Congratulations! You made it into your third decade in this body. That is an accomplishment of which to be proud. As I remember my first three decades, there were a lot of uncertainties. Other people seemed to have all the answers. By 30 I was still trying to figure things out. During that time I would have really appreciated someone telling me some vital things. So, here I sit, fingers poised above keyboard once again with the purpose of imparting some hard won wisdom to you in the hopes that it will save you a few sleepless nights.
1. You can do whatever you want in life.
There are step by step ways to accomplish any goal. If it has been accomplished by someone else, all you have to do is choose your virtual mentor and follow in his or her footsteps. If you are doing something that has not been done before, it is more challenging but your path can be mapped out if you take note of the things that have worked for you and those that have not. Do the things that work and pitch the ones that don’t.
2. There is always something you can learn in any subject or situation.
The saddest thing I have ever seen is the man who knows everything. You watch him fail time after time with the obvious reasons for failure staring him in the face. Yet he continues to make the same mistakes and each time his losses multiply. You try to understand this person but he won’t listen to reason about how to handle his situation. He simply goes on knowing best about everything. Be the person who actively looks for new things to learn. Be willing to let go of a notion if it doesn’t work.
3. If you want to be successful hang around with successful people.
Your own thoughts, ideas and considerations about things shape your future. We live our ideas. For example, if you have an idea that it is noble to be poor, you will live your life in such a way as to remain poor. If this idea is sunk into your subconscious, you don’t even know you are acting it out in life. A good exercise, when things are not going well in life, is to sit down and write out all of your thoughts and considerations about the thing you are having trouble with. Get rid of the ones that hold you back.
4. There is no magic to earning your living.
Or being filthy rich (Side note: why is it that adjectives describing being wealthy are negative like “filthy” or “stinking”?). Money is not magical. It doesn’t simply fall to earth like drifting snow and land on those who are “lucky”. People who have money realize that money is a reward for providing goods and services to someone who needs them. The level of necessity for these items and the level of skill required for the service or item are what determines the price of your labor. If you are an accountant and it is approaching tax deadline, you will be busy and make lots of money. If you are on the street selling expensive pencils that no one wants, you will starve.
5. There is nothing wrong with charging money for your services.
It would be wonderful if we all could give away our goods and services whenever we want to, but the bottom line is that we have to support ourselves and we do deserve some reward for our labors. Of course we do have to help other people. There are times when you will volunteer to work and advance a cause or an organization, but don’t do this at the expense of your own life and health, or the life and health of your family who depend on you.
6. Sacrificing yourself never works out.
There will be times when you will be made to feel that you should put yourself last. You will be encouraged to forsake your family to get ahead. All of this is expected, and sometimes necessary, but it is up to you to find the balance and insist on it being kept. Your boss may want you to work all night so he can be ready for a presentation the next day. If this happens once in a great while, it could be okay but if he expects this every week and gives you no extra time off to handle other areas of your life, it is unethical for you to do it. And it is probably unethical for you to be working for someone with such poor planning skills. Your skills and effort could be much more useful elsewhere.
7. You are responsible for every action you take in life and every condition your life is in.
This sounds harsh and I had a hard time with that until I asked myself, “Who is the most motivated person to see that my life works out the way I want it to?” The answer is ME. So the next question is, “Who is really going to take responsibility to ensure that my life works out the way I want it to?” Again, there is only one answer. Yes, your mom and your wife and everyone who cares about you want your life to work out but who is the one who makes all of the bajillion everyday decisions that drive your life? It is you.
8. There are some things they don’t teach you in school.
When I was 20, I had a lot of trouble with banking. I simply could not accurately predict how much money I had in my account at any given time. It wasn’t until my sister sat me down and went over how to balance my checkbook that I learned that you even could balance a checkbook! I was pretty naïve but that simple piece of information changed everything. Find out ways to learn things that may not be taught to you.
9. School doesn’t work for everyone.
Especially in this day and age. School gives you information. Many times, unless you have a stellar teacher and stellar textbooks, the information comes at you and there is no indication which facts are important and which are not or even whether they are correct. You are tested, not on how to use the data you have learned, but on trivia. Who cares what exact date a battle started on? What is infinitely more important is what went wrong in society at that time that warranted a battle and how can we avoid that situation today? That is the vital information, not the date! When you are given information, ask yourself, “How am I going to USE this information?” If you can’t see how to use it, forget it. If you have been having trouble with school, stop thinking that you have failed and start looking at whether or not school has failed you.
10. Not everyone who is an “authority” is right.
Whenever anyone gives you any data, check it over for yourself and see if it works for you and seems correct. If it doesn’t seem correct, don’t rely on it. There is more false data out there than true data. You just have to figure out which is which.
