In the last few years, I’ve had the good fortune of meeting people much smarter and older than me, including many that have set themselves up for life early.
As a result, I’ve always tried to integrate recurring ideas they share, but perhaps the most prevalent pattern I notice is the emphasis on a why over the how.
In my marathon of sprints, many times I’ve overemphasized the tools/skills I use to get to my goals (the how), instead of carefully choosing the right goals in the first place (the why).
I’ve often overindulged in perfecting how I will get there (trying to master tools/skills i.e Webflow, Tensorflow, or Django), instead of clearly thinking about where I am going first.
Perhaps the greatest danger I’ve been warned against, is spending so many decades perfecting abilities used to achieve great goals, that my life ends long before I ever figure out what intrinsic, lifelong goals actually make me happy.
It’s easy to spend all our lives trying to build the fastest and most effective sports car, without ever thinking about where to drive. But even the slow, run down car, that knows where it’s going, will always get farther than the sports car driving in circles.
The skills and abilities I craft can be a big part of my life, but ultimately they are not my life. It’s important to remember that I utilize them to get to important lifelong goals; they are tools I own and use, not the other way around.
In a world where our primary social labels are often literally our specific professional trades (i.e SWE or product designer), it’s easy to brashly attach my identity and lifelong efforts to the blind amassment of specific skills/trades, without ever thinking about my higher purpose.
What truly keeps us excelling at our worst days is not a generic idea of building professional skills or blanket career ascension, it’s our reasons for literally being alive.
It could be to financially support certain people we care about. Some form of worldly change we sincerely feel is imperative in our lifetime. Or maybe even some type of internal state of happiness we seek.
The skills I develop serve these goals.
We are not our professional trade. We are our intimately curated values and deep lifelong purpose. A properly thought out lifelong why is what drives the smartest people I know.
I have a long way to go to truly meet this standard. This piece is a reminder for my future self, to always keep the destination in mind before the means.