It is a cliche we’ve all used. I think I first said it 15 years ago, or so.
If only I knew then what I know now.
Today, having just completed my 35th trip around the Sun; I find myself doing a lot of reflecting on just what I have learned in all those years. I’ve gone from almost always being the youngest person in the room, to almost never. But what do I have to show for it? Is there wisdom in my age, or just decay? I have no idea, really, but here are the 35 things I’d say to my younger self, if we met today:
- Life is fatal. You will die. And no matter how much faith you have in anything, the only thing we can actually know for sure, is that we get this one turn – so make the most of it!
- Be an artist. Observe deeply and reflect what you see back for the world to ponder. Find inspiration everywhere. Be inspiring. Create a masterpiece that is your life, told from birth to death.
- Failure is always an option. Sometimes it’s the best option.
- Nothing is temporary. We rarely go back to do something again, unless we have to – so do it the best you can, every time.
- Everything is temporary. Change is the only constant. Don’t let impermanence scare you. Don’t get so attached that you crumble when the ground shifts. Don’t ruin it by trying to make it last forever. Growth requires change.
- Love deeply. Live in this moment. Right here, right now, is the only reality – make every moment great by simply not holding back. All in. All the time.
- You can’t always get what you want, but if you try, you just might find, you get what you need. Set goals. Strive for them. But don’t lose faith when they don’t quite work out. Direction is more important than destination – progress more important than perfection.
- Knowing you will never reach perfection is no reason not to keep trying.
- Kindness is always, always, always the best option.
- Hate is just a disguise worn by fear.
- Anger is a signpost to your own issues. When angered, look inside, find that trigger – and heal yourself.
- Stress, pressure, expectations – those all come from you, and no one else. We tend to blame these feelings on others. Parents, partners, friends, family, children, society, are all false victims. Own the fact that it’s all you, can really only be you, and take control of your life.
- Love yourself first.
- You can not find yourself. But you should know yourself.
- You must make yourself. And you’ll never be done.
- Act as if. The best way to learn something is to do it. The best way to become something is to be it. Actions follow intention.
- You are what you do consistently. Everyone makes mistakes, missteps, but there is no such thing as a good person who always does evil things. Is it possible that Hitler or Stalin or Mao had their hearts in the right place? Do you care if they were cool dudes to hang out with?
- Take responsibility. Your actions, all of them, have consequences. Be aware. Take ownership.
- Work hard.
- Work smarter, not harder. That doesn’t mean don’t work hard, it means be efficient. Hard is carrying 100 rocks up a hill by hand. Smart is carrying 1000 rocks up that hill in a wheelbarrow, or 10,000 in a truck.
- Knowing how to learn is more important than any other single fact or skill.
- Travel is mandatory. Explore the world you live in.
- People will like you if you give them the chance. Talk. Listen. Laugh.
- “Be conservative in what you do, be liberal in what you accept from others.” This robustness principal was developed for computer communications but it applies to humans as well. You could also say “Do not offend, do not be offended.” Live by your values but never impose your values on others.
- Don’t lie.
- There is such a thing as too honest.
- You can’t do everything: Prioritize.
- You are not better than anyone else.
- No one else is better than you.
- What people think of you is none of your business.
- Trust, but verify.
- Do what you love doing. Anything else is a waste of time.
- Seek. Curiosity is key.
- Be weird. Be bold. Be confident. Be YOU.
- I’m probably wrong about half of this and in another 35 years the list will not only be longer, it will be different – if I’m around to write it…
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