Good intentions are not enough

I recently gave some advice to some entrepreneurs just starting out from scratch. He was hungry, coachable, but also quite raw. While I warmed to these great starting qualities, I can't help but feel for how much learning and frustrations he still has ahead of him.

There is a particular current of self-improvement advice that says that it doesn't matter when you start, as long as you are hungry enough to learn and improve. While that is definitely a useful frame of mind given that the past is forever gone and thus non-actionable, reality is often more nuanced than such soundbites. The reality is that learning compounds, and if you had frittered away your years, you would have a ton of learning to catch up on. And most skills and character-building simply has no shortcut.

I still remember being that hungry young buck, with a belly of fire more determined than anyone else. I was willing to do whatever it takes to succeed and was constantly anxious about why the corner hadn't turned yet. The desire was burning. Looking back, I simply lacked the skills and network to provide sufficient value.

More subtly, something switched for me midway through my meditation journey. For many years, I simply sat and hoped that results come on its own. I had good intentions. But after a long period of stagnation, something clicked - meditation is its own skill, which I have to build up too. For instance, the ability to generate wholesome mental states to warm my sitting up is a skill. The ability to anchor my awareness to the body for more than a minute is a skill. The ability to maintain equanimity while tuning awareness to piti is a skill. There are specific mental pathways you can enter at will after a long period of exploration.

So while we may have big ambitions, or even a pure-hearted intention to help the world, without the appropriate skills, your value and thus value capture will be limited.

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