Until a couple of years ago I never really had mentors that told me what to do. Maybe sometimes you also find yourself dabbling around with useless stuff hiding under the umbrella that you’re exploring your curiosity and expanding your knowledge.
And if you get trapped in this vicious circle of motion for too long you’ll end up in your diapers in a retirement home asking yourself “Where did all my time go?”
You don’t want to get there. So this is what you need to understand.
Life is one big game. And like any game, it’s divided into two main parts. The tutorial and the campaign story. That’s pretty much how our lives are also organized.
Until the age of 20–25 you’re stuck in a tutorial mode. In the early stages of the tutorial, you learn how to speak, walk, play, interact with other campaign players who are just starting the game. Then you progress to developing some basic skills and to rank up the points in creativity, intelligence, physical abilities, social skills. Like in most games, one of these traits will be the dominating one. Further down the tutorial you might go to school, college, take some odd jobs and explore on the side other passions and curiosities. They are like side tutorials that unlock a couple of extra features for when you finally decide to press PLAY and start the real game.
Usually, after your first quarter of a century, you should have a general idea of what you like and what you have a slight advantage over everybody else. Or if you don’t know that at least you have a good idea of what you don’t like and what is not suited for you. For example, I’m 6’4″ and I don’t really enjoy riding horses (yeah, I’m that kind of guy) therefore I know I don’t want to become a jockey and try to explore the world of horseback riding. But I do have a couple of ideas of what I really enjoy doing even if at the surface it might appear that I can’t monetize it, yet.
Many people in their mid-twenties are lost and have no clue what they want to do. They refuse to play the game. And therefore they lose by default. That’s because they don’t understand the basics of the game and how each part helps you. People play the first 25 years of their life looking to gain one thing: certainty. Go to school to gain certainty. Go to college to gain more certainty. Get any job to gain more certainty. Get into any relationship to gain more certainty.
The search for certainty kills any possible chances of winning the campaign in the long term. If you know how a game ends even before starting it would be a pretty boring game wouldn’t it? The search for certainty makes us approach everything at a superficial level.
In my tutorial years, I’ve tried everything that was thrown in my way. I tried every possible sport at least once. I had careers as a salesman, waiter, bartender, engineer, trainer, public speaker, construction worker, teacher, product manager, designer, photographer, writer, marketer, animator, and many others. And I’ve learned a couple of things about myself. I realized some things are easier for me to accomplish than others. I realized that what is difficult for others to me it’s way easier. I also learned that some things that I thought I really wanted to do because they seemed cool I was really bad at. I was worse than average because I couldn’t put in the work and drive to accomplish them. The end result was not worth the process for me.
Until a couple of years ago, I was lost myself. Because I was still playing in this mess and always feeling uncertain of what I should actually do.
What is my passion?
If you weren’t a complete couch potato until your mid 20s you probably added some point in your player statistics. You might not know what your passion is but you do have a general idea of what you’re good at and what you’d like to pursue further. The only problem is that you’re uncertain. People put too much emphasis on finding a purpose, a life vision, and other crap like that. Just the idea of setting a vision for yourself when you’re in your mid-twenties can have a paralyzing effect.
And this is the most important step in actually playing the game properly. There is a system that you can follow to help you figure out what to do next. It’s the secret sauce to switching from survival mode to playing to win at the highest level possible.
Become a minimalist. The best players are not the overall well-rounded players that try to cover every flaw they have so they can finally feel certain. The winners take a good look at themselves based on the tutorial they played for so long. Then they double down on the skills that can bring the most impact and make them the most valuable in a specific environment. They focus on the main ideas where they saw that they have a slight clue of how not to suck at it horribly and pursue that further.
Do you think Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, or Tony Robbins had a life vision in their 20s? No, they didn’t. But once they became famous their advice for everyone else was “just follow your purpose”. Which is complete crap advice. They became blinded by their own success. What they actually did at the beginning is that based on the tutorial they played so far they doubled down on what they saw they were OK at and pursued it religiously. They had no certainty that anything will work out. They just had the self-trust that they know a couple of things that they don’t suck at as much. Their vision became a funnel vision. They focused on winning the game instead of playing not to lose. That slight shift makes all the difference.
Here’s a practical system that you can start implementing right now to figure out how to get out of the tutorial loop and develop the self-trust to finally press the PLAY button and rack up some meaningful experience points.
Write down everything you ever enjoyed doing since you were 10 years old until now. Make it a list of about 20–25 things. Don’t skip this part. It’s really important that you dive deep into understanding what makes you tick.
