“Don’t be a maybe” — every Marlboro commercial not so long ago
Cigarettes are trash. There is not a single good thing about them. They’re expensive, they make you smell like an ashtray, heavily impact your athletic ability and worst of all, they kill you. To a rational mind, there is absolutely no point in smoking a cigarette. Want a high? Go lift some weights. Flirt with a beautiful woman. Play an instrument. But don’t ruin your body and your wallet for the sake of being cool, getting a buzz or getting to know people — the usual “excuses” smokers have. There are plenty of alternatives for that.
That being said, I’m a big fan of cigarette commercials. More specifically, of the Marlboro commercials a while ago. Their line was “don’t be a maybe”. And while they were referring to the feeling of freedom that you get when you smoke, I liked the overall message. You really shouldn’t be a maybe. As a matter of fact, the word “maybe” should not even exist in your vocabulary. But in order to elaborate that, let me back up a little bit.
It’s summer in Frankfurt, and my birthday is coming up. I may or may not be throwing a rad house party (of course I won’t, dear landlords), but for the sake of this exercise, let’s assume there will be one. From my startup experience, I know that it’s essential to make a proper plan several weeks before the deadline, or even earlier. Else, you start going into firefighting mode, and then productivity drops and costs skyrocket. Not ideal.
So I’m sitting here, thinking about all sorts of stuff — how much beer will we need, how many red cups do I still need to order, is our apartment actually going to be big enough to hold all the people? The big questions in life. In order to get any idea how many people will be attending, I take a look at the Facebook event.
Some people are going. Some haven’t seen it yet. Some can’t make it due to one reason or another — either way, I know what’s up. And where is the majority?
What do you mean, maybe? You might be able to make it? You just don’t know yet? The event is in two days but you’re not sure? You’re keeping other options open just in case? To quote my former Canadian lacrosse coach: “FUCK.”
Do you not have control over your life? Are you not able to distinguish for yourself what’s important and what’s not? Are you simply a playing ball of fate? I don’t think so. If you were, you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog.
It’s really not hard to make or not make the commitment. In fact, it’s a binary decision. Zero or one. Yes or no. There is no alternative. Either you’ll be there or you won’t. Sounds easy, right?
Nowadays, we live in a society where it’s easy to stay uncommitted. Your phone empowers you to always back out last minute, to always check out what you might be missing: you could go to this party or that party, go to Madrid or to London, attend a lacrosse tournament or go hiking. That all sounds nice and could potentially be really awesome. It’s cool to be able to do so many things. Yet in the end, without making a commitment to anything, you’re falling into two traps: the paradox of choice and missing out on anticipation.
The Paradox of Choice
The paradox of choice states: the more options you have, the harder it is to make a decision. The harder a decision is to make, the less likely you’re going to make it. And that’s how you end up not doing anything on a weekend night with thousands of options — you’re simply paralyzed by the amount of information you have to process. There is only one way to get out of the paradox of choice: making a commitment. Making one decision and then sticking with it. This also includes not asking “What if?”, because that question will leave you circling back and forth around that decision.
Face your FOMO, and show up. Treat the decision as one that lies in your past and that you cannot influence. Thinking about it this way frees up a lot of mental capacity, giving you a chance to actually make some really important decision, such as “what do I want to do with my life?”.
Studies have shown that doing cool things makes people happy. What’s more interesting: anticipation of doing these cool things makes people even happier than actually doing them. Looking forward to something is one of the most amazing things that we can do.
I’ve never understood why my parents would book their vacation one year in advance. Wow. Who plans that far? I certainly don’t. I just thought my parents were planning freaks who cannot deal with going into the unknown. But I’ve changed my mind: while they still may be obsessed with planning things, one thing that’s even more important to them is anticipation. They love looking forward to traveling somewhere, and they also look forward to doing all these cool things that they will be doing (because they’ve already planned them and booked them — or, in other words, committed to them).
I’m looking forward to that party. It’s a few weeks away. I’m also incredibly pumped about going to Thailand in November. That’s gonna be so cool. And just thinking about these things makes me smile. Yet, before actually booking these flights or setting up that party, I wasn’t pumped at all — it was a drag. Where should I go? Whom should I invite? Rough decisions, and after making them, I felt very relieved. And happy.
Commitment makes you happy. And the best thing: it doesn’t make just you happy, but everybody else around you too.
Non-Commitment is a punch in the face
Yes, you’ve read that right. Saying “maybe” is the same as “I really don’t know if you’re cool enough for me, but maybe if all the other options suck, I’ll spend some time with you”. Would you ever say that to a friend? To a teammate? To a family member? I highly doubt it. Because it’d be highly offensive, and rightly so.
Imagine the coolest activity you could possibly ever do. For me, one of these activities would for instance be having a few beers with my favorite author and idol, Tim Ferriss. If I had the chance to meet Tim, would I say “yeah maybe I’ll go?” Hell no. I’d be all over that opportunity in an instant. I highly value this dude, therefore I am able to make a commitment.
Is it the same for something that I don’t really want to do? No. And then I should have the balls to say “no, I’m not going to do that” instead of “yeah maybe I’ll do that” and then backing out last minute with a “sorry I can’t make it, I have other priorities”. Stay firm, stay strong and say the things the way they are. It might hurt the other party at first, but it’ll hurt a lot less than you backing out last minute.
I’m not particularly great at this, either. I have a hard time saying no, and then I back out last minute. Or my priorities shift. It happens to all of us. But being aware of it is the first step in the right direction. So, the next time you tell yourself that you might want to go, ask yourself plain and hard: is this what I really want? If the answer is no, say that you’re not going to go or do it. And if the answer is yes, go ahead and make a commitment. It’s a great feeling to have.
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This post was originally published on July 2nd, 2017.