It seems like I have been exploring possibilities over the last decade. From ages 6 to 35, I could not imagine a life that did not have me running a biomedical research laboratory. Everything was focused in that direction. College at 16; Grad school at 20; PhD by 26; Independent lab by 28. Secured NIH funding, etc. And then one day it all changed.
- March 2003 – The organization I was with almost closed down. I was blindsided by this. I was as dismayed by the events, as I was by not foreseeing them.
- January 2004 – Started my MBA. I would not miss such events in the future.
- September 2005 – Started my first foray into academic administration, began running the organization that almost closed.
- May 2006 – Finished MBA.
- January 2008 – Left scientific research to run an entrepreneurship center in a business school! Walked away from almost 3 years of NIH funding. Colleagues thought I was crazy but it was very fun. And I could not quite give up the lab; I still went in every weekend for almost 3 years before closing it for good. A colleague took over day to day operations.
- July 2008 – Filed for divorce.
- Oct 2008 – Tubes tied. 2008 was a year of major changes personally & professionally. Turned 40; also got the mid-life crisis convertible. Clearly, stereotypes exist for a reason.
- December 2010 – Sold house – began itinerant adventure from storage/shipping POD to rental to POD to rental, etc.
- Jan 2011 – Left Denver, CO and took a job in Tallahassee, FL running a research and development authority. Great learning experience; met some fantastic people. Never quite got over the culture shock. Missed CO desperately.
- July 2012 – Returned to Denver, CO – took about a year to travel, consult for a wide range of entities, & figure out what was next.
- July 2013 – Started working as Director of Operations for Colorado’s Statewide Internet Portal Authority. Fantastic organization. Love the work; the mission aligns with my values. Great people. Learn something just about every day.
- May 2014 – Bought Townhouse.
And the commentary on my home buying has been humorous. “So you’re settling down” “Sinking roots” “Committing to Denver” “A mortgage is a big commitment” “I thought you were a nomad” “Will you get a dog now?”
Choice can be paralyzing. There are so many fantastic options. Which should you choose? And if you pick one, will you miss the ever better and shinier one that appears tomorrow? Oh, look, something shiny, over there….
And not choosing, keeping your options open, causes just as many options or perhaps more, to disappear. Because most things are available for a moment, a blink, leap now, or lose your chance.
I feel the tension between choosing and keeping my options open pretty much every moment of every day. Satisifice or Optimize/Maximize?
Interestingly, research by Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, shows that reversible, keep-your-options-open decisions reliably lead to lower levels of satisfaction than irreversible ones. In other words, we are significantly less happy with our choices when we can back out of them. (ref: Why keeping your options open is a really really bad idea )
More than a year ago I stumbled across this article: This column will change your life: settling ‘Is it ever best to settle for a relationship, career, or anything else that’s less than you’d hoped for?’
The entire article is worth reading but I’ve been chewing on this bit since January of 2013:
Goodin, by contrast, gets down to fundamentals. He defines “settling” in any area of life as the decision to give up seeking the optimal outcome in that area, at least for now. But this isn’t just sometimes wise, he argues: rather, it’s intrinsic to any kind of meaningful existence. Why? Because virtually all human activity requires some stability, some fixed points, some closed-off options. Sign a job contract, and you’re committing to showing up on Monday morning, instead of jetting off abroad in search of better opportunities. Get married, and you’re agreeing to stop auditioning other candidates. (The same applies to renting a flat, choosing a bank.) Trust depends on predictable behaviour, and society – from government to marriage to commerce – depends on trust. Even the opposite of settling, striving, depends on settling. Decide to become, say, a world-famous architect, and you must commit to architecture, thereby closing off the option of exploring alternative paths to fulfilment. We imagine we have to decide between a life of settling, or one of striving. In fact, he points out, we must settle, in order to do anything worthwhile.
And if I haven’t quite convinced you, I found an article today on the 10 overlooked truths about taking action.
It’s a long read but worth the investment. My favorite quote:
The world is full of men who are “stuck” in life. There has been some mass paralysis. Modern man has forgotten how to take action.
The key for me here is that taking action implies making a choice, choosing a path and moving forward on it. Some doors, some options will be closed or lost when you do.
So this is a very long way for me to say that I just bought a house (and committed to a 30 year mortgage) and I feel fine about it.