On Sacrifices: You’ve got to give everything, but you get to give the easy stuff, first.

By: Noah Jacobs

What do you have to give up to become the person who you want to be? If it’s not everything, it might not be enough. 

Moral Obligation

“You are morally obligated to do remarkable things.”

Jordan Peterson

Wow, those are tall marching orders. But, whenever I live with that rule in mind, things seem to go better.  

A sacrifice is a trade off. You give up something for something else. If your definition of great doesn’t involve sacrifices, I would encourage you to re evaluate what you think it means to be great. There are infinitely many ways to be great, while all the ways to be not so great kind of seem to blend together: the thing they have in common is their lack of sacrifice. 

There is a scaling factor to the requisite trade offs. It takes time and is progressive and does not look the same for everyone. 

You can’t expect to give up drinking til 3am every night and automatically be a great person the next day. Yes, it’s a necessary sacrifice, but it’s not sufficient, and is just the start of the journey. Once you’ve made a lot of the lower order trade offs, in come the higher order ones, and that’s where the real fun starts.  

You’re trying to sacrifice enough to make a funeral pyre for a life well lived, not a little wrinky dink camp fire that’s barely staying ablaze.

Low Order Sacrifices

We are ALWAYS making sacrifices and trade offs, even when it doesn’t look like it.  

A common one is doom scrolling. If you have 10 minutes to kill, your mind may just go on autopilot and start scrolling. Well, come on now, you know that’s actually a trade off! You could be doing literally anything else in the world. The notion that you “have nothing to do,” itself, means nothing. You may have nothing that an external deadline is compelling you to do, but you can literally do whatever you want.  

Why not read a book for 10 minutes? Or go on a quick walk and call a friend? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have a 10 minute phone call with someone I seriously care about than doom scroll and have 5 half conversations over text.

What are the things your brain automatically goes to, those knee jerk habits that you use to fill up the space that someone else hasn’t filled up for you? Because that space is where you get to be you. And if you don’t know who you are, that’s where you’ll find you. 

What do you do as default when you have nothing to do? 

If you’re not conscious, that’s where the vices slink in and expand, insidiously and slowly. And those low order things can creep into bigger spaces, too. 

What do you do that causes you pleasure now but damages you later? That’s the opposite of the trade off you want to be making. That’s not to say don’t want to enjoy yourself, it’s a serious question: what habits do you have that you don’t really enjoy, kind of just do them to fill the white space, maybe make you feel good, but aren’t fulfilling? What things leave you needing more of them when you’re done? What things are pure subtraction and no addition?

The fire gets, much, much bigger when you start to trade good things for better things.
By: Noah Jacobs

High Order Sacrifices

Once the obvious things are gone or mitigated, you start running into the harder trade offs. It’s not binary, of course, there will always be creep of the low order things, but once enough of them are out of the way, the higher order sacrifices come in to play. 

This is where you make the decisions that start to define you in a positive way & do the things that you should take pride in discussing; this is where, instead of taking pride in being able to down a fifth in 24 hours, you start taking pride in being able to bench 225 or run for 3 hours straight.  

This is where that greatness starts taking shape.  

Am I going to go do jiu-jitsu or run today? Or can I do both? 

Am I going to read a book on mental health or am I going to read a book on being a better leader?  

Am I going to do more business outreach now or am I going to work on the product?  

Am I going to get an extra hour of sleep, or am I going to catch up with a good friend I haven’t spoken to in 3 months? 

These are the trade offs that aren’t even always real trade offs, because so often, there are still those low order trade offs to make (you don’t have to chose between two good things if you can still remove a not-so-good thing). Still, I’m excited that I’m getting closer to dealing in these trade offs more often than dealing in the lower order trade offs. I’m not going to say that you can’t go wrong with the above trade offs, but it certainly feels like it’s harder to. 

Unlike the tradeoff between going and getting wasted at a club or finally getting enough a sleep, there isn’t necessarily a wrong answer.

Who do you want to be?

“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.”

James Clear

“What you do is who you are.”

Ben Horowitz

You make certain kinds of choices, and overtime, you become the kind of person who makes those kinds of choices.  

The same goes with sacrifices: you make certain sacrifices, and overtime, you become the kind of person who makes those sacrifices.  

Of course, this framework being useful is predicated on knowing who you want to be, which is terribly difficult, especially given that there are a million ways to be great. Do you want to be a great father, a great mother, a great story teller, a great craftsman? 

These things may require different higher order sacrifices. I would, however, contend that they all require the same lower order sacrifices.

Selection Frameworks

If you want to be a pacifist, joining the military might not make too much sense; if you want to get good at communicating, there are probably better jobs for you than being a programmer, and if you want to be physically active, I can’t imagine why you’d want to be a trucker.  

None of that is to say that any given career is mutually exclusive with certain things; you can do and become anything. However, some roles are more conducive to becoming the person you want to be than others. The sacrifices required to get good at a career can be aligned with the sacrifices required to be the person who you want to be.

That’s why I’m thrilled about being able to pursue entrepreneurship. I want to be a leader and a problem solver. I want to be competent. I want to be able to create something out of nothing to provide value. 

“The competence is the treasure… If you’re competent, you can be thrown in the desert and you’ll make it bloom.”

Jordan Peterson

This isn’t to say that other career paths at my disposal wouldn’t have given me a place to become the person who I want to be; rather, I’m making a bet that entrepreneurship is the place that has the strongest tie between what, on average, is required for success, and who, in the end, I want to be.  

Minimize cognitive dissonance

Not enough to be good

A final thought that warrants an entire post–to be the kind of great that I want to be, it’s not enough to be good at things. 

In my past, I had a habit of avoiding conflict & attempting to make myself unassailable by stacking up a tower of ability–I can do this, that, and the other thing. I was trying to make myself useful… but to whom?  

If you have skills and abilities but don’t have the framework to go about exercising that capacity for creation, somebody else will. You need some degree of power and strength and a strong sense of self to go about intelligently exploiting your own personal resources to your end, or somebody else will.  

And that’s an interesting sacrifice… you have to give up being overly likable and agreeable to unlock the capacity to make decisions for yourself that align with what you believe it means to be great, even if others may not like you for it.  

That’s not to say you have carte blanche to define great, either. If you’re too far off the mark, there, then you’re going to end up in a bad spot, in a different way, but those are thoughts for another time.

Christmas is around the corner; I can hear the sleigh bells ringing and the mistletoe dangling. That being said, you can still expect another note in your inbox next weekend.  

Taking one thing off of my to do list in exchange for the loss of my weekly blog streak is not a sacrifice I’m willing to make. 

Live Deeply,

Noah Jacobs

Originally posted at: https://noahsnotes.beehiiv.com/p/onsacrifices


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