Entrepreneur Derek Sivers writes on his blog
that, “Most people over-estimate what they can do in one year, and under-estimate what they can do in ten years.”
- Are you trying to pursue many different directions at once?
- Are you frustrated that the world wants you to pick one of them, but you want to do them all?
The problem is short-term thinking — the flawed perspective that if you don’t pursue all of your interests now, you’ll never get to them.
Sivers illustrates the point with the following story about a donkey:
Buridan’s donkey is standing halfway between a pile of hay and a bucket of water. It keeps looking left and right, trying to decide between hay and water. Unable to decide, it eventually falls over and dies of hunger and thirst.
The donkey couldn’t think about the future. Otherwise, it would have realized that it’s possible to drink the water, and then eat the hay.
For Sivers, there’s no reason to act like the donkey. You can do everything you want to do, as long as you have foresight and patience.
For example, say you’re 30 years old now and have 5 different directions you want to pursue. If you spend 5 years on each one, you’ll have all of them completed by the time you’re 55.
This way you can pursue each direction without feeling conflicted or distracted, knowing that you’ll get to the others.
Sivers notes that we already do this on a smaller scale. When something is urgent and needs to get done today, you focus. A distracting thought may come up (e.g., It would be nice to watch a movie right now), but you put it out of your mind so that you can complete the task at hand. Once it’s complete, you can move on to other things.
The key is applying this same approach to months and years.