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Trust your instinct to the end, though you can render no reason. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
As many of you know, I’m currently on leave of absence from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. I’m three years into earning my medical degree (M.D.), but I took time off to develop FutureDerm Inc. from a popular blog into a successful start-up.
I’ve earned my fair share of criticism for doing this. Why not finish school first? Why not be a doctor with a skin care company, instead of a medical student on leave? Why now?
My answers to this are many: Start-ups are hot right now. While I certainly wouldn’t say it’s easy to raise funding, the popularity and ubiquity of sites like Kickstarter have made it easier to get funding than ever before. It’s also excellent timing: I’m 28, not married or engaged, and I don’t have children yet. It’s the perfect time to take a risk. Plus I’m learning new skills and developing a plethora of relationships for my future.
But, truth be told, at the end of the day, my decision had very little to do with reason. When I go home at the end of the day (or night), take off my makeup, and see my naked face in the mirror, there is no lying. I am here, doing what I am doing, purely out of instinct.
I think I have keen instincts. Oh, sure, I’ve made my fair share of errors, some of them costly. But for 28, I have far more that I’m proud of than regrets. And most of those regrets occurred when I acted against what my instincts were telling me.
I just finished reading The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver. He’s a valued statistician – in what most were calling a close 2012 Presidential Election, Silver dared to call an Obama landslide with 300 predicted electoral college votes. What struck me most about Silver’s writing is the idea of trial-and-error with mass amounts of data points. But not as applied to elections or sports betting or gambling. But as applied to life.
How many of us go through life, half-paying attention? Every day, every hour, there is an opportunity to run tests and collect data points. I believe that many of us do this innately and subconsciously to some extent anyway – for instance, I tell corny jokes a lot, and I’ve known since the age of 4 this will elicit a groan or eye-roll from approximately 84.5% of people. (The percentage, of course, is meant as such a corny joke). But with all due seriousness, I think that the time has come for us to start paying more attention to what is going on around us, and to start forming conscious collective relationships between what we think, do, and say, and the results that follow. It’s the way to make your instincts more keen – to elucidate the sharpness of your instincts, listen to what they are telling you (test), evaluate what results (measure), and repeat (or change) as necessary.
Mark Zuckerberg said recently that the key to a successful start-up is to “Move fast and break things,” but I would take that a step further and say that is the key to a successful life. Of course, don’t move with the intent of breaking things. That’s not at all what I’m saying. But living your life with the philosophy that life is about doing what you think is best at any given time and hoping for a positive outcome, but not fearing a negative result. It’s about doing what your instincts tell you is best but simultaneously not being fearful of breaking things or ruffling a few feathers. Instead, the actualization that life is all about collecting data enabling you to sharpen your instincts and lead a better life removes a lot of the pressure.
Anyway, I’ve gone off on a tangent. I’ve recently been making some purely instinct-driven changes in my personal life as well. For much of my life, I’ve been listening to parents, friends, experts, books, magazines – you name it. But it occurred to me recently that I’m 28 and not married. I’ve been dating for ten years, and family is the #1 most important goal in my life, but I’m still without a husband and children. So, I’m changing my methods. I’m trusting my own instincts about who and what is right for me. And if I’m wrong – well, I’m learning not to feel guilt or sadness or fear, but instead, to understand it’s all a learning process. No expiration dating!
Until next week!
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