When I talked about the zigzagged path to big visions, I know that the explanation might have been lacking some concrete visuals. Story time!
Let’s say you wanted to get to Alexandria, Egypt. Now, I’m not sure where you are, but I’ll bet there are no direct flights to Egypt, much less to Alexandria. So you have to get to an airport (in point of fact, you wouldn’t even have to fly).
So, you need to get to an airport. Then you’ve got to get a ticket to somewhere big, some place that has more opportunities to get you where you want to be. Let’s say you want to get to Heathrow. Heathrow is one of the biggest airports in the world. Surely there’ll be lots of opportunities to get to Egypt from there!
So you’re in your airport, and you buy a ticket to Heathrow. Naturally, it’s got a few stops to make– you hadn’t planned to go through Miami, but if that’s what it takes to get to Heathrow, you’re fine with it.
While you’re waiting in the airport, you call your mother. “Mom, I’m going to see the ruins of the Great Library at Alexandria. The next time we talk I’ll be in London.” “What?!” she screeches (your mother tends towards histrionics) “London is nowhere near Egypt!” so you explain to her that it’s just a stopping point, and there’s bound to be more tickets to Egypt there than you can get in Podunk, TN.
Now, as you’re watching departures, you see a flight pop up. Non-stop to Berlin. Berlin. Hmm. Berlin is certainly closer to Egypt than Heathrow. And it’s faster. But you can’t fly Virgin Air, and that’s what all your Airmiles are for. So what do you do? Do you switch your tickets? Do you stick with the plan you’ve already embarked on? Is it really going to be faster if you make it to Berlin and you can’t speak the language?
Before you start scribbling pros and cons in a column, I’ll let you know now— It really doesn’t matter which you decide. All roads lead to Egypt for as long as you intend them to. You can go through Berlin, London, Morocco South Africa — it doesn’t matter how far out of the way it seems, because above all you’re headed for Alexandria.
Typically people will start to object at this point — “I don’t care about Berlin. I just want to get to Alexandria as fast as possible, and with a minimum of fuss. Alexandria is where I want to be, and until I get there, I don’t care about anything else.”
It seems logical, of course, but that’s not the makings for a very fun trip. And even if it were reasonable, you simply can’t predict which route will be the fastest. You can only go with the one that seems the best at the time, and faster is not even remotely equivalent to ‘better’.
Faster is Not Better. Better is Better.
Better is one of those variables that’s intensely personal. So if you want to build a boardwalk empire, but you also what to see your kids home from school every day, that’s obviously going to limit your choices in some ways. If you’ve got itchy feet and can’t stop moving, you must have a way to make money that’s location independent, whether it’s as a travelling salesman or an internet entrepreneur. In a world of limitless choice, the way you navigate is by your values.
What’s valuable to you? What’s less valuable to you? Trade the things you don’t value for the things you do. Above all, be specific.
Many people who think family comes first have accidentally fallen into the trap of acting as if providing for their family’s creature of comforts (or their future) is more valuable than spending time with them in the present. They probably wouldn’t agree with that sentiment if you pointed it out to them. But that’s the value they’re living.
So pick a way station. Get there. Reorient. Pick another way-station that you reasonably expect to get you closer to your ultimate destination. Lather, rinse, repeat.
What’s the next way-station you’re headed for?