It's Your Ship to Steer

There’s this Jim Beam commercial I love. It’s called Bold Choices. It’s the best commercial I’ve ever seen. Yes, it’s a commercial advertising an alcoholic beverage, but it’s also a beautiful reminder that our lives are not on a strict path from birth, and the bigger the risks you take, the farther you could end up from where you started. No matter how many people we talk with, no matter how many alternatives we consider, our decisions are ultimately ours. We have to live with how we made them and who else they affected Figuring out why we make the choices we do can be the hardest work of all.

Twice in my career have I faced decisions where, when I consulted a web of usually reliable parents, friends, and mentors, I was left feeling morally dehydrated at the prospect of taking their advice. Everyone was telling me to do one thing, to act in my interest, to be strong, to be decisive. But something didn’t feel right.

In these moments, I asked myself whether I was suffering from confirmation bias or falling prey to sunk costs. After writing about it, thinking about it, the best I could do was feel pretty sure I was thinking clearly. But all these people who had been in tricky situations were telling me to look out for myself only. What did they know that I didn’t and how much would I regret not listening?

In both of these moments, I was out to find proof that there’s a more effective way of doing things that doesn’t involve stepping on others or solely looking out for myself. Because so many of our choices involve the systems we move through, advice from others, and what we’re exposed to, I don’t believe that a few decisions define who you are. But we are defined by the way we reflect on our choices and whether, moving forward, we can connect the how to our why. This week, when reading Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings, I realize that’s the journey I’m on. No matter what you do for a living, I hope you take a few minutes this week to remember his words:

“Journey before destination. There are always several ways to achieve a goal.”