Fuck “Doing It While You Can” (or How To Make Things Happen)

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Ever since I made the decision to go on an extended trip (EDIT 2 years later: this has now turned into a non-stop travel lifestyle) I’ve been getting lots of feedback. Much of that feedback has been in the form of …

Do it:

- while you’re young.

- while you still can.

- while you don’t have kids.

- while you’re not married.

“You can hold your breath until you turn blue, but they’ll still go on doing it.” – Marcus Aurelius Meditations 8.4

It got to the point where I started believing it and I’d say it myself.

“Yeah, you know, I gotta do it while I can.”

It pissed me off that I let that non-sense poison me.

I say non-sense, because when somebody says “do it while you can” it’s their cop-out. Their excuse for not doing “it.”

If you want to do something, you make it happen. Somehow. Some way. Make. It. Happen.

It probably won’t be easy at first and you may have some setbacks (i.e. learning experiences). But you never know, maybe it’ll be easier than you can imagine. After all, humans are an incredibly resourceful bunch.

“Do it while you can” only exists in the hearts and minds of those who have never accomplished anything they’re proud of.

What’s the perfect time to travel?

What’s the perfect time to get married?

What’s the perfect time to have a kid?

What’s the perfect time to quit your job and start anew?

What’s the perfect time to exercise?

What’s the perfect time to quit smoking?

The only “perfect time” many people have figured out to do anything is when to watch their favorite TV shows and when to go to work.

And that’s only because somebody else makes those decisions.

What’s the perfect time to make thing happen?

Right now.

“Keep in mind how fast things pass by and are gone — those that are now, and those to come. Existence flows past us like a river: the “what” is in constant flux, the “why” has a thousand variations. Nothing is stable, not even what’s right here. The infinity of past and future gapes before us — a chasm whose depths we cannot see. ” – Marcus Aurelius Meditations 5.23

Let’s use exercise as an example.

I know, based on my old ways, that an easy way to get out of working out was telling myself “now is not a good time.”

It’s too late. I’m hungry. It’s too early. I’m tired. I just want to relax. I didn’t get enough sleep. My favorite TV show starts in 10 minutes. I ate too much.

Let’s say you had a really busy day with work and errands and you didn’t get home until 10pm. Since you usually go to bed at 11:30pm you decide it’s too late to work out. You have no valid reason, of course. It’s just “too late” to work out.

How badly do you want it?

If you want to lose weight, get 6-pack abs, run a marathon, whatever it is, you have to make sacrifices. If that means working out at night when you least feel like working out then so be it. Make. It. Happen.

Nobody will do it for you.

You don’t burn calories and lose weight by thinking about burning calories and losing weight. (Let’s not get technical, I know we burn calories by simply living.)

You burn calories by physically stressing your body through exercise.

You don’t quit smoking by thinking about quitting smoking.

You quit by making the decision that the benefits of quitting far outweigh not quitting.

And you make it happen.

If you’re having trouble making something happen a great way to figure it out is to model someone else who has already done what you want to do.

It’s OK to be a follower (sometimes).

Fortunately, we live in a time when people freely share information online about life changes they’ve made. Anything you want to do has been done before in some way, by people no more intelligent or gifted than you.

And they’ve documented how they did it on blogs and Web sites.

Your next step is to follow what they’ve done.

You’ll find the sole difference between somebody who accomplishes a goal and someone who doesn’t is focus. If you’ve got laser targeted focus you will accomplish anything.

I would not have set off on a journey like I have if it wasn’t for all the travel blogs I’ve been reading and people I’ve met through CouchSurfing over the past 2 years. They provided me with not only inspiration, but practical advice for doing what they did.

How can you not get inspired by people like Gary Arndt, who spent more than 2 years traveling the world solo? (If you want to use being married and having a young child as an excuse, check out http://soultravelers3.com.)

Don’t believe anybody who says “you gotta do it while you can.”

You’ve got to do it because you want to, need to, do it. And nothing else matters.

