In my experience, one concrete story is better than a thousand conjectures, better than a million ideas.

What I mean is, when I confront a potentially life-changing decision, I do not try to “figure it out”. I find people who did something similar, and I say, “Tell me your story.” Get a few real, concrete stories and the answer becomes just obvious.

I still remember when I started my own business, and I talked to a local economist that I greatly admired who had been in business for himself for decades. He does work like help Metro predict bus ridership, that sort of statistical thing. He told me when he first started, he had a contract in hand that made him more money than he had ever made in his life. But after the contract ended, he had great difficulty finding new clients. In fact, he had so much trouble getting work that his bank account was down to $4.72 before the next offer came in. He said, “I still have that banking slip.” He also told me, “Make sure you get a nice office. You’re going to be spending a lot of time there.”

He was completely right. About both the office and the risk. In my first year in business, I lost money. I almost ran out of savings. I literally had nightmares for the first time since childhood. And I am also incredibly thankful that I was smart enough to spend twice as much on my office as I spent on my apartment rent during those first few years. I mean, I wasn’t spending any time in my apartment anyway other than to sleep, and nightmares don’t feel any better in a more expensive room.

Here are some questions you might be asking yourself. What should my major be? What kind of career should I choose? Should I take this job offer in a different state or not? Should I be an entrepreneur or an employee? Should I start this business? And here is a suggestion. Instead of trying to figure it out in your head, ask people who have actually done it to tell you their story. You may be surprised at how quickly impossible questions can turn into obvious answers.