365 Days of Courage #44: Don't be a donkey.


"What advice would you give your younger self?" That's the question Tim Ferriss posed to a number of people in his book "Tools of Titans".

The entrepreneur, Derek Sivers, responded: "Don't be a donkey."

If you're wondering what the hell he meant, let me explain.

Sivers explained that this advice is based on the fable about Buridan's Donkey, which is a story about a donkey who is equally hungry and thirsty. Buridan’s donkey is standing halfway between a pile of hay and a bucket of water. It keeps looking left and right, trying to decide between hay and water. Unable to decide, it eventually falls over and dies of hunger and thirst.

Sivers says,

A donkey can’t think of the future. If he did, he’d realize he could clearly go first to drink the water, then go eat the hay. So, my advice to my 30 year old self is, don’t be a donkey. You can do everything you want to do. You just need foresight and patience.

If you’re 25 now, and have seven different directions you want to pursue, then you can do each one for 10 years, and have done all of them by the time you’re 95. (It’s safe to assume that by the year 2088 it won’t be unusual to live to 95.)

It seems ridiculous to plan to age 95 when you’re 25, right? But it’s a fact that it’s probably coming, so you might as well take advantage of it.

Then you can fully focus on one direction at a time, without feeling conflicted or distracted, because you know you’ll get to the others.

We’ve all done this on a small-scale. When something is urgent and needs to be done that day, you really focus. You get distracting thoughts for a minute, like “Wow, it would be nice to go watch a movie now.” But you put it out of your mind because you know if you just focus on this one thing now, you can get it done, and do the other stuff afterwards.

So, expand that into months or years. Focus on one at a time, knowing you can do the other stuff afterwards.

Most people over-estimate what they can do in one year, and under-estimate what they can do in ten years.

Think long-term. Use the future.

Don’t be short-sighted. Don’t be a donkey.
— Derek Sivers, https://sivers.org/donkey

I'm almost 51 so I don't have 70 years to play with but, all being well, I have 20 or 30 years to pursue the things I want to pursue.

But getting stuck like the donkey and not doing any of them is an absolute waste of the precious time that I have left.

This advice is especially helpful if you are someone who has a lot of passions or interests or things that you're curious about. Choose one of those things and devote yourself to it for the next year. Then pick another one and devote yourself to it for the next year or 5 years if you end up absolutely loving it.

Do something. Don’t allow yourself to get stuck in analysis-paralysis which is a thief of dreams. Pick one thing and do it. Sometimes one of the things or passions will have a slightly stronger pull on you so that might be the first passion you choose to pursue. But, too often, all of the passions or interests feel equally enticing which is what can make us get so stuck. If that’s the case, do “eeny meeny miny moe” and choose whatever that lands on. Or ask someone to choose for you.

Just make a choice and take action.

You never know where that action will lead. It could unleash a whole series of events that you could never have imagined or never planned for before taking that one action.

Incredible things happen when we make a choice and take a step in a certain direction.

The converse can also happen. You choose one of the interests or passions and when you explore it a little, you lose all interest in it. Which can be excellent news as you can then pursue the next passion on your list with a clear mind and heart.

What are your passions or interests? Which one are you going to pursue first?

I’d love to hear from you!

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