Sacrifice

Someone was asking for advice a couple weeks ago. They wanted to make more money, but really their problem was that they didn’t save enough money. Not that making more wouldn’t be great, but just that I knew that if they did make more they would just spend it and be on a fancier treadmill. I was about to tell them this… and then I stopped because I knew they wouldn’t do it.

I’ve been down that road many times.

They can’t save money, they would tell me, because they make so little. And anything I would suggest they do to save money would seem ridiculous to them and they wouldn’t do it. No one likes advice they won’t follow, so I didn’t give it.

It bothered me for a few days, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why until I realized that I really wanted this person to be successful and that I doubted whether they would be or not.

An idea crystallized: the magnitude of the sacrifice you are willing to make will define your outcome.

Sure, not always. Some people get lucky. I mean, we all get lucky in some ways, but some people will make no sacrifice and get great results. Others will make huge sacrifices and get nothing. There are, of course, other factors.

But… put it this way: a lot af the most successful people I know lived in RVs for some time, and most of them didn’t have to. My best friend Todd lived in a Honda Element and peed in a bottle. All of those people could have afforded apartments or houses but instead they saved their money and invested it, put it towards a business, or used it to extend their runways and live life on their own terms.

Every single person I know who lived in an RV (and there are like… 10 of them) has an enviable life now. Part of it is because they saved money by living in an RV, but part of it is also because they are the type of person who is willing to do something like that. Correlation and causation.

Look at the people who get the best results in the gym (not me, if we’re being honest). They sacrifice that cookie or bread when they really want to eat it, and they go to the gym when they’re tired and really don’t feel like it.

Who ends up in the best relationships? Those who are willing to sacrifice and bear the indignity of being single and the risk of never finding anyone, rather than settling for comfortable relationships that aren’t right for them.

And what about friendships? The strongest friendships are borne from people putting their friends needs above their own occasionally and showing up for each other not when it’s convenient, but when it isn’t.

The fact that I know 10 people who lived in RVs is a pretty good indication of the type of people I’m around. I forget that that sort of thing isn’t normal. When people ask how Todd and I afforded to travel aound the world for a year, they aren’t thinking about the times that we walked miles to avoid paying for taxis or took insane flight routings and slept on airport floors.

Life shouldn’t all be about sacrifice. You can go too far in that direction, too. If you’ve created an amazing life for yourself, I hope you live that life and share it with others. But if you aren’t where you want to be yet, you should take a hard look at what you’re willing to sacrifice to get there. Would you eat the same lentils and rice every day? Would you live in a vehicle? Would you drive a beater car that no one will think is cool?

It helps, by the way, to not care what people think about you. The reason a lot of people aren’t willing to sacrifice isn’t because they couldn’t endure it, but because they couldn’t endure other people seeing it. I’m not saying it’s easy, but once you completely erase that concern, decisions become a lot easier.

Sacrifice, but make sure it’s for something. Don’t do it just to be harcore, do it because it creates a path for you. Look at your goals, look at what you’re currently sacrificing in service of them, and ask yourself what that sacrifice says about your odds of success. Remember that the magnitude of the sacrifice you are willing to make will define your outcome and act accordingly.

Unfortunately, what will really happen with a post like this is that some people will read it and say, “Yeah, obviously… I did that too”. And everyone else will say, “Interesting… but Tynan’s weird so he can do all those things, but they wouldn’t work in my life…”

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Photo is from Clark County Wetlands Park in Vegas. It’s amazing! I saw two coyotes, a rabbit, and tons of cool birds.

Merry Christmas!

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20 comments

  1. Lots of truth in this although I think you perhaps underestimate the role of interests and personality traits. I’m physically lazy by nature and absolutely loathe strength training, which I have tried in many different forms and for many years. I’m great at other stuff like language learning for example which I find fun and rewarding, even if it also takes a bit of discipline. I have a friend who is a real gym rat with an enviable body, he loves going to the gym and feels good when exercising (but only speaks one language to my knowledge and has no interest in language learning). From the outside it may seem as he is sacrificing more than me when it comes to strength training but knowing how it looks ”from the inside” a more important factor is that he simply enjoya strength training, while I don’t (hence what looks like a big sacrifice to him isn’t one, just as my intense language studies isn’t a big sacrifice for me).

    The people who become great at various things are often disciplined etc but it helps if you like what you’re doing. If you hate it, there is almost no way you can discipline yourself to become good at it and you may just as well find something else to get good at – at least that’s my experience.

    Merry Christmas!

    1. But you probably don’t whine about not being that muscled, just like your friend doesn’t mind knowing just one language. Tynan’s example is about someone who wants more money but can’t save it. If he doesn’t ‘enjoy’ saving money, it will feel as sacrifice. Do you think he’s just choosing the wrong goal in that case?

      1. I would like to have a better physique but hate most physical exercise unfortunately. I don’t think that one’s goals and one’s natural abilities/inclinations/interests always line up, although sometimes they do. To some extent I think it’s futile to try and become excellent at something you hate doing. And I think that it’s dubious to look at people who are excellent at something they (mostly) love doing and focus on how much they have sacrificed and that you can become like them if only if you sacrifice more, even if you hate doing it. But of course, some effort and grit is necessary to get anywhere. It’s not black and white. I just wonder if the perspective in this article underplays the role of interests and personality traits behind success in a given area.

        For example, Tynan writes “Look at the people who get the best results in the gym (not me, if we’re being honest). They sacrifice that cookie or bread when they really want to eat it, and they go to the gym when they’re tired and really don’t feel like it.”. But my experience is that these people love going to the gym most of the time, even if they also need some measure of discipline. From the outside a lot of success looks like hard sacrifice, but the most successful people tend to love what they do. (There are some interesting counter examples to this, for example Andre Agassi who according to his autobiography hates tennis and always hated it)

  2. Thanks for sharing your unique insights and experiences. You’ve got an amazing and diverse perspective on so many topics.

  3. Sacrifice is hard. Sometimes it takes something to jar us into realizing that sacrifices have to be made in order to be successful. It took my entire life essentially collapsing for me to become the person I needed to be. It was only after my longest relationship, my job, and housing situation all fell apart within a very short time that it finally ‘broke’ me and made me realize what was truly important for me to build myself back into who I became. Before I had those events happen to me I was still essentially a kid at heart.

  4. @Tynan: Great post! Would you please check why there’s no newsletter function any longer on your site? I want to receive notifications when you post new articles.

  5. Awesome post. Looking back at my own life, some of the most meaningful achievements started by cutting something out. It opens space for new hobbies, habits, and opportunities.

  6. One of your strongest ever, Tynan. Thank you for taking the time to write it for us. Wishing you a fantastic 2022.

  7. Just to keep you updated on Tynan’s Antarctica trek: still no contact after several more weeks. We are obviously concerned and attempting to reach him around the clock. The good news is the summer weather means conditions are not quite so cold. We are hopeful to come back with good news soon.

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