A few months ago, before I left my hometown, I was offered a job. It was good money to do something I didn’t want to do. It wasn’t in an industry I wanted to build my career in. It wasn’t in a place where I wanted to be. The only reason I would’ve taken the job was the money. Which is precisely why I didn’t take it.
That experience distilled a heuristic I use whenever I have to decide whether to pursue an opportunity:
If money is the primary motive, say no.
Note that I didn’t say only. I said primary. Human beings, with the incredible mental machinery that we have, can always create multiple reasons to do or not do something. I could’ve rationalised that job offer and made it seem like a no-brainer. But the money would’ve remained a primary motive. So my answer, even after a period of serious consideration, remained a no.
But why should we turn down such opportunities? What if the money we gain will allow us to do something down the line which is more aligned with our interests? That’s a fair point, right? Just accumulate some capital, save some money till you have enough to strike out, and then do what you wanted to do. That mindset is something I subscribed to until this episode. Now, I no longer think it’s true.
There’s two problems with thinking like that. The first is precedent. If you decide to go for the route that offers you more money, you’re more likely to continue that pattern into the future. The danger is that you’ll start an avalanche you can’t stop. That at every future crossroads in your life you’ll pick the one that offers the most immediate material gain, the most perceived stability. That’s no way to live.
The second problem is possibility. By deferring your actions until you have enough of X, you’re telling yourself that you can’t do A without X. Which, ninety-nine times out a hundred, is bullshit. Everything we think we need to do something is just a facade we conjure as an excuse to not do what scares us.
The possibilities outweigh the impossibilities. You don’t need money, credentials, backing, a website, experience or qualifications to do what you want to do. We live in a world where you don’t have to wait, where the barriers to entry of every industry are tumbling. So you have no excuse for postponing or deferring.
Once you realise those two things—that choosing for safety isn’t safe, and that you don’t have to wait anymore—another heuristic that can help you make decisions about opportunities reveals itself:
1) If money is the primary motive, say no.
2) If it gives you the chance to learn a lot more about something you care about, say yes.