When the Irresponsible Thing Is the Responsible Thing To Do

Joining a band. Moving across the country to make it in Hollywood. Leaving a job to travel the world.

These are risky decisions. Leaving a job may create financial risk. Moving to Hollywood may result in abject failure. Joining a band may lead to bad hairstyles.

They are certainly imprudent by some measures. But I don’t believe they are irresponsible. In fact, sometimes (key word: “sometimes”) these kinds of “irresponsible decisions” are – in the long run – the most responsible ones a person can make.

In skipping college and making what (on a micro level) seemed an “irresponsible” decision to some people, I did something that was far more responsible for myself. I exposed myself to the business world, gained real skills and workplace confidence, built a network, and developed my character as an independent adult.

Similarly the actor who moves to Hollywood may be making an irresponsible choice in some ways: sacrificing a safety net, entering an industry with a high degree of failure, leaving a well-paying job. But the courage to move to Hollywood pays dividends: more comfort with risk-taking, more self-confidence, more self-respect. In the long run, even if he fails in acting, he will learn not think of himself as a sheep. And that’s the one of the most responsible things a person can do.

Micro-irresponsiblities are worthwhile in the pursuit of macro responsibility. At the same time, micro-responsibilities may be the enemy of your ability to be responsible in the macro. What is “responsible” is relative to your time horizon.

If you’re thinking long-term, probably the most responsible decisions you can make are the ones that strengthen your character, grow your tolerance for risk, minimize your regrets, and expand your skillset. And those decisions just happen to often be the “irresponsible” ones.

Photo by Klara Kulikova on Unsplash

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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