Paradox Of Choice: Too Many Options, Too Little Time

Life is a choose your own adventure book with too many choices. When deciding your path and investing in your 20s, we have too many options to spend our time. Options are great, but this has caused a huge problem known as the Paradox of Choice. 

In college, you are told you can pursue any of the 1,000+ careers you desire. At Walgreens, a stroll down the candy aisle means choosing between 45 different chocolate-covered treats and 75 different sugar-coated goodies.

With so many choices, we have become paralyzed with the process of weighing options. Once we have made a choice we dwell on imagining “What if I made a different choice?”

It’s no big deal to choose the wrong salad dressing at dinner. But, the Paradox of Choice hurts us the most when investing time in ourselves, especially when investing in your 20s.

At any given time, we can learn to code on Codecademy, we can publish a book on Amazon, we can perfect our photo taking abilities. The list goes on. However, before we invest enough time to see progress, we are on to the next skill.

For this reason, to circumvent the Paradox of Choice we must realize the compounding interest involved in learning new skills.

We’ve all heard the financial breakdown that saving $1,000 a month starting at 22 will make you a millionaire by 50 because of the compounding interest. And it’s true. But, only if you start investing in your 20s and are consistent.

Learning to invest in yourself little by little every day is the most important thing you can do to boost your creativity. And if you currently aren’t investing some of your spare time into learning a new creative skill, then I’d advise you to stop keeping your money under your mattress and invest.

Consistency doesn’t have to be daunting. Setting aside a manageable percentage of every day towards your interests will show returns. A good start is 10% of your free-time or 25-30 minutes a day towards creativity.

Don’t fall prey to the Paradox of Choice and horizontally invest–investing time across multiple skills at once. It makes no sense to have 12 different bank accounts, so you shouldn’t split your time between skills. Instead, invest vertically in one skill, because the compounding interest will be much more fruitful.

Realizing small returns of creativity will defeat the Paradox of Choice

Because seeing huge returns on a new skill takes a lot of time we often forget to recognize the small returns along the way. People say it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, which is a very daunting number (unless you begin investing in your 20s). But, there are benchmark returns you’ll experience along the way which will motivate you on your path to mastery. 

The first benchmark return occurs at 10 hours of time investment and you’ll earn habitual creating. After about one month of consistent, daily investing you have created a habit which will seed your future growth. 

The second benchmark occurs at 100 hours of time investment and you’ll earn improvements in your technique. For instance, a writer may experience more fluency in their writing, a graphic designer may see more cohesive designs that others understand, and a marketer may be able to map out campaigns.

This benchmark is like laying the concrete of your foundation. It may not look pretty, but once it is finished you can begin focusing on making the house look nice.

The third benchmark occurs at 1,000 hours and the returns will come as solidified techniques and increased output of your creativity. Essentially, the time you invest will compound a lot quicker because your productivity is higher.

Naturally, you will develop your signature style during this time and you’ll probably increase your daily investment because you’ll have fun watching your skills evolve. Make sure to set a time cap on your daily investment, though because you don’t want to exhaust your muscle. For instance, the famous author Anthony Trollope would write for exactly 2.5 hours every morning, even if he had to stop mid-sentence. While you don’t need to be that extreme, it is good to set a general time limit.

The fourth benchmark is ongoing from 1,000 to 10,000 hours and the return is personal mastery. During this time you’ll be able to take your ideas and execute them in one session. You’ll have a vast portfolio to see your growth, which will drive you to become even better. You may even be able to turn your output into profit and commit to it full-time.

Your skill will develop into an engulfing passion that has you twiddling your fingers, waiting until you can leave “work” and get to your creative space. Ideas will float in your head all day long that you’ll want to execute. Everything around you will become an inspiration, finding its way into your work. This is when you will really begin to see what that skill means to you as a person.

This skill will become your fifth limb, so deeply attached that you couldn’t escape it even if you wanted to. Kobe Bryant says not being able to play pro basketball is like a death, Clint Eastwood says he’ll never stop shooting movies, and Jerry Seinfeld still writes a joke every day.

The Real Lesson

We all want to reach that expert level of 10,000 hours and it’s easier if you begin investing in your 20s. But, remember it starts today with 10 minutes. The time you spend is compounding, as long as you don’t dip into that bank account and spend your time elsewhere. There may not always be obvious data behind your decisions. But, it’s better to stay true to your creative process than to always make data driven decisions

Becoming a millionaire of creativity requires daily investment. The bottom line will grow slowly but continue to stay motivated by the small returns.

I realized the importance of staying motivated by small returns growing Quick Theories. Even gaining one new reader is now a huge success for me because I changed how I view benchmark returns. 

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2 Comments

  • David Naidu
    12 months ago

    I think the great Earl Nightingale summed up all the possibilities inherent in all of us when he suggested that “The Customer is Your Boss’ in all aspects of of our lives and if we follow this credo we come to realize that service is the hallmark of excellence in all our endeavors. Starting with meditation (find out more on Meditation For Sports-webpage to be published soon) our customer is our body and if we exceed our service to it what possibilities lie ahead for us.

  • Marta Solomon
    9 months ago

    “There may not always be obvious data behind your decisions. But, it’s better to stay true to your creative process than to always make data driven decisions.”

    So true!!! I am a physical therapist who finds the art of connecting with people integral to my effectiveness and never strayed from believing that no matter how clinically knowledgeable I am or nice equipment was on hand.

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