1. Accepting responsibility for your fate.
If you’re lucky enough to be born into the right family at the right time and place you can achieve professional success while still being a whiny, co-dependent, indignant, incorrigible little bitch. You can get pulled through life kicking and screaming and have a place of success set up for you despite yourself. If you’re born into the wrong family at the wrong time you can have every advantage in the world stolen from you. Statistically speaking, you’re more likely to be born into poverty and oppression than prosperity and freedom.
That’s unfortunate, but that’s life. The universe doesn’t owe you an ass wiping, and even if it did, you can’t count on the universe to give it to you. Part of growing up is realizing that ultimately you’re the only person who is responsible for ensuring that you survive and make the most of your life. No other human truly owes you anything, and even if they did, you owe the world more than that. You stand on the shoulders of giants, and you owe a debt to everyone who played any role in creating a world where you don’t have to dress in loin cloths and hunt rats in caves for dinner.
The goal of life isn’t to come up with the most valid excuses for why you failed. If you want to make the most out of your life and there’s a valid reason why that’s not possible then it’s your responsibility to beat the odds. Death doesn’t care about your excuses. You’re a walking, talking cosmic supercomputer. You’re designed to solve problems, and if you’re goodf at reverse engineering excuses then you’ve already proven how clever and resourceful you are.
You’ve got one life, and it’s your responsibility to prove the excuses wrong and make the most of your life and the world you’re going to pass down to the next generation. You don’t have to be old to understand that. If/when that lesson sinks in then you’ll be firmly on the path of maturity. Regardless of your age or position in society, if you’re a sniveling, selfish, spoiled coward then you’re immature.
2. Figuring out you don’t know shit about shit.
Humans are brilliant for the first few years of our lives. As children we’re painfully aware of the fact that we don’t know a fraction of the information in the universe, but before we’re even out of high school, we convince ourselves we’re smarter than everyone who doesn’t think exactly like us. Then we get a few years older and realize how stupid we were in high school. Then we laugh at high school kids for thinking they’re smart while we congratulate ourselves for being smarter than them. Then when we’re elderly we laugh at mid-life adults for how arrogant they are and congratulate ourselves for being wise old men. If we lived to be 150 we’d undoubtedly look back at 80 and realize we didn’t know shit about shit then either.
No matter how much we learn we’ll only ever know an infinitesimal percentage of what there is to know. No matter what we accomplish, we’re still just a microscopic speck of dust on a slightly bigger microscopic piece of dust on a slightly bigger microscopic piece of dust.
You grow up a little when you figure out that life isn’t a pissing contest. It’s a maze with no beginning, no end, no warning and no instructions. So humility isn’t so much of a virtue one needs to exert effort to maintain, as it is the common sense response to acknowledging how hopelessly naïve you, and everyone else, truly is.
You knew this when you were a child. Hopefully it doesn’t take you too long to figure it out again, because it really puts your life into perspective and helps you make the most of it.
3. Realizing all the adults in the world are lost little kids living in their own private self-centric fantasy world just like you.
You were born lost. You were raised on archaic, obsolete customs invented by monkeys. All of humanity’s greatest heroes evolved from butt sniffing monkeys, and we’re still very close to that branch of the family tree.
Granted, humans sent a robot to Mars. We’re some pretty clever monkeys, but at the end of the day, all the congressional blue banners and tailored designer suits in the world don’t change the fact that the world is run by monkeys (of all colors) who have access to apocalyptic weapons.
But we’re not told that as kids. We’re told adults are a higher form of life than children, and our leaders are approved by God. And kids grow up believing that…to varying degrees.
Think of the world like an amusement park roller coaster ride. Some kids will ride any roller coaster with absolute faith in their safety because they know that roller coasters are marvels of human engineering, and they’re tested regularly by professional safety inspectors. Other kids will ride the ride but be terrified the whole time the roller coaster will fall apart and kill everyone on board because they noticed the wooden beams look rotted and the amusement park doesn’t hide the fact that it’s maintained by disenfranchised alcoholic carnies.
In the real world, sometimes amusement rides break and kill real people. The world isn’t run by the cast from “Full House.” The world is run by arrogant monkeys with more money than they know what to do with and access to the best drugs in history. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you can start choosing which rides you go on a little more carefully and stop putting so much faith in the carnies.
