March 22nd, 2013 by Bob Bly
The question that has always vexed me most is when a subscriber
writes and asks:
“Should I become a freelance copywriter?”
“Should I start an Internet marketing business?”
“Should I [fill in the blank here]?”
Now, if you ask me HOW to do these things, I can give you some
But if someone asked me SHOULD they do this or that, I used to
throw up my hands and say – “How can I tell you that? It’s
entirely up to you!”
However, when I was reading the New York Review of Books
(3/7/13, p. 46) last week, I came across a quote in an article
by the late Isaiah Berlin that I think gives a useful answer to
the question of “Should I?”
Berlin wrote: “One chooses as one chooses because (1) one knows
what one wants, and (2) is ready to pay the price.” (I added the
As for the first reason, (1) choosing because “one knows what
one wants,” I would argue that you already know what you want or
you wouldn’t be asking me if you should do it.
Conversely, if you have spent years thinking about a thing and
have taken no forward action, you probably don’t want it that
It reminds me of a story about Mozart.
Supposedly a young man in his late teens or so approached Mozart
and said “Maestro! I want to write a symphony! Please, please
teach me how to write a symphony!”
Mozart looked him over and said “You’re too young to write a
“But Maestro Mozart, you wrote a symphony when you were twelve
years old,” the teen pointed out.
“Yes, but I didn’t have to ask how!” Mozart replied.
If you really want to do a thing, you will pursue it and do it.
If not, then not. You won’t have to ask me or anyone else
whether you should.
The second part of Berlin’s statement says that you will choose
something if you are (2) “ready to pay the price.”
This price may be:
** Long years of education, practice, or apprenticeship before
attaining your wish.
** Facing the possibility that, after all that time and effort
and investment, you may not succeed.
** Taking a financial gamble as you invest in your new venture
or dream – a gamble you could lose.
** Sacrificing time with family, leisure time, and other
activities in the relentless pursuit of your vision.
** Risking the disapproval of friends and family who do not
support you in your quest and say you are foolish to do it.
** Becoming so successful that you alienate those friends and
family members who are less successful and resent your
** Taking so long to reach your goal that by the time you
achieve it the other pleasures of life have passed you by and
now you are too old to enjoy your success anyway.
If after reading the above list with your eyes wide open, you
agree that these are prices you are willing to pay to achieve
your dreams — then I encourage you to go full steam ahead.
On the other hand, if you quiver with fear after reading this
list or want to put your head under the covers, you may not have
the constitution required for entrepreneurial or artistic
ventures or similar grand aims. And perhaps you are better off
staying where and as you are.
One other observation: a psychologist once told me people do not
take action until the pain of their current condition – whether
poverty, boredom, fear, or unhappiness — exceeds their fear of
I think his observation is right on the money.
This entry was posted on Friday, March 22nd, 2013 at 10:10 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.