My brother’s kids are graduating from High School in a week. For some reason, I’ve felt compelled to put together a little list of random thoughts about life. Not sure why. Maybe the thought of these two starting their “adult” life and some things I hope they know. No, I’m not a certified “life coach” but, hey, I’ve made it this far and this is my blog so I can spout my opinions if I feel like it.
- Life isn’t fair. Corollary – Anyone who tells you it should be and that they can make it fairer is lying to you or wants your vote. We all have different talents, abilities and skill sets so why should life turn out the same for all of us? It would be nice if life were a meritocracy where the talented naturally rise to the top. The truth is that if you are a diligent introvert keeping your head down in your cube and doing your job, it may not mean anything if your boss is an extravert. Chances are that annoying guy in the cube next to you who gets that boss coffee and spends all morning jabbering on about meaningless things is going to get that promotion before you. Why? Because life isn’t fair. There’s another reason that we’ll get to later.
- Know yourself. At this stage in your life, most of you are worried about what to major in and what kind of job you’ll have. That’s all fine but remember that your major and/or your job is not you. You are more than what you do. Find out who you are, what your strengths are, what you believe, what you value. It will be more important in the long run. And, don’t use it as an excuse as in “I’m an introvert, I could never do that”. We are all capable of acting against type but knowing who you are tells you that it will be a struggle. If you are a free spirit who hates rules and being tied down, you aren’t going to be happy in an overly bureaucratic place like the government or a big corporation. Knowing yourself will also help prevent you from being what you think you should be or what you think others want you to be.
- You have talents and skills and don’t listen to anyone who says you don’t. One of my core beliefs is that everyone has something to offer but too many people have been conditioned to believe they don’t. Sometimes it is hard when your skills don’t seem to be valued or you see people with different talents getting ahead. Remember point 1 though, life isn’t fair. But you have talent and you have something to offer. That’s why you need to know yourself. Find out who you are and what you can do and be proud of those things. Nobody is worthless. There are people who squander what they were given but it is worse to not believe that you have anything to offer. Find a way to believe in yourself (Hey, I just give advice here, I don’t say I follow it.)
- Life is about choices, consequences and sacrifices. When you are young, there are many paths your life can take. Each choice you make sends you down a road towards a different choice which takes you on a different path and so on. But each choice you make means there are paths you didn’t take. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter much – like having oatmeal for breakfast rather than eggs (although I could probably envision a scenario where choosing oatmeal is actually significant so you never know). Sometimes it is huge – choosing a college, accepting a job offer, etc. But know that every choice carries consequences that may not be apparent at the moment. Take on massive college debt and walking away with a degree that makes you feel good but doesn’t offer good employee opportunities carries the consequence of a debt burden that will follow you. Not saying you shouldn’t pursue a degree in art appreciation but just know that there are things that come with it. If you want to climb the corporate ladder than you need to understand that the corporation and job will demand more of you and your time. If you make a choice to get married or have a family, there will be more demands and times when you will have to make difficult choices like maybe walking away from your job to take care of your kids or having to leave a job because your spouse got an opportunity in a different city that is too good to pass up. Yes, these things happen. It is why you need to know yourself. Know what you want, know what you value because you will have to make difficult choices and accept the consequences. It is easier to do if you are being consistent with what you believe.
- Don’t live with fear or regret. Nobody is perfect. Nobody has complete foresight as to how things are going to turn out. You can agonize over every decision and do all your research and plan every detail and things are still going to go wrong. The paths that you didn’t take will remain in your mind and sometimes you’ll forget all the reasons you didn’t take them and they will bright and shiny compared to where you are and it will be tempting to think “if only”. It’s OK to daydream every now and then, but the truth is that we don’t have a flux capacitor and we can’t go back in time to truly take those paths. You don’t know how your life would have turned out and living with the “if only’s” will just blind you to the good that is in your life now. But one thing you can do is to try not to be ruled by fear. Sometimes a path feels right but looks scary and daunting and it is tempting to take the easier path. Fear leads to regret (I know fear actually leads to anger and anger leads to hate but set that aside). Sometimes is better to not make the safe choice. How will you know? You won’t. Remember life isn’t fair.
- It is never too late to reboot your life. It just gets harder as you get older. There’s a quote I just love (even if I’m guilty of not following it) which is about complaining and to paraphrase, if you don’t like where you are, change it or accept it because all else is madness. Yeah, that’s not exactly correct but you get the point. Trapped in a job you absolutely hate? Find a new one. Yes, but I’ve got a house I can’t sell and all my friends are here and my spouse won’t move. Yes, life isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t fair. Your choices lead you to this path. Complaining about it won’t change it and it won’t ultimately make you feel better. It is much harder to uproot a tree than pull a weed but it is possible to do both. Yes, life is about sacrifices but if you truly find yourself in a position where you are living against what you value, then it will never be something you can truly accept and changing is better no matter how hard it is.
- It’s acceptable to vent every now and then but constant complaining is right out. It is better to be an optimist. They are happier and can find the good in any situation. Look, life is tough and we are all going to find ourselves in situations that frustrate us because, life isn’t fair. It is natural for most people to want to complain and find a sympathetic ear. Or, like me, using a blog to vent to the world. Nothing wrong with that from time to time. Kind of like a pressure cooker letting off a little steam before it explodes. But if you are constantly moaning and whining about your life, you will eventually turn off most people except for those like you since misery loves company. Problem is that you’ll sit in your little group of complainers bitching about how unfair life is and not take any action to change the situation and your life will never get any better. Don’t be a downer.
- People prefer the familiar and tend to not like the different. Be different anyway. There is so much pressure to conform to what is considered “normal”. Ever been told you are too shy or too sensitive or other such garbage? That is just someone looking at you and thinking you should be more like them. Now, some people find comfort in the crowd. Nothing wrong with that. Some of you may feel a little different – like maybe you don’t belong. And that can be very hard to deal with because you want to be like everyone else but you just aren’t. Well stop fighting and stop trying to be like everyone else because that’s a path to nowhere. Go back to point 2 – know who you are and then be proud of it! Be the outcast. Be the rebel. Be the outsider. Wear all black all the time if that’s what you want to do. Be true to who you are. Now, remember points 1 and 4 because life isn’t fair and if you don’t try to fit in, there could be consequences. At the end of the day, you’ll be happier being yourself and standing out than trying to be someone else just to fit in.
- Find something you enjoy and that lights you up inside. None of us get out of here alive and I don’t believe people were put on this earth to suffer and be miserable. Find your passion and follow it. If you are lucky, your job will do that. If you are like most people, that sadly won’t be the case. Oh, there will be good days and good parts to your job. But there will be a lot of sucky parts as well. So find something you are truly passionate about. Find something that is the first thing you think about when you wake up and the last thing you think about before going to bed. Something you can’t wait to do. Something that consumes you and that you can get lost in. I’ll warn you there will probably be sucky parts in whatever you come up with. (See some of my ballroom posts for examples) But, we all need something like that in our lives.
There’s certainly more but that’s a start. Will this make you rich and famous? No, of course not. Life isn’t fair. But it is what you make of it. You do only go around once so don’t waste it.