A life unedited

I want to do everything.

I want to excel in my work.

I want to build a thriving business.

I want to write a book.

I want to read more books.

I want to create music and perform.

I want to grow in wisdom and knowledge.

I want to lead my family well.

I want to foster deep relationships.

I want to meditate on God's character and goodness.

I want to stay current with technology trends.

I want to become an expert in my field.

I want to go on vacation.

... and a million other things.

But I can't do them all.

Everything I choose to do, I do at the expense of something else.

If I'm spending time meeting with a group of friends, I am not advancing my business.

If I'm working to become more skilled in my craft, I am not investing in my family.

If I'm writing music, I'm not learning about the latest technology trends.

Life is a series of trade-off decisions

But I've been sold a lie. The lie that you can have everything, do everything, and be everything.

Don't get me wrong. There is some truth in the saying "You can be anything you want if you just put your mind to it".

I've experienced it.

I wasn't always a runner. My wife can attest that when we got married, I was the furthest thing from an athlete. But today, I have completed 8 half marathons, a 200 mile relay, and 2 sets of 100 consecutive 5Ks.

Today I'm a runner.

I used to work in sales for a telecom company. Then one day a couple friends and I decided to start building mobile apps (including this one).

We built a collection of apps that soared to the top of the charts in over 50 countries around the world.

Today, I'm an engineering leader.

I'm not suggesting that if I put my mind to it, I could become an elite NFL quarterback at this point in my life or anything like that. There are limits.

The point is, the saying is about becoming anything you want, not everything.

I can't become everything.

I can't do everything.

I'm not God.

I am finite.

I know a lot of people who struggle to embrace this reality.

Heck, I have worked for companies that struggle to acknowledge this reality and the result is always the same.

We try to do it all.

When we try to do it all, we do none of it well.

If you've ever tried to do it all, or work with a group of people who try to do it all, you know that there's no joy in it.

There's very little reward in the marginal advancement of a series of objectives.

It's only when we stop pretending we can do it all that we're free to give focused effort to a few things and really move them forward.

This means eliminating good ideas. Good things end up on the cutting room floor.

If a movie director was unwilling to cut good scenes that detract from the overall story, the movie would be long, boring, and ultimately terrible.

In the same way, a life unedited is a life of disconnected bits and pieces that no one will get excited about... not even you!

I have to remind myself of this often.

There's always one more thing for me to learn, experience, or accomplish, and if I try to do them all, I know I'll do none of them well.

It's easy to say no to bad ideas and horrible experiences. It's much harder to set aside something good or even great to give full attention, energy, and resources to something worth truly pursuing.

"But they're all worth truly pursuing," you say.

That's not the point.

Trying to pursue everything worth pursuing will leave you having truly pursued nothing.

I have to stop giving a sliver of effort to 100 different things.

Instead, I want to move a few things forward in a meaningful way.

Then a few more.

Then a few more.

I just can't tackle them all at once.

... and neither can you.

Mark Armstrong

Mark Armstrong

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