Many of the things we want are incompatible. Achieving personal or professional success requires you to choose which you want. Even when goals are not incompatible, you need to decide where to focus your energies.
18 September 2016
When giving advice to younger people I regularly find that things which are obvious at my age are not obvious to them.
When I addressed Clare College's second year undergraduates, one of the pieces of advice I gave them was:
Life involves choices.
Every choice you make will close doors as well as opening them. I still remember a dinner I had with a client around 20 years ago. This chap really desperately wanted to be as happily married as me. He’d had one unhappy divorce already, he really could see that I was very happily married just from talking with me.
But he also wanted to carry on having as many girlfriends as he liked. He just didn’t see any incompatibility between those two desires.
In the context of the above conversation, it is obvious that one cannot have both wishes, since they are incompatible.
However, quite often people are reluctant to make firm choices. I know this because for most of my life, and perhaps even now, I have tended to "spread myself too thin" by pursuing too many interests and therefore not becoming sufficiently expert at any of them.
Fortunately that was not the case in my professional career, where from the age of 27 I only practiced as a tax adviser, and within taxation became expert in a small number of specialised, commercially valuable, areas.
Accordingly I encourage readers to think through, at the earliest opportunity, whether any of their goals and aspirations are incompatible, and to decisively select amongst them.