Getting what you want is great. However, when it comes to a goal or a desire, one must be aware of the difference between the desire and the reality associated with it. Many people are enamored with the idea of getting something they want. They want to build an audience for their work, write a book, start a business, etc.
What You Overlook About Getting What You Want
But few are in love with the reality of what is involved, because we see the end result, but not the work that was required to achieve that result.
Founders who take their company public
A musician who wins a Grammy
The author who writes a bestseller
Actor who gets a leading role
We don't see the years of rejection, the countless hours of work, the moments of uncertainty, fear, and self-doubt that this person had to overcome. That's the part of any journey worth taking and any goal worth pursuing that Scott Belsky calls The Messy Middle.
You are NOT signing up to see your name in the spotlight, your book at the top of a bestseller list, or your stock price rising until you are worth a fortune.
You're Signing Up for the Reality of What's Involved, Not Just Getting What You Want
A few years ago, when Unmistakable Creative was going through a rough patch, my friend said, "This is what you signed up for, so stop whining."
If you want to accomplish something worthwhile, sign up for the parts you never see someone else accomplish a similar goal.
- A college student in love with the idea of becoming an investment banker sees fat bonuses and "fuck you money." Anyone who has ever worked in banking will tell you that the reality is long hours and very little time to enjoy your money.
- Aspiring writers in love with the idea of publishing a book see their name in the spotlight, their book at the top of a bestseller list, and themselves sitting across from Oprah. Talk to any author who has published a book and they will tell you that the reality is sitting at a desk for years writing a book that may never sell a single copy.
- An aspiring entrepreneur, excited by the idea of starting a business, sees it as an opportunity to create their own work schedule, change the world, and get rich. But the reality is countless hours, years of uncertainty, and the possibility that it was all for nothing.
You sign up to spend the overwhelming majority of your time and energy in the messy middle, a part of the journey where you have to leave behind the parts that suck in order to get to the ones that do not.
Everything You Want in Life Has an Opportunity Cost
It's rarely easy, often uninspiring, and you need a willingness to make the sacrifices necessary to get what you want.
Whether you want to achieve a goal, buy a house, or take a vacation, you will give up something you have in order to get something you want in return. This applies to how you use your time, your money, or any other resource you have.
You can have it all, but you can not have it all. No matter what you decide to do, there will always be a cost. When you say yes to one thing, you are giving up something else. To get something you want, you give up something you have.
As Emile Hirsch said in the movie The Girl Next Door, when you give up something you have for something you want, "the juice is worth the squeeze." The pressure is the opportunity cost, the juice is what you get in return.
Before you set a big goal, ask yourself if the juice is worth the squeeze. If not, set another goal, pursue another opportunity, or make another decision. There is no point in pursuing something if the juice is not worth squeezing.
Every decision in life is a trade-off between freedom and security.
You choose between the security of a relationship and the freedom of being single, between the security of a steady paycheck and the freedom of entrepreneurship.
The opportunity cost of being single is the love and fulfillment you get with a long-term partner. On the other hand, the opportunity cost of being married is the freedom to date, explore, and meet lots of people. You have to give up one to get the other.
With every decision you make, weigh the trade-offs, calculate the opportunity costs, and decide what you are willing to give up to get what you want. And remember, just because the grass looks greener on the other side does not mean it is.
Execution Matters More Than Ideas
The romantic notion of a creative or entrepreneurial life is that Hank Moody's life resembles that of a writer or Bobby Axelrod's life resembles that of a billionaire. But people with romantic notions of how their ideas should be realized live in the land of fantasy.
In an interview with Justine Musk about the psychology of visionaries and the conditions for extreme success, she said
People do not seem to really appreciate the effort that goes behind such successes. It's one thing to have the general sense that someone like Elon Musk has to work hard. Experiencing it firsthand is another thing entirely.
It's to the pale that I think it's hard for most people to comprehend. That kind of work ethic really does define your life-defining. It requires sacrifice not only from yourself but also from the people around you. I do not think people have a sense of how intense this kind of lifestyle is, how driven these people are, how hard they work, and the level of stress that they deal with.
When people fall in love with the idea of getting what they want and ignore the reality that comes with it, then the risk of disillusionment, disappointment, and dissatisfaction is great.
Consider your goal. Are you in love with the idea or the reality associated with it? If it is the former, set another goal.