Eight Life LessonsJan 02, 2024
Today I have been fortunate and careful enough to complete 66 orbits around the sun. Like any life there have been many highs and lows. Like any person, I have tried to maximize the highs and mitigate the lows. I will resist the urge to list “66 life lessons” and distill what I have learned into eight suggestions.
What Not To Do
Let’s keep it simple, yes? While not an exhaustive enumeration, I will note some things that I have learned to avoid.
Top of the list. We were not put here to take it easy. All manner of bad things happen - physically, mentally, financially, emotionally and in our relationships - when we do nothing. You are the only person who can change your situation. (Read that again.) If there is anything you don’t like about your situation get up and do something about it. I promise you that whatever you hate will get worse if you let it be. Lose that weight, get the training/education/experience for a better job, find the love of your life. Get off your ass.
There is a simple psychological fact at work here: everyone wants what’s best for them. This applies equally to business and romantic partners. When I was first starting my career, I asked a very wealthy, self-made person what advice she could offer. Without hesitation, she said, “Never take a partner.” I of course ignored this advice years later and the results were disastrous. I realize that there are times that a partnership makes sense in matters of business and of the heart. All I can tell you is avoid the business partners at all costs and be extremely picky about the romance interests. I could (and might) write a book on this topic alone, but suffice to say it’s better to go it alone than to be in a bad partnership.
Along those same lines, try your best not to ever settle for less than you want. This means you may have to put in extra time and effort to get what you really want (see “Inaction,” above) but it will be worth it. The tendency to settle comes from one of two places: either we feel we are not worthy of the best, or we are forced to make a lesser decision as a result of our circumstances. You need a way to get to work. You deserve that Porsche, damnit! Well, you may have to settle for the time being to still have a job while you save up. When it comes to where you live or your relationships, just don’t do it. Do what you have to do to get what you want. If you must settle, make it intentionally temporary while you go for what you really want. And never settle in a relationship. When you make a mistake (or what you want changes), remember this old business saw: “Hire slow, fire fast.” Make the change and move on.
Nothing will make you more situationally miserable than allowing yourself to become “house poor,” or “car poor,” or “gotta have that new PlayStation and 85-inch flat-screen poor.” No one can make you spend more money than you have. (Read that again, too.) The psychological pressure to conform to advertising and/or what “all” your friends have is overwhelming. Curb that addiction to instant gratification and put some money aside for when you get older. If you’re lucky enough to get older, that is, and trust me, it happens so much faster than you expect. I’m a realist and I know how hard it is to do this. Hell, I know this stuff because I have screwed it all up at one time or another. But your life will be better if you live within your means. Want more stuff? Do what you have to do to be able to afford it. (See why “Inaction” is number one?)
What To Do
My best guess as to the real meaning of life is to experience everything we can and help others as best we can. This mandates saying “yes” to anything that won’t injure you or put you in prison. I have taught many thousands of students in my lifetime and I always try to impart this one piece of advice: “Go where the butterflies are.” (If you follow this blog, you have seen that before.) By that, I mean the “butterflies” in your stomach when you contemplate a new endeavor. That sense of nervous excitement, of taking on a challenge just at the edge of your comfort zone, is the essence of growth. It’s what keeps life interesting. As Jean-Luc Picard would say: “Engage!”
There is a mindset that will allow you to give freely of your time and your resources and most importantly, your love. It’s something I taught my children and now, my grandchildren: We do what’s right because it’s right, not because we expect something in return. Remember: you are not responsible for other people’s reactions. I smile at people without worrying if they are going to smile back. I buy pizza for the short-staffed workers at my hotel because it makes them feel appreciated. I pick up the latte for the person behind me at the drive-through because it might make them smile. I write this blog every week in hopes someone will read it and make their life a little better, not because it’s heavily monetized. I hang out with the homeless guys on Christmas Eve to let them know someone cares. You can always give of your love, even if you have nothing else. How people respond is none of your business. Say "I love you" frequently and without worry.
Do Your Best
Matthew McConaughey has famously said, “Don’t half-ass it.” He’s right.You have a frighteningly limited number of minutes on this planet. Use them for things that matter, and because they matter, go all in. Everyone needs down time to stay healthy; the drive-and-grind mindset is good for business but not for your physical and mental health. I get that. But when you’re “on,” be completely on. I guess it’s a matter of, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.” So be intentional and mindful about it. Choose carefully the projects to which you devote your precious time. And when you choose one, follow through and crush it.
At all costs. Stress will destroy your peace, age you, kill you. My forthcoming book on happiness has a great deal of psychophysiological data about the effects of stress, but suffice to say it’s responsible for most of what ails most people, most of the time. I realize that it’s impossible (and not even desirable) to avoid all stress, but that’s my point: Don’t add to your stress unnecessarily. Hate your job? Change it. Don’t like where you live? Move. Don’t have any friends? Make some. (There’s “Inaction” again…) The stress of making the change is much better than the stress of staying “stuck” in a situation that’s killing you. (Yes, read that again as well.)
So here are Eight Life Lessons - from me to you, personally - gained from almost 7 decades of saying “yes,” with love and best wishes for your happiness.
I am a creator (musician, writer, live-streamer and podcaster), entrepreneur, educator and counselor. To learn more about how to use these concepts or to inquire about working with me, you can contact me through my website, the comments section on my Substack or Medium accounts or The Authentic Life Blog page. If you have found value in this article, consider following my Instagram and X (formerly Twitter) accounts. To support this community, you can even Buy Me A Coffee or donate through my Patreon account. Subscribe to my River of Creation podcast - The Podcast for Creators, and my associated YouTube channel, coming later this year, wherever you download your podcasts.
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