4. Reading a book on a very important topic.
Want to be mature? Then read a book on a very important topic. If you don’t know how to read then the most mature thing you can do is learn how to read. The fact that older people already know how to read doesn’t make them better than you. Fate just gave them an earlier start. And if they haven’t read a book on a very important topic lately then no matter how many books they’ve read previously…you’re being more mature than them right now if you’re reading and growing while they’re stagnating mentally.
It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do. There’s only one correct answer to the question, “Have you learned more about something very important lately?” If you answer “yes” then you get a maturity badge for today. If you answered “no” then you get a badge of shame. That’s how growing up and getting smarter works.
5. You think multiple steps ahead.
In order to behave like a mature adult who is making the most of your life your first have to think like a mature adult. Mature thinking involves observing the world attentively, analyzing it objectively, breaking it down logically and drawing conclusions from supporting evidence. This requires looking outside your little bubble and thinking multiple steps ahead.
Think of life as a big chess game. We’re all competing for resources, chasing after our own personal goals, bumping into each other as we get in each other’s ways. Sometimes it may feel like we’re just drifting through life, but we’re drifting through a global waltz. Some people are so aware of the global dance they’ve identified and are tracking patterns in our movements and profiting from predicting where we’ll drift to next. At the very least, they can see trouble coming a mile away because they’ve read the writing in the wall, and they won’t be there when disaster strikes.
The point is not that we should all be market analysts. The point is that if you’re not thinking about where you’re headed in life and planning multiple steps ahead then you’re a hapless pawn. Mature people don’t drift through life. They plot the shortest distance to the Promised Land. If you’re 12 then this means you should be figuring out the most efficient way to master your classes and utilize your free time. If you’re 42 this means you should be advancing the limits of human knowledge and achievement.
6. Devising a life plan.
Thinking multiple steps ahead is a useful tool for solving day to day problems, but it’s also necessary to accomplish the specific responsibility of creating your 100 year plan.
Yes, spontaneity can be a virtue, but so can foresight. Someone once told me “Proper preparation prevents poor performance.” That can be true at the same time as spontaneity is a virtue.
Look. You’ve got one life to live. You have a better chance of accomplishing more if you plan ahead. If you already have a plan, great! You get a maturity achievement badge. If you don’t have anything mapped out then you get a badge that says, “I’m lost, and I don’t care.”
7. Choosing your passion and dedicating yourself to it.
If you don’t figure out anything else about your life then the least you could do for yourself is find your passion and dedicate yourself to it. If you never identify your passion then what the hell are you doing with your life? You’re just going through the motions of life until you die and get replaced by the next automaton.
It’s irresponsible to spend your life doing things you’re not passionate about. You’ve got one life. You’ve got one chance to choose how you’re going to spend it. The goal of life isn’t to survive it. There ain’t no surviving life. The goal is to be here now making the most of it by doing the things we’re most passionate about…not just because that’s the most enjoyable way to spend one’s life but also because it’s the closest thing to immortality we may get. The way we spend our lives is how we go down in history. Maybe after the past gets flushed down the drain of time it comes out somewhere on the underside of the universe where it’s stored on faded, dusty cosmic microfilm that just sits there untouched for the rest of eternity.
Do you want to go down in history for eternity as the guy who sat there with his thumb up his ass while he played devil’s advocate his entire life and never grabbed life by the balls and threw an existential touchdown pass for the record books?
The universe didn’t go through 13.75 billion years of trouble bringing you into existence for you to sit here with your thumb up your ass or to settle for demeaning work at a boring job. I’m not saying to quit your job tomorrow and sink your life savings into a backyard oil wrestling league. I’m just saying, if you’re not doing what you want to them what the hell are you doing here? What’s all the sacrifice for if you’re just going to die unhappy and unfulfilled?
8. Refining your style.
You’re probably not going to get your face carved into a mountain, and even if you did, that mountain is just a speck of dust on a bigger speck of dust. That carving is going to get erased by time in a twinkle of an eye. Nothing you ever do will last for eternity. But you do have this moment right now. Life is like a piece of falling dust caught in a sunbeam for a moment. It’s brief and meaningless, but it’s your moment in the limelight. It might even be an audition. Strike a pose.
