How To Make Life Changing Decisions

Maybe it’s premature of me to write this post.  I’m admittedly still making tons of mistakes and learning how to effectively navigate through life myself, but I’d like to offer you some things I’ve found useful in determining what choice to make when you’ve got a life altering decision before you.  Whether you’re deciding if you want to go to college, quit your job, end a relationship, or travel the world, here are some things I’d recommend you consider.

Call To Adventure
The first criteria which you must evaluate when making a life changing decision, especially as a young man is if something is your call to adventure.  This was a concept introduced to me by Elliott Hulse.  The idea is that during tribal times young men often had to go through some type of initiation process to transition from adolescence to adulthood.

These days, however, your family probably isn’t too keen to send you off on a quest to kill a lion. Therefore, the responsibility now lies completely in your hands to create a challenge which you must face and overcome.  You can choose to shy away from your call to adventure, but this inevitably leads to prolonged adolescence as a result of refusing to mature and accept additional responsibilities.  Worse than that, however, ignoring the calling of your heart leads you to resent yourself (and those around you).

Almost everyone around you has given up on their dreams at some point.  This is why when you walk down the street people look beaten down by life.  Most people do not live by their values (or even know what their values are) and thus use television and other stimulants in an attempt to alleviate the negative emotions they experience as a result of not being the person they want to be.

When you’re making a decision involving your call to adventure it will usually take a form similar to this, “I can do option ‘A’ (obtain college degree out of obligation rather than as a necessary prerequisite for the career you’d love to have, take the well-trodden path to success your parents have laid out for you, etc) and I’m likely to be ‘successful’ (or at least what society labels as successful).  If I choose this path my life is almost certain to turn out ‘OK’.”

“Alternatively, I can do option ‘B’  (travel the world for a year via voluntourism, attempt to make a living as a freelance writer online, etc).  This is what I feel drawn to do, but I’m just not sure about it.  This option is daunting and just doesn’t seem as ‘practical’ to me.”

You already know which option I’m going to tell you to take.  Don’t ignore the calling of your heart.  Have confidence in your ability to structure your life in a way that allows you to be adventurous and do that which you are drawn towards.  This leads us into the next principle…

It’s Not About What You Get
One of the arguments people often have regarding ventures perceived as risky is that they may not give you the same material gains.  This is actually an accurate assesment.  While following the calling of your heart can sometimes produce lucrative returns, often doing so won’t make you rich initially, if ever.  This is ok.

Money isn’t at all evil (the flow of cash is actually a representation that you’ve provided society with a product/service it perceives to be valuable).  However, what is important to note is that you probably need a lot less money than you think to be happy.  True happiness is derived much more from loving the things you do and being the person you want to be than material goods.

Think Principles, Not Emotions
This is the biggest key to making good decisions.  Understand that following your heart is actually somewhat of a paradox because sometimes you’ll feel emotional resistance to that which you know is best for you.

I can remember experiencing fear a few months ago at the thought of leaving Wisconsin and everything I knew back home to come to Asia. I can even remember sitting in the O’Hare Airport in Chicago a few months ago wondering what would happen if I “accidentally” missed my flight.

I can remember the first time me and this cute Vietnamese girl (who would eventually become my girlfriend) were alone.  I knew that kissing her was the right thing to do.  I was attracted to her and knew that this was as good of a time as any to kiss her, but I still felt resistance.  Why?

Because we have emotional momentum.  We don’t want to be successful.  Sure, we all say we want to be successful, but on another level we don’t.  With every success you achieve comes an added level of responsibility.  Perhaps even more emotionally jarring than that is your unconscious understanding that every success you achieve will fundamentally change you.

For that reason, your feelings won’t serve you to take actions that will produce real change.  Biologically the purpose of your emotions are to keep you alive, not to assist you on some quest of self-actualization and spiritual fulfillment.

Therefore, you need to rely on principles which you act through.  You can identify and develop your principles by evaluating that which you value in life as well as by studying the greats that have come before you and by adopting the principles they emphasized as being crucial to their own development.

Of course, you still need to grow a pair of cojones to actually execute on your principles, but having identified them can massively help in giving you the leverage to make difficult decisions.

Burn The Boats

Of course, if the principles you’ve identified still don’t give you enough leverage to take the proper course of action you have another tool available to you.  You can burn your boats.

That’s what I did.  I knew that taking my call to adventure and traveling Asia was what I needed at this point in my life.  But to leave all I’d ever known behind was still something I found incredibly difficult.  Like I said before, however, it’s usually in your best interest to act through your principles rather than your emotions.

