In 2013, I divorced my ex-wife, had to close my company, lost my house, lost three pets, had to sell most everything I own and had to live on the kindness of friends and, in some cases, strangers. I've experienced some massive losses, and this is only the highlight reel.
To say I've learned a thing or two this year is an understatement.
The things I have learned, I've written down. This is what I want to share with you: all the things I've decided I can't afford to forget that I learned, because they're just too fucking important.
Ready to drink from the firehose? Here you go:
- Time is the only currency that matters. Money comes and goes. Attention comes and goes. Love comes and goes. Time is the only thing you can never, ever recover. Once it's gone, it's gone. Be aware of who and what you spend your time on, including the time you spend regretting spending time on shit.
- Quit beating up on yourself. The entire world is lined up and ready to remind you why you're not as good as they are. Someone needs to be on your team. Start by recruiting yourself. Be your own biggest cheerleader. Don't stand on your own sidelines wearing the opponent's uniform.
- The best way to learn how not to beat up on yourself is to literally change your language about yourself. If you find yourself insulting yourself, your looks, your thoughts, your ambitions, and your feelings, literally say aloud the words "No. What I mean to say is," and change whatever you just said into something honest but not insulting. Even if you're in a room by yourself, and you think the insult, say it aloud. This one tool will change everything about how you feel about yourself. And the worst possible thing you could do to help yourself grow is to "feel stupid" doing it, so you don't do it. Get over that, do this work, and in as soon as a month, you'll find yourself thinking more highly of you. In a year? Even moreso.
- Love is a verb. You give love. You are loved. If you "have" love, you're neither giving it nor receiving it. It is a dead thing, nonmoving and not living. Quit hoarding and holding on to love, or even thinking you can.
- Love and Respect are two things that, when you give them away, you don't lose any of what you had. You simply replicate what you have and give it to someone else. The effect should multiply. If it doesn't, you're wasting your time.
- When you find you've been wasting your time, stop. I mean, you're free to keep on wasting it. No one is going to stop you. But remember, the SECOND you realize the truth, it's YOUR decision what to do with it. Everything, including ignoring it, is your responsibility.
- Take responsibility for anything you've done. Never hide from it. Everyone already knows the truth anyway, and trying to make up a story about why it's not your fault simply makes you less trustworthy in the future.
- Trust is not hoping the other person does things right. It's giving them permission to fuck it up and seeing how they handle it. If you ever find yourself trusting someone "to do it right" you're not trusting, you're gambling. And that's fine too, just know the difference.
- The best way to figure out if you can trust someone is to trust them.
- People WILL disappoint you. It's inevitable. We all hold everyone in the world to a standard, and eventually they will fall short of that standard. When they do, remember, they fell short of YOUR standard, not their own. You own that, not them. They own their actions, you own your expectations. Proceed accordingly.
- Forgiveness has NOTHING to do with what the other person did or will do, and everything to do with releasing them from the prison of your hatred and anger. If they're not living in your prison, you don't have to feed and shelter them anymore. Prisoners have a cost. Whatever you're paying to keep them, you're not spending on yourself or anyone else in your life. Decide how much someone who completely fucked you over is worth and spend appropriately.
- Cheer when you win. Goals are fun, and achieving them should be a victory every single time. Celebrate every single one.
- Anyone who isn't cheering when you celebrate a victory isn't on your team. Fuck em.
- If you want to achieve more goals, allow yourself to shift them as you yourself change. If your goal is to lose 30 pounds, and you begin working out and you lose a bunch of fat and look fantastic and feel great and only lost 20 pounds, allow the goal to change.
- The world is a great place. In order to experience it, you must open yourself up to the possibility that you may get hurt. But then again, you may not.
- It's just STUFF. Everything you have, everything you own, everything you've collected, everything you've bought or been given, no matter how much it means to you, is JUST STUFF. You will adjust to losing any or all of it, and almost always for the better.
- If you woke up this morning and had a hot shower, you've had a terrific day.
- People change. Trying to stop that is like trying to staple waves to the beach.
- Suppressing feelings is the best way to make sure they show up again at the worst possible moment and fuck your shit up, bad. Feel what you feel, and never ever apologize for it.
- No matter how strong you are, at some point in your life, you're going to have to ask someone for help. Learn to do it sooner rather than later, and you'll spare yourself years of agony borne of thinking you're some sort of invincible Superman, but wondering why all these bullets keep hurting. You're not. No one is. Wake up.
