Existential Friday Newsletter

v50: The danger in pursuing “The Promise” over what you really want

Tampa Bay

I consume content on a wide range of topics. Regardless of the topic, there are some common themes. Podcast discussions often involve how “Topic X” will greatly improve your life (where Topic X is the podcast topic). Let’s call that message of improvement, “The Promise.”

The Promise usually comes in the form of a testimonial where the interviewees life was improved by “Topic X.” The theme is particularly noticeable in technology discussions where developing technology skills is presented as something like a path to salvation. However, The Promise isn’t limited to technology and any topic can be shaped to manifest The Promise.

I’d argue that what the audience really wants is the gift of The Promise more than the topic itself. The topic is just a tactic to get what listeners want.

In more concrete terms, technology podcast listeners don’t all want to be full stack web developers as much as they want the improved lifestyle and income that’s promised. People seem to really like the promise of more money . . .

One of the challenges with The Promise is that it can cause us to pursue tactics instead of our true goals and desires. Additionally, we might pursue tactics that are unable to satisfy our goals and desires. It seems simple, but manifesting what you want requires both awareness and tactics that have the potential to create it.

A goal or desire is your big picture target. It’s what you’re aiming towards and, as Simon Sinek would say, it should be aligned with your personal why. Without a clear vision of what we’re working towards (and, yes, that can change over time) we’re likely to get lost. The real danger is changing direction because of a shiny promise from some new tactic.

Sitting still is hard. Sometimes we pursue tactics because we feel like we need to be doing something (or anything). In those cases, we probably need to be doing more sitting, planning, and thinking. Pursuing tactics without direction will keep us busy, but it’s unlikely to lead anywhere meaningful.

Think about what you’re doing today. Do you have a sense of what you’re really working towards? Are the tactics that you’re using and learning leading you closer?

If you’re feeling a little unclear about where you’re going, you might like this article from Martha Beck.


This article blew my mind. It’s hard to conceptualize what a black hole is and now we can see one! Thanks to the friend who shared this with me.

This soap for introverts is so awesome . . .

Have you heard of a cardboard surfboard?

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