Knowing you can is a powerful feeling. This notion of agency is immensely powerful and, when paired with discipline, can really drive everything for an individual’s life.
As you level up in life, you unlock various “levels of agency.” I think everyone goes through life at a different pace, playing a slightly different version of a game.
This is maybe how a traditional track would go (not really my path):
Perhaps the first stage is knowing occurs as a small child, as you learn to interact with the outside world. You learn what society (parents, family, friends, teachers, strangers) permits. Remember this stage, it comes back.
Then perhaps you go to high school. You learn you can drive away whenever you feel. You learn that you can not do homework one time and it will be okay. You learn perhaps that it is possible to start making a bit of $ at an hourly job.
Then maybe you go to college. You learn you can live on your own. You test your limits. You learn you can fail exams and still be okay. You learn you can make new friends. Etc. Etc.
Say you graduate, you get a job, you move to a new city and make new friends all over again. This time you are a “business analyst” in city x. You learn you can now make even more money! A salary! You buy things for the first time (expensive suits and alcohol). You have apartment gatherings, etc.
But now…now is the tectonic shift. It happens to everyone…just depends on when…
Now you are, say, 27, five years into your job…you’ve leveled up at work! You now manage a few people. Nice!!! but you have a realization. A really powerful realization of agency.
You realize that nothing matters. You realize that society’s rules that you learned as an infant do “not need to apply to you.”
YOU CAN QUIT YOUR JOB, SELL EVERYTHING, MOVE TO BALI, AND LIVE ON THE BEACH FOR $300/MO. YOU CAN GO BACKPACK EUROPE. YOU CAN BECOME A YOGA TEACHER.
YOU CAN START A COMPANY. LEARN TO CODE. DO SOMETHING YOU CARE ABOUT. WORK ON PROBLEMS YOU THINK ARE IMPORTANT.
Wait a second…no…perhaps you know you no longer can? Perhaps now you have a family…children…taxes…mortgages…perhaps you have buried yourself so far down a hole such that it may be impossible to escape? And what skills have you really gained? What have you actually learned in the past four years that actually differentiates you in the marketplace? What are you actually good at???
This all being said, I believe in everyone. You can try to do anything. Most people never try. I do not believe it is ever too late as there are always counter-examples waiting to be made. You got this!
There is an alternative track…I want to write a better essay about this, perhaps in a few days…
Also published on Medium.