Derek Sivers
from the book “Hell Yeah or No”:

Don’t be a donkey


Are you trying to pursue many different directions at once?

Are you frustrated that the world wants you to pick one thing, because you want to do them all?

The problem is thinking short term — assuming that if you don’t do all the things now, they won’t happen.

The solution is to think long term. Do just one thing for a few years, then another for a few years, then another.

You may have heard this story: 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 dies of hunger and thirst.

A donkey can’t think of the future. If he could, he’d clearly realize that he could first drink the water, then go eat the hay.

Don’t be a donkey. You can do everything you want to do. You just need foresight and patience.

If you’re thirty now and have six different directions you want to pursue, then you can do each one for ten years, and have done all of them by the time you’re ninety. It seems ridiculous to plan to age ninety when you’re thirty, right? But it’s probably coming, so you might as well take advantage of it.

You can fully focus on one direction at a time, without feeling conflicted or distracted, because you know you’ll get to the others.

We’ve all done this on a small scale. When something is urgent and needs to be done that day, you focus. For a minute, you get distracting thoughts, like “Wow, it would be nice to go watch a movie now.” But you put it out of your mind because you know that if you just focus on this one thing now, you can get it done and do the other stuff afterwards. So, expand that situation into months or years. Focus on one thing at a time, knowing you can do the other stuff afterwards.

Most people overestimate what they can do in one year, and underestimate what they can do in ten years.

Think long term. Use the future.

Don’t be short sighted. Don’t be a donkey.