I put quotes around the word “truths” in the headline because who the hell knows, right?
When I say truths, I mean what’s true to me and what seems to be true across time for many many people.
I put the word ‘can’ in the headline instead of ‘must.’ Why? Because you can do whatever the hell you want with your life. It’s your life. These are suggestions.
In general, you’ll end up defining what life means to you. While there’s no objectively right way to judge your life, there are some subjectively wrong ways to do it. Ways that, observed by many people over time, tend to be counterproductive.
What’s the goal?
Get as close to objectivity as you can without ever reaching it. In the process, you’ll live a pretty damn good life.
1,00,000 people can praise you, but at least one person will find fault with what you’re doing. And you tend to focus on that one person. As you move forward in your life and try to become successful, especially if you’re doing it in public, you’ll have to learn to develop the right attitude. ‘
Thick skin’ isn’t necessarily the right phrase. Why? Because it implies defensiveness.
I’ve been writing for five years now — three books, hundreds of essays, hundreds of thousands and maybe even millions of words. As I’ve practiced, I’ve learned to become more nuanced with my message and try to get as close to the objective truth as possible, which is ultimately impossible. I understand that I have biases and a unique worldview. The same can be said for my audience.
So now? When I receive criticism, I just take it as someone who has a different perspective than me. That’s all.
When you’re moving through life, just understand that some people aren’t going to be a good fit for you. On top of that, understand that you wouldn’t want to live in a world where everyone was a good fit.
A world where everyone agrees with each other is a boring world. We could do without the vitriol and tribalism on steroids, yes, but often disagreement and differing philosophies help push us all forward as a result.
If you lose sight of the power of different perspectives you lose sight of your own humanity. People stop being people and they start becoming enemies. From the more benign statement of “stop wanting everyone to like you” to the deeply important “stop dehumanizing those you disagree with” the overall goal is to understand that you’re not the all-seeing all-knowing dictator of reality.
You know that logically, but emotionally you feel the need to always be right, always be liked, and always have your views accepted. Can you overcome it totally? No, but that’s not the point. Working on yourself is.
No matter how hard you try, you can’t predict the future. Yet we do all of this planning for it. And often, what we call planning is hesitation.
“I want to get my ducks in a row.”
No, you’re afraid. And it’s okay to be afraid. But it’s not okay to be a coward. A coward never acts in the face of fear and their life is dominated by it. And what are people most afraid of? Uncertainty. An unknowable future. So they procrastinate and then the future unfolds in a way they don’t like anyway.
Think of how weird that is.
Since you can’t predict the future and imagine it going bad if you step outside of your comfort zone, you never step outside of your comfort zone, so it goes bad.
Actually, it doesn’t go bad, per se, it just kinda sorta goes.
You drift through life. Also, you technically can’t predict the exact future if you stay the same, but you more or less kind of know. You’ll probably stay at that job you don’t want. You’ll probably end up living out your days in a pretty similar fashion to the way you are now.
Maybe you’ll get thrown for some loops — healthcare, a divorce, unemployment, bankruptcy — but you generally know more or less, what your station will be.
What you can’t see in the future is what that life will do to you psychologically and emotionally. You think it’ll be okay. Maybe it will be. Maybe it won’t. But you suffer from the delusion that making no moves isn’t a move. It’s definitely a move. And it’s almost always the worst one.
The bottom line — be bold.
If the future is unknowable why not at least aim for the upside?
My ex-wife’s grandfather started a restaurant in Florida. Ultimately it went belly up. Does he regret opening it? I highly doubt it. When you try to reach some goal you’ve always been thinking about, the negative consequences are usually not that bad.
You might lose money, sure, but according to all the people I see posturing on social media, money doesn’t matter, so who cares if you lose it? And, in 2020, the capital requirements for trying some little experimental business or hustle are pretty low.
Your ego might get bruised. We’re most worried about that one. Why? Because we think we’re so god damned important. So do I. I’ve said this a million times and I’ll say it again because it’s so important to understand. You’re not following your ultimate goals and dreams in life because you’re afraid of feeling butt-hurt. Butt-hurt. Butt-hurt! Your butt-hurt feelings are simultaneously trivial and monumental.
