Most life advice on the internet sucks. It’s either too generic, doesn’t hit you at your emotional core, or sounds like everything else you’ve heard before. Yet, many people will continue to seek out life advice even if they’re jaded by the life advice industry as a whole.
Why? It’s simple. We want to change our lives, badly. A lot of self-help gurus will spew this idea that if you want something bad enough, it’ll just happen. This isn’t true. Damn never everybody really wants to live a better life.
Nobody wants to feel like they’re wasting their life. Nobody wants to feel like they’re living below their potential. On the whole, we get the idea that the rat race is a trap that’ll keep us stuck for the rest of our lives, but it’s quite the trap.
Over the years, I’ve gone from giving generic life advice from a pedestal to trying to meet people where they’re at, tell them the truth as I see it, and giving them as many reminders as they need to finally make a change.
Here’s the next attempt.
A single white male with no kids who was raised in an upper-middle-class family will probably have an easier time making his personal dreams come true than a black single mother who grew up in the projects.
Sometimes in life, you’re going to be in a situation where you have a disadvantage compared to other people. Often, you might have to work twice as hard to get the same result as someone else. I’m sure many of you feel like it’s unfair that self-improvement writers encourage you to change your life with all the obstacles you have.
It is unfair (sometimes the best life advice is unfair), yet I encourage you to do it anyway. I’m acknowledging that you might have something substantial in the way of your success that you don’t have a ton of control over. Can’t use that as a gotcha. It is what it is and you are going to be you no matter what. Even if it’s unfair to accept that, you’re probably better off doing so in the long run.
The idea of pulling yourself up by the bootstraps is a turn-off for many people because our straps all come in different lengths, but I promise you it’s a more efficient method of trying to improve your life than waiting for somebody to come save you. Nobody’s coming. I promise.
I use a simple rule of thumb when it comes to my beliefs. If my beliefs help me get what I want, they’re useful. If they don’t, they’re not. I’m not worried about being right. Instead, I’m worried about getting it right.
Naval Ravikant has a quote:
If you’re so smart, why aren’t you happy?
There are people who think they have the answer to everything, yet deep down, they’re unhappy. They use their ‘intelligence’ as a hiding place. If you have this elaborate and detailed worldview, but it doesn’t get you what you want, what’s the point in having it?
This doesn’t just apply to underachievers with high I.Q.s, it applies to anyone who would rather cling to what they believe than get what they want. So, it applies to most people.
From those who think they’re oppressed to those who pretend to be content when they’re not to those who think the system should save them, there are a bunch of people with misguided beliefs that get in their way. Remember, a belief can be somewhat true and misguided at the same time.
What are your misguided beliefs? The ones you know are BS deep down in the back of your mind? The ones that don’t provide you the option of getting what you want? Question them to death so you can change.
The new-age idea of self-care is the opposite of good advice. It’s the idea that you should just pat yourself on the back regardless of your results. Rooted in it is the idea that you can just conjure up good feelings about yourself regardless of your results. It emphasizes taking your foot off the gas and pumping the breaks at any little speed bump so you don’t ‘burn out.’
Working hard at something that’s meaningful to you doesn’t burn you out. You gain energy and momentum when you work toward a purpose and do hard things. Every time you do the hard thing instead of just taking it easy, it sends a subconscious signal to your brain that you deserve to be confident.
Too many people are trying to get positive feelings without earning them. Yes, there’s something to be said about being content with where you’re at and taking a break for the sake of your mental health. But too many people miss the mental health component of putting yourself through the kind of stress that stretches you to grow. Real self-care happens when you really take care of yourself. And often taking care of yourself involves things that are difficult upfront and rewarding later.
Until you understand incentives a lot of things in life won’t make sense to you.
Charlie Munger once said:
“If you know the incentive, you know the outcome.”
Munger might have provided the best advice ever with this simple statement. Never ask a barber if you need a haircut. Get it? I often tell people to just focus on themselves and pay little attention to the news and politics because it’s fake. This upsets people because it goes against their belief that they need to be informed and that the news is informing them.
If they understood incentives, they’d know that the news makes money from views and that sensationalized news gets more clicks than accurate and sensible news. It’s simple. They can’t tell you the full truth because it’s not profitable.
Or politicians. They’re incentivized to get elected, not to help you. When you think about it, does it make sense for them to actually make the world better? If there was nothing left to improve, they’d have nothing to run on.
I could keep going. The point? Focus on the way things seem to line up based on the incentives rather than what you want to be true.
