November will be here in a few months. On November 23rd, I turn 31 years old.
A year ago, I can honestly say that, the moment I turned 30, my entire perspective on life changed pretty drastically. Was it some kind of placebo effect? I don’t know. Maybe.
I thought to myself, “Will I live to be 100? Maybe I’ll only make it to around 90?” If so, then that means I’ve officially lived the first 1/3 of my life. Phase one has been completed. That only leaves two more phases left, if I’m lucky.
Hopefully I will be. I’m feeling pretty good about it.
I’m always looking for ways to improve myself and live by my personal theme: “Become the best version of myself possible.” Having completed the first stage of my existence, I did some self-reflection. I thought about my life and my experiences. I came up with a list of the five greatest life lessons I’ve learned by the time I was 30.
1) No one really has any clue what they’re doing.
When you’re a kid, you just assume all the grown up people have everything figured out.
Remember the global economic collapse that happened in the fall of 2008? You know that small, insignificant event that nearly caused the complete meltdown of every substantial financial market on the planet, crushed businesses all over the world, and sent thousands of people into unemployment? Leading up to that, almost no one had a clue it was coming. All the brightest economic minds in the world, with really expensive, fancy degrees from prestigious educational institutions, were completely clueless. In fact, Ben Bernanke, the chairman of The Federal Reserve, which is the institution responsible for managing the entire economy on behalf of the United States government, said this just a few months before the collapse:
“The Federal Reserve is currently not forecasting a recession.”
Paul Krugman, a Nobel-Prize winning economist, once said this about the internet and its potential impact on the economy:
“Most people have nothing to say to each other! By 2005 or so, it will become clear that the Internet’s impact on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine’s.”
The older I get, the more I realize that everyone is just guessing. Me included. I’m just a unique blend of my own life experiences, and all I do is make decisions and take action based on what I was taught, what I learned, what I experienced, and what I think is best according to my own world-view. Sometimes I get things right. Often times, I get things totally wrong.
But I’m ok with that.
2) Almost everything society preaches is bullshit.
Here’s a list of just some of the things that society preaches that I’ve realized is actually complete and utter bullshit:
“You have to get married and start a family.”
“You have to go to college if you want to be successful.”
“If you don’t get angry or beat yourself up, it means you don’t care.”
“Life is all about winning.”
“You have to set goals to succeed.”
“Failure is scary, so stay away from it.”
“It’s awful to be alone.”
“Success means having a lot of money in the bank.”
“Life is all about survival.”
Having turned 30, I feel like almost everything I was ever taught was a lie. I feel like I was duped. Almost none of that shit is true for me.
I’ve been single for 7 years and I absolutely LOVE IT.
I never finished college, and yet I have a successful career.
When I make mistakes I never beat myself up or get angry about it, but I still care about improving myself.
Life can still be amazing, even when you lose.
I don’t ever set goals. I don’t have a single goal set for myself in my life or my career. And yet, once again, I have a successful career that I love with all my heart.
Failure isn’t scary. It’s an inevitable part of life. Every time I fail, I learn.
I absolutely love being alone. I love having time to be with myself away from the commotion of others and life. There’s a big difference between being alone and feeling lonely.
Success doesn’t come from “things.” Success is whatever I choose it to be.
I don’t live to just survive. I live to experience life: The good, bad, ugly, and the beautiful.
I’m not special at all. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t be unique.
That older I get, the more I realize that society doesn’t have to determine what I think, how I feel, or how I decide to live my life. I decide those things.
3) The more I let go, the more I get in return.
The more work I gave away for free, the more paid business that came my way.
The more I let go of trying too hard to find success and happiness, the more success and happiness found me.
The more I let go of things like goals and expectations, the more I achieved.
The more I let go of wanting to win people over and receive their praise, the more self-loving and confident I became.
The more I let go of being too serious, the more life became easy, enjoyable, and fun.
The older I get, the more I realize that, the less I care, the happier I am. Stress melts away, worry fades, and the less anxious I feel.
Just stop giving a shit so much and ease up a bit.
4) Happiness is not something that has to be earned or justified.
For years, I thought that thing called “Happiness” was like some kind of lottery prize. If only the numbers of my life added up in the right order, then one day I’d finally be able to win happiness. I actually used to say stuff like this to myself:
“Will, you’re not allowed to be happy until you’ve earned it.”
Sigh. What an idiot.
The older I get, the more I realize that happiness doesn’t have to be a prize. I don’t have to be able to hold something up as proof that I’m now allowed to give myself permission to feel happy. I realize this simple, amazing truth: Happiness is a choice. It’s a state of mind. I can choose to be happy any time I want to, and I don’t need a reason to be happy. I can, just because.
Just ate my favorite meal? Be happy!
Reading a great book? Be happy!
Gave a terrible presentation today and lost a potential client? I live to fight another day. Be happy!
Some asshole cut me off in traffic and gave me the finger? I pity the miserable fool. Be happy!
5) It’s not about how long or short life is.
I’ve been alive for thirty years. It’s felt like forever. I bet that, if I went back in time to when I first popped into this world and had to do it all over again, it would feel just as long.
Days are long. I’m usually up at 6am, and don’t stop going until 9pm or later. The days drag on, and on, and on, even more so when I just want them to hurry up and end.
I know, I know. I get it. The earth is 4.5 billion years old. Dinosaurs last roamed the planet some tens of millions of years ago. I get that’s a long time. The earth being really old and having been around for a really long time doesn’t mean my life is short. 90-100 years is a long time for us humans.
The older I get, the more I realize that whether or not life is long or short isn’t important: It’s how that time is used that counts the most.
I’d rather live a badass life and die at 50 then live a boring, dull, listless, unambitious, fearful life and die at 100. Fuck that. Quality over quantity.
Here’s to another 30 years.