The Thin Line Between Admirable and Stupidity

I have this contradiction in my brain I just can’t shake.

There’s this person, let’s call them Jeff. Jeff discovers a new passion, something that “sparks joy” — not in the Maria Kondo sense of orderliness, but existentially in the sense of finding true personal fulfillment in what they do in life. He’s spent the last 10 years working middle management for Every Business, Inc. and decides to make a big leap from what he’s always known to become a chef, what he really wants to do.

Jeff looks uncertainty square in the face and decides it’s time for a change regardless of what obstacles might be in the way — and there is plenty of them, like ensuring he’s caring for his family, paying his mortgage… you know, the expectations of adulting. Whether Jeff succeeds or not isn’t the point; it’s making the decision to make sacrifices for the sake of seeking personal fulfillment.

Jeff is one brave dude, right? I can’t think of one time I’ve thought someone like him is anything but admirable.

Allow me to get a little personal and shine the spotlight on myself for a moment. I’m ready for a career change. I’ve discovered that I am at my best when I am working directly with people, particularly in a one-on-one context. That’s not wholly incompatible with working on the web, but leveraging my interpersonal strengths would still require me to change what exactly it is I do, at least materially.

I’m in the same boat as Jeff. I’ve already invested in some of the additional education I would need to make a move, but there’s so much journey left. I would have to ask my family to make even more sacrifices for me to keep moving forward. It will take time, money, and plenty of adapting to make the change.

And yet, I feel stupid. My mind immediately begins defending my status quo, asking why I feel a need to fix what isn’t broken. I like the work I do. I’m lucky I get paid to do it. All of my material needs are met in spades.

But I’m still convinced that making a move is a poor, irresponsible choice.

Why is it that I admire people like Jeff but feel stupid and inadequate when it comes to myself?

I don’t have an answer. I guess I admire someone else who is able to say “screw it” to conventional wisdom. I admire the person who isn’t happy with the material world and pursues what’s personally fulfilling instead. That person is brave because they realize that there’s more to life than vocation and will fix what seemingly technically broken on paper.

There really is a thin line between being admirable and stupid. And sometimes all it takes to cross the line is what angle you decide to point the lens.

✏️ Handwritten by Geoff Graham on December 5, 2023


  1. # December 5, 2023

    I am guessing some the reason for the difference is who is paying the cost. It is much easier to see it as “admirable” for the other person. But there is a cost to pay when you are the one doing it.

    I would also say that I think “foolish” would be a better word choice than “stupid.” Because of the way you describe it, it seems you think the wiser move right now is to stay put and not jump.

    I don’t think it is stupid to want to be in a role where you think you would be able to do more of what is best about you. But we always have to weigh those decisions with the cost.

    This is a really hard one. It is much harder to make a career move the older you get and the more responsibilities you have. I wish you the best of luck as you figure out what is best for you and your family.

  2. # December 5, 2023

    @geoff Thanks for sharing your thoughts Geoff and being vulnerable. That is a tough one. I left some comments in your post. I wish you the best of luck as you determine the best course of action for you and your family.

  3. # December 5, 2023

    I felt this one! I wish you luck in navigating all of this. It’s tricky business. My general advice to people (when they ask me for it) is “do more of what you want to do, and less of what you don’t.”

    We tend to think in binaries, and in my own world I’m trying to challenge my own “this or that” thinking. Is there a gradient here? A way to inch along a slight slope from the shallow end into the deep end vs jumping off the ledge into the deep end? Big, dramatic changes sometimes are necessary, but maybe smaller shifts are possible as well? These are things I ask myself.

    Best of luck!

  4. # December 5, 2023

    Jeff’s courage is inspiring!


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