I had the following text message exchange about a month ago with a friend of mine:
Him: Call me when you have a second.
Me: Will do. I’ll call you when I leave my nephew’s birthday party.
Him: I am buying a Volvo SUV and I can save 6% if I go to Sweden and pick it up. They cover the flights for 2 people and some hotel cost. We could stay from 1 night up to a week. Window April 15-May 30th.
How would you respond? We’re all presented with situations like this in life. OK, maybe not this exact one, but we all face situations where opportunity knocks and we need to decide whether or not to answer the door.
When responding, I’ve found that people usually focus on one of two things: either the opportunity or the obstacles. Those who focus on the opportunity say “Sounds great. Let’s make it happen.” Those who focus on the obstacles say “I’d love to, but <insert excuse here>” (e.g. I need to work, I don’t have the money, my spouse won’t let me, I don’t know how, etc.).
So how did I respond? It took me about five seconds (mostly because I type slowly):
Me: I’m in.
Him: Awesome! I need your Social Security number and date of birth to send to the Volvo travel office.
No one wants to get to the end of life and have a long list of things that they wish they’d done. Unfortunately, human nature is such that we tend to reach for excuses when presented with something (even a good something) that might take effort, be a risk, or take us out of our comfort zone. Not surprisingly, everything in life that’s worth doing takes effort, is somewhat risky and takes you out of your comfort zone. If you constantly say no to those things, your “yes” muscles atrophy and you end up living a pretty unsatisfying life.
So how can we do a better job at embracing adventure and living a life that provides meaning and purpose?
Decide what’s important to you. As I have said on this site before, each of us needs to decide what we really want out of life and then take those things very seriously. For my family, travel is a key priority. I didn’t even ask my wife before texting back about the Sweden thing, because I knew the answer would be yes. When you have a clear understanding of what you want out of life, decision making becomes pretty easy.
Be willing to make things happen. Saying no is easy because that’s the end of it. Saying yes means that you will need to put forth effort and overcome obstacles. It means having to plan, practice, take risks and make sacrifices. No is easy, but it has no payoff. Yes takes effort, but it is an investment that produces a return.
Time and money will never be perfect. Time and money are the “go to” excuses for most of us. Looking at it honestly, however, we have more of both than just about any civilization in the history of the world. Time and money are almost always red herrings. You can find a way around both if you really want something. Our true obstacles are things like inertia, fear, laziness, and being unwilling to sacrifice or put forth the effort required.
Get comfortable with risk. One of my all time favorite advertisements is Michael Jordan reciting a huge list of his failures. At the end of the commercial he says “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” (Watch the ad on YouTube here). Be like Mike. Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks in pursuit of meaningful goals.
Thanks for reading! I’ll give you an update on Sweden in a later post. In the meantime, be on the lookout for opportunity.