You definitely can lose relationships in the pursuit of your dreams, but just as many relationships are ruined by apathy, inaction, and boredom. Pick your poison.
At the end of the day, as cliche as it sounds, better to have tried and failed than not try at all. I once launched a product that made zero sales. Do I regret it? No. In fact, that failure was important. I failed in a major way and didn’t quit.
You’re overestimating how bad you’ll feel when you try and fail and you’re underestimating how bad you’ll feel if you never try. I’m not saying achieving your dreams is the end all be all, it isn’t.
But how many of us are haunted, even if only slightly, by the things we didn’t try? How many of us bury that sense we lack purpose? Just like your butt-hurt feelings are trivial and monumental, so are your dreams.
Objectively, you’re no better off than anyone else if you achieve your dreams because we’re all going to die and you’ll soon be forgotten. But the thing is, you have to, you know, live your life before you die. Might as well ‘get busy living.’
You can put up a front to the public. You can lie to yourself, rationalize your situation, and paint the most elaborate narrative about your life to cope as you need to.
Still, you have to be you.
You can travel the world, buy fancy clothes, drive a nice car, and post it all on Instagram, but you still have to be you and you still have to contend with your true feelings.
There’s a saying “wherever you go, there you are.”
You might as well try to learn how to be honest with yourself and develop self-awareness. I’m working on it too. Part of me writes for pure unadulterated joy and another part seeks validation. I have a deeply spiritual side and a deeply materialistic side and I’m trying to wrestle between both. One minute I feel like the most confident self-assured person in the world and the next I feel like a total fraud.
The goal isn’t to be perfect. The goal is to work on yourself and lower the degree to which you bullshit yourself. You sift through those feelings trying to get closer to the truth even if you don’t get all the way there.
Stop putting on a front for the world (as best you can) and stop putting up a front to yourself. We live in the virtue signaling era. Nobody wants to be honest anymore about anything. You try to be different. And understand that being your authentic self will help you grow, but of course, it has downsides. See the first point.
I don’t sugarcoat my writing so it comes off as abrasive. Some people don’t like that. Good. I want some people not to like it. I want some people to feel triggered. Because, in my opinion, we need to stop doing this politically correct bullshit dance. It’s exhausting. And it’s derived from a collective of individuals who can’t just be honest with themselves. Outrage is a coping mechanism.
Overall, you have two choices. Keep hiding, pretending, waiting for a savior, screaming into the sky, pretending to care about things you don’t care about, curating your life on social media, bullshitting yourself.
Or, just be yourself.
In the book Stumbling on Happiness, the author makes the argument that you can never quite know how to make yourself happy. Your current self will make plans to make your future self happy, but your future self has different tastes than your current self. Since you’re always playing catch up you’ll never quite know how to be happy.
You’ve seen many an A-list actor turned Buddhist tell you that success isn’t what it seems. Mind you, none of them renounce their possessions and all of them remain rich, but that’s beside the point. There’s a hint of truth to what they’re saying.
As your life evolves, your purpose evolves, so it might not make sense to aim for one-single-life-changing-purpose.
What is the point of all of this, then?
What’s the point of self-help? What’s the point of having any ambition at all? Why not just live in a tent under a bridge?
The point is you’re a sentient ape who evolved from a singled celled organism in some cosmic soup. You live on a rock in the middle of fucking nowhere surrounded by infinite space. You don’t know with certainty who created all of this. For you to even be here in the first place is pretty insane.
The point is that these facts should inspire you to play this game of life and play it hard. Shouldn’t it? At least that’s the conclusion I’ve come to. For those in the Eastern Philosophy camp, enjoy it. You might be right.
For me, and I suspect many others, the point isn’t necessarily getting the outcomes themselves, but rather trying to push the boundaries of reality and the boundaries of our minds simply to see what’s possible.
I’m not trying to figure out exactly what to do with my life — I’m evolving and exploring.
Are you evolving?
Are you exploring?
When it comes to self-improvement, attempting crazy goals, getting outside of your comfort zone, finding purpose, and going on a grand adventure, ask yourself this question.
Do you have anything better to do, really?
The baseline is great — family, friends, laughter, bonds, smelling roses.
But going beyond that is just so much fun, even if you ultimately never come up with an “answer.”