Despite all reason or likelihood you exist, and for some reason you didn’t get to choose what you are, but you can choose who you are. You’re born with a microphone in your mouth announcing to all of history eternal who you are, and nobody warns you that as long as the clock is ticking the microphone is on. Is eternity going to hear you mumbling lame excuses or singing your ballad?
Why would you be here if not to be you? Think about it.
Being bland and cold and boring makes you look scary and authoritarian and adult. But that’s just because dead, lifeless robots look like that. It’s not really mature. It’s just dead and lifeless and scary looking.
9. Creating and correcting your philosophy on life.
Before you can plot out your life plan or personalize your identity you’re going to need to figure out what you believe about life and death. Growing up we’re told that only prophets and geniuses get to decide that, but it turns out that we all have to live our lives and suffer the consequences of our actions and inactions on our own. So since you’re ultimately responsible for living your life and making the most out of it you need to figure out what you believe and why. And you should really write it down just to be sure you really believe in something more concrete and useful than a few overgeneralized fortune cookie quotes.
Once you figure out what you’re doing here and express what that is and why then you can spend the rest of your life doing that meaningful thing you decided would make the most out of your life.
You’re going to patch together your own philosophy on life anyway. The only question is whether or not you’re going to be conscious of it. If you’re not conscious of it then you’ll likely end up basing your life on a hand full of random beliefs pushed onto you by other people who want to control and exploit you. If you don’t put an exemplary effort into figuring out and correcting your life philosophy you’ll end up like a FOX NEWS junky; even if you’re successful enough to buy a yellow Hummer you’ll still be a tool.
10. Defining your personal ethics.
You’ve got to learn more than 10 rules to navigate your way through life. There are rules for everything. There are rules at school, at work, on the road, in our banks, on our televisions, on our IPods. God never said, “Though Shalt not run at the pool.” But more people believe that than believe you should be able to get a refund if you purchase a wife who doesn’t please you.
We barely get any ethics from religion, and nobody believes every rule written in any religious book. For the most part we make up our own ethics. We patch together commandments other people told us. We filter that through our prejudices and experiences and subconsciously weave together the real list of rules we use to guide us through life.
If you just drift through life on autopilot you’re going to end up with a flotsam pile of ethics that you’re probably not going to follow yourself. You’ll just spend your life feeling guilty for doing things you don’t understand why you keep doing.
The difference between right and wrong is not the forbidden question. It’s actually the first question on the test. If you want to spend your life right then you need to figure out the difference between right and wrong, a task complicated by the fact that everyone in the world has a different answer. But that just means it’s all the more important for you to ask the hard, forbidden questions yourself.
11. Expanding the limits of human knowledge and achievement.
I’m not impressed by the Jeopardy champion or the guy who beat a super computer at chess. I’m not impressed if you can sell 42 used cars in a month. I’m not impressed how many clients you have. But I’ll be impressed if you expand the limits of human knowledge by say, solving an unsolved mathematical problem or finding the cure for cancer.
Glen Beck is a very successful family man by Utah standards, but from a cosmic perspective his life will have meant far, far less than Carl Sagan’s life. That’s because Carl Sagan spent his life expanding the limits of human knowledge and achievement while Glen Beck spent his life sensationalizing disinformation to exploit gullible people’s fears for his own personal gain.
12. Helping other people.
Have you helped anyone lately? If so, that’s real mature of you. If not, that’s real immature of you. If you’re helping someone then you can take credit for behaving maturely regardless of how old or accomplished in the ways of the world you are.
Sometimes life isn’t complicated. This is one of those times. It’s mature to help people.
13. Coming to terms with your past. Finding absolution for your sins and regrets.
Old people act sanctimonious and demand respect, but they all messed up somewhere, and so will you. Everybody makes mistakes. We even feel guilty for things that weren’t anyone’s fault or that just don’t matter. Guilt, remorse and regret are human emotions that appear across cultures and religions.
If you look at the mythologies humans have invented you can see patterns in how humans view guilt, remorse and regret. We