Pair-O’-Shoes or Parachute?
Imagine you’re abducted by aliens and dropped off all alone on top of a huge mountain.
In front of you are two signs. One points towards a path and has a pair of hiking shoes below it. The other sign points towards a cliff. Below it is a parachute.
Which do you choose?
Pair-o’-shoes or parachute?
The Easy Choice
If you’re sane, your first instinct will be to choose the shoes.
Just looking at the parachute probably conjures vivid scenes of plummeting to your death. Thanks, but no thanks, right?
Shoes don’t bring up the same nightmarish thoughts. You know how to walk. You’ve done it before. It may be slower, but it’s familiar and safe.
And who knows? Maybe if you choose the shoes and taking the path you’ll end up finding another, less deadly, “shortcut” further down the mountain—a road, a gondola, or even a zip line perhaps.
It’s the easy choice.
The Hard Choice
But what if you were to “abandon your sanity” and choose the parachute?
Yes, there’s a chance you plummet to your death. Or maybe a a gust of wind will blow you who knows where. But there are ways to minimize those risks, right?
Improbably, the aliens who abducted you left your phone in your pocket. Even more improbably, you have full bars. You could do some research and call an expert for guidance. And maybe a gust of wind is what you need, since you don’t actually know where it is you need to go.
Who’s to say the path is safer anyways? You can’t be sure it leads anywhere you want to go. What’s more, anything from a sprained ankle, to bad weather, to a bear attack could lead to a much more agonizing—but less immediately imagined—demise than falling.
Plus, jumping would a hell of a lot more exhilarating if it works.
Maybe the choice isn’t as obvious as it first seemed…
How Will YOu Decide?
Every day, we face “pair-o-shoes vs. parachute” types of choices.
Should you continue at your job, or quit to pursue your side-hustle full-time? Stay home for some solo Netflix-and-chilling, or go to that networking event? Eat that cookie, or stick with veggies and dip?
Before making the knee jerk reaction and taking the easy choice, consider the alternative that makes your knees trouble. Give the hard choice the consideration it deserves.
Think of all the worst case scenarios, and what you could do to minimize those risks. Then, even if something bad were to occur can you think of ways to mitigate the damage or maybe even come out ahead? Don’t forget to also consider the opportunity cost and hidden downsides of settling on the easy choice.
Upon giving it more careful thought, you may realize your initial instinct was backwards. The easy choice may actually be harder in the long run, and vice-versa. As Jerzy Gregorik says,
“Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.”
If you’re ready to start giving hard choices the hard look they deserve (and hopefully enjoy an easy life as a result), Tim Ferriss is your man.
Watch his TED Talk (below) on the topic. In it he outlines a simple structure to help guide these decisions. You should compliment the video with his blog post, “My Favorite Thought Exercise: Fear-Setting”.
Then, if you still can’t get enough Tim Ferriss, check out his excellent podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show. A good episode to start with might be his interview with the man behind the, “Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life” quote himself, Jerzey Gregorek. You might also be inclined to get yourself his bestselling new book, Tools of Titans, in which he covers this topic, and many, MANY more from the world’s greatest at every imaginable discipline.
And if you prefer not to do any of the above, that’s fine too. Just be sure you’re not defaulting to the easy choice!
Even More Awesome
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