OK, but Why?

Layers of mountains in the early morning magenta light.
To get to the truth about why you did something, you often need to peel away the layers of past events. Like the mountains in this photo, more distant events are harder to discern but still crucial to the entire scene.

A group of amazing people agreed to help me with my first steps on this blog by providing feedback and the first external view. When I first presented them with the story described in the previous post, one of them responded with the title question. Yes, he said, but why? Why haven’t you been able to start it earlier? What was the root cause of you making the decisions the way you did? What is different now?

With that, he asked the perfect question for a blog about personal transformation, as I’m sure many people struggle with similar long-term indecisiveness. So, I’ll dig deeper and ask myself what was really preventing me from doing it earlier.

Yes, there were external factors, as I mentioned in the previous post. After I graduated, the market was difficult, and I wanted to become fully independent and support myself financially. My initial career choices were primarily opportunistic, but all the people I knew did more or less the same. Afterwards, as my responsibilities inside and outside of work grew, I could never consistently make enough time for a serious and focused hobby. Plus, I’m interested in many things, and it was hard to squeeze in everything in the few after-work hours available.

But, no, it was not only external.

Being successful in what you do is an excellent way to mask the fact that what you do is not necessarily what you want to do. Especially if what you do is something you find interesting and comes with different kinds of benefits. After a while, we turn on our internal autopilot and do what works, brings money, and gives us some sense of going forward. The more successful and invested in our career we become, the more we lose the appetite for risk that such significant change would bring. So, the incentive to change must become large enough that we go for it. For many, this comes after difficult times or when something big makes them rearrange the priorities.

For me, it was during one of the lockdowns. I realized that I was giving a bad example to my daughter by being unhappy and angry because of the problems with my business. I didn’t start my company to make more money. In fact, it was evident that, for a while, I would earn way less than in the safety net of a huge corporation. I started it to do the things I like and be more present in my family’s life. I recognized that my actual failure was the negative impact my business was starting to have on our family and not a temporary lack of customers. From that realization to asking myself what I wanted to do and what would make me happy was a short and straight road.

But there is more.

Why didn’t I do it even earlier? Immediately after university? When there was still time to try things without the risk of losing anything because nothing had been built yet. As the song says, “Freedom is just another word for nothin’ left to lose,” I had nothing to lose. Looking back, I could have invested a year or two to enter an industry I liked. I even had some references in my architectural visualizations and web design work so that I wouldn’t be starting from scratch. Or even better, why didn’t I use every free second while in the university to fully prepare for my next move?

To answer that, I need to turn on the self-critical mode to “full”. 🙂

First, I needed to recognize it. I didn’t recognize that I wanted it so much, and, maybe even worse, I didn’t realize that I would have to make all these decisions early or risk going in a different direction. It was a textbook example of the famous quote: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

Second, and probably the best answer to the final “why” from my friend’s probing questions, is that I lacked the self-confidence to go for it. I always wondered whether I had what it takes to be an artist. I had some indications that I might, but not enough to encourage me to try seriously. It took my entire life, success in several jobs, moving and starting my own business in a foreign country to get to a point where I could decide to be an artist.

Weirdly, the lack of self-confidence never seemed to show when I was starting all these other things. Maybe I’m more used to these kinds of challenges, or maybe I just cared about them less.

Do I now feel bad about the mistakes I made? Not really, and if you recognize yourself in some of these situations, you shouldn’t either.

We all have our paths, and sometimes you need certain things to happen before being ready for a step. Me at 25 is not the same person as me now. That guy was unable to go for it. I am, and I’m doing it. It doesn’t matter whether someone does it earlier or better than you. What matters is to recognize what makes You happy and find a way to do it. It is never too late.

Related Articles

Photo Stories: High Noon in the Park

The time has come when I feel I am enough of a photographer that my experiences and lessons learned can be valuable to others. Inspired by the famous column in an aviation magazine, I’m starting this new series about stories behind some of my photographs. The first one is my favorite from the New York trip.

Read More »
Ney Your Skyline, taken from the Staten Island Ferry

New York, New York!

“Now you’re in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Let’s hear it for New York…”

(Empire State of Mind, JayZ ft. Alicia Keys)

Read More »

My New Year’s Resolution

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, as it takes much more than a calendar change for us to start behaving differently. But, as I’m about to begin a new phase of my journey, I figured this new year was the right moment to change a habit. Why did I do it, what did I change, and how does it relate to this blog?

Read More »

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *