Today I was referred to a blog post that was a list of 11 things the author has learned over his nearly 42 years on this earth. The list is so amazing and as my next birthday is 42, I really identified with what he had to say. When I read through the list I felt like it could be boiled down to one statement – Don’t be a victim; take control of your own life. I am a huge fan of people taking personal responsibility and that is such a rare thing. In my years in HR and even in my current role to some extent, a lot of folks are fairly quick to look to external situations on which to blame their poor choices. No, this last tardy didn’t get you fired, it’s all the OTHER times you were late or called out. If you were that good at basketball, the scouts would’ve found you.
Some of these people really have had genuinely terrible lives and have had to overcome a lot. I get it. I’ve had some difficult things to live through myself. But at what point are you going to take responsibility for your current choices? When are you going to stop letting your past experiences determine your future outcomes? It sucks that you had an absent father and your family didn’t have a lot of money. So throwing yourself at guys you think are rich is the best way to go? You have 3 kids by 3 different men and none of them are still around. How’s that working for you?
11 things it took me 42 years to learn
As I round the corner towards the still youngish age of 42, I’ve had some time to reflect upon what’s worked and what hasn’t in my life. Periodically, I feel the need to share some of this wisdom. Usually this happens when I haven’t been drinking much and my brain wants to dump information. Here we are.
So here’s some advice. I know you didn’t ask for it, you probably wonder why I think I’m qualified to give it, and there’s a good chance you’re going to ignore it. I’m okay with that. This blog entry will tick a box in my subconscious need to feel like I’m connecting to people through words, and probably make me cringe when I’m out of phase with this creative streak I’m currently riding. That’s my cycle. Fun stuff, right? I’m already partially cringing.
Anyway, here we go.
1. Play like you practice.
If you’ve heard it from a coach, you know what it means. It means don’t save yourself for the big game. Don’t imagine a time when everything is real and you’ll finally be able to give it 100%. This is it. It’s real right now: your writing, your acting, your creating, your parenting, your working, your choices in life. There may never be a big game, or at least, not the one you imagine from the comfort of your couch while you’re playing Minecraft instead of rewriting your sketch. Time slips quickly, and the impression you make on people now will have lasting repercussions as your peers rise through the ranks and eventually have the power to hire you, or not. You play like you practice. You’ll have no idea how to actually execute when opportunity arrives if you haven’t been giving it everything until that day comes.
2. Trust your instinct.
If you’re miserable in your job, quit. If you’ve chosen the wrong career, make a plan to switch. If something feels wrong, you’re right. Fix it, and don’t look back. This applies to work, relationships, friendships, and life choices. Wake up in the morning the person you want to be instead of the person you’re constantly trying to change. Sometimes it’s hard work to stay true to the person you know you are. It’s always worth it.
3. Let your dreams change.
You thought you were going to be a famous actor but have slowly begun to resent everything about the career except the end goal you imagine to be the answer to your happiness? It isn’t. This goes back to #1. Life slips by quickly when you sacrifice your current happiness for imagined future happiness for an extended amount of time. People tell you to do what you love. That’s not an expression, it’s a philosophy. Switch your dreams to something that makes you happy right now, not hopefully happy later.
4. Open your eyes to the right person.
The right person is so rarely the one you’ve imagined since you were young. The right person is someone you love to be around; someone who makes you laugh, makes you happy, makes you feel strong. Lots of times, they’re so obviously in front of you that you look right past them. If you find someone like that, latch on and never look back. If your current person doesn’t do those things for you, move on. Seriously, today.
5. Stop comparing your life to others.
Your life has nothing to do with theirs. You imagine their world to be perfect, but it never is. Find your own happiness, be happy for others successes, and fight that envy. It will tear you up and make you hard to be around. Dump your cynicism, while you’re at it. It’s cheap and simple.
6. Go where life blows you.
So to speak. Let that gentle pushing and pulling you feel each day guide you towards where you belong. Say yes to new things. Be open to exciting experience. Try new foods. Travel. Don’t just hate stuff because it’s easier. Maybe you’d love eel. Or urchin. Or the Insane Clown Posse. You don’t know.
7. Measure your failures as cautiously as you measure your successes.
So you failed. Okay. In the same way you are modest about your successes, be modest about your failures. Don’t linger in them. Think of all the hard learning you did while you worked so hard on something that sucked. Valuable knowledge. That’s how it goes sometimes. On to the next one.
8. Stop expecting stuff.
Your friends don’t owe you a job. Your parents don’t want to support you anymore. No one wants to hear you complain. You don’t deserve anything any more than anyone else. You aren’t the center of the world. You are responsible for your own happiness. Stop blaming everyone and everything else if you aren’t there yet. Fix it.
9. Be direct with people.
Fight the urge to say yes to everyone all the time. It’s okay to say no in a nice way. You’ll lose friends if you agree to do something and then just hope it fades away or they forget. Just be honest now and avoid the guilt later.
10. If you find the sweet spot, everything falls into place.
Get yourself to where you’re happiest in work, relationship, hobbies, social activities…and the world will open up to you. If you’re happy, people will want to be around you. If you’re miserable, you become a chore.
11. Be nice to the people who like you.
Don’t ignore their invitations. Don’t blow off their emails. Don’t take friendships for granted. If you do, you’ll eventually find yourself a fringe friend who everyone only kind of likes.
Okay, that’s enough.
I’m sure some people will skewer this. It’s filled with cliches and some preachy horsecrap, but these are some real things I’ve learned. Most of this stuff is probably in self help books or group therapy sessions, but since I’ve managed to avoid both thus far, it’s taken me almost 42 years to learn.
Of course, older folks will shake their heads and chuckle at the notion of an almost 42 year old popinjay spouting any sort of wisdom. So be it. Perhaps you 20 or 30 something youngsters will find a nugget or two in here that you can scoff at, file away, and then one day spout as your own after a hard lesson or two toughens you up.
Or maybe you already figured this stuff out and I’m just slow.
Brain dump: complete.