What If I Choose Wrong?

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Man, I’ve heard that excuse soooo many times.

You’ve got multiple interests, ideas, projects, passions, products, job offers, blah, blah, blah. They all sound cool. All have serious potential, pluses, minuses, risks and rewards.

Which do I choose? And, oh my, what if I choose WRONG?!?!

I asked this question to world-renowned thought-leader, bazillion-time New York Times bestelling author and professional ruckus-maker, Seth Godin, in this week’s Good Life Project™. His answer made me smile, because it’s the same thing I often tell folks who come to me with the same question.

Drum roll…it doesn’t matter.

What’s more important is simply that you choose! As Seth shared, the only wrong choice is no choice. Because…

Inaction kills possibility. Click to tweet

So many people get so hung up on not wanting to make the wrong choice that they never choose, never act, never engage, never experience, never live, never have the opportunity to succeed, fail, adjust, grow, thrive.

They keep having the conversation in their head. Because they’re terrified of having to retread and start fresh on a new path after a choice that leads them to invest time, energy and resources on something that falls short of their aspirations.

Guess what, you may have to do just that. You may find yourself months or even years down the road starting along a new path.

But, what you miss when you choose not to choose is that choosing “wrong,” and even crashing and burning almost always has extraordinary value. And, with rare exception, it’s not only recoverable, but hugely educational and empowering IF you choose to experience it as such.

You may run the gauntlet (been there and likely will again, btw), but the experience will elevate your game with every future choice and make the inevitable win so much juicer.

As Bob Taylor, the legendary founder of Taylor Guitars once shared with me, the fastest way to build beautiful guitars is to build more really bad ones.

Is this a 100% rule? Er, more like 98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.

I’d have to carve out things like in medicine or other pursuits where life and limb are literally at stake if you choose wrong. For the doctor, the rule still applies, for patient though, not so much. But outside those arenas, there is no right or wrong choice, only decision, action, awakening and movement…as long as you’re open to elevating growth and engagement as core life metrics.

You may well get lucky and choose a path that leads to instant, exponential reward. You may take a more circuitous path that bumps and steels along the way. But, one thing’s certain…

Choose not to choose and you automatically lose. Click to tweet

This was just one topic of conversation with Seth. The conversation was, well, pretty mindblowing. We covered tremendous ground, including his take on publishing, what he was really doing when he raised $287,000 for his next book in a week on Kickstarter (hint: it wasn’t crowdfunding), why he shut down The Domino Project, how he builds businesses these days, what it means to live a good life and soooo much more awesomeness.

Go watch the episode now (or subscribe & get the mp3) >>>

My question today is…

What are you having trouble choosing between right now?

And will you commit publicly to one. Now? Yes, you can even do it in the comments below.

So…

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23 responses

23 responses to “What If I Choose Wrong?”

  1. Srinivas says:

    Jonathan,

    So well said. The thing I always say is “a false start is better than standing still.” The view changes when you take that first step and the only way to know what to do next is by doing what you need to do now.

  2. Great article. I think my problem is not that I’m afraid of choosing, it’s that I’m so interested in so many different things! I am insanely jealous of people who have one, dedicated, laser-focus-like passion and then let that passion take them to new heights and amazing achievements.

    I find myself as more of a dabbler. I love lots of things, am curious about everything, and want to constantly learn, but I feel that this is a hindrance to achieving great things.

    Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

    – A new (and now avid) fan

    • Jennifer says:

      Brian, I’m the same way. I have many interests and they seem very different. Example: neuroscience vs. archetypes in fairy tales. Or analytics vs. creative writing. Or an idea for a department store chain vs. a small, independent wonderland store for children.

      But I’ve been working my tail off in the last two years to really look at all these things and find some common threads. Preferably THE common thread. And it’s there. I won’t go into it here because it won’t help you (it’s my story, yours would be different). But look at Seth Godin or Jonathan. They’re both working on multiple projects. I think the point is to start with one, and then build off that for the next thing.

    • Helmar says:

      Brian (and Jennifer), you may want to have a look at Barbara Sher’s book “Refuse to Choose”.

  3. Bunny says:

    It’s not that I don’t want to start something new, it’s that after so many failures I start to think I’m really not all that good at anything. I’m just not smart enough to pull this off,. I’m not talented enough and that’s why this didn’t work. After a while it wears you down.