Therefore I gave myself no option but to leave home.  I dropped more than $1,000 on a handful of nonrefundable flights to, from, and within Asia.  Once I’d obligated myself to a $1,000+ contract to carry out my journey it became significantly easier to do so.

Understand, however, that burning your boats does not entitle you to success. If you want to become an online entrepreneuer, dropping out of college won’t automatically make you successful.  Dropping out of college is the easy part.  The hard part is actually putting in the hustle needed for your vision to manifest.  Dropping out can provide you with a stupendous amount of leverage, however, because if you don’t produce a result you’re fucked.  There’s nothing to fall back on.

Therefore, the decision to burn the boats ultimately comes down to your willingness to hustle after doing so.  If you’re going to hustle, then of course burn the boats because doing so will only give you additional fuel to your fire.

Common sense would then dictate that if you’re not willing to hustle you shouldn’t burn your boats.  If I was writing to a mainstream audience I’d say that’s the perfect conclusion.  Even for most of you reading this it’s probably the “right” thing to do.

What I’ve always done for myself, however, and what I recommend you consider is being aggresive in your willingness to burn the boats.  This will result in one of two things:

(A.) You’ll benefit from burning your boats because doing so gave you the leverage to put in the hustle necessary to attain success. You’ll also experience significant growth because you were forced to expand to the increased demands you had to put on yourself in order to attain that success.

(B.) You don’t hustle and your life turns to rubbish. Unfortunately, despite this option being very painful, it is what many of us need in order to rid ourselves of complacency. Fortunately on the other hand, even if burning your boats didn’t give you enough leverage to take the proper actions to improve your life, often adversity will because your life circumstances force you to experience so much pain that they demand you to change!

I’m not perfect at making life changing decisions. With that being said, I’ve had to make enough of these decisions in the past year that I’ve grown fairly proficient at making them quickly and effectively. I hope if you’re going through adversity or have big decisions on the horizon that this post helps you make the right one.

As always, subscribe and we’ll be back with another post for you next week!

Note: I typically write a blog post and record the accompanying video within a day or so of each other. This blog post was written about a month before the video was recorded, however, because my last week in Asia (and Saigon especially) was so chaotic.

2nd Note: Did I kiss the Vietnamese girl despite feeling the resistance? Of course! She ended up becoming my amazing girlfriend as well. We gave each other the best 2.5 months of our lives, but we may never have had such an amazing relationship if I hadn’t kissed her and let her know how much I liked her that night. Now although I was uncomfortable that first time we were alone, the thought of us never being together is FAR worse.

3rd Note: If you’re reading this and there’s no place to subscribe it’s because my newsletter subscription box isn’t finished yet.  I didn’t want to delay giving this blog post to you, however.  Check back in 24 hours and you should be able to subscribe and no longer have to manually check the blog for updates.

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Lessons Learned From Traveling The World at 18

Hey guys, sorry for going silent on you this past month!  You wouldn’t even believe the sequence of events that recently occurred…  But we’ll get to that another day.  My long-term goal on this blog is to be as transparent as humanly possible, but for professional reasons and to respect the privacy of those close to me I’ll save those stories until enough time has passed.

Regardless, after graduating high school early to travel Asia I’m back in the U.S. now.  Prior to this journey I’d never been to another city by myself let alone another country.  I remember experiencing a modest amount of anxiety leading up to this three month journey, but as all the travelers I consulted prior to leaving said, “You’ll be fine.  Everything will fall into place once you arrive.  You just have to get on the plane.”

At the time I remember wanting to believe them, but still feeling uncomfortable with the uncertainty I knew lay on the horizon.  Of course, they were right.  Everything did turn out just fine and that’s why I’m bringing you today’s blog post.  I want to share with you the lessons I’ve learned from traveling these past three months to help give you perspective on how you yourself may benefit from traveling.

The reasons you should consider traveling (even, and especially if you’re young) are:

(1.) You’re constantly being exposed to novelty.  When you travel, simply taking a walk though the city can keep you off the autopilot you likely find yourself falling into at home.  Learning to use public transportation, trying new foods, and laughing at yourself as you attempt to use chopsticks all help refresh you from the repetitiveness and daily grind that’s so easy to succumb to when you’re at home.  In short, the novel situations you find yourself in each day abroad help stimulate your mind and keep you mentally fresh and engaged.

