Start to Have a Life of More and Better Choices Now [Guest Post]

By Ian Coburn

“Where are you going to college?”

“What are you going to do?”

“How’d you do on your ACT’s?”

“Have you applied for any scholarships?”

If you are junior or senior in high school, you’re used to these questions. If you’re younger, don’t worry… they’re coming. (Actually, in today’s competitive world, you probably started getting these questions as early as junior high.) They can be daunting, even overwhelming, at times. Frustrating as answering these questions may be, the choices you make today determine the path of your life more than at any other time of your existence. The problem isn’t the questions; the problem is you’ve been given very little education on how to make choices. Why? Because few people actually know how; rather, they follow simple cycles that often bear unsatisfying results—choosing the major their best friends select or going to a college their parents attended. Well, relax; I’m going to give you a crash course in making good choices.

“What are you good at?” This is the #1 question guidance counselors, parents, teachers, aunts and uncles, and even friends will ask you as they help you figure out what to do with your life. Unfortunately, this is the worst question. It has absolutely no merit; yet, most teens use the answer to guide their careers, thus entering the cycle and setting themselves up for the mid-life crisis twenty-five years down the road.

Want to make the right choice for you? Start by answering the right questions. It’s pretty easy, since there are only four (known as the “Basic Life Concept Questions,” “BLC’s” for short):

  • What do you need?
  • What’s important to you?
  • What are your responsibilities?
  • What are your limitations?

Once you have the answers to these questions, simply refer to them to answer any other questions. When I was nineteen, after two years of hard work studying trumpet at NIU in DeKalb, IL, I came up with the BLC’s and my own answers to them. I then determined the path for my life. “What are you good at?” (Yeah, I got that question all the time, too.) Answer: Math. Hence, I should be an accountant or math teacher—according to my dean, teachers, and parents. The answers to my life questions, though, begged to differ:

  • What do you need? A roof, food, clothes.
  • What’s important to you? Entertaining people, seeing all of the U.S. and Canada, and seeing wild animals while camping.
  • What are your responsibilities? Earning my bachelors and two on-campus jobs.
  • What are your limitations? I’m not good enough to make it as a trumpet player.

Easy enough. (Another nineteen-year-old might need off-campus housing and a flashy car. Totally fine but not needed for me.) Now I could answer any questions thrown at me. Should I be an accountant or a math teacher? There isn’t a damn thing about math or teaching on my BLC-list, so either would be a bad choice. Should I be a musician? I’m not good enough. Should I be a comedian? (I had started doing comedy open mic’s at eighteen.) As a comedian I could afford food, clothes and a roof; I could travel, seeing the U.S. and Canada; and I could entertain people. Being a comedian met virtually every requirement on my BLC-list. So, I became a comedian. By the time I graduated college, I had built up enough of a name for myself to do stand-up comedy full-time.

It was a great choice. I toured for ten years and hold the entertainment industry record for most consecutive weeks on the road—106. When I got tired of traveling, I wrote a book detailing my sexual and dating misadventures as a touring comedian which became a top 500 bestseller—God is a Woman: Dating Disasters.

Of course, there is more to making good choices than just the BLC-list but it is the starting point. For all the information you need, check out my flash presentation, Choice: The Meaning of Life at (Don’t worry… it’s free.)

You hear all the time that “Every journey starts with but a single step.” It’s a reality. What you aren’t told is another reality—there are a lot of steps taken in backtracking from the wrong journeys; journeys resulting from bad choices. Make good choices from the start and you’ll take the right steps to have a future full of the right journeys.

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