My friend emailed me today, out of the blue, and started quoting a Paul Graham essay on creating wealth
This is a good plan for life in general. If you have two choices, choose the harder. If you're trying to decide whether to go out running or sit home and watch TV, go running. Probably the reason this trick works so well is that when you have two choices and one is harder, the only reason you're even considering the other is laziness. You know in the back of your mind what's the right thing to do, and this trick merely forces you to acknowledge it.
The response that came from my friend was that he felt obviously melancholy or disheartened by what he considered his lack of "making the hard choices" in life.Watching the setting sun at Skyland in the Shenandoah National Park
For whatever unexplained reason, this caused a stir upstairs in my fuzzy brain stuffs and I replied:
You may think I'm crazy and, indeed I can be a lazy bastard (in the running for laziest worldwide).. but I'm honest when I say this is a philosophy I've tried to stick to throughout my later years. Even when I first started at university I was choosing the "Manly Physics" (The student's given name for the harder, physical sciences physics) even though I was told by a number of people that I didn't really need to take it. Indeed, it later proved unnecessary. Same for chemistry.
Looking back on my hiking experiences I find my best friend, who had hiked hundreds and hundreds of miles of the Appalachian trail (whereas I had limited experience in comparison), still thinks I was crazy to have pushed us so hard. We went from a practical stand-still (much time in front of a TV that summer) to cranking out over 20 miles a day almost on our first day, and this with ridiculously heavy packs (mine was about 58 lbs. when we started). To me, this is how you did it - hike like a banshee and get where you're going. In the end, we never completed what we had planned - but at the time I didn't even let my brain realize that stopping before the planned end was an option.
Then, when things were starting to seem complacent at work, I forced myself into a masters program - something that, while perhaps not hard, required me to lose my awesome ocean front apartment, pack everything up, and move to another country (again).. Okay, so maybe that wasn't hard but it was most certainly a pain in the butt and inconvenient. Given the choice, the lazy part of me would most certainly have rather sat in front of the TV.
Now? The sailboat so far it has been a huge amount of hassle and the impending hard labour is daunting (sanding, ugh).
Okay, so I named a few instances where I've made the hard choice. This isn't to say there are not hundreds of instances of me making the easiest choice. But we're humans, and humans... well, we'd like to watch TV sometimes.
The reality, for me, is that I have no real desire to be Sir Edmund Hilary. My bones are brittle, not made of bronze. I have no ache to become my own Frodo. Would I like to make intelligent choices that both challenge me but also allow me the occasional sit to relax and enjoy the beauty of this world? Exactly. The phrase "stop and smell the roses" was not conjured up for nothing - it is apparently advice that needs to be given.
Perhaps that is why I will never be a "Great Man"(tm) in the way that most people think of that term. But perhaps, by making the decisions I do - to sometimes
work hard, to sometimes challenge myself, but to also sometimes enjoy the good life - I am choosing a very pedestrian life.. and maybe, just maybe, in this age of over-saturated media and average folk being risen to the heights of celebrity status through 15 minutes of fame (or 15 episodes of reality tv).. well, just maybe I *am* choosing the harder.
There are millions and millions of hard working Chinese, Japanese, Americans, Europeans, Mexicans, Canadians, Jamaicans, Australians, Africans... you name it. There are billions of people on this earth. You can go virtually anywhere - to any corner of this world - and I assure you that you can find an everyman there. These people are not heralded, and they do not make a lot of money. What they do have is work ethic and, if they are lucky, loving families.
I'm not so sure that is a bad thing.