In an earlier post, I talked about the virtues of optionality at a startup. And with a lot of events and masterclasses we conduct at Stoa, the aim is always to help people gain more optionality and choice in their life.
This aspect of optionality, where you’re not wholly reliant on one thing — one job, one skill, one marketing channel, one client… — is fairly discussed and Raj and I have done our fair bit in helping people understand what optionality means and how you can build it in your life.
But today, I want to discuss the under-discussed side of optionality — the optionality mindset.
There is the act of seeking out and having more and more options that you can choose from.
And then there is the mindset of never settling with the limited options you’ve been forced to choose from.
This is the optionality mindset.
If you look back at your childhood, you will realise that schooling and upbringing in general forces us to choose between binaries:
- Engineering vs. Medicine
- Graduate course vs. Diploma
- Online courses vs. CBCs
- MBA vs. CFA
- Job vs. Startup
“School-think is thinking that you only have to decide between options A and B, without realizing that, in the real world, there is always a third option and sometimes a fourth and a fifth. Yes, life is like a multiple-choice test where you can make up your own answer if you do not like the ones that are given to you.”
— Sven Schneiders
The choice you're offered is not a choice at all; it's like picking one of the two cards the magician is secretly forcing you to select as your card. But it's never YOUR card. No matter what you choose, it will always be the magician's card.
This is a kind of frame control people and brands can also use to manipulate us into thinking A and B are the only options available.
For example, take these famous rivalries between Burger King and Mc Donalds or Wendy's and Taco Bell. I have a hunch that these rivalries are actually fabricated and both brands are secretly in on it, because to the consumers, these rivalries also indirectly convey and instil the flawed notion that these are the only two fast-food brands you can buy from!
Black and white leaves no space for grey.
The optionality mindset, then, is about not letting the frame control you and stepping out of it to seek other options.
Don't get limited by the frame.
Don't get limited by what's on the menu.
That's real, disruptive agency.
And the root of confidence is refusing to be in someone else's frame and play someone else's game, and believing that there's always another option, another way.