As a college student majoring in astrophysics at Cornell, he served on the operations team for the 2003 Mars Exploration Rovers project that sent two rovers–Spirit and Opportunity–to Mars. He then changed course and went to law school, graduating first in his class. In his twenties he became a law professor and then became the youngest tenured professor at Lewis & Clark Law School. He’s now a successful published author.
I was interviewing him for our upcoming podcast coming out in August. What most impressed me though weren’t his credentials, as much as his approach to decision making.
A few weeks before we talked, Ozan had pivoted his life course once again. He left his tenured position to become a full time writer.
His colleagues thought he’d lost his mind for stepping away from academia. No one gives up the guarantee of a great salary and a reputable position that tenure provides. But Ozan understood what he was doing. It was a very calculated decision...one that he’d made several times in his life.
This is how he explained his approach, “Much of the positive impact in my life has come from subtractions, not from additions. I’m more proud of the things that I stopped doing than the things that I have done...Adding is easy, but subtracting is hard—really hard. When we’ve invested time and resources into building something, the sunk-cost fallacy kicks in and prompts us to stay the course. We behave like a snake that stubbornly refuses to shed its old skin even as the new one emerges.”
Ozan had gotten what he needed out of being a law professor. He’d taught the classes he wanted to teach. His growth had capped. He was no longer learning or being challenged. He wanted to explore a new terrain.
He had done what so many of us are afraid to do... let go.
Even when we no longer enjoy a job, a relationship, or a place our instinct is to hold on. We’re afraid of uncertainty. We’re scared to know what happens if we leave. We worry that we’ll be judged or that we won’t survive.
Yet by clinging to our old skin we stunt our own development.
We miss out on the discovery of new possibilities, people and places.
We give up the opportunity of a full life that only subtraction can provide.
That’s why we must act on our intuition that tells us when it’s time to go.
We must gain the courage to say, “I’ve learned what I needed to. This no longer serves me. I can move on now.”
Because if we do this.
If we are willing to seek the discomfort of subtraction.
Then down the line we’ll never have to ask life’s most haunting question…
PS - Don’t forget that Seeker Day is coming on July 30th!! It’s the only sale we do every year. We're bringing back all the bestsellers at 30% offon www.seekdiscomfort.com. It’s gonna be BANANAS.
If you’ve ever wanted to get Seek Discomfort, this will be the time to do it :)