Your Decisions Shape Your Life
Unlike in math or business, life doesn’t have a solution. It only has decisions and consequential outcomes.
I used to think relationships were easy.
After all, I was the guy who had his first girlfriend at 5 — not joking.
It was in kindergarten, in a small town called Podolsk outside of Moscow where my dad was born and my family lived for years.
There was this lovely girl. Her name was Vika. I had a crush on her. And there was this other guy, also Sergey, whom Vika liked more.
I was jealous. So I talked to my then-friend Dima to play jokes on the other Sergey.
We hid his bag of soldiers in the toilet, and then watched him run around, crying, looking for his lost toys. At some point, I started to feel bad, and I gave the soldiers back.
It was a great time.
Today I am older and (slightly) more mature. I don’t hide people’s things in toilets anymore (except for that one time recently…just kidding).
And I don’t (god forbid) live in Podolsk anymore.
Relationships are also not as easy anymore. If, when I was a teenager, it was all about being the ‘cool guy’ and taking a girl out on a date to a fancy cafe in the center of Moscow, now it’s slightly different.
Now I have a serious relationship.
And that seriousness (aggravated by the italics) makes me think about things differently.
Life in general and relationships in particular are not as easy as math or business.
In Math, There Is Only One Solution
My father sent me to a math school when I was 14. I hated it. I was one of the worst, but not the worst in my class. (Because I am not a math person, duh.)
But there are a few important things I learned there. One is that every problem has a solution. And two is that all you need to do is find the right way to approach that problem.
The execution is smooth once you define the right way to view the problem.
This is how I didn’t end up being the worst in my class.
I would struggle coming up with a solution, turn around and ask one of my (smarter) classmates sitting behind me, what they thought about the problem 18a.
They’d often say something like,
«Oh, it’s a piece of cake. It’s like that problem 9c the teacher talked about last week,»
and I immediately knew how to solve it.
I didn’t even need to copy the solution — I had enough brains to figure that out on my own. I only needed a nudge to understand the approach.
With such a technique, I managed to survive for three years before I (finally) got kicked out.
In Business, You Have Multiple Solutions
On the one hand, it’s just like maths: all you do is solve a problem. Although now not for the teacher but the customer. And instead of grades, you get paid with money. I guess that’s why so many Russian billionaires have mathematical backgrounds. (Or is it because they stole all the money?)
Anyway. You have a problem. And you get paid to solve it.
But if business were exactly like maths, there wouldn’t be any competition — or financial markets, which brings us to the critical difference with maths: the problems in business rarely have one solution.
Instead, you can come up with millions of different solutions — and the more inventive your answers to the problems are, the more you’ll be rewarded.
This is where business stops being maths and becomes art.
This is why we don’t have one type of coffeeshop (i.e., the solution to the problem of getting fresh coffee), but all sorts of cafes and vending machines and services around that one problem.
Again. In maths, you have just one solution, which you find by looking for the right approach to solving the problem. In business, you have multiple solutions to solving one problem, and if your solution is the best, you win.
But In Life and Relationships, It’s Different
In life in general and relationships in particular, you have no rules. And any rules you think there might be, are artificial.
There are problems, of course. ‘How do I make more money?’ or ‘Who should I love?’ or ‘What should I do with my life?’ are no easy questions to answer.
But there is neither one right way of looking at them — like in maths. Nor are there multiple solutions you get rewarded for — like in business.
In life and relationships, all you do is make decisions and get outcomes.
Different decisions will lead you to different outcomes, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can make the ‘right’ (or ‘wrong’) decision.
Some people make all the ‘right’ decisions and get bad outcomes. They just weren’t lucky. Probability didn’t work out in their favor. The weather was bad that day, and it rained and screwed up the wedding ceremony.
Or vice versa: you can behave like an idiot, but get good results. You can be a complete asshole of a human, but get everything you want out of life. You might get lucky or win the lottery.
This will only reinforce your idiotic behavior. And it had nothing to do with the supposed ‘rightness’ of your decisions.
You can find a perfect person for yourself only to realize, three years into a relationship, that you hold each other back. That you are a terrible influence for each other — at this point in life — and that maybe, you should take a break and live apart for a while.
You love each other, and so you do it. (True story.)
Is that the right decision or a wrong decision? Who knows. Who cares? It’s just a decision. And it will lead you somewhere, to a new place, where you’ll have to make new decisions. So on, so forth.
When I was 5, I thought that stealing toy soldiers from another dude was the right decision. After all, I wanted to avenge him for taking away my girl.
When I was 16, I thought that taking a girl out to dinner at a fancy restaurant was the right way forward. After all, I wanted to demonstrate that I care about her (or that I have cash).
When I was 18, I thought that a ‘real man’ makes money. This (stupid) belief was reinforced by the society I lived in — where most men live like hunter-gatherers, trying to ‘provide’ and most women behave like expensive furniture: beautiful, but utterly useless.
I used to live by ‘rules’ — thinking that life is an extension of school or college, where you have certain variables to influence, which give a potential outcome. Many (overeducated) people live like that their whole lives.
But there are no definite answers in life or relationships.
There are no rules. There is no one right way to approach the problem.
There are only your decisions. Each decision is like a tree branch: it just unfolds more branches.
And if you’re ready to take responsibility for your decisions, you get to live any life you want.