Be brave and follow your own path
“Alex, you’re so lucky to have the life you have!”
Yes, I am blessed with my life. I wake up every morning thanking my amazing family and all the people I meet and work with on a daily basis.
But let me be clear, it’s no accident. It’s not coincidental I have the life I like. Nor it was easy.
While many attribute my life to “luck,” I can tell you my life is not a product of random chance. It’s the consequence of deliberate and methodical choices. As I once read somewhere:
“The only choice you don’t have is the choice of not choosing.”
Our lives are the by-products of such options. Sometimes they are small and apparently inconsequential. Other times they’re big, and their consequences ripple through the fabric of our lives and those around us.
I’ve come to believe that the big difference between other people and me is how I analyze and make those choices.
Many years ago I faced one of those moments that you know will define your future. I went to finish my degree in the US. I arrived at UC Berkeley with a goal, to nail my exams and then try to get accepted into the Ph.D. program there.
I spent four incredible months at Berkeley. They were also four excruciating months. I struggled with my decision. On one side I loved research and the possibility of getting my Ph.D. On the other hand, I also loved doing things; applied science and entrepreneurship.
Doing my Ph.D. meant leaving my life in Spain, breaking up with my girlfriend and devoting six years of my life to research. Going back to Spain meant going back to unemployment or shit freelancing jobs.
It was then, when my mom, sensing my doubts, gave me a quote that changed and challenged my views of the world. She said:
“Look, Alex, you need to be honest and ask yourself, is it better to be the head of a mouse or the tail of a lion?”
I cursed her. More riddles. Let me tell you a secret; there is no answer to the question. It’s about a life choice. Should I try to be a lion and pursue the “traditional” way of getting a Ph.D. and then get a great job in the US? Or should I drop everything and just start something up and take my chances.
There it is. Another critical moment in life. None of the choices were easy. One seemed like a great future but implied an immediate sacrifice. The other choice was more comfortable in the short term but very uncertain on the long run.
After meditating it, I took the one choice that would define me for years. I decided I was happy with being a mouse. I realized I wasn’t made for being a lion. I cared too much, too deeply for my relationships. I felt, deep down, what I was good at, wasn’t research but doing things.
Up to this day, I have zero regrets. I got back to my girlfriend, who then became my wife. I started my entrepreneurial career and founded four startups. And I’m now sitting here writing this.
What I learned was that, despite our choices, the only way to be happy is by making the choice that resonates with you. That path that’s yours to take.
We are a stream. You can make the water land here or there. You can dam it, or you can make the water rush. You can make the water take a turn or spend more time on certain shores. But what you can’t do is make the water go upstream.
When we try to take a path that isn’t ours, we feel it. Something in the back of our head screams at you. Some people are good at ignoring that voice. The truth is, that voice never makes the easy choice. On the contrary, it tends to pull you towards the most uncertain, tortuous and scary path.
With time, if you haven’t managed to silence that voice completely, you’ll feel better. Taking the road least traveled will become second nature. You’ll ignore peer pressure, social convention, and even rational arguments. Because you know, that path is what you need to do; it’s what your core is built for.
What from the outside looks grim, uncertain and dangerous, from the inside, it’s fun, fresh and entertaining.
It’s not easy. It will take you into sordid and unrealistic situations. But it’s also true that if the path resonates with your soul, then it’s heaven for you. What from the outside looks grim, uncertain and dangerous, from the inside, it’s fun, fresh and entertaining.
All roads lead to Rome, so do all life paths if they match your core.
So next time you need to make a life choice, listen carefully. Pick your choice. Are you a lion or are you a mouse?. And whatever you choose, make sure you are true to your nature. All roads lead to Rome, so do all life paths if they match your core.
Be brave, breathe and take the plunge.