I started to write a comment on Cal Newport’s provocative post on whether a remarkable life requires courage or effort?…and while I tried to formulate my opinion on the matter while brushing my teeth enough thoughts broke through my conflicted un-opinionated state to warrant the comment stand-alone status:
The process that I have seen work is:
1) Realize sticking with the status quo isn’t going to get you a life you want
2) Begin learning about alternative paths
3) Start entertaining thoughts about leaving and making a path for an exit in the near future
4) Meanwhile, experimenting with what you’re going to be really great at
5) Make the leap to leave the status quo not as soon as your famous but as soon you see that investing energy in the status quo gets you next to nothing and you have something that you think you might want to be great at.
The only way to know is to give yourself permission to focus hard. You jump when the value of focusing hard on something, even if you eventually abandon it, is more valuable than stalling in the status quo. You don’t jump when you don’t even know what to focus on, though even then maybe you should, because what are you gaining sticking around in the status quo? The only value I see is a subsidized jump due to money and credibility from society’s run of the mill institutions. So you’re just waiting until you have something worth making a bet on. Even if the bet doesn’t pan out you’ll learn how to play your hand better next time.
It seems like whenever you make that big bet someone comes by and hands you a 500 check-point chip that lets you buy back in at 500 for free even if you bust. Then after the next failure you get to buy back in at 1000. And eventually through combination of luck, timing and experiential muscle you win a hand. It doesn’t even have to be a big hand. And that gets it’s own kind of pass where you get access to the VIP room where only people who have won hands are allowed. This is where you meet your partners in crime, your mentors, who carry you on to the next big thing. And it starts with the courage to make the bet but requires committing hard focus to try and play the hand successfully.
To sum up my longwinded response above, I would basically say living a remarkable life requires courage in the beginning to try, and effort to make the remarkable life a reality.
The first thing you must do is muster the courage to dare to be different and be willing to dream. Then you must match the tiny bit of courage required just to entertain possibilities in your mind, with the little bit of effort required to test the possible paths that might lead to a remarkable life. Then once you find a dabbling interest that you’d like to dive deeper into you have to muster a lot more courage to ditch your current status quo driven path by the wayside, and give yourself the opportunity to put in the massive effort required to pull off being remarkable.
It’s a courage-effort escalation ladder.