In the first post of this series, I discussed the value of being willing to do things by yourself. In this post, I’m going to talk about being open to unexpected opportunities.
Say “yes” to as many opportunities as possible.
Most people have plans and goals and bucket lists. Sometimes, however, you have the opportunity to try something unexpected. This could be a chance to go to a new restaurant, pick up a new hobby, or enter into a new line of work. It’s tempting to stay in your comfort zone, but trying new things can make your life immensely more rich and interesting. Not everything you try will be a great experience, but some things will be, and it’s not unusual for some small event to cause a chain reaction that changes your entire life for the better.
How do you decide whether to say “yes”?
My personal philosophy is that, assuming you have enough free time, it makes sense to say “yes” to almost anything that doesn’t have a high associated cost. For example, if someone asks you if you want to try rock climbing or windsurfing or a Fijian restaurant, it’s almost always worth it to go. If you don’t like the experience, you might have lost $25 and a couple of hours of time, which is only mildly unpleasant. On the other hand, you might find a new life-long passion or meet your future best friend or at least have a great story to tell. Either way, you tried something interesting and expanded your horizons. Maybe you didn’t enjoy rock climbing because you got tired quickly, so you decide to start working on your endurance. Or maybe you didn’t like anything at the Fijian restaurant except for the kava drink, and you decide to buy that on Amazon. Or maybe you really got nothing out of experience — sometimes that’s okay, too.
More “costly” opportunities should considered more carefully. If you’re a lawyer and one of your friends tells you they think you’d make a great chef, you can’t just drop everything and apply to Le Cordon Bleu. If you get a chance to go Masa in NYC, you should first figure out if you actually have $500 and if you like sushi that much. When you have the chance to do something interesting but risky, it’s wise to remove some of that risk with smaller experiments. This might mean trying to exactly replicate a recipe from a high-end cookbook, or going to a $15pp and a $40pp Japanese restaurant and seeing if you actually appreciate the difference between a good sushi meal and a great one. If your initial experiments are promising, you can follow-up with bigger experiments, or take the plunge.
For illustrative purposes, here are few things I’ve tried in the past year just because the opportunities presented themselves:
- Rock climbing. This was an awesome experience and now I find myself climbing for 10+ hours per week.
- Yoga. This was interesting, but not interesting enough for me to make time for it on a regular basis.
- Archery. Same as yoga.
- Visiting a ghost town. This was much more creepy than cool.
- Fine dining. One of my friends had never tried molecular gastronomy, so we went to a restaurant with 2 Michelin Stars. It didn’t live up to its reputation (or its price!), but it was still fun and I’m glad I got to introduce my friend to something new.
- Angel Investing/Business Advising. I tried this on a whim when some friends were launching a startup investment fund, and I ended up find the process to fun and educational that I’m now focusing my professional efforts on this rather than on software engineering.
- Reading books people have recommended. Some of the books were enjoyable (West with the Night), others were educational (King Leopold’s Ghost, Common Sense), and one was somewhat life-changing (Give and Take). A few of the recs were duds, but a few hours of time is such a small price to pay for understanding your friends better.