10 Lessons From
1 Million Screw Ups
Here we are in the world and everyday we get up to do things. Why does any of it matter? Why do people kiss - how did that become a thing? I guess I’ll just go with it, it’s not too bad actually. In trying to navigate through the jungle that is life, (I prefer to imagine a costa rican jungle with cool birds), I have fallen and bonked my head, been laughed at, and been kicked in the nuts routinely. Ah, the mediocrity in most things I have done. That’s okay. In all that garbaj good things have happened too. I got up, scratched my head and plugged the hole. I picked up a few things that have helped, and I think sharing them is a whole lot better than keeping them to myself. If one of these, or even one sentence, helps you, I would be undoubtedly grateful.
1. Create your own trophies
Usually what we think we want is just what people around us want. When I was in college, I always struggled with finding what truly excited me. One day I would be hanging out with engineering friends and everyone would be talking about going to the next hot company, and the next thing I knew, I was on Indeed applying to tech jobs (no replies, of course). The next day, I’m with my father and we are building a house (or he is building a house and I’m doing labor), and I am thinking of becoming a carpenter.
What do you want to do? Do your friends also want to do this? People reward you with compliments when you pursue things that align with their values. In turn, you think you are going in the right direction. Don’t think for a second that just because everyone around you thinks it’s cool to become a business analyst, that you really, truly, want to be one. Forget about your friends, family, and social norms and take some time to reflect on what you want. I promise you it’s not a waste of time.
2. Find multiple foundations
You can’t sit on a chair with one leg. When one bug infects a mono-crop corn field, the whole field dies. When you invest all your money in one stock, you can lose every dollar in one swoop. If you only know how to take action, how do you explain yourself? If you only know how to explain yourself, how do you get anything done? If you have one friend, what happens when they start ignoring you? Picture breaking one support of a spider web - it never, ever, completely fails. Build diversity everywhere.
3. Smooth is the result of sanding
There is only one secret to being good at something: time. People can’t walk when they are born, but in general, most of us learn how to walk. If you can learn how to walk, I’m pretty sure you can do anything you set your mind to. Also, people aren’t born running. They crawl, then walk, then try to run, suck at it, then maybe one day get good. Those smooth wood tables people eat from are made by continuously applying finer and finer sandpaper until it becomes smooth.
Don’t worry about being rough, or bad at something, that's normal. All you need is a little more time. No need to beat yourself up. The difference between someone who is smart and not is just the access and time they dedicate to learning. Believing that people are naturally good at things will stop you from ever achieving the things you want. If you want to be good at anything, practice.
4. Be open - literally
The easiest way to not make friends is to cross your arms. This signals to everyone that you are only interested in your own ideas - that no matter what the other person says, you will judge them and not listen (instinctively of course). The thing is, this is true. Your mind follows your body. By crossing your arms or your legs, your mind will literally close itself. You will miss anything interesting people might share and bar you from possibly making a friend. On top of this, studies show that the only correlation to creativity is your openness to new experiences, people, or ideas. Openness is the key to building friendships and gaining a new perspective. If you can have both those together, who knows what can happen.
5. Don’t confuse glory with happiness
Happiness is internal. Glory is external. It is easy to believe that if you get that better job, win that award, or get super popular, you would all of a sudden be happy. No way Jose! These moments are fleeting, they happen in an instance - we think that intense flare is what happiness is. I don’t think it’s that simple.
Happiness is how you talk to yourself, not how you talk to others. Happiness is how you help your community, not how they help you. Happiness is the personal relationships you have, not the hundreds of people who follow you.
Honestly, I pretty much fall victim to this everyday. I get stuck on Instagram seeing people’s image of their coolest self and I’m jealous. I hatch plans to boost my status. My mind wanders to how cool I could be, and then I realize I just spent 15 minutes thinking of nonsense. This is where all 21st century misery starts - looking to others for happiness - looking for glory.
6. Right is relational
Doctors smoked in medical school until 1964. Royalty thought they were divine. Black teeth was a sign of beauty in Japan. Doesn’t it seem obvious that smoking is bad for you? Of course, it wasn’t always. In fact, the very people who were supposed to protect your health recommended it. Right is never definite. It exists only in relation to the setting it resides. The people involved, the values agreed upon, even the weather that day, help form what is right. The only way to define right is to delineate the setting in which it is working. Agreeing upon the situation gives you insight into what can work for everyone involved. It also helps to realize that for every thing that seems right, somewhere and sometime, the exact opposite is right. Right is relational.
7. The most potent deception is self-deception
Sometimes stuff is dangerous (save the applause until later for that one). People can always just hold a gun to your head, or steal your money (legal or not unfortunately), or maybe even convince you to buy a terracotta model of Obama’s head so you can watch that afro sprout - I still miss it. This is shit, but not compared to how we delude ourselves. For most of my life, every time I did something stupid, I would ceaselessly call myself a loser, pushing myself further and further down. It’s just too easy. What’s curious though, is that I don’t think I have ever been that mean to anyone else. Would you talk to your friends the way you talk to yourself?
By far the best thing I ever did to make myself happy was just talking to myself like I would a close friend. Be light, be honest. When you treat yourself right, everything is right. We are always tricking ourselves into a certain way of life. Humans can literally rationalize anything. Example: I can’t learn guitar, I’m not “musically” gifted. Rationalizing things in your mind that are untrue will stop you from growing, and hold you from doing what you truly want. Be real with yourself, and people will love it.
8. The only thing you can control is perspective (thanks Jeremy for this one)
The only thing you get with total control is a hernia. The world is too crazy. Today, I saw a doggy do his dodo in someone’s shoe. I’m pretty sure shoes aren’t made for that. Billions of people move around and we just happen to stand in the middle of it. The storm is happening to us. The tax is happening to us. Our partners are breaking up with us. Rest assured, things will happen to you.
Unfortunately, you can’t really control what happens - but - you can control how you look at it. If it starts raining while you are walking home, you could let it piss you off, and maybe ruin your day. Better, you could look at the rain as a wonderment of nature where the plants will thrive, hunger will be stopped, and the streets will be clean, all at the same time. It's the same split for every single interaction you have. You decide which is best.
9. A closed mouth doesn't get fed
If you build it, they will not come. Each of us are responsible for reaching out and grabbing what we want. Look, there is a lot of people out there who can help, and there is $80 trillion in the global economy just floating in moot. If you want anything, the easiest way to get it is just by asking. You can do anything you want, and get anything, just by reaching out. We were all born naked after all. The upside is limitless. The downside, well, a closed mouth doesn’t get fed.
10. The world has no map
I saved this one for last because I think it’s the most important to take to heart. Let’s say you are at a roundabout and need to get to the other side. Now, you could walk around the entire thing, as everyone else does - or - you could just walk straight through it, through traffic, at half the time. People will look down at you and it will be more dangerous, but it will be the fastest route. The best part, you can do this everywhere: at school (or not school), at your job, when cleaning your house, or even when finding a lover.
Challenge the status quo. Don't put up with the things that cause you grief. Don't put up with what "just is". Identify problems and turn them on their head. There is nothing you can't change. The world is how you want it.
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