day at 40 was incomprehensible at 20. And there will come a day when you would give everything you have left to have what you have right now.
Mark Chussil is the Founder and CEO of Advanced Competitive Strategies, Inc. He has conducted business war games taught strategic thinking, and written strategy simulators for Fortune 500 companies around the world.
When is the best time to plant an
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