One of my favorite podcasts is The Tim Ferriss Show, hosted of course by 4 hour workweek mastermind Tim Ferriss. If you haven’t checked out his latest book, head over to Amazon right now, you need to get a copy of it: Tools of Titans.
One of the guests on Tim’s show was Derek Sivers, and I’m also a big fan of his blog, especially his book summaries.
So in this interview Tim asks Derek what advice he’d give to his thirty year old self.
Derek replies: “Don’t be a donkey”.
I found the reply and it’s explanation very fascinating and it really hit home.
So what does Derek mean by that?
Many 30 year olds are trying to pursue many different directions at once, but not making progress in any.
Or they get frustrated because the world wants them to pick one thing, and they want to do them all. Why do I have to choose?! I cannot choose!
The problem is that they’re acting short term, as if you don’t do them all this week, they won’t ever happen. But the solution is to think long term; to realize that you can do one of the things for a few years, then do another one for a few years, and so on.
The analogy with the donkey comes from a fable in which a donkey that is equally hungry and thirsty is placed precisely midway between a stack of hay and a pail of water. Since the paradox assumes the ass will always go to whichever is closer, it will die of both hunger and thirst since it cannot make any rational decision to choose one over the other.
A donkey can’t think of the future, if he did clearly he would realize that he could first drink the water and then go eat the hay, or vice versa.
I’m in my early thirties and I can relate to this issue 100%, in fact I’ve already written about the shiny object syndrome in the past. I’m also currently stacking up books about decision making and going through them, precisely in order to help me make sense of the many opportunities that present themselves and avoid that dreaded FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and decision paralysis.