A little over 5 months ago, I quit my job in tech sales with about $15,500 and booked a month-long Airbnb stay in Catania, Sicily and a one-way plane ticket there from Boston, Massachusetts where I was living with my parents. If you stopped me then and asked me “why?”, I would have told you “because I was excited to”.
That’s the only reason I was doing anything I was doing. You see, I had stumbled upon a YouTube video that talked about something called “The Formula”. It was supposed to be a formula for making decisions about what to do with yourself in every moment. The formula goes as follows:
Act on your highest excitement in every moment to the best of your ability, with absolutely zero insistence on or expectation of a particular outcome, until you can act on it no further. Then choose your next highest excitement and repeat.
Upon hearing this formula I instantly had a feeling that it could bring me somewhere meaningful. My entry-level sales job felt very burdensome and I was so lost for what to do with my life that I was more than happy to give it a try. So I began practicing The Formula right away.
I noticed over the next week that the decisions I was making while using The Formula seemed more intelligent than my usual decisions. It felt a little clunky always asking myself what my highest excitement was and awkward sometimes to do things without necessarily knowing why I was doing them (other than a spontaneous excitement to do them). However, it felt quite freeing and certainly better than having no idea what to do except show up for work on Monday.
It was pretty difficult to follow but I ended up committing to The Formula it because I saw it as an intelligent way forward. After a few weeks I got the idea of going to Sicily (I have Italian citizenship but don’t speak the language) and then felt the excitement to book an airline ticket… and so I did. “Well then, time to tell my boss I quit”. I had been working there for 6 months.
And so, two more weeks of the grind and I was off to Catania. I stayed there in a stone walled casa in a narrow and colorful alley way, and proceeded with The Formula. I came up with an idea I thought was cool and figured I would work on it by teaching myself machine-learning online. I soon became excited to go to Spain (I do speak a little bit of Spanish), and after being bed-ridden with Covid-19 for a few days I was in too absurd a state to even care whether it was logically smart. So I Googled “cheap places to go in Spain”, and the name “Cádiz” was the second result. I immediately liked the name and it looked pretty, so I booked the first Airbnb I saw listed in Cádiz for the following month.
In Spain, just as in Italy, I walked around A LOT and took in the sights while I thought about my life, though I didn’t talk with many people. I continued teaching myself machine-learning online, but my progress was slow. I was enjoying Cádiz so I booked another month’s stay.
While following The Formula It seemed like I was in the right place at the right time, most of the time. Life was easy because I didn’t need to think much about what to do and I was just riding on faith that things would work out. I enjoyed most days but sometimes I just felt like I was missing a few things and would really question my decision to continue. I was missing relationships- people to simply converse with, and a dating life- both of which The Formula just didn’t lead me towards. Some days I would quit The Formula in frustration, only to resume a few hours later. The loneliness was mounting and I began wondering about what I was going to do when I ran out of money, with what I saw as my botched résumé.
During my second month in Cádiz I was really questioning whether I was following The Formula properly or just doing it half-way. Was I subconsciously ignoring some of my excitement and therefor not experiencing the full benefit? Was I secretly insisting on a specific outcome? Was I neglecting my needs or just being a crybaby. It was difficult to know and the whole thing was becoming overwhelming. I quit and then resumed a number of times. It began to seem that nothing was changing for the better so I eventually made a hard decision to pull the plug. There was just no way I was going to continue like this. I began feeling lost again and fishing anxiously for some other way to navigate my life.
My third month in Cádiz I began teaching myself more general programming- just hoping it would benefit me somehow, but it proved harder to learn than I imagined and I lacked the necessary desire. Once I accepted this, I happily let it go and began to work on this blog. This is where my heart is right now and although I don’t have a strong financial plan around this, I am happy to be doing it.
Now in a smaller town near Cádiz called Conil de la Frontera, I am still experimenting with different ways of navigating life. I don’t regret anything I’ve tried over the past 5 months. I see it all as worthy attempts on my journey to discover and live as who I really want to be in this world.
Looking back I think The Formula is excellent advice in principle, and rather similar in behavioral outcome to The Third Invitation. However, I found it takes a strong commitment and quite a lot of maturity and self-awareness to fully follow. It gave me the courage to leave my job behind and explore new possibilities. it also taught me about what is authentic to me and to listen to my excitement. I’m grateful for this, but I feel much more comfortable making decisions with conscious consideration. That’s how I was raised, so that’s my bias. At least for now.