With one click of my mouse, six years went down the drain.
All I would’ve needed to complete the prestigious Master’s degree I had been working so hard for was three more months of writing a thesis. Yet, when I sat in front of the empty page, the cursor blinking, I knew it was not going to happen. With a last deep breath, I clicked on the “X” in the top right corner.
As the document closed, I knew I did the right thing.
Realizing this degree wouldn’t make me happy took a long time.
When I was young and fresh out of college, it seemed like the right thing to do.
Had I known back then what I know now, I would’ve saved myself six years of pointless work, late-night studying, and headaches caused by deadlines.
Sometimes, you just know something is right. Everything clicks. You get excited and things fall into place.
Other times, it’s not as easy to know whether it’s worth putting in the effort. The relationship with its ups and downs. The risky business venture. Moving to another city, picking up a new hobby, and eating another plate at the all-you-can-eat although your belly already feels like you’re 13 months pregnant.
These efforts can be immensely rewarding. They can also cost you years of your life, together with a ton of time, money, and energy.
In the end, my master’s program was good for something.
Because I never wanted to get into that situation again, I’ve developed a few questions I always ask myself when I want to find out if something is worth doing.
So far, the answers haven’t betrayed me once.
What You Think It Will Be Like Isn’t What It Will Be Like
Meeting a famous DJ was not what I thought it was going to be at all.
It was a warm evening on a tropical beach in Thailand. Relaxed beats from a speaker, a beautiful sunset on the horizon, and sand beneath my feet. I had chatted up a group of people – one of them played music for a living.
He surprised me by saying the DJ life isn’t as glorious as you think.
Most people only see the parties, the ecstatic crowd, the beautiful women, and the fun travels all around the world.
But in reality?
Travel stress, lonely nights in the hotel preparing for your gig, and a lack of sleep.
This is typical for a lot of things that seem great on the surface.
We have an idea of something – whether it’s passive income, a sexy body, a smooth-sailing relationship, or endless freedom traveling the world.
But the reality often looks different.
Hard work. Tough conversations. Being jet-lagged and constantly figuring out local customs and haggling for SIM cards.
That’s why before embarking on a new adventure, I ask myself:
“Do I want this or am I just in love with the idea of it?”
Understand what the day-to-day grind of something looks like, rather than falling in love with a romanticized version of it.
Talk to people who have done it.
Reality-check yourself instead of chasing an artificial idea.
How To Cut Out All Excuses
Death is a gift.
I’ve had close calls with it plenty of times. Every time it happened, it shifted something major in my life. It made me realize I won’t live forever and if I don’t get my shit together, I’ll have major regrets on my deathbed.
As scary as almost falling down a 15m cliff while rock climbing is, it helped me focus on what matters.
I scrolled less social media and focused on my business. I reached out to people from my past to make peace. I told my parents I love them.
We all have stuff we wish to do deep down, but the ego finds one excuse after the other to not do it.
“It’s not the right time. I need more money first. It’s too risky, big, or scary.”
Imagining your death is a great proxy for what matters because it cuts the bullshit.
It takes away all the excuses and focuses you on what truly matters.
So, ask yourself:
“When I’m on my deathbed, will I regret not trying it?”
Then, listen to the silence. Feel what your intuition tells you. You’ll know how much this truly matters.
Why You Need To Forget About Best And Worst Cases
You are not special.
Neither am I.
Yet, the ego creates many stories of why we are.
In my case, I thought I was special because I had A scores, was super smart, did a bodybuilding competition, had tons of travel and life experience, was immensely disciplined, and took many paths others didn’t.
The reality check came reaaal quick.
When I started my business, it humbled me. Instead of immediate results like I got in school, it took me over three years of struggling to even get the plane built and on the runway. By now, it has taken off, but it’s like one engine has major fuel line issues and the pilot is drunk.
At least I’m flying.
We often analyze ideas in terms of best and worst-case scenarios. But does that make sense?
Landing in the either best or worst 0.1% of relationships, businesses, parents, or bodies is extremely unlikely.
There are eight billion people on the planet. You’re not special. The most likely case is you’ll land where most people land.
So instead of obsessing about the best and worst things that could happen, ask yourself:
“What’s the most likely-case scenario?”
Whatever path you want to take, look at how it plays out for the average person embarking on it.
Make peace with the fact that this is where you’ll end up most likely.
If what you want to do still seems worthwhile then, do it.
The Only “Why I Am Doing This” That Matters
Someone recently asked me what it was like to build a business.
My answer was simple.
You give it your all for a year or two or three. You stop vibing with the people who aren’t as driven as you are. You cut back on distractions, parties, and other fun activities and load up on stress and sitting in front of a screen. You constantly feel like you’re burning yourself out yet not doing enough. Then comes the crucial point.
You have no idea whether all of this will pay off or not.
I’ve had many great ideas that I put hundreds and thousands of hours into only for them to fall flat.
All I could do was pick myself up and try again.
The saying goes, “The man who loves walking will walk further than the man who loves the destination.”
In everything I’ve seen, this is true – for one simple reason.
You have very little – if any – control over the outcome.
Markets can crash, putting you out of business. Your partner can change, leaving your relationship. Your kids can choose a path that shatters all the dreams and hopes you had for them.
That’s why the only things truly worth doing in life are the ones where you fall in love with the process. Ask yourself:
“Is this about the climb or the view from the top?”
If you’re too focused on the outcome, find ways to fall in love with the process – or be prepared for disappointment when things don’t go as imagined.
The choice is yours.
If Nothing Else Works…
Making the right choices isn’t always about having the right answers, but asking the right questions.
- Do I want this or am I just in love with the idea of it?
- When I’m on my deathbed, will I regret not trying it?
- What’s the most likely-case scenario?
- Is this about the climb or the view from the top?
If you still don’t know whether something is worth doing or not, I’ve got one last tip for you.
Take a coin.
Heads – you do it. Tails – you don’t.
In that brief moment after the coin lands but before your rational mind takes over, you’ll know whether this feels right.
Don’t let fate decide what you’ll do with your life – but use it to make the decision.
Because the right things are worth choosing them.