You Can Only Pick Two

There’s a lot we want to do. A lot we can do. We have our jobs. We have friends. We have our kids. We have our hobbies. We want to have fun. We want to make money. We want to be good parents.

We want to have it all. Of course, the unfortunate truth is…we can’t.

The prolific artist and father of two, Austin Kleon, was asked how he makes time for it all. “I don’t,” he said. “The artist’s life is about tradeoffs.” And then he added a little rule that we should all keep with us always:

Work, family, scene. Pick two.

Work—that is your creative output or your profession.

Family—that’s a spouse, kids, or any close personal relationships.

Scene—that’s the fun stuff that comes along with success, the stuff that looks good on Instagram, that you can brag about, that falls into your lap like a wonderful surprise. Parties. Fancy dinners. Important friends. Offers, invitations, perks.

It’d be wonderful if you could have the run of things in all of these areas all of the time…but you can’t.

You can party it up and hang onto a relationship, but you won’t have much time left for work.

You can grind away at your craft, be the toast of the scene, but what will that leave for your family? Almost certainly it means they will be home, alone.

If you’re as committed to the work as you are to a happy home, you can keep both but you will have no room for anything else.

Being a parent is about making tradeoffs, from the very second our kids enter this world: It’s their needs versus our wants. At first, it can be a shock to the system. But once we know what to say no to, and we know why, we can say yes with comfort and confidence to the things that matter. To the things that last.

Work, family, scene.

You can have two if you say no to one. If you can’t say no to any, you’ll have none.

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