- Ask for what you want. You'll get it, one way or another.
- Courage is not the absence of fear, doubt, or anxiety. It's facing that stuff and seeing the truth beyond it. Anyone who ever tells you they're not afraid is lying.
- Strength is not the ability to withstand anything, it's the ability to recover from anything. It takes no effort for a strong man to wether a storm he can handle. It takes a tremendous effort to admit there's a storm that can beat and break you, standing up, and deciding to rebuild.
- Fitness, losing weight, diet and happiness are four corners of the same parallelogram. I've been involved in some form of exercise for most of my life. My weight has fluctuated greatly as an adult, losing lots of weight only to put it back on. This year, I lost nearly 70 pounds and kept it off. Not because of CrossFit and not because of the Paleo diet (both of which I do), but because CrossFit and the Paleo diet work in conjunction with one another to make me happy. I found an activity I love, that fills me with desire to perform, to the point that I found myself changing my diet, sleep schedule and activity schedule to best fit this new lifestyle. You can try any activity you want, and you may get fit or you may lose weight, but until you find one (or several) that fill you with happiness and joy simply for doing them, you will struggle with the weight loss and the fitness, just as you will struggle trying to push two same-pole magnets together. You can do it, but there's resistance, and eventually fatigue sets in and you let go and the ends push apart. It's just how it is.
- The most useful application of remembering the past is making sure you do not repeat it. Always remember it, and never dwell on it.
- They're not strangers once you get to know them. Best way to make that happen is to talk to them.
- You can tell someone the truth without being a dick. "I'm just being honest" or "I don't mean to be blunt" or "Not to sound rude, but" are simply shorthand for "I'm incapable of actually communicating with anyone without somehow trying to make myself sound and feel superior."
- If you want to be honest about how you feel about stuff, start with telling yourself the truth about it.
- Journal every day. You need some things to be yours and yours alone. That's the perfect place to keep them.
- If you don't keep some things for yourself, you'll be empty.
- Everything ends. Experiences, relationships, even life. The trick is not to be so intensely aware of how great something is that you know you'll miss it when it's gone. The trick is to accept that it WILL be gone, one day, somehow, and to let go and enjoy it while it's here.
- You are the accumulation of every experience you've ever had. To try to pretend something didn't happen, or to cover it up, or to otherwise hide from it is to hide from yourself. You will lose that game. Every single time.
- You are also the common denominator in every experience you've ever had. If you've noticed a pattern where things just keep not working out for you, you need to realize that, in at least some regard, you're part of that pattern.
- If you want something you've never had, you must do something you've never done.
- Joy is a feeling. Happiness is a state. You can be happy in moments you're not feeling joy, and you can feel joy in moments where you're not actually happy. Don't confuse the two.
And finally, the most important lesson I can possibly ever try to convey to you:
This list is bullshit.
This is the stuff I've learned. These are the things that, now that I understand them the way I do, I can't go back to how I used to do stuff. I can try, but I'll always know that the experience is just not the same. Once you've learned something, you cannot unlearn it. All you can do is try to forget its true while you do the thing you used to do, which ruins that experience to the point it's just not fun anymore.
More than that, it's MY list. It's the things I've learned for myself, about myself. It's not your list. It's just my advice to you. And advice is worth approximately nothing whatsoever.
It is impossible for you to read these things and understand them the way I've come to understand them. To do that, you'd have to go through what I went through. And if there's one universal truth to life, it's the fact that you can believe the stove is hot when your parents warn you not to touch it, and you may even go through your entire life never once touching a hot stove because you trust them so much. But you can't possibly know what a hot stove feels like until you touch it. And when you do, it hurts like hell.
But that's the thing about pain: It's the best teacher there is. You know what a hot stove feels like now. You know what your hand felt like when you got burned. You don't have to wonder. That question is now answered.
The same thing goes with loving someone with your whole heart, or investing everything you have into a business, or loving pets, or making friends, or building a home or owning stuff or practically anything that you might do in life. Don't ever take anyone's word for shit. Fucking do it.
Take a risk. Live. Experience life. Get drunk on it. Wake up the next morning and take a deep breath and understand that, for as long as that air rushes through your nostrils into your lungs and leaves again, you are ALIVE, and as long as you're alive, you can make it through anything.
You own you. Period. Take good care of yourself, and treat yourself nicely. You'll be amazed how the rest of the world falls in line behind that.
I may not know you, but I love you. And I want you to have a happy 2014 and beyond.