The Two Life Paths

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This is a summary of a speech I used to give high school and college students years ago when I was doing more public speaking. It applies mostly to younger men, but older men will find some value from it as well. In life, there are two possible paths you can take. (Well, there are technically more than two, but these key two are the two I’m going to discuss today.) The first path is Path A. This is the path taken by most normal people in society, particularly Americans, though most people in the Western world follow a very similar road. If you look at all the statistics for how people behave over the course of their lives, it describes Path A.

-By Caleb Jones

If you break down Path A into individual decades of your life, it looks like this (click to zoom): In your first decade of life, your time is mostly spent learning how to be a human being. You are a small child. You have no freedom and no agency. Your life is completely controlled by outside sources, namely your parents and teachers. In your second decade of life, your teens, your time is mostly spent learning how to be an adult. Though you have the body of an adult, you still don’t have the freedom, faculties, or agency to live your life as you choose, and still can’t accomplish much.

In your twenties, you spend most of your time screwing up your life. Again, if you look at the stats, most human beings spend most of their twenties doing everything wrong and fucking everything up. It’s usually during your twenties when you do things like:

Go into debt Drop out of college Get drunk a lot Have babies out of wedlock, and with the wrong person Get into serious relationships with the wrong people Fuck up your finances Do a lot of drugs Go to college for no reason Blow your money on stupid shit Waste large amounts of time on things like video games and vacuous social activities Commit crimes File bankruptcy Marry the wrong person And so on

In your thirties, you snap out of your stupidity and look back over all the problems you caused for yourself in your twenties. You then spend most of this decade cleaning up the mess you created in your twenties. You clean up your finances, you buckle down and get a solid income, you get divorced if you need to, you cut way back on the drugs, alcohol, and other reckless activities, you stop wasting as much time, you stop getting into relationships that aren't quite as stupid, and so on.

By the time you hit age 40 or so, you’ve more or less cleaned up your mess, but you haven’t really done anything with your life yet, since you’ve spent the last 20 years of your adulthood fucking everything up and then cleaning it up. So finally, in your early 40’s, you start from zero again, but this time you do it right. During this decade, your income is at its highest, which is good, but the problem is your expenses are also at their highest. Your lifestyle costs are huge; house, cars, spouse, kids who are probably teenagers (a very expensive time). You work very hard, make a decent amount of money, but it all pretty much goes to monthly keep-up-with-the-Joneses expenses.

In your fifties, you start feeling old, so you look at your finances, then you panic because you haven’t really saved any money yet. “Holy shit!” you cry, “How the hell can I retire?!?” You spend this entire decade stressing the fuck out about not having enough money for retirement (because you spent it all in your forties) as well as dealing with a slew of new medical problems because you haven’t been taking care of your health. It’s a stressful time. In your sixties and beyond, you reach a state of poverty and dependence. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, 95% of Americans at age 65 do not reach the point of financial independence supporting an average lifestyle. This means that if you choose Path A, when you’re over 60, you are in a state of dependence. You depend financially on your government, church, charity, or your kids to pay your bills, and you live in a state of poverty, at least to some degree.

And then you die. That’s Path A. That’s literally how the vast majority of people live. Does that sound like fun? Now let’s talk about an alternate path, Path B. This is the path that I chose as a young man. It looks quite different than Path A. Path B looks like this (click to zoom): The first two decades of life under Path B look pretty much the same as Path A. You’re a child or a teenager with no real agency.
But, in your twenties, instead of running around and fucking everything up, you buckle down, get focused, and work. You work hard for just a few years, and lay foundations financially, sexually, and even perhaps physically and with fitness that will benefit you for the rest of your life.

Then, by the time you’re in your thirties, you’re pretty much good to go for the rest of your life. That doesn’t (necessarily) mean you retire in your thirties. (I certainly didn’t.) It means that the rest of your life, from your thirties all the way to when you die as an old man, is pretty much smooth sailing. All the problems and stresses of people on Path A never happen to you. If you do have problems (and you will, everyone has problems), the severity of these problems are far, far reduced from the problems people on Path A have.

Any “fun” or whatever you missed out in your twenties, if any, can be quickly recouped ten times over after you turn thirty. You actually have the rest of your life to have fun and live a good life. This is what I did with the woman side of my life. Yeah, I lost my virginity later than most, and didn’t get laid a lot in my twenties, but holy shit, I’ve more than made up for that twenty times over since turning 35, and not just with quantity of women or sex, but with quality of women, sex, and relationships as well. Now I have sex and the money / financial security for the rest of my life. Path B is so much better than Path A. One of my biggest mentors, Brian Tracy, explained it this way:

In order for a pilot to take off from the runway, he needs to put the plane at 100% full throttle. But once he gets to cruising altitude, he can back off the throttle to just 5%, and the plane still flies just fine. Life is the same way. Once you get to a certain point (specifically with money and women), you can just dial back the work to just 5% (if you want to, and if you don’t that’s okay too), kick back, and enjoy life, for the rest of your life.

Most people, while on the runway, shove that throttle to 80% or 90% and keep it there for the rest of their lives. They bust their asses, have all kinds of problems and stress, and never take off. They don’t want to go to 100% because that’s “too much work,” so they suffer at 80% or 90% for the rest of their lives, never take off, and literally never get to the point where they can dial it back to 5% and truly relax stress-free and live a great life.

There are also those men who set the throttle to 20% because they “don’t want to work too hard” or "I don't want to sacrifice" or “what’s the point?” and they just live a shitty, mediocre life for the rest of their lives, never being able to do the things they really want, and end up being spiteful about it all. That’s not happiness, nor is worrying about paying your electric bill when you’re over 35. Path A or Path B. As always, the choice is yours.

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