The Tattoo Rule

Photo by Felix Russell-Saw

I spend a lot of time talking about jumping right into an idea (e.g. this article), exploring the possibilities without thinking too much—simple going for it.

In many cases, this approach works wonders. You acting sooner, you are able to learn more about the thing you’re doing faster than you would have if you waited to begin. That learning will arm you with the information needed to do better in the future, regardless of your current level of success.

That being said, it’s important to weigh the risks involved. For example, if you have an idea for an app and want to pursue, go for it! Start immediately. But if you also have a family to feed, your leap of faith must have a plan for making sure roofs and meals are not compromised while you pursue your dream.

This is the idea behind what I call The Tattoo Rule. The rule goes like this:

If you want a tattoo, first choose its design, location, orientation, and size. Then wait a year. If the desire for the exact same tattoo remains, go get it!

Tattoos have a fair amount of risk involved because they are permanent(ish). That’s why it makes sense to wait until you really know what you want.

(I have, for the last four years, always had an idea for a tattoo. But it’s never lasted more than a year, so today I don’t have any artwork on my body. At the moment, I have three different ideas, but they’re unlikely to last the required year.)

The bigger, more generic rule we can pull out of it is this:

When there is a substantial amount of risk involved in a situation, give yourself time to organize and plan. Set a time period in which the pre-work will occur. Then, if after that period of time, you have what is a solid path forward, proceed. If not, ditch it and move on. Don’t let it keep festering.

We can apply this not just to tattoos, but to starting a business, major life changes, or even getting your hair cut.

It’s important to always understand the risk involved. But it’s more important to act when it’s appropriate and not let something fester forever.


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