Between unannounced projects cropping up like hydra’s and a trio of computers cahooting to end the tyranny of their human overlord by committing near simultaneous suicide, the last month or so has been wonky. Which is why ya’ll haven’t seen me in a hot minute. But now I’m back and I’m gonna do a blitzkrieg styled post to get everybody on the same page, so without further adieu, buckle up and grab the ‘Oh shit’ handle, we’re going to lightspeed.
Wait, what do you mean this thing doesn’t go to lightspeed? How ’bout the speed of sound? Uh… as fast as a Fiat rolling downhill? Rollerblading downhill? Somersaulting downhill?
Ah, there we go. Alright, let’s try this again: Buckle up and grab your “Oh shit” love-handles, we’re going to somersaulting-down-a-hill-speed. Boy, that sounds way less cool.
Anyhoo, first up on the agenda, I turned 31 this month. Woot woot. I’m officially old, right? Well, perhaps not. If current estimates of life expectancy are correct I suppose I’m only at about a 1/3 life crisis, so still young at heart, though the body seems to be breaking down more than ever these days.
Now that I’m considered a village elder (of some peculiar village out in the rain forest that you’ve never heard of, don’t bother fact checking me, just trust that I’m not lying. I’m totally a village elder, promise), I’d like to share with you a couple knowledge nuggets I’ve accrued over the past thirty years.
1) Put Other People First
We are all the centers of our own Universes.
But the world, as a whole, is a better place when we remember this fact and yet actively try to disprove it. We never fully can, of course. Self-preservation is hardwired into us humans, it’s part of what makes us so successful as a species. But there’s a lot to be gained by putting other people first and, for a time, allowing yourself to be sucked into the gravitational well of their lives.
*I am incredibly bad at this.*
2) Take Care Of Yourself
A good argument could be made for putting this one on the top of the list. If you can’t take care of yourself, then it’s impractical to think you’ll be of much help to others. But it’s too easy to fall into the trap of, “I’m not ready,” especially for people floating around my age, or a bit younger. We’re so focused on our own futures and outcomes that it’s difficult to see how we can be of much use to others until we’ve firmly established ourselves into the world. If you keep waiting for the day you feel grown up and ready, however, then chances are you’ll spend your entire life waiting.
Here’s the quick and dirty list to taking care of yourself:
-Exercise: I don’t care how, but make sure you’re doing it. Whether it’s jazzercizing in the park, excessively vigorous sexual escapades, or just doing 5,000 jumping jacks every morning, get that heart pumping. Don’t put it off for tomorrow, do it today.
-Eat Better: Be conscious of what you’re putting into your body. As a general rule always ask yourself “Why am I putting this in my mouth?” Listen, you don’t need to follow some fancy new-fangled diet, ’cause quite frankly, they don’t work. All you need is to exercise some critical thinking and conscientious eating habits, the rest will probably take care of itself.
-Brush Your Teeth and Wear Sunscreen: This is one of those classic “Do as I say, not as I do” moments.
-Get Your Finances In Order: Again, I’m a creative type, and we’re not always known for our long term thinking/planning skills. Money in particular is one of those things most people don’t “like” thinking about. But not thinking about it isn’t gonna make it go away. As my Dad has told me since high school, “Make a budget, have a plan.” It’s that simple.
Do these things and you greatly increase your chances of a somewhat happy geriatric experience when you finally get there (or so I’m told).
3) Plan For The Future, But Live In the Now.
Young people, in general, are much, much unhappier than old people. Why? Studies show that old people spend less time stressing out about the future. Faced with their own mortality, they realize there’s not much point in fretting unnecessarily about the far future, this frees them to focus on the things that really matter, such as the present.
It takes some mental gymnastics to juggle these competing mindsets. On the one hand, for a guy like me, statistics show I have about another sixty years to live. But on the other hand, there’s always the chance I get smooshed tomorrow by a semi-truck driven by a super intelligent chimpanzee recently escaped from the black ops government research facility just down the road.
So I mean, shit can go sideways at any moment. Try not stressing on that too hard.
But do stress a little bit. Hedge your bets and have a contingency plan for old age. Once in place, stop worrying about it.
4) Have Goals
I’m a very goal oriented person. Part of that is related to my ADHD. Goals help us focus on the thing we need to do to accomplish the things we want to do.
Let’s unpack that a bit. If you’re reading this blog, chances are you come from a socioeconomic background that affords you the ability to do pretty much anything you want (given enough time/effort/skill/talent/money). The important question you have to ask yourself is: What do I want?
It’s a consequence of my age and geographical position in the world that everybody I currently know could conceivably do *anything* (within certain limits, of course. I’m using hyperbole to make a point, suck it up) they set their minds too. The problem, and this goes across the board, it’s hard to decide what we want when faced with so many options. Compound that with the fact that we won’t be the same person tomorrow as we are today, and setting any sort of reasonable goal to guide our life for twenty years down the road seems a crap shoot at best.
A lot of my close friends are (and I used to be) paralyzed by this fact, instead choosing to ride the winds of destiny wherever those gusty zephyrs might blow. Which is fine, up to a point. We all need a moratorium period to really figure out who we are and what we want out of life (lord knows I did), but eventually you’ve got to move out of that mindset. Consequently, once you have goals in place, life becomes a bit less stressful and a lot more fulfilling.
So how do we set goals? I think I’ve done a blog post on this before, but I’ll rehash the nitty-gritty.
-Set long terms goals. Example: In ten years I want to be a full-time author.
-Set medium term goals. Example: In five years I want to have published *such and such* many books.
-Set short term goals. Example: Write everyday.
These are intensely oversimplified, but they give us a framework. Long term goals are hard, but conceivable. For example: “Become NBA superstar” is unfeasible for me at this point in my life. That’s not a goal, it’s a dream.
Sorry to say, but I missed the “Become NBA superstar” deadline.
Long term goals can be nebulous things, but the more you nail them down in specifics, the better. Instead of saying “full-time author”, figure out what that actually means. Is it tied to financials or publications? If it’s tied to money, how much constitutes full-time to you? Figure this out at the beginning and understand that the details will likely shift along the way. That’s okay. It’s a good idea to annually revise your goals as life and circumstance change.
Medium term goals are the bridge, the checkpoint, that helps you gauge your progress towards the long term goal. Make these obtainable, though not easy.
Short term goals are absolutely obtainable, things that you can do right this moment, and are (on their own) relatively easy. Write everyday is on face value very easy. That is until life crops up and you run out of time, energy, or whatever.
Short term goals are frustrating because they are incredibly easy on their own. It’s doing them day in, day out, for years at a time, where they become unwieldy little bitches. This is where the 10,000 hour rule comes into play. Don’t know what that is? Google Malcolm Gladwell and learn, it’s an important concept regardless of what you hope to accomplish in life.
An easy way to visualize this is to put your long term goals at the top of a mountain. Your medium goals are base-camps spread out at regular intervals along the way. Short term goals are the countless individual steps you have to take along the way to ascend the mountain. There is no Donald Trump’esque escalator to get you up there, you’ve got to do the work yourself.
5) Never Stop Learning
Doesn’t matter what, how, or why, just do it. Don’t become stagnant, don’t be boring. Learn, grow, try, and fail. Then repeat. Always. Until you die. Then start over in the afterlife.
Alright, alright. I could keep going indefinitely, ’cause I like spackling you with advice that I, myself, am horrible at following, but I’ll save you from my hypocrisy and end the torture now. Get down to the comments and let me know what you’ve been up to this summer. What goals you’ve set, what things you’ve learned, and which people have sucked you into the vortex of their lives.