Photo Credit

{ 31 comments }

JS Dixon

Thank you! That makes so much more sense than this idea of seizing all life because children are born. Family happens, homeschool the kids on the road. They’ll get a better education, and a more realistic view of how people interact.

Karol

Thanks for posting JS. Yeah, for some that may be fine, but I don’t want to be poisoned by those conventional thoughts and ideas. :)

Hermann Hoerter

Hi Karol, it makes sense what you wrote, but sometimes one can not do all the things what one would like to do. Once a person gets up to his, or hers, 60th or 70th and beyond, then they may not be able to do everything. In this case I would say, do what you can, and of course what you want to do.
I am not the youngest one anymore, used to travel every year, mostly by car.
When the distance was to far, I went by air.
Just last week I drove 1700 km. Don’t do that to often anymore.
What I want to say is, whatever you want to do, do it now because there will be a time you can not do it anymore!

Karol

Hi Hermann,

Thanks for your thoughts. I understand there may be physical limitations sometimes. But there are tons of people in their 60s and 70s who accomplish amazing things. :)

1700km is a long ride! I recently did 1800km with my cat. ;) (there’s another post on this site about that)

Thanks again!
Karol

Jason

Hi, Karol, thank you for the wonderful inspirational post.

Jason.

Karol

Hey Jason, thanks! Glad it inspired you. :)

.: Adam

True dat!

I’ve been arguing with people about this for ever. I always hear, “well, you can do that cuz…. blah blah blah, and I can’t cuz blah blah blah”. They’re just a bunch of lazy bastards that are afraid. I know it’s cliche as hell, but my favorite saying, quote, whatever is the Nike slogan, “Just do it.”

I don’t think I could sum up anything so eloquently.

Piece!

.: Adam

ps. I’m off to London / Berlin next week! I’ll try to visit you in NZ. Later!

Karol

Straight up! Your attitude about doing whatever you wanted has always been inspirational. I’ve been a little slower to board that train, but I’m glad I did.

Nevis Bungy jump (135m) in Queenstown NZ. See you there. :)

Kevin

Hey Karol,

I gotta say, I love the site. I just discovered it over at zenhabits.net. That was a very smart move getting published on Leo’s site by the way. (It amazes me every time I go to his site. He now has what 143k+subscribers. HOLY SH*T that is a lot. The first time I ever read his blog was only a few months ago and he had 128k).

I have already read at least 7 or 8 articles on your site, I love the fact they are blunt and to the point! You say what needs to be said. PERIOD! I am reminded of a quote by Henry Ford…I am paraphrasing but it goes something like this: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

I also really enjoyed this post/article. It is timeless information. I find myself in a very…undesirable situation. Quite honestly, I hate it! Period! I lack the clarity that I want or need, and I keep getting dragged further down the proverbial rabbits hole.

So thank you very much!

Cheers,

Kevin

Kevin

One more thing.

I really dislike when people say this phrase!

“It must be nice”

That annoys me so much. It goes hand in hand with all the other aforementioned excuses in this article.

Karol

hehe, “It must be nice” can be grating too :)

Karol

Hey Kevin,

Thank you! That’s an awesome quote. I remember hearing Tony Robbins repeat it on one of his audio programs.

I hope the site helps you achieve clarity. That’s the goal. :)

Karol

Himanshu

Hi Karol,
Thanks for the great article. It reminded me of lyrics from a Tom Petty song

“Well some say life will beat you down,
break your heart, steal your crown
So I’ve started out, for God knows where
I guess I’ll know when I get there”.

I think sometimes people get so caught up in making a life that they stop living the life.

Cheers :)

Karol

Hi Himanshu,

Awesome! Thank you for sharing!

Karol

Jeann

See, I understand your point, but that’s just not true. At least entirely.
Many things in life are caused by ramdom factors. Someone may be too sick, or too poor, or too damaged to do whatever they please. Would you tell the kids in Africa that work as slaves in farms to “make it happen”, get the hell out of there and go enjoy a living? Of course, this is an extreme example, but my point is: focus doesn’t work at all times. Might work for you, for me, for all the middle class people that generally read this website. But it is not true to many, many people in the world. There are many factors we don’t control – but we like to think we do, because that is just more comforting.
More of what I mean in Alain de Botton’s talk at TED’s: http://www.ted.com/talks/alain_de_botton_a_kinder_gentler_philosophy_of_success.html
Love the site, but thought I needed to say this… :)

Karol

Hi Jeann,

Thanks for sharing. Yes, I understand it’s not necessarily possible for *everybody* to “make it happen.” But this article is for people who can actually read this blog. Sorry I don’t have time right now to give you a more lengthy response as I’m exploring rainforest fragments right now.

Karol

MS. Scientist

Thanks for pointing me to the soultravelers3 family! We are a family of four, and I have been wanting to get good first hand info on living abroad inexpensively and being a family of rock stars!

Karol

you’re welcome, and sounds like an awesome plan :)

Marc Wyzykowski

I think the most valuable piece of advice given in this post was not “just do it” but rather that it is okay to follow others. Too many people try to be trailblazers in whatever it is they set out to do instead of just following the example given by others. If they don’t feel original or do not see themselves excelling at something, they then feel “it” is a waste of their time or “why bother.”

Karol

Thank you Marc. You highlighted an important point. There is no sense in reinventing the wheel. It already spins pretty darn well. We just have to learn how to use it to our own benefit.

Steve

@ Jeann – I think the point of this article was to get people to make things happen that have the ability to make it happen, but use excuses to avoid doing anything. Of course, there will always be people with limiting factors outside their control, but there are many people out there that can do the things they want, but don’t. They use excuses to not do what they want and I think this article was addressed more to them.

Karol

You got it Steve. Thanks for adding to my incomplete response. :)

soultravelers3

Funny, but I just got a google alert on this! ;) Thanks so much for the shoutout!

I love your enthusiasm & inspiration!!

Laila

Awesome! Exactly what I needed to read today. Im soooooo over people telling me that i can do what im doing cuz im young and “full of energy”…. NOOOO im doing what im doing because I set my self to do it!! DRIVES ME CRAZY!!! (can you sense the frustration? LOL)

Karol

I’m glad this is up your alley Laila. Thanks for commenting! :)

Laila

Thank you for posting such great info. Im trying to work on this “muse” business as Tim Ferris calls it and get going on automated income so i can get the h*** out of this state.. if one more person tells me to go to law school and stop dreaming im gonna lose it!! lol

Karol

You don’t need automated income to leave the state. I give you permission to leave right now. ;)

Laila

hah I know im just about 3 months away from getting my bacherlors… it might be a good idea to get that done with before the next adventure ;)

Laurie

“If you’ve got laser targeted focus you will accomplish anything.” You have no idea how glad I am to hear that! I have a lot to learn as I make some big life changes toward freedom, but “laser targeted focus” is something I was born with and I’m learning to channel it where it can help me the most. I turned 40 back in April of this year, and that major turning point has been a tremendous catalyst for change for me. Most of the bloggers and others I admire on this path are way younger than me, but I agree with you that if you’re determined to make something happen, you can figure out how to get there, no matter what your age or circumstances. Thanks (again) for helping me get there…I’m finding that Rid-Ex is a great place for my laser-focus right now ;)
Laurie in Michigan

Karol

Fantastic! Thank you Laurie. :)

Cass

Hi Karol,

I completely agree. What I think is interesting though is that it seems that some people are not ready to hear this – they’re not open to the idea that their life is theirs, that life does not control you.

It’s only been recently that I’ve come to realise that I can do what I want, no matter what, and that the ‘goals’ I wanted to achieve before travelling the world were really just my excuses. Once I came to that realisation, it was like someone had given me this wonderful gift – freedom – and my total perspective on life changed. It was sudden, shocking and awesome, all at once.

Thanks for the further inspiration :)

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