I’ve been depressed before. I was depressed when I was dead broke, working a job I hated, stuck in a small-town I hated with a criminal record. I could have just stayed depressed, but I converted that depression into a much more useful emotion.
I got pissed off.
Deep frustration helped me change my life. I developed a chip on my shoulder and used the rage toward my own situation to my advantage. I beat myself up because I deserved to beat myself up. Then, I changed and ended up feeling better about myself and living a happy life. Funny how that works.
If your life isn’t going the way you want it to, maybe that should upset you. Perhaps you’re unhappy for a good reason. This goes back to the idea I mentioned earlier about trying to make yourself feel good when the results don’t back it up. Doesn’t work.
“But it’s not healthy to live this way.” So? How healthy is it to live a life that’s well below your potential? How much stress and unnecessary anxiety does that cause? Think about it.
Contentment, gratitude, and humility are often fake emotions. Most people pretend to be ‘down to earth’ because they either can’t admit what they want from life or they’re afraid to go for it. They’re not happy with life, they’re pretending to be happy with life because actually being happy with life requires work.
Again, this goes back to the trend I mentioned earlier. A lot of these movements gaining popularity – Eastern Philosophy, Stoicism, Yoga culture, etc – have been twisted into apathy disguised as spirituality.
I’ve meditated daily for five years. I do Yoga. Ultimately, I understand that in the grand scheme of things material success is of little value. But, I also chase outlandish goals because I understand the spiritual value of conquering the worldly realm.
If you want to have a real spiritual experience, push yourself to the brink for something that matters to you and get back off of the canvas after you’ve been knocked down several times. I promise you’ll learn more about yourself from that than you will by meditating in a cave for six hours.
In one of my favorite books, the 10x Rule, the author has a chapter titled “Stop Being a Little Bitch.” The publisher wanted him to take it out but he kept it for emphasis. That emphasis is important. It’s a stronger way of saying that often life requires you to be a little bit tough and a little bit braver.
Is there anything inherently wrong with being weak? No. But if you’re weak the world will take advantage of you and you won’t be able to take advantage of all the opportunities you could’ve had. There’s also no virtue in it. Many are trying to turn themselves into martyrs and gain notoriety from being losers. Truth be told, it works. You can rack up all the pity points you want in 2021. Hell, you can build an entire platform off of pity, but then you’ll still be pitiful.
Sometimes you need to stand up for yourself and set boundaries with other people. Sometimes you need to work hard even though you don’t feel like it. And sometimes you’re going to have to do something you’re afraid of so you can get what you want.
For the record, I don’t think you’re a little b****. The fears that you face on the path to your dreams are palpable and extremely powerful. Most people don’t fulfill their dreams for a reason. And the reason is that it’s scary as hell and puts you through a ton of psychological pain. But bravery isn’t the absence of fear, it’s acting in spite of it.
So how do you face your fear? Well, you face it.
I wish there was a magic self-improvement answer that forced you to take action, but there isn’t. You can read all the books in the world and drown yourself in self-help content, but eventually, you’re left to deal with your own thoughts, emotions, and actions.
Here’s as close as I can get to actually doing it for you. If you want to change your life, use the fear of missing out to your advantage. Think about how much you’re missing out on because of your inaction.
Think about this quote:
“Someone once told me the definition of Hell: The last day you have on earth, the person you became will meet the person you could have become. – Anonymous
It sucks. I know. Even though the fear is palpable, you logically understand that there’s nothing to be afraid of. You’re just caught in this bind you can’t seem to get out of. If you continue to focus on what you’re missing out on and combine it with that frustration I talked about earlier, there may come a time where, for whatever reason, you just take the leap.
It happened to me after a bunch of failed attempts. It can happen to you, too.
If you can manage to find enough of a burst of motivation to get you going, here’s as close as I can get to a concrete plan to figuring out exactly what to do with your life and then executing on it.
Honestly, at the end of the day, your intuition is a much better teacher than I’d ever be. You want to reach a point in your life where you don’t have to listen to live advice anymore because you just trust your intuition to guide the way.
You already know what you’re supposed to do to make your life better, you’re just not doing it. All those scary but potentially cool opportunities are the ones you should pursue. Don’t take time to ‘sleep on it.’ Go for it. Take a risk.
You know the kind of person you want to be. You know what you’re capable of it. And the mismatch between that person and the person you are right now will bother you until you close the gap.
A lot of anxiety comes from knowing what you’re supposed to do and failing to do so. You can fix so many problems in your life if you just bring yourself to do those things. You know it and I know it. All you have to do is do it.