My senior year of high school I asked as many adults as I could for the single, best piece of advice they could give to a young man just about to enter the real world. I probably asked around 30 or 40 adults this question, and I never met one who had an answer ready. They all had to stop and think about it. Most of them acted like that was the first time anyone ever asked them to sum up what they’d learned in life.
I don’t specifically remember any of the advise they gave me, because most of their advice was generic and watered down to the point of being useless like, “Do your best.” “Don’t have any regrets.” or “Love everybody.” What I did learn from them and what did stick with me was that not having an explanation for who you are, where you’re going, where you’ve been and what you’ve learned is no way to go through life.
Since I don’t want to be that guy I’m going to give my speech to the younger generation right now. The most important thing I can tell young people is that your life is your responsibility. Life isn’t a bowl of cherries. Life is hard, and it’s going to knock you down. You can blame the whole world for all your problems, but even if you’re right, your life is still your responsibility and nobody else’s. Once you’re dead all excuses are moot. Death doesn’t ask you how the world treated you. Death asks you how you lived your life.
If you want to make the most of out of your life you need to plot a goal, lay out a plan in writing and focus the rest of your life on it. In order to know what you want out of life you have to do two things. First, you need to define yourself.
Everyone can tell you their name and where they’re from, but most people don’t spend enough time reflecting on who they are, take time to meditate and feel what it’s like to be them or express themselves through the things they create with their hands. They let the world tell them who and what they are. They associate their identity with the institutions around them. They let the world burn its image onto them instead of burning their image onto the world.
This causes them to spend their entire lives chasing circles trying to find happiness but never truly getting what they want… because they never truly defined what they wanted. They just drifted where the currents took them and then simultaneously cursed and defended where the undertow took them.
Don’t be that guy. Find yourself. Do that by writing your life story. Analyze your past. Map out your journey so far and analyze the patterns. Use that to figure out what made you who you are. Then once you’ve taken control of your growth, create yourself into who you want to be.
Keep pounding away at finding/creating yourself. Take personality tests and start studying psychology as early as possible. You are your mind. If you don’t know how your mind works then you don’t know how you work. Not only will studying psychology help you understand and take control of yourself, but it’ll help you understand other people, and that will be the most important job skill you’ll ever learn no matter what you do for a living.
The second thing you need to do before you can say where your life is going, is to learn to think. Thinking is asking questions. Everything you’ll ever do will be done because of a question you asked yourself in your head. The quality of your answers and thus your actions will be determined by your ability to ask the most important questions, analyze the variables logically, perform cost/benefit analysis and formulate answers.
Nobody else can answer all your questions for you, and for the most part nobody will even try to help you figure out life. People will (intentionally and unintentionally) give you bad advice, and there’s no way to check to make sure your answers are correct. People will use fear and bribery to coerce you into living your life based on mythology and contrived doctrines. If you choose to follow that path, question it like your life depends on it. If it’s true it’ll stand the most objective test for factual accuracy possible. If it fails the test then you’ll be free.
But don’t think freedom from delusion will set you on the one true path; you’ll never find the one true path because you’ll never be able to prove you’re on the right path, but if you keep questioning life and improving your ability to ask/answer questions, then at least you can live your life for yourself. And if there’s any hope of anyone ever figuring out the universe, the only way any progress towards that goal is going to happen is if someone, preferably you, questions what the hell is going on around here.
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