What am I doing here?

On acting on past choices when circumstances change

I landed at the airport, took a cab to the apartment, and started to unpack. Suddenly a dread took hold of me. One big question kept going through my mind; what am I doing here?

Last December I signed up for a Master’s degree in Entrepreneurship and Innovation management in Helsinki, Finland. I had just quit my job to start a company. The plan was to study a bit more to learn about how to run a company and meet new interesting people. It would also give me a 2 year break of worrying about my living expenses as it would enable me to take out some student loans. Since I had already enjoyed 3 years studying in Finland before it seemed like the perfect plan.

I signed up to take the GMAT exam 3 months earlier, a prerequisite to apply. I spend the evenings after work studying and passed with a decent score. From there on everything went on autopilot mode. I applied in December, the same month I quit my job to focus on growing my company. 3 months later I got news I got accepted, I was ecstatic. June rolled around and I started looking for apartments. My Finnish friends helped me find some good message boards and before I knew it I had everything set up. I even managed to arrange the internet subscription in such a way that the router arrived by mail the same day that I got there. So far so good.

On arrival it suddenly hit me. Ever since I decided on taking the GMAT to apply to this study everything relating to the study had been in automatic pilot. I hadn’t even looked into the curriculum yet. With each step my enthusiasm grew smaller and smaller, until the moment was there that I arrived at my apartment in Finland with everything set up and I finally asked myself what I was doing.

You may wonder why I was asking such a seemingly silly question. Something to keep in mind is that I signed up to the Master’s degree not for the paper but to learn some useful stuff so I could one day run a company that supported my living expenses in a fulfilling way. What I didn’t see along the way was that during the year I was already taking concrete steps towards this goal. I spend the last few months working on projects for clients and so far they paid the bills and offered an interesting challenge. I suddenly pulled brake on this to move to Finland. Once I arrived it finally dawned on me what I had done. I totally missed the point. I paused building a company to study it, trading in the real thing  which is a great learning experience with real world feedback, for studying the theory in a class setting.

Was it really worth it to take a 2 year break from fully focusing on building my company and to double my student loans? I was happy to be accepted into the program and it seemed genuinely interesting, but all along it may had been motivated by curiosity about whether or not I would be able to get in. As soon as I did the challenge of it started fading and reality caught up with me. The silly part is that the reason I forgot to take a step back while preparing to move to Finland because I was so caught up in actually running my company, the thing I signed up to learn about.

After arriving in Finland I met up with one of my friends and old classmates who by now was running two companies already. Seeing him just going for it was the thing that made it clear to me what I wanted to do right now. In the end I decided that for now I’d rather learn from the real thing which is why I decided to book a flight back home and cancel my enrollment and focus on building a company instead.

It brought home the point of applying positive laziness on the macrolevel. So far all the preparations where done as effective and efficient as possible and it was all set in motion with proper intentions, but as time moved on things changed. Not the overarching goal, but the route available towards it and my position along the way. It is helpful to stop once in a while and reevaluate the goals you are working towards and the path you are taking in order to achieve them even if when setting them you already put a lot of thought into it and worked out the route in advance.

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