The rivers we swim in

Some decisions seem to have a disproportionately large impact:

  • Choosing the right friends.
  • Living in the right city (or neighborhood).
  • Joining the right church or community organization.
  • Attending the right school.
  • Working at the right company.
  • Dating/marrying the right person.

What makes these decisions so impactful? They are environment decisions.

Our environments shape us in hundreds of little ways that are difficult to see and predict. It’s like swimming in a river, where the current slowly pulls you in one direction, until you look up and realize that you’ve been drifting downstream the entire time. The right environment can pull to you where you want to go (and compensate for a lot of mistakes along the way).

It’s hard, though. Smart people know that environments matter, so you have to fight for opportunities. Many schools won’t accept you. Most companies aren’t hiring for your position. Changing friends is difficult. Good housing is expensive. It’s even harder if you’re disadvantaged in one way or another.

Fortunately, there are lots of hidden gems. Great opportunities at lesser-known companies. Great educations at lesser-known schools. Great people you can learn from online. You may have to hunt, but the opportunities are out there.

I’m guilty of over-researching things from time to time, but “environment decisions” are worth spending time on.