At 33 I feel like a very different person than I was at 27, 25, 19, 14, etc. Even the last year has taught me so much about myself. And I’m always on the lookout for new lessons and alternative ways of doing and thinking about things. So, I thought I’d write down a few lessons I’ve learned in the past several years that I genuinely didn’t know, understand or practice when I was younger.
I’m sure I could think of way more than ten, but these will do for now. I may come up with a whole other list soon:
- I must love myself unconditionally– This is a hard one. Because I was always tempted to not like myself when I did something I didn’t approve of. However, it’s totally possible to learn from my mistakes without beating myself up for my mistakes. Beating myself up never did any good. It didn’t help me learn my lessons better. It only served to make me feel bad and even discouraged. Now, I try to give myself as much love as I can. It helps a lot.
- Life is about how I choose to spend my time– I was cited in my senior yearbook more than anyone else. I was in fourteen organizations/clubs – a few of which I was an officer. Who gives a damn about that now? Certainly, not me. My time is limited. I don’t know how long I have to live, but I know it’s not infinity. I am now choosing to spend my time doing things I really love and enjoy as much as I can as opposed to spending my time doing things I think would please other people.
- Hard Work is Better Than Avoiding– I spent so much time trying to get out of working hard. I could have spent my time and energy just working hard and it probably would have come out even as far as the amount of effort given. But when I work hard on something rather than work hard on getting out of something I tend to learn something new and/or accomplish something important. It’s the classic story of the guy who spends his whole life looking for the fountain of youth. Had he just chosen to live his life, he wouldn’t need to become young again as he did a great job living the first time. I now try to look forward to working hard rather than dread it.
- My Feelings Can Be a Choice– I used to believe that how I felt was always due to circumstances. If my parents bought me a new toy I would feel happy. When my dog died I was sad. But I never understood that my brain is a computer. And computers can be hacked. In the same way that the Konami Code gave me nearly unlimited lives in Contra, I posses the ability to ‘cheat code’ my brain into being happy even in less than ideal circumstances. It’s not tough to do. I just continually tell myself something until I believe it. Conversely, I unknowingly chose to be sad about things even when things weren’t so bad. Happiness is not out there somewhere that needs to be found. It needs to be grown from within.
- Things End…And That’s Totally Okay– I used to be shocked when people would voluntarily quit or retire from an organization that seemingly was going well for them. But life isn’t about finding the best circumstance and holding onto it. Life is always changing. Everything changes all the time. Sometimes you need to move on from something for no other reason than you feel it’s time to move on. It’s okay to miss something and still want to remove yourself from it.
- Goals And Wishes Are Different– I’ve always hoped that one day I would be rich and famous. But I never knew how I was going to do it. I had a vague idea that I would get ‘discovered’ somehow, but I didn’t even know what that would look like. Goals are just like missions. They need to be broken down step by step into a procedure. I may get that procedure wrong at first (or for the first 800 times), but I’ll never figure out the correct one without first making an attempt. Wishing and hoping mean almost nothing without action.
- Greatness Is Accessible…by Working Hard – Think of every one you consider to be great at something –James Cameron, Bill Gates, Oprah, Aretha Franklin, Steve Martin, etc. They all have something in common with me. They weren’t born great. They were born with a modicum of raw talent, but they all worked very hard to attain the level of greatness they eventually got. With extremely few exceptions, no one just shows up and automatically becomes the best. To quote Brittany, “you gotta work, bitch.” And that’s a good thing. So, pick what you want and work hard to get it. That’s the ‘secret’ of success.
- “Other people’s success takes nothing away from me. My success has nothing to do with other people’s success” – I took this exact quote from my friend Dave Razowsky. I currently have three sets of friends who have their own TV shows. My instincts are to be jealous and feel bad about myself. But the truth is they’re all awesome. And I’m awesome. I’m happy for them. If I want my own show, I should put in the work to get one. I haven’t. So, how can I feel bad about that? I can if I choose to. Seems like a poor choice.
- Narrow My Focus – I want to be great at everything: sports, music, writing, acting, intelligence, improv, stand up etc. It’s silly. No one is great at everything. And my life is thus far proof that I don’t have the ability to do it all – not even close. So, from now on I’m going to try (it’s going to be a struggle) to narrow my focus and get good at one or two things at a time, rather than spread myself thin and only incrementally get better at a bunch of things.
- Regrets/Future Tripping/Fantasizing is Not a Great Way to Live– I have spent so much of my time thinking about how life would have been different had I done things differently. I also think a lot about how great life will be once I attain certain things (money, fame, experience, etc.). I think it’s okay to play games like this (like the ‘what would I do if I won the lottery’ game), but I used to look to this for my happiness. Now, I try to stop myself from doing this for too long and make sure that it only happens once in a great while vs. every day. My happiness doesn’t come from the potential future. It comes from me.