If Not This One

A friend of mine founded a company with another guy. When they started out, their lives and ambitions were very similar, even if the principles bubbling below the surface weren’t. One thing they both had in spades was hustle. They did what it took– no matter what– to keep their business going forward.

Over time, their motivations diverged. My friend stayed on his grind and pushed the company forward because he liked producing excellence. His cofounder, on the other hand, became enamored with the money the company made. Not enamored enough to keep it, though– he spent liberally and foolishly. I once saw him use company money to pick up the tab for thirty people at an expensive restaurant.

Nothing is entirely black and white. Although it was obvious that the spending was excessive, he was also contributing to the company at the same time. I don’t really know enough of the specifics to know whether he was taking more than he was putting in, or vice versa. What was clear, though, was that it wasn’t a great situation for my friend. He was the heart and soul of the business and the fire in its engine.

I asked him once why he didn’t quit. Early on, he could have very easily quit and started his own company. He was the brand. Later on it would have been more complicated, but still doable.

“Well, if I can’t trust myself to make it work with him, can I really trust myself to make it work with someone else?”

I thought that was a very profound idea. He could have talked about fear, or practicality, or even loyalty. Instead he turned it back upon himself and talked about principles.

This particular principle is incredibly important. It’s the junction of self-control, discipline, and confidence. If not this one, then which one?

Usually I like writing, but sometimes I just don’t feel like it. I’ve been hustling on SETT all day to knock out a few bugs before heading to Peru, and that little voice in the back of my head started to tell me that today I don’t need to write a post. This is an exception, it says. I’ll admit that I almost listened, too. But it’s ten thirty at night and I’m on a plane, ignoring the captain’s all-electronics-must-be-off speech. If I don’t write this post, how can I trust myself to write the next one?

This is part of why I’m so dedicated to SETT, too. I wrote about how I wouldn’t quit a while back, and while most people understood, a couple people offered the reasonable alternative that I should market test and give up if the tests didn’t go well. But I can’t do that, because if I give up on SETT, what options do I have left? I will have demonstrated that I can’t trust myself to follow through and push through adversity. Instead, I think– if not this idea, then which one? If people didn’t like SETT, I would have just worked at it until it was something they did like.

No habit is too small to go unchecked. About a week ago I had finished reading, turned off the light, and was drifting to sleep. Right as I was losing consciousness, I remembered that I had forgotten to floss. Now, flossing as a habit matters a good deal, but flossing on one particular night is pretty much irrelevant. That’s what I told myself, too. But see, it’s not about flossing– it’s about self trust. If I don’t floss today, what will happen if I forget tomorrow? And if I can’t trust myself to floss, can I trust myself to keep a todo list every day? And if I can’t trust myself to keep a todo list, can I trust myself to get key things done every single day?

It takes large volumes of action to build trust in yourself, and very little to break it. I’m constantly aware of that. Whenever I feel the urge to take the easy route on anything, I ask myself if I’ll be damaging my self trust. Often the answer is yes, so I don’t do it. Even if the answer is “probably not”, I don’t chance it. It’s that important.

Since you’re here, chances are you read my stuff and, even if you don’t like or agree with all of it, you probably get something out of most of it. In this one, I’ve given you something very concrete that you can work on– examine your habits and your impulses to take the easy road, and take the action that will build your self trust. Will you try it? Will you follow through? If you don’t… do you really think you’ll put the next one into action, or the one after that? Because I’ve got a theory…

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Photo is me walking across the Inca drawbridge at Machu Picchu. Not exactly allowed…

This post was written a few weeks ago before I went to Peru. Right now I’m in Tulum, Mexico. Heading back to SF for a couple weeks and then off to China. Glad to be traveling, but have already written a blog post about how it’s sort of dumb for me to be traveling so much right now. Then again, I didn’t leave the country this year until this month.

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