Metal Detectors

Deciding what to work on – with conviction – is an existential threat. On one hand, I want to be thoughtful. I want to take my time with this decision and balance trade-offs, analyze “risk,” etc. On the other hand, I know most of that is fluff…at the end of the day I have to make a decision (like everyone else) with imperfect information. I have to make a “gut decision” – one that could likely be wrong…and I will have to live with the consequences.

I favor doing over thinking, but recognize this framework has trade-offs, and you need both (thinking and doing) to be successful. 

So how do you think about deciding what to work on? I think there are several lenses you can use to tackle this question…I prefer to leverage a mix versus just one particular model.

This essay, though, is not necessarily about how or why I choose to work on the things I do. We can certainly discuss that another time. 

This is about a “mindset” a friend instilled in me a few weeks ago that was brought up in conversation. It is the idea that it is your responsibility, as someone with an affinity for making to live life carrying a metal detector, always being open to new ideas and opportunities. 

Harnessing your personal metal detector can be really challenging. You are not a venture capitalist, who has the capital for dozens of false positive “investments.”

You have one life. 

24 hours a day like everyone else. 

You can fill it however you like but at the end of the day, you probably only have the mental capacity for a few big things you can do. 

The “metal detector lens” emphasizes the idea that you are always looking out for broken parts of the world. You are always asking questions…you are really just a curious person who wants to know why. 

You can go through life with blinders on, only seeing what you want to see. Or you can bring with you an empathetic, exploratory outlook – one that is excited for and wants to see change in the world. Pragmatic optimism is another way to put it…slight anxiety, slight nervousness, but always meticulously excited by the future.  

I want more excited people in this world. I want less jaded people. I want less boring jobs. I want less boring problems.

I want people to be the best versions of themselves…they can decide what excited means to them…they can think about what boring is and what is not. 

But I want the best for people – whatever that looks like. 

Also published on Medium.