I think it’s a good idea to try to plan my life as opposed to taking life as it comes. And I think the best way to begin planning my life is to think about my life as a whole. What do I want to do with my life, and more importantly, what kind of person do I want to be? The question of who I want to be is actually really easy for me to answer, at least at a really high level. The answer is that I want to be the wisest possible person. This is a vague declaration, so let me explain.
My definition of wisdom
When I think about wisdom, I think about life from the top down. I think about the most important parts of life first and the wisest way to approach those things. To me the most important parts of life include health, relationships, financial comfort, virtuosity and overall happiness. And to me wisdom is to take the most direct possible path to success in each of these areas.
I read a story about a guy who took a glass jar and, in front of an audience, filled the jar with rocks and asked if it was full. They said it was. Then he poured pebbles to fill the spaces between the rocks and asked if the jar was full. Then he poured sand in the spaces between the pebbles. Then he poured water into the jar. If the guy had done it in the opposite order it wouldn’t have worked. The point to the story was that you have to put the big rocks in first.
As I approach life I try to put the big rocks in first. Physical health is a pretty big rock, certainly bigger than, say, TV. So I’ve put a good amount of time over the last five years or so toward becoming healthier. I’ve put very little time into TV in the last five years.
Over the course of my pursuit of the wisest possible life I’ve discovered that there exist a set of “default priorities” which don’t strike me as particularly wise. The default life is to work at a job you don’t particularly like and accumulate a bunch of debt to ensure that you won’t get off the work/spend treadmill until you’re old.
To have priorities other than the default priorities requires a certain amount of going against the grain. The world seems to be built for people who share the default priorities, and so in my endeavor to free myself of the need for paid employment, I’ve encountered a fair amount of resistance.
I imagine the things I’m writing here would strike most people as obvious. Maybe these ideas are obvious, but it seems to me that they’re dramatically at odds with the way most people live. I’ve lived most of my life very unwisely so far, and it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve tried to follow a smarter path.