A word can crystalize a collection of thoughts. Over the last few weeks I’ve considered my financial situation and my options. Pick through my posts and you’ll find many of the threads. I was headed to some conclusion but suddenly arrived there when I saw the title to my friend Smolinsky’s blog post, Commitment. One word collapsed the variety of possibilities into a course of action that I had already unconsciously chosen. I’d committed myself to a path and hadn’t realized it. All of those other paths were off to my side. There was only one path under my feet and I was already traveling along it.
The Matrix series of movies has great quotes for me. They are good action and adventure movies, but I watch them for the words. What other movies do you know that have a special DVD commentary track for philosophy?
“We can never see past the choices we don’t understand.” – The Oracle to Neo, Matrix Reloaded
That one continues to do laps through my head. There’s something in that quote that I don’t understand, but it will settle out eventually. The movie alludes to future choices (in my interpretation). The part that resonates with me is that the choices we understand help us move along in the present; but, we don’t always wait for understanding before proceeding. That’s a species-wide understatement. Many times we’re on the move without consciously knowing where we are going. It may feel as if there was no choice made and that we are simply wandering along, but subconsciously a choice was made.
Steve’s post was about the successes of companies that embrace commitment. Commitment to a goal can accomplish more than excellent unfocussed talent generally aimed in almost the right direction.
I’ve learned commitment from another source, karate, and I’ll quote from one of the great fictional masters (while stealing from sci-fi yet again).
“Do… or do not. There is no try. ” Yoda to Luke, The Empire Strikes Back
I learned that lesson by watching those who outranked me. Their effectiveness came from being committed to a target, to having quick wisdom, clear choice, and unhesitant action. Superior power and speed are useless if there is no decision to use them. Power and speed delivered decisively and precisely are astonishing, if you even get to see them in action.
My recent conflicting thoughts swirled around, what-ifs. I hadn’t expected such a long economic slump. What if my portfolio doesn’t do well? What if my books and photos don’t sell well enough? Will I be able to sell my house? Do I need to sell my house? Can I get a job in engineering after being out for a dozen years? Should I move someplace to make any of those possibilities more likely to maintain my lifestyle? Should I go back to school? For what? Should I just abandon considerations of a career and get any old job? There are an infinity of possibilities within any life. My life includes possibilities from engineer to artist to entrepreneur to investor. Maybe I could write about engineering startups for some investment organization?
Then Steve’s post popped up in my email. Commitment. No dithering. Then I thought about what I was going to do that day. It was a busy day. There were lots of things that I’d chosen to do. That’s the internal “wait-a-minute” moment. I’d already made a choice. I was already committed to a path. My conscious mind was tired from too many considerations, but my subconscious had ignored it all, picked a path and set out along it, determined with a clear direction. I merely had to understand that choice.
I am a writer and photographer who has a passion for people and ideas, and while those activities can lead to financial independence (pursue your passion and the money will follow – maybe) I am also prudent enough to live frugally while investing in a manner that fits my lifestyle and personality. Nothing is certain and waiting for certainty is an eternal wait, an unnecessary delay that wastes time and bits of unrecoverable life.
Yes, I keep should keep in mind the other possibilities. I’d love to work on the next generation of space shuttle or on high-efficiency/high-safety dirigibles. Many of those other choices would also be gratifying lives. But I realized that, while I do look at the job ads and consider schooling, I’d already made a choice. I hadn’t applied for a job or for classes. I don’t have the house up for sale. Any investigation of those other possibilities was merely casual consideration, keeping my eyes and ears open as they should be. My fault was in worrying about them too much.
I live my life by funding it with my investments. I am also using my talents as a writer and photographer to pass along my message and passion. My speaking and teaching (Modern Self-Publishing July 16th) help me entertain and encourage others. My fifth book was called Dream. Invest. Live., because dreaming and living are the beginning and end, within investing merely providing the means. Meanwhile, I live frugally out of choice, while also recognizing that it is currently also out of prudent, probably temporary, necessity.
There are great uncertainties, but I am invested in reasonably good companies that have very good prospects that should result in much higher stock prices, and therefore more wealth for me that will further fund my passions. My writing, photography, speaking and teaching are doing well, improving and gaining larger audiences. One consequence could be improved personal income. (Pardon the parenthetical reprise but – Pursue your passion and the money will follow – maybe.) My frugality and my volunteer work are the foundation on which I can grow philanthropic and charitable efforts, especially as my financial situation improves.
I am optimistic about people and the planet. Collectively we are in a slump, but we pull out of slumps. Many personal and global slumps have passed in our last fifty years. We, I, get through them by not giving up and by not standing still.
It is fun to realize that despite my conscious turmoil, my subconscious was optimistic enough about me to commit to a choice and a path. Now it is time for conscious commitment.