People have been trying to figure out how to “live your best life” for ages.
There’s no perfect answer. There are only guidelines you can choose to follow based on the experiences of others.
Here’s what I will say…
You should try to live your best life even though you’ll never reach it at an objective level.
Why? Because you have nothing better to do.
Treat your life like a single-player video game. As long as you’re alive, you get to keep trying the levels over and over again. Is there really a point to reaching the highest level?
Yes, to see if you can do it. Maybe you’ll never be able to fill a void in your life by becoming successful, but there are certain lessons you can never learn about life until you try to play with reality itself.
“When you keep searching for ways to change your situation for the better, you stand a chance of finding them. When you stop searching, assuming they can’t be found, you guarantee they won” – Angela Duckworth
You know what do to. You know that success is just a gradual series of steps over time. But you trip up when it’s time to…take the steps.
How do you fix it? Every day I get emails “I hear you Ayo, but I can’t bring myself to do it!”
There is no perfect answer or solution to this.
As always I can only tell you how I did it. Basically, I conditioned myself to be successful. I began learning about self-improvement, discovered writing, and used both of them as a feedback loop to build more confidence. I’d learn a self-improvement strategy, implement it, and write about it, which reinforced my self-esteem.
I’ve consumed more self-help content than anyone I know and kept it in the background until I longer needed it.
You’ll reach that point, too, if you bring yourself to do the work. But, again, how do you bring yourself to do the work?
Annoying isn’t it?
At some point, you just have to truly give a fuck about yourself. You have to look in the mirror and want to win bad enough for the person you see in your reflection. It sounds so corny, but it’s true.
You will screw up. So, you just keep trying. Revolutionary advice, I know. Look, I probably tried to “get motivated” hundreds of times before I got it to stick. You might get things to click next week, next year, or never. Just think about what you have to do to avoid ‘never.’ You still have hope because you’re here right now. Use it as best you can.
I’ve seen enough people make that switch in their minds. We all gradually made a decision to change. That’s about it. Use that serious make or break attitude combined with the one I’m about to share with you next.
“Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead.” – Bukowski
My process for building confidence? Learn to develop a “fuck it, why not?’ mentality.
I have conversations with myself a lot. I ask my self questions like:
People are way too serious and repressed. For what? Just torturing yourself for no reason. That sentence describes how I try to look at self-doubt altogether.
When you doubt yourself, you’re torturing yourself for no reason.
Sometimes I will call out my own feelings out loud in the mocking voice of a baby. “Oh, Ayo doesn’t wanna get his wittle feelings hurt wah, wah, wah.”
You have to learn to look at your feelings that way. The feelings are very real and very fake at the same time. You always discover this after the fact. I remember being petrified before I gave my TEDx talk. After I gave it, everything was fine. All that wasted energy for nothing. But because I faced my fear, I reached a cool and awesome goal.
If you want to live your best life, understand that something as insignificant as feeling butthurt is literally the only thing in your way.
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” – Helen Keller
At some rightfully point out, travel is no cure for the mind. Going on a daring adventure doesn’t change who you are at your core. Still, there’s just so much to do, see, and experience in the world that it’d be a shame to miss out on too much of it.
I spent 5 years building my writing career. My only regret? I sacrificed too much fun and adventure for it. So now, especially now, when I have the opportunity to, I’m doing to go hardcore on my bucket list.
Because…I’m going to die.
Also, because it’s fun. I love our culture of productivity, success, and achievement, but you can easily become a workaholic who has outward success but doesn’t have a fun life.
Do you have to go on a grand adventure to live your best life? No. Simple moments of joy make life special, too, like seeing a smile on your child’s face, enjoying nature in total presence, digging into a good book.
But making your life more adventurous keeps you from falling into the monotony trap.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, right?
None of these answers are perfect. Living your best life isn’t a matter of perfection. But it does mean you spend more time than the average person trying to cultivate the ideal life. I love the idea of a grand adventure for that reason. You’re looking at life as something to be seized.
Just don’t be boring.
Remember, if you’re bored, you’re a boring person.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
To live your best life, be your authentic self. But what does authentic mean?
It doesn’t mean you’re “real.” I put quotes around that word because often people mistake being real with being apathetic and cynical. You’re not down to earth for giving up your dreams. The most envious, insecure, and petty people often try to come across as the nicest.
You never want to be a nice person. You want to be a kind person. Nice people play games to manipulate people to do what they want. They have an agenda. Kind people show respect to others but won’t compromise who they are just to be liked.