(2.) Traveling helps you learn about what you do and do not like.  Part of this is because being abroad tends to help bring your adventurous side to the surface.  You’re more likely to try new things while traveling even if many of them are things you could’ve tried in your home country (though there are obviously more new/unfamiliar options available to you when in a foreign culture).  Traveling also helps you learn more about yourself in general.  I never considered nature particularly important to me, however, once I’d lived in Saigon for a couple months (where there is almost no nature) I realized how much I took nature for granted and how much I actually cared being around it.  Even if you don’t intend to travel on a permanent basis, the self-knowledge you acquire from traveling temporarily can be used going forward to structure your life back home in a way that allows you to be more effective and enjoy yourself more in the process.

(3.)  Travel shows you there’s no one right way of doing things.  You may notice that in the country you’re visiting they don’t talk much while eating.  Being from the U.S. you may consider this to be strange, but you have to be open-minded and accept that there are pros and cons to this approach.  Not talking while eating may result in less information being exchanged, but you’re more likely to sufficiently chew your food and thus digest it better.  This could actually result in more energy for you to be social the rest of the day!

(4.)  Traveling forces you to develop emotional resilience.  Although travel will give you some of the greatest experiences of your life it will also expose you to copious amounts of bullshit.  People will charge you more because you’re not a local.  People will try to steal things from you. You’ll get lost.  You’ll fall in love and then have to leave.  But as painful as some of these experiences may be, the adversity you experience will contribute to your personal evolution and the development of your character.  (Seriously, look at all the characteristics you most like about yourself.  There’s a very good chance you developed those character traits during difficult times.)  Working your way through the challenges you’re forced to face allows you to enjoy the most profound reward of all; a higher level of consciousness and being the person you want to be.

(5.)  Travel helps you see the world as it is rather than as the fantasy it’s comfortable for you to imagine it being.  Seeing the problems the world has doesn’t make you a pessimist.  It makes you a realist — someone that’s in touch with reality.  If seeing how the world works is painful enough for someone to the point they have to delude themselves, who really thinks the world is a bad place?  In other words, yes, I’m saying realists ie. people who accept the world as it is are those with the most profound appreciation of life.

(6.) You’ll see that the world isn’t such a scary place.  To be fair, I’ve only gone to six countries (Dominican Republic, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia) so I can’t speak for the entire world, but from what I’ve experienced the overwhelming majority of fear most people have regarding travel is simply fear of the unknown amplified by the media’s sensationalism of the dangers abroad.  Never having taken the time to explore a foriegn culture leaves you susceptible to this. It’s not hard to give someone false expectations of a place (ie. mainstream media foreign crime and danger sensationalism) if they’ve never been there.  This is especially true if someone doesn’t even care enough to read books and educate themselves on the country nor is it inconceivable why mainstream media would take advantage of this (the ease of grabbing the average person’s attention and the potential monetary value of that attention).

(7.)  The people that you meet while traveling are incredible!  Especially if you visit a digital nomad hub such as Saigon, Vietnam or Chiang Mai, Thailand you’ll be amazed at the quality of conversations you’ll be able to hold.  When was the last time you met your friends back home for lunch and were able to discuss with them how to become an effective copywriter, the health effects of msg, and what it’s actually like to date a crazy Columbian girl?  Not every traveler you meet will be someone who lives in alignment with your values nor will every traveler be someone you aspire to be like.  With that being said, however, it takes guts and mental exertion to leave your life back home and sustain yourself abroad so you can bet you’ll meet some damn interesting people.  Of course, the locals are amazing as well.  As long as you make reasonable efforts to respect the local culture you’ll be amazed at how friendly and welcoming people can be.  Even with a language barrier, positive interactions are possible and it’s relatively easy to meet friends that speak English as well (if I found them in Vietnam, you’ve got a good shot at finding them wherever you go).  Whether it’s motorbiking across town with a friend you met an hour ago, treating your new Vietnamese girlfriend to her first Mexican burrito, or cracking jokes with your girlfriend’s gay friend you’d be amazed at how quickly you can integrate into a different society.  Sexual orientation, culture, or even language barriers needn’t be things that keep you from making friends.

(8.)  Perhaps most importantly, traveling gives you the opportunity to reinvent yourself!  This is in part because you’ll learn to be more self-reliant (especially if you’re giving this a go at a young age).  The other aspect of this is that you’ll no longer have a role others will expect you to conform to.  If in your hometown you’re known at the quiet guy others may react negatively when you attempt to speak up or talk to girls.  However, when you’re across the world nobody has a role which they’re trying to force you to play.  You can’t be told to stay in your box when others have never had the chance to categorize you.  When you travel you have the ability to choose who you want to be in each moment.  There exists perhaps no better accelerator for your personal growth.

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