You’re fresh out of high school. You haven’t even got to experience some of the momentous times in your life — your first serious love, your first real job in your career, your first home.
And you may never get to experience them.
See, right now, you’re on a boat approaching the shores of Northern France, gun in hand. Your boat isn’t first onshore, so you get to watch the carnage you’re soon about to step into — machine-gun fire, landmines, barbwire traps, death, destruction, literal hell on earth.
You’re scared to death, but you soldier on anyway. Not only because you have no choice, but that’s sort of what people did at the time. You pressed forward and joined the cause at the risk of your own life.
Fast forward to today.
I wonder what a World War 2 survivor or the people who lost loved ones in the war would have to say about the way many people live in our society today — always complaining, always outraged about how unfair their life is, always feeling threatened.
Living in the modern world isn’t without its own unique problems, but we as modern people living in developed countries tend to manufacture problems that aren’t really there.
We complain about “income inequality” from our smartphones while people around the world starve to death. We complain about the corruption in our government while warlords and terrorists all around the world routinely chop people’s heads off.
You, you make this big drama about how difficult your life is when in reality … it isn’t. Actually, you’re probably a bit of a spoiled brat.
See, in an absolute sense, you’re infinitely better off than the vast majority of your ancestors. Hell, you’re better off than your immediate ones, too.
But your mind isn’t wired to think that way. You’re wired to compare yourself to what you see now — the “one percent,” Instagram photos, your neighbors Mercedes, the college your kid’s friend got into but yours didn’t, blue and white collars, etc.
Maybe you are really down in the dumps. But I doubt it.
I bet your life is a lot better than you think it is.
Here are some reasons why.
“We are quick to forget that just being alive is an extraordinary piece of good luck, a remote event, a chance occurrence of monstrous proportions.” — Nassim Taleb
I harp on this to the point of redundancy because it’s true.
Your chances of being able to exist at all are essentially zero. Each time you complain and think your life is so bad, think about not being alive at all.
Like, really, deeply, and repeatedly think about this. Your perspective will change.
“The internet has massively broadened the possible space of careers. Most people haven’t figured this out yet.” – Naval Ravikant
Almost everyone who believes they have no upward mobility in life suffers from one huge blindspot. They don’t understand the power of the internet. There is an infinite number of ways to improve your life, start a business, make more money, get smarter, and build your network on the internet.
Some people are still stuck in the old paradigm — gatekeepers, 9 to 5 corporate ladder BS, traditional education. Yes, in that world, you’re screwed. But as soon as you step out into the self-improvement wild west online, almost anything is possible.
“If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgment of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now.” – Marcus Aurelius
People who feel like the game of life is rigged against them have a perception problem. They don’t understand the extent to which perception shapes reality. Perception is reality. If you think the sky is falling, it will fall on you. If you think the world is abundant with opportunity, you’ll find those opportunities.
Granted, we have different starting places and self-improvement changes depending on the context of your circumstances, but overall, the vast majority of your problems can be fixed by changing your mindset.
“To be completely cured of newspapers, spend a year reading the previous week’s newspapers.” – Nassim Taleb
Politics doesn’t matter. And even if it does, what can you personally do about it? Nothing except for vote every once in a while. Why not just do that and tune out the rest of the time? Because you’re addicted to narratives that absolve you of personal responsibility. And the powers that be have every incentive to sell you the narrative. That’s it.
The news is mostly noise. You’re almost never being informed by the news. News is mostly disinformation. If you tuned out of political media for six months, your mental health would improve tenfold.
“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Of the entire world. We’re so spoiled. Some seven-year-old kid made the iPhone you complain from. Did you know they keep a net around the factory where iPhones are built? Why? Because, after being made to work 24-hour shifts at a time over and over, some of the employees jump off the building.
On the one hand, there are serious issues when it comes to “getting by,” don’t get me wrong. Healthcare is a mess, many living paycheck to paycheck, low savings, etc. Those things are not good, but let’s compare them to the reality of, you know, the rest of the world. Also keeping in mind, you can use point number two to get out of this trap.
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” – Dr. Suess
Maybe you don’t have the exact talent you want, but you’ll come to find that getting good at something you have a talent for will create passion. People sell themselves so short. You sell yourself short. Your ceiling is higher than you can even fathom, but you find yourself complaining about your life because…achieving your potential is frightening.
See, on the path to achieving your full potential, you will definitely get feedback about your shortcomings. That’s what you’re afraid of. It’s easier to concoct this reality where the world is conspiring against you than it is to face the prospect of doing everything right and still failing. That’s all it comes down to.
And, hey, that might happen, but more often than not, if you follow the direction of your strengths long enough, good things will happen.
“If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” – Thomas Edison
When I was “struggling” to build my writing career to a full-time gig, I’d often think of some examples that stopped my complaining in my tracks. Helen Keller, Stephen Hawking, and the person I learned blogging from to start with, Jon Morrow. They had to deal with physical difficulties I couldn’t fathom and still pulled it off.
Even if you yourself have disabilities, there are turtles all the way down.
The point? Someone with less capability — whether it be physical, mental, financial, circumstantial, societal — has done what you want to do already. Someone with a tougher life than you has accomplished your dream. Pick any dream and I can find an example. Stop worrying about what you don’t have. Use what you do have.
“When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.” – Thomas Sowell
I’m one of the top writers on Medium. I’m a black male. I know many other top writers — people of all different genders, races, sexual orientations, religious beliefs (or lack thereof), and political leanings. We’re successful writers because we’re judged on the quality of our writing. Is society perfect? No. But I’m not going to wait until racism is at 0.00% before I start trying to improve my life.
You shouldn’t wait on perfect conditions, either. If anything, you should honor the people that came before you and use your personal success to pay homage to them. Thanks to the civil rights movement, I have a much greater chance of success than my predecessors. I’m going to take it.
We’ve made major improvements in the rights of all people in many areas around the world. We can take advantage of them and still want a better world at the same time. These don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Success is entirely accessible, even if you happen to be a huge screw-up 95 percent of the time. – Scott Adams
Even if your life is kinda bad right now. Understand that it’s also not that bad because you have time to change it. I talk about the fact that your life could end at any moment, but I use that to motivate people to act. In reality, statistically, you’ll probably be alive for at least another few years. Do something with those years.
You can change a lot in a few years. Five years ago I was dead broke and depressed. Now, I’m a perfect human being. All jokes aside. Even when my life was in the dumps, I was optimistic. I’ve always been an optimist. Even if you’re not a natural optimist like me, understand, whatever is going on with you right now doesn’t have to be that way. Believing it has to be that way is all in your head. There are moves you can make. Many. Make them.
“The root of suffering is attachment.” – The Buddha
Again, there are some exceptions to this, but unless you’re a 1,000% depressed, 1000% percent isolated 10,0000% circumstantially screwed individual, you have something to hold onto. I want to achieve world domination, but honestly, coming home and hugging my three-year-old is enough. Getting to see my buddies and chat is enough. Fun and holidays with family is enough.
I have enough. I am enough. You have enough. You are enough. You’re caught in comparison traps. Just chill. Your life isn’t that bad. You have good things in your life. Yes, move up, but don’t beat yourself up about every petty little problem in your life. It’s no way to live. Free yourself from this thinking so that you can achieve your goals. You’re successful already. Start from there.