I was having a conversation with a good friend of mine about life in general, and it went like this:
Friend: “…so as I’ve previously mentioned to you, character is destiny.”
Me: “…? I’m very sure you didn’t mention this to me before.”
Friend: “Oh, I didn’t? Can’t remember where I saw it also… Anyway it just means that who you are as a person shapes how your life would be.”
I was intrigued by this chat mainly because of two things:
- I usually remember things that people tell me. So I was very sure he hadn’t mentioned the phrase to me before.
- It sounded like a neat way to rephrase another similar line from a well-known poem, Invictus by William Ernest Henley:
“I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”
Do you have regrets in life?
We were generally chatting about regrets in life and asked each other if we had any. We came to the conclusion that we both had none, and proceeded to discuss a little more about why we thought so.
To provide a recent example, I was ready to find myself an overseas opportunity in early 2020 due to personal aspirations. I had prepped myself for a couple years and, this was going to be my year! While I started to apply, COVID happened, visa restrictions emerged and my plans were thrown off.
After a few more months, I interviewed with a local company which I feel is solving a meaningful and challenging problem. When asked about my longer term plan, I did mention that I’d like to work overseas someday and COVID disrupted my plans. We had the following conversation:
Him: “Does this mean when travel gets back to normal, you’d quit our company and go overseas?”
Me: “Going overseas to work is not the only thing I would like to do in life. If I don’t have the opportunity to go overseas, it doesn’t mean I’m not excited by other things, such as working with your company, or being open to other opportunities that come along.”
If for some reason you are unable to get what you want, and it isn’t due to the fact that you didn’t do your best, there is nothing to regret. Sometimes, certain things are not within our control, and it’s okay. There’s so many other things to try in life.
Stoicism: Things you can and cannot control
Stoicism. As unorthodox as it may seem, the first time I noticed this concept was when I was watching a Pewdiepie video (when his house got robbed). If you know the world’s most famous YouTuber, he is actually a huge proponent of stoicism.
There are two main principles of stoicism:
- There are things we can, and cannot control. Our unhappiness mainly stems from thinking we can control things which we actually can’t.
- It’s not things that upset us, but it is how we think about things.
If you did your best, there is nothing to regret if things don’t go your way because of elements you cannot control. You cannot control when your body gets sick, or what people feel, do or say around you.
But what you can control is how you choose to, for instance, perform at your job, treat other people, yourself, and even the way your mind thinks about things.
It’s not your only option
There is a comment in The Almanack of Naval Ravikant, where he mentions:
“…There are tons and tons of options. We live on a planet of seven billion people, and we are connected to everybody on the internet. There are hundreds of thousands of careers available to you. There are so many choices.
You’re biologically not built to realize how many choices there are. Historically, we’ve all evolved in tribes of 150 people.”
If you don’t get what you want, it doesn’t mean you can’t do a million other things in life. I personally feel it’s about how open you are to opportunities, and also how badly you want it.
How badly do you want it?
I will never forget an analogy one of my ex-bosses positioned to me, when we were chatting about product development and about reducing friction for customers to attain a certain goal.
Me: “How much friction should we reduce in the user flow?”
Boss: “You see, imagine you have a $10,000 bill on the other side of a very high wall. Most people will do whatever it takes to climb over that wall, no matter the amount of friction. Find a ladder, train hard to be able to jump over, whatever. But if you remove the wall, and also remove the $10,000, why would the person even walk to the same spot?”
Think back of a time where you wanted to learn something new, or fulfil certain New Year resolutions that you’ve set for yourself. Coding? Exercising? Learning a new language? You know it is painful because it’s something unfamiliar.
But if you stopped, why did you stop doing it? Did you really want it badly enough? Do you want that $10,000 bill enough to find all ways and means to climb over the wall? (My boss’ point was not only about friction, but motivation too.)
Do you want the $10,000? How will you get it?
People who I look up to have sacrificed a lot personally to get to where they are today. They’ve always been relentlessly resourceful in trying to get things done, and they are always an inspiration to me.
Character is Destiny
I googled this sentence the next day, and it turns out it was mentioned by a Greek philosopher, Heraclitus.
How you live your life is how you choose to view it. Live it without regrets, and always do what you can.
Ending this post with how Jeff Bezos quit his job to start the very first version of Amazon at 30 years old: Regrets come more often from inaction rather than action.
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