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Michael Gardon

  • Writer's pictureMichael Gardon

Taking the Pathless Path, and a Hack to Deal With Overwhelm - The Break Issue 45

Updated: Mar 13

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Today At A Glance

  • How the pathless path relates to overwhelm

  • To live an authentic life, we must master overwhelm

  • An explanation of helpful decision making "razors"

  • Use Gardon's Razor the next time you have too many options to think through

The pathless path and overwhelm

I talked to Paul Millerd last week on The Break podcast. Paul is an inspiration for those (like me) choosing to reject the default path in pursuit of a more creative life that integrates work and personal. I highly recommend checking out his book ​The Pathless Path​.

The rub with taking a "pathless path" is that we have to figure out our way, which means trying things.

When we try things we split our attention, and can get trapped in the overwhelm of flailing without seeming to make progress.

All the gurus tell us to "focus" and buckle down. But we can only do that when we have high confidence that the path we are on is the right one.

So we have to constantly balance how many options we give ourself with a system for deciding when to press on and when to kill an idea.


That's the essence of what my Advantage Mapping Program is all about - giving you tools to evaluate what progress and success looks like so you can have confidence in your path. We aim to deal well with uncertainty and create a systematic, high odds approach to aligning who you are with what you do. I'd love you to check it out ​​Join the waitlist


Gardon's Razor

So here's trick I've developed over years of dealing with this problem. I teach this mental shortcut in my coaching to deal with the overwhelm of the "what should I do with my life?" question.

I call it Gardon's Razor. Well, because I came up with it, so I get to name it!

Wait, what the hell is a razor?

A "Razor" is a philosophical heuristic, or "mental short cut" designed to shave off unnecessary information overload to simplify decision making or solve a problem.

Think of them as "rules of thumb" for decision making.

I've studied these razors for years as a way to combat mental blind spots and make better decisions.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Hanlon's Razor

"Never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity." This one is helpful for trying to give people the benefit of the doubt, because most ill that happens isn't the result of actual, willful malice, but rather ignorance, stupidity or carelessness. There is a difference. Very few people are out to get you.

Occam's Razor

"The simplest explanation is preferable to the more complex" is how we could state this in simple language. Basically, all else equal, the path with the least moving parts and complexities is statistically more probably to be correct and fundamental.

I use both of these mental shortcuts weekly.


"To live a creative and fulfilled life, one must diversify just enough to be dynamic, but not to the point of inaction. The magic number is three options."

Basically never give yourself more than 3 options. Ever.

Give yourself one option and you're "optimizing". You have no backup plan or out if you are wrong.

But 4 or more options is really hard to make progress on at any one time.

Three income streams.

Three career experiments.

Three goals.

You'll move faster and make easier decisions.

Banish overwhelm

So the next time you are overwhelmed with life choices, do what Warren Buffett suggests. Here is my amended version of Warren's advice:

make a list of all your options and priorities. Circle the top three that make the most sense for you to look into now. Throw the rest of the list away until you thoroughly test those three. Only then, go back to the list and re-evaluate.

From the mouth of Steve Jobs

"To be a creative person, you need to “feed” or “invest” in yourself by exploring uncharted paths that are outside the realm of your past experience. Seek out new dimensions of yourself - especially those that carry a romantic scent.

But one has no way of knowing which of these paths will lead anywhere in advance. That’s the wonderful thing about it, in a way. The only think one can do is to believe that some of what you follow with your heart will indeed come back to make your life much richer. And it will. And you will gain an ever firmer trust in your instincts and intuition.

The enemy of most dreams and intuitions, and one of the most dangerous and stifling concepts ever invented by humans, is the “Career.” A career is a concept for how one is supposed to progress through stages during the training for and practicing of your working life.

There are some big problems here. First and foremost is the notion that your work is different and separate from the rest of your life. If you are passionate about your life and your work, this can’t be so. They will become more or less one. This is a much better way to live one’s life.

The risk factor quotient goes down as you encounter the real world. Many people find what they believe to be safe harbors (lawyers and accountants), only to wake up ten or fifteen years later and discover the price they paid.

Make your avocation your vocation. Make what you love your work."

See you again next week!


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The Latest Conversation on THE BREAK Pod

If you’ve ever wondered how a teacher stuck in a classroom making $40k per year can transform into a world-roaming remote nomad making over $100k inside 12 months, well you’re in the right place. Taylin Simmonds was a music producer and college educator who broke his career and now helps founders and leaders of high-growth companies grow their personal brands.

And he does it while traveling the world. In fact, we recorded this episode while Taylin was in Panama where he has decided to live for a few months. I just love connecting with young folks like Taylin who are thinking hard and deep about their future and taking bold steps to transform their lives to work with purpose.

If you have doubts that you can make a gigantic change to your circumstances in a short amount of time, you need to tune in to this amazing episode with my new friend Taylin Simmonds.

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