Full Commitment is The Tipping Point
By May 28, 2023– Published on
My wife launched a new business this week. The industry is controversial. Immediately a wave of haters appeared online, unfortunately, some of whom she considered friends.
An important reminder: When the lazy spectators start criticizing, it means you are doing something of consequence.
Leave them in the dirt, Baby.
This raises a question - how should we respond to critics?
The answer is not straightforward. The risk with listening to critics is not that they will make us quit what we are doing; the risk is that we will stop voyaging outside of our comfort zones and instead - play it safe.
The risk is that they will make us conform.
During the early days of Covid, I wrote an article exploring the history of capital allocation during a crisis. Typically, a surge of money starts flowing in the direction of the problem, and whether or not it solves the problem, discoveries of some kind are made.
Many critical medical breakthroughs - from penicillin to blood transfusions to reconstructive surgeries, came from periods of war.
Nuclear power was discovered because we pursued an atomic bomb.
Twenty-five years later, the internet was created in response to the threat of nuclear war.
In my early Covid article, I argued that we would see positive medical breakthroughs in response to Covid - even if they weren’t the breakthroughs we were looking for (penicillin was discovered by accident). I received a lot of hate for this article - people did not want to consider the positive outcomes of a pandemic.
Weeks later, I wrote an article opposing mandated health procedures and supporting the civil rights of protestors. I received a lot of hate for this article, also.
In both cases, my inbox flooded with people telling me to keep my mouth shut, that I had stepped too far to one side or the other. I was called both a conformist sheep and a conspiracy theorist in the same month.
Although none of these critics made me want to quit, they did make me wonder if I was pushing too far into uncomfortable topics - and this is the real risk of listening to critics.
The more we push into uncomfortable territory, the louder our critics become. The typical response, therefore, is to trim our controversial edges and trend back towards the centre.
What occurs when we trend back to the centre?
In effect, we are planning for mediocrity.
Most people would deny that they do this - most would claim that they stick to their guns under pressure, and if people want to throw shade their way, they would cut their losses and move forward.
But the evidence is to the contrary.
Bonnie Ware was an Australian palliative care nurse who spent 20 years caring for people as they died. She documented her patients’ final sentiments before they passed on.
The most common?
“I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
After twenty years of listening to people on their deathbeds, the most common sentiment was that people had responded to feedback and trended back to the centre - where they believed other people wanted them to be.
Do you think you are the exception? I hope that you are.
We owe a debt of service to Bonnie Ware for publishing this insight - and to the thousands of people who did not live the life they wanted yet had the generosity to share this on their deathbeds.
Let us learn from this.
When everyone is going left, how can we go right? How do we stay original in the face of objection?
But courage is rarely what we think. When we imagine courage, we envision a warrior at the front of an army, sword above their head, staring fearlessly into the eyes of their enemy.
It sounds romantic.
In reality, courage feels more like stupidity.
It feels like you are moving counter to the best advice you have access to.
It feels illogical - like everyone else is wrong, but somehow you are right.
It feels like letting people down who wanted something different than what you wanted for yourself.
It feels uncomfortable, anxious, and doubtful.
It feels like all of this… until the moment when we fully commit. Then, courage takes a new form.
A lifetime ago, I worked on a ranch. A good friend of mine was a bull rider. I spotted him once in the cage. In rodeo, the spotter holds the cowboy around the chest as he mounts the bull before his ride.
The action starts when the cage door opens - the bull explodes out of the gate, and the cowboy wrestles to hang on for eight seconds.
I remember looking at this 800-pound, muscled-up, horned beast in the cage and thinking; this is next-level terrifying.
After the rodeo, I spoke to my friend about his process. He told me that every single time he was getting suited up, he felt like he had made a horrible decision. As he walked to the cage, he would have to force one foot in front of the other, as every muscle in his body wanted to move the other way.
But his energy would shift once he stepped over the bull’s back, tied in, and looked to the gate operator before giving him an “I’m ready” nod. He had passed the point of no return - he was fully committed.
At this point, courage turned from fear to focus.
Courage is not the absence of fear but the presence of fear, yet moving forward regardless.
I used to go through the same process when I was whitewater kayaking. As we approached a big rapid, we would get out of our boats to scout the hazards.
Every time, my primary emotion was fear and doubt. Whitewater kayaking is an unforgiving sport. People die every year. I would stare at the rushing water and wonder what on earth I was trying to prove.
But as soon as I was back in my boat, putting in my final stroke as I went over the drop, there would be nothing in my mind but focus and flow.
What can we learn from bull riding and whitewater kayaking?
There is a tipping point that turns fear into focus. The tipping point is full commitment:
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.
― William Hutchison Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition
Critics rarely make us quit. More often, they make us hesitate from going all in on who we truly want to be.
Listen to the words of Bonnie Ware, and leave your critics in the dirt.
“Our place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” - Theodore Roosevelt
This week I will get a bit more granular with my portfolio and will share my core speculative positions. Nothing I write or say is investment advice. You are the only one responsible for your investment decisions. ...
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