How often do we pursue something purely as a means to do something else?
I spoke to a former co-worker of mine who’s now working as a business coach. She has her own practice and own coaching methodology.
But the last time we caught up, a few years ago, she was participating in some kind of coaching accreditation program. Many people assume you need some sign of approval before you can work in a particular profession.
This is certainly true for coaches. But also for authors, consultants, and other expert-level jobs. While I think the system accreditation serves a purpose, it’s not always the best path.
Degrees and certificates function as shortcuts. If someone has a degree from a certain university, you can assume that person has a certain level of academic ability and persistence.
The same is true for financial roles. A certified financial planner in the US has gone through an extensive training program, which doesn’t cost a lot of time, but also money. These types of stamps of approval are helpful.
But the problem arises when we pursue a certain degree and certificate purely as a means to do something else.
Sometimes life is so draining that you feel too tired to make a decision. We say things like:
- “I want to work out but I can’t get up from the couch after dinner!”
- “I don’t find my work fulfilling but I can’t quit!”
It requires willpower to do anything, whether that’s eating healthy, working out, being a supportive partner, or starting a business.
I look at the concept of willpower as mental energy. Whenever you want to do something, you need to dedicate energy to that. Whether you can follow through on your intention or not depends on willpower.
In my experience, you can set your life up in a way so you can maximize willpower/mental energy. But before we get into that, let’s look at the science.
“Make money while you sleep!” — That slogan became popular in the longest secular bull market in the US stock market, which ran from August 1982 to December 1999. During that 17-year timespan, stocks returned an inflation-adjusted return of 1,128%.
Isn’t that the dream? To get rich without working?
In Bull: A History of the Boom and Bust, 1982-2004, the financial journalist and author, Maggie Maher, observed that dream started during the 80s:
Almost 100 years ago, the Russian biologist, Ivan Schmalhausen, developed the Stabilizing Selection theory. He described how a species that evolves to be excellent at one thing tends to become more unsafe to another. That’s why there are no perfect species.
For example, a tall tree captures more sunlight but it becomes more susceptible to wind damage. Siberian huskies need a lot of muscle to pull sleds, but they have to remain light enough to stand atop the ice.
Among humans, babies of low weight lose heat more quickly and get ill from infectious diseases more easily. Meanwhile, larger and heavier babies are more difficult to deliver through the pelvis. That’s likely why most people have “average” height. It’s easier for humans to survive when they’re born with just the right birth weight.
There are always inefficiencies in nature. Becoming perfect tends to backfire, so species rarely evolve to become perfect at anything. These imperfections are what allow us all to survive and thrive.