Write down how those things evolved for you until the present moment. How can that interest you had as a kid still be an interest for you today? For example, let’s say that when you were 10 you really enjoyed watching superhero movies. Now when you’re an adult you probably didn’t develop superhero powers (prove me wrong here Peter Parker!) but maybe you developed other skills in the meanwhile like understanding storytelling basics and creative thinking. That could help you work in many different areas such as animator, game developer, comic book writer etc.
Do this for each one of your interests on that list.
Link and expand your interests. Maybe out of the list of 20 things you can combine them to create new jobs and opportunities. For example, interest #4 might be storytelling and interest #9 might be psychology. So a possible route for success might be jobs such as marketing consultant or salesperson.
Crosscheck all your interests and hobbies and see if some of them can be grouped together.
Now after you combined all your interests together it’s time to organize them in terms of resources and time. Resources can be family, friends, connections, opportunities, courses and other tools that are available in your current situation. It all boils down to the maximum return on investment in the optimal amount of time. If you have a passion that would take 10 years to see any concrete results maybe you would put that back of the queue. For example, you want to write a crime series novel but you have no idea what to do or where to start. What you could do instead is you could start a blog where you write short 1000 word stories and develop more your creative style while getting feedback from a small niche audience. You want to develop the next Facebook but have no idea where and how to start? Build an app with minimal functionality that fixes one main problem for a couple of smartphone users. Put that on an online store and figure out the next steps once you get some concrete feedback.
Organize them from most likely to least likely to happen with your current circumstances and available time.
Until this point, you should’ve written down the things that you have a slight clue on how to start and you’ve also set the metrics to measure your success.
Now you take your list, the one that you’ve been working on for a while now and you start counting them from the top. Select the first 5 interests that you arranged in terms of resources needed and time investment. Write them on a clean sheet of paper and then throw the original list away. Forever. As much as you love the rest they will only distract you from achieving any type of success in the areas you’re really relevant to. Your time is limited on this planet. A person can only achieve a finite number of things in a lifetime. You love them but you don’t love them enough to make them your top 5. They just seem cool and interesting.
They need to go.
The minimalism doesn’t stop there. You need to find out what is the most important thing you can start doing right now. And what’s important can be found at the intersection between 4 big elements:
- What you enjoy doing
- What you are good at
- What the world needs
- What you can get paid for
Based on the urgency of your situation you might focus on them differently. Maybe you enjoy cooking, you’re good at it, the world needs healthier recipes and you can definitely get paid for building nutritional plans for people that are looking to improve their health. It’s something that you can get really good at and popular within 6 months of structured work.
Commit to that One Thing out of the list of 5 that you can pursue the next 1–2 years. That should give you enough time to figure out if you can actually get any results from the process. And if you’ve tried everything within your powers: found the right mentors, tried all possible sales strategies, improved your nutritional knowledge, promoted your products everywhere, did cold calls, knocked on doors etc and you still failed because the timing and execution were just off it’s fine. You still have 4 more interests you can go back to. And the great thing about all this process is that you develop so many skills by just committing to something and pursuing it religiously. You develop grit. You gain incredible work ethic. You learn to communicate better and faster. You learn how to connect with people faster. You learn when and how to ask for help. All of this will help you conquer any uncertainty whenever it creeps back in your life.
You’re still in the game and you’re still playing it at the best of your capabilities and that’s what matters the most.
Are you too young to start something meaningful? Probably. Are you too old to start all over again? Most likely. But why bother with these excuses? Why do something you don’t enjoy because you’re too old in exchange for something you love? Doesn’t matter if you’re 20 or 60. Break out of the average game and play to win.
Most people will take the average game. The stakes are lower but the path to success is better defined. And that’s completely fine. But if you want bigger wins and still have the energy to back it up you need to be honest with yourself and do the work that’s important. The regular advice is to become a lawyer, a banker, or an engineer because that’s where the average game is higher. But if you don’t really enjoy these career paths or you can’t find meaning in this kind of work you will never snap out of mediocrity. The best hairdresser or the best cook in the world will always be more successful and make more money than the average engineer or lawyer.
To win the game of life you need to become a minimalist. Every day I get in contact with people who are way too busy and love to complain about how busy they are and how they are working on 50 things at once. Stop wasting time being mediocre and cut down on 90% of the activities that don’t really move you anywhere. You’ve been playing the tutorial for far too long.
Time to double down on your strengths. Do the exercises. Press play.
And then do the work.