11. Drugs are a fast track to nowhere.
There is a lot of hype about drugs today, both medicinal and street drugs. Understand that a body kept in good condition, given the vitamins and nourishment it requires, repairs itself. If you are having trouble, look to nutrition first unless it is a medical emergency. With regard to recreational drugs, these are poisons and they will not get you where you want to go in life. People use these drugs to handle a problem they are having. Find out what the problem is and confront it! Figure out a solution or get help with that problem. You can’t medicate your way through life. It doesn’t work and it is extremely harmful.
12. Life is fluid.
Life changes every second of every day. If you have fixed ideas about how it is supposed to be and how you will handle things, you will take wrong steps. In any given situation, look at it and really see it. Plan your actions accordingly. Operating on fixed ideas and actions will only take you so far. Actual observation and action is always best.
13. Stick to what you know is right.
There are times in life where you will disagree with just about everyone else. This does not mean you are wrong. Sometimes a lot of people can be wrong all at the same time. If this were not true, Hitler would have been squashed the first minute he started talking. Instead Germany allowed him to decimate a large portion of the world. Being the one voice of reason is not popular but it is the only path to happiness.
14. Truth and integrity are your most valuable assets.
You see what you see and deep down, you know the truth about things. Don’t divert from your course because someone else doesn’t like it. Don’t agree with someone just to keep the peace. Any peace you can get on this planet is bought through strength and integrity. It is maintained through the idea that you do not stand for lies and bad ethics. Integrity and truth are the seat of your power. If you let these things go, you have nothing.
15. Be the rising tide.
The rising tide lifts all boats. This statement is my motto in life. In EVERY action I take, I look to see which action will lift the most people. Then I do that action. It never fails. It helps a lot of people and it always, always, always results in a huge benefit for me. You MUST include yourself in your calculations of how many people benefit.
16. Sometimes life is uncomfortable.
This cannot be avoided but if you learn from the discomfort, you can minimize it in the future. Don’t fear discomfort but when it occurs. Figure out how to change it.
17. Life demands ownership from you.
There are people who go through life being buffeted about by every force, big and small, and never do anything unless someone or something forces them to do it. This is a miserable way to live. How much better is it to decide to make things happen and then do it? Life is much easier when you are in charge and very dangerous if you are not.
18. Do not look for validation from others for doing the right thing.
Many times in life I have had to go against the status quo in order to right a wrong. I was dumbfounded when I got hit in the face with anger, back stabbing and outright threats. It is not pretty but you always have to do what your consciences tells you to do.
19. Do not seek revenge.
Revenge for the sake of revenge never feels good when it is carried out and, believe it or not, it ties you to the person that you have taken revenge against. You will never be free of that person in your thoughts and mind thereafter. Sometimes you do have to act against a person to stop the damage they are wreaking on others. This is a correct action in the grand scheme of things. But revenge just for revenge’s sake is evil. I don’t care how many movies make it seem okay.
20. Not all people are sane.
I know this seems like a no brainer but I am amazed at how often people make excuses for those acting crazy. It is as if people think that insane people do exist but unless they are raving they are not insane. Insanity manifests in many ways. It can be overtly insane like a murderer or other criminal, or it can be covert. Secret backstabbers and those who mentally abuse are great examples. They create havoc in relationships and ruin people’s lives. This is insane behavior despite that fact that TV and movies make it appear “normal”.
21. The people in your life are the most important thing there is.
Back in 1989, we had an earthquake here in California and it was devastating. When the shaking stopped there was an eerie calm broken only by the sounds of a woman screaming. She screamed for minutes and finally stopped. Once I realized that I was not injured, my first thought was for my neighbors and when I found that they were okay I called everyone I knew. In fact, everyone was calling everyone they knew and the phones were down. The lesson from this is that when disaster strikes, you don’t give a flying hoot in Hell about your possessions. All you care about is the people you love.
22. Focus more on the good in life and not the bad.
The good things in life are what make it worth living. If you focus on the negative things, you will not be happy. We do have to give some consideration to the bad in life but make sure the good overbalances it.
23. You have many people, but your kids have only you.
If you lose a friend or a lover, you can find another one even if you are devastated. Your child can never find another mom or dad. They adore you from the moment they are born and look up to you. Do not take this lightly. Care for them and do not take unnecessary risks with your life. They cannot replace you.
24. Your enemies will expect attacks but will never expect compassion.
Weirdly, the opposite of what your instincts tell you to do in situations where you are under attack is generally correct. There will be occasions where you will have to act and harm another person if that person needs to be stopped for the good of everyone, but most times compassion and communication will succeed where force does not. Swallowing your anger and making an attempt to communicate and iron things out is effective many times. Even when it is not, it reveals the strength in you. It takes strength to be the better man or woman in a conflict. This makes you a formidable power.
25. You are doing okay.
You are a good person. You are trying your best and you will make mistakes. Mistakes occur when you try new things. This is a good thing! Life is crazy, wild and unpredictable. No one has it all figured out. Half the fun is getting to know it and making it work for you. When you do this, you will have an unforgettable life.