Highlight who you really are so that people can take it or leave it. You want to turn off some people because those aren’t the people you’re supposed to associate with. If you win the favor of others by being fake, you feel like a fraud because they love the caricature of you, but they don’t love…you.
People ask me how I found my writing voice. At a certain point, I decided I was going to tell the one thousand percent truth from my perspective.
I write to my people and live for my people.
I wish everyone else well and mean no ill-will, but if they don’t like me then they just don’t like me. They don’t exist in my mind after I find that out.
You’ll start impressing people the minute you stop trying to. You’ll become authentic when you don’t even take that word into consideration because you’re just being yourself and living your best life. Not anyone else’s.
“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” – Jim Carrey
I don’t see that quote as an instruction to avoid chasing the petty desires of the world. Instead, I see it as an invitation to do so.
You see many people become much more spiritual after they chase every worldly desire and discover that success doesn’t fill a void. You see people attain wealth and become philanthropic. Of course, this doesn’t happen to everyone, but there’s a certain level of spiritual growth you can’t reach without going through the realm of worldly success first.
You say you don’t care about money, but really, you don’t think you can make any and don’t know how to. Go through the process of trying to attain a bunch of money purely for the personal transformation it provides. Earn all the money so you can give it away if you’re so charitable. See what success feels like first, then judge the validity of it.
Go after your wildest most ludicrous dreams just to see if you can pull them off. Then, after you do it, reflect back on what it took to get there and share what it’s like with other people.
Steven Pressfield talks about this often, First, you go through the hero’s journey. You go through the arc — call to adventure, obstacles, climax, the return home — and after that, you go through another phase of life called the artist’s journey. In the artist’s journey, you share what you’ve learned to the people you return home too.
People love The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, but he doesn’t have those insights to share without trying, and succeeding in, conquering much of the known world first — the true philosopher King.
Too many people make no effort to become successful and then they spend their life as armchair quarterbacks — the type of people who think they can run the economy but can’t even run their own lives.
Level up, reflect on your life and share your wisdom with others.
“You need to find what you are good at and don’t give a fuck about what you suck at.” Gary Vaynerchuk
I could grit my teeth and make money as a lawyer. I could learn how to discipline myself enough to become a CPA. Hell, I could sell my soul and become a politician to gain wealth. But none of those routes would be worthwhile because they’re not…me.
God, the universe, whoever, gave you gifts. Don’t run from them. Use them.
Am I the best writer in the world? No. But I had an aptitude for it and got better at it. Are you a fixed entity? No. But you have gifts, predilections, and predispositions you can’t control.
For whatever reason, you have the DNA of a writer, or a singer, or someone good with their hands, or a mathematician, or a leader of groups, or someone with a green thumb so it goes.
The minute you focus on trying to become more of who you really are instead of trying to be someone else, the closer you’ll get to live your best life. Starting with a natural strength gives you an advantage.
You won’t have to grind and struggle as hard to get good at that skill because you had an innate sense of it, even if the output is raw to start.
Some of you might think you’re not smart enough to be successful. Sure, within a narrow band of what society deems intelligent — book smarts — maybe not. But the spectrum of human talent, real knowledge, is wide.
But most people don’t want to stay in their lane.
Maybe you really don’t know where your strengths lie, but I’m guessing you do. You’re just running from them.
So what? Maybe you won’t be famous and rich. Maybe you’re not a genius, but you’d be surprised at how much you could accomplish if you were being 1,000 percent you and maxed out your natural capabilities.
“I lie to myself all the time. But I never believe me.” – S.E. Hinton
All of these points are kind of symbiotic derivatives of one another, and they ultimately boil down to this.
Stop lying to yourself.
You know what you want in life. You know your mixture of petty desires and deep spiritual needs. Fill both of them. You know your tastes and standards. Don’t compromise them.
It would be so nice if we, as a society, collectively dropped all these bullshit games we play with ourselves and one another.
You can hear the truth in the undertones of the conversations you have with others and you can hear it in your own self-talk too. You’re blocking yourself from living your best life with rationalizations.
How do you stop lying to yourself?
Focus on what it’s costing you.
What are you giving up to maintain and protect your ego? What amazing outcomes and experiences are you blocked from because you have to maintain this inaccurate but comforting worldview?
All this political fighting and outrage and quiet desperation and all the negative energy in the world is a coping mechanism we use to mask our pain. Looking in the mirror and realizing you’re the problem…hurts. A lot. Because you should be able to take care of yourself and you can’t.
At least not yet.
You’re at where you’re at and what’s done is done.
What are you going to do about it?
The answer to that question if the key to living your best life.