    • Eva Papp says:

      This is good. This is so the meat of it for me. One failure, no problem. It’s the multiple failures, the wear-down, the hesitation, the self-doubt, the nervous tic that happens when we’ve been in the down leg of the journey for a long time. That’ll knock you out. But crazy as it is, I think the prescription still stays the same. Get grounded, listen deeply, then choose. Because in the end, as Jonathan pointed out, the next step is a choice whether it’s action or seeming inaction. I think focusing on how we choose is one of the best ways to get where we intend to go. Thanks Jonathan, and we’re with you Bunny.

    • camille says:

      Bunny! Your comment made me so sad. Not in a ‘oh, poor thing’ kind of way, but in a ‘I wish I could wave a magic wand’ sort of way.

      To be clear:

      This is not true:
      “I’m just not smart enough to pull this off”
      This is not true:
      “I’m not talented enough”
      And this is not true:
      “…that’s why this didn’t work.”

      Whatever the things are, they likely didn’t work because they weren’t the right things. That doesn’t mean the right thing won’t come. (I HAVE to believe that for me, so I’m going to say it as if it’s the gospel truth to you 🙂

      I have the same problem. I’m a terrible procrastinator. All talk and no action. BUT the thing that’s gotten me to a better place in the past few years is realizing that a) when I talk to friends about this, they see and rattle off things without a second thought, things that are talents of mine, or reasons why I would be good at such-and-such, and even what I bring to their friend table that no one else does; I’m always shocked to hear about these things that others see plain as day, and it’s like I have NO IDEA that I even have that skill or talent or quality (I’ve started writing stuff down, so I can limit the number of ‘all about me because I’m down’ convos;

      and b) I think the good news is that you are even thinking about this to begin with–that you are searching, period. I often think about so many people who get locked into careers and schedules pretty early on in their lives, because the want to make some money, get married, and have kids. All lovely goals, but there’s a tradeoff, which is cashing in freedom and spontaneity for security and predictability, and a lot of people like that, which totally makes sense. But when the kids are in high school, and all the college money is being stashed away frantically, not to be touched, what can a person even do? Everything is mapped out already, and you couldn’t just change careers even if you wanted to.

      So there are two and probably more ways to go about this; I used to always think that the ‘planners’ were making all the right choices, and that I was just floating around from one thing to another, wasting a master’s degree, not ‘settling into’ a career. I realized, though, that the planners and the people like me are all going through the same thing, making hard choices, choosing one thing over the other, even if a part of them wants the other, worrying–try as we may not to–about how others perceive us… We all want the same thing, to be happy, and you’d be surprised at how many people would look at you and envy your not being ‘stuck’ to one path.

      I don’t know. I’m struggling but I’m struggling with two things I love–running and teaching at a teeeeeeny language school, and working as a medical interpreter at a children’s hospital. I’m BROKE, live with my parents (on account of the terrible economy and huge debt), I’m 43, pay my own health insurance… Three years ago I felt like a total freak/loser for all of this, now I see how blessed I am that I can do these cool things, have a flexible schedule, hang out with my aging parents (my mom’s mind is going fast), and know that I’m still 1000% luckier and better fed than most people on the planet, so who am I competing with? The Joneses? What for? They’re freaking out, too!

      Be you and love you and imagine you’re a mad scientist in a lab. Some of your ideas will work and some won’t, but they would never have given you the keys to the lab if they didn’t think you couldn’t handle failed experiments. Keep on truckin’!!! If nothing else, know that I’m somewhere across the country making an ass out of myself in some way or another 😉 And laughing about it. Be well, all!

  4. Ali Davies says:

    A great reminder that there is no wrong, just finding a way – and it we need to accept that the path isn’t linear.

  5. Bunny says:

    I just watched the video worth Seth Godin. He talked about the person that couldn’t see that they didn’t fit. That’s the issue in my previous comment. Is it that I just can see that I’m not good enough? Or is it that it just didn’t work, or I need to keep going and not give up. Where is the “you just suck” formula

    • Eva Papp says:

      Hhm. Seems like seeing one doesn’t fit/not developed enough for the biz challenge you set vs. one is not good enough/”you just suck” comes down to analysis of the business situation vs. one’s belief about their value and worth. I imagine the two scenarios need different remediation tactics. I haven’t watched the Seth interview yet, but I imagine he might be talking about biz analysis. I think we are always good enough for our dreams, even if we have to develop ourselves/our biz’s to realize them.

