Going all-in too early

I believe in taking risks. I believe in “burning the ships.” I believe in pursuing seemingly impossible dreams with reckless abandon. But I also believe in wisdom.

There have been articles circulating the social media sphere about the benefits of job hopping in your early adult years. In a nutshell, the more experimenting you do and risks you take while young, the more likely you are to end up in a career (and I would say, overall lifestyle) that suits your passions and interests in the long run. Furthermore, the wider the range of your experience, the wider your skillset spans. I would argue that these things ultimately increase your likelihood of receiving more financial compensation.

But most people don’t look at life from a long-term perspective. I know that I have had to discipline myself to change the way I think, and I suspect many were or are like I was, especially those in their teens and early 20s. Often it’s about dating and “feeling fulfilled” right now. It’s about having a job and having enough money to “have a life.” It’s about damage control in the moment and waiting until the time is right. But I would submit to you the possibility that if you are too busy putting out fires or “living in the now” to think about your lifetime strategy, the “right time” will never present itself.

There’s tons of examples — many I’m personally guilty of doing myself. Financially, people take jobs that pay the most “right now” instead of considering jobs that build their skills and connections in the long run. They use credit cards to live at a level their finances cannot yet cover. Relationally people date for convenience, often choosing to love someone they started dating at a young age, trying to “make it work” when really they are incompatible. And if we were to consider people’s health habits — well, if you know anything about America, we don’t have it quite together over here in that area either.

One of the paradoxical truths I’ve seen over and over is the benefit of temporary failure. I think it’s great to suffer heartbreak, to get fired from a job, to experience early wake up calls that might otherwise never rouse us from our waking slumber. In fact, if we had cruised on big decisions because everything seemed to be working out at the time, we might (and most likely would) find out later that we need to start over — except the problem with going further while on the wrong track is we have less of a lifespan to travel on the right track and often we must spend a lot of time undoing the damage done while on the wrong track. Many have described it as “failing forward.”

If you’re playing Texas Hold ‘Em and you go “all-in,” even if the odds seem to be in your favor, there’s always the possibility luck will not be with you, and you won’t be able to play again for the rest of the night, at least without great personal expense to buy in again. Often, inexperienced people overestimate the strength of their hand before they see the cards laid out on the table, and it costs them dearly. There’s a time and a place for aggression and going all-in, but most of the time, it’s more prudent to keep your eyes open for the right moment to strike.

This isn’t to be confused with never going all-in. If you don’t take a risk, you will probably never win. With few exceptions, you’ll never date the person you never ask out; you’ll never get the job you don’t apply for. Truly, often you have not because you ask not.

Maturity is knowing the difference between too early and too late; and often we can’t develop maturity without making the mistakes to begin with.

But there are at least two things we can do. We can learn from other people’s experience in considering our decision (truly, one of the problems is that people don’t make a decision so much as they run with the status quo and the decision is made for them). And in the absence of the ability to foresee, we can at least not make the same mistake over and over again. It shocks me how often people continue to metaphorically touch the stove after they’ve been burned.

It has been said that an airplane is off course 90 percent of the time. They maintain contact with their control tower and continue to adjust their position so that ultimately they end up going where they are supposed to go. Try, fail, adjust.

What’s wrong with many people is that they are unwilling to try things because they are afraid to fail, and having failed they are unwilling to adjust — I suspect because the discomfort of change is stronger than their desire to progress.

But many others are different. They have open eyes. They are proactive about their destiny, they seek out wisdom before making important decisions, and though they make many mistakes, they at least never repeat them.

I submit to you that at the end of their lives, these two types of people, assuming equal ability, will end up fulfilling two very different destinies.

Which one you choose is up to you.


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