    • Jennifer says:

      I really do believe that everyone has something unique they can offer the world. So it could be true that you’re not good enough for the things you’ve tried so far, but that could be the way you’re approaching things. Where your focus is. When you start projects or ideas, what was your motivation for them? To get rich quick? To build a business that would be financially successful?

      I think you really have to spend time with yourself and be able to “hear” and “see” what you’re good at, what drives you, what you’re passionate about, and then work on developing that talent and that passion before the building of something out of it.

  6. Bunny says:

    Soddy, spell checker had it’s any with my comment. I meant that I could not see that I didn’t fit.

  7. Jennifer says:

    Not choosing is an affliction I’ve been wrestling since 2008 when I decided to deviate from the path I was on for the sake of a family member’s well-being. The cost was utter derailment for me.

    I watched the interview with Seth Godin and there’s a few things I want to speak to.

    1. Jonathan, I don’t follow you religiously, but every time I click through to something you’re doing I’m thankful for the genuineness you bring to what you’re doing.

    2. All the struggle I’ve been through over the last 4 years is starting to shift and clarify into something. In that clarity I’ve realized that part of what has held me back from “doing” since I felt derailed is that I’m scared to get locked into one thing that I’ll then become bored with. I liked the idea that Seth Godin put forth of doing “projects”, and this was a way of thinking about who I am/what I want to do that was still eluding me. I’ve been thinking too much along the lines of “career” or what should my business be, when my career and business can be a series of projects. That one piece of the interview was gold for me.

    3. A personal observation – when I was on track simply pursuing something that interested me and I was passionate about, I worried less about money. After the “derailment” – money became the primary focus because I had to make a decision to shift away from something I was passionate about. This shift in focus, for me, was destructive to creativity and passion and ultimately resulted in having less and less of all three.

    So, yes, I have tons of ideas. A veritable database of ideas, but I’m not going to commit to one here. Instead what I am committing to (and was already working on this – your post was just serendipity in my world) is that every day I’m making movement on projects. That I’m shifting my focus back to where it energizes me most.

  8. Kyle Young says:

    Jonathan, thanks so much for the reminder to ‘just do it!. I was just mentioning your past post re: ”making more bad guitars’ to a friend at lunch today. All too often I’ve let my own ‘gotta do it right the first time’ gene kick in when I need to kick it out the door.

    Love it!!!

  9. Monica says:

    100% YES! Not choosing is the same as choosing. Might as well stake a claim in the matter.

  10. Marie Davis says:

    Success is in the trying. Yes, I tell myself that often when cornered with the whole choosing issue. I think we get so confused as to what success really is, it is not the end product ie money, fame etc… No success is only in the trying. Simple to live really when you give into the thought, choosing gets easier, and volia you find yourself swimming in your own success very quickly.

  11. Marie Davis says:

    BTW failure is all part of being successful. When people ask me how I became so successful, I always tell them, ” Because I let myself fail more often than most people do.”

  12. Kim Thirion says:

    That totally used to be me. But I can proudly say that I’ve made some pretty big choices recently and I don’t regret a single one.

  13. […] What If I Choose Wrong? by Jonathan Fields […]

  14. Jim Manton says:

    Jonathan…Thank you so much for what you are doing. I absolutely love these interviews!
    It hasn’t escaped my attention that what you are sharing with us is a project.
    That usually implies a beginning, middle and end. Where are you in this project now?
    I hope it’s only the beginning! . I freely and openly feel a debt of gratitude for your Goodlife Project.
    By the way, I first encountered your work through your book, Uncertainty.

    I’ve purchased 16 copies for members in my CEO forums.
    I hope my endorsement of your work in some small way led to something equally valuable for you.

  15. Yaya says:

    True post,

    that’s all the problem in life : we know that to do but don”t make “the leap of faith”. And while we are the right path were still standing at the same place. Sometimes we have to close our eyes and move forward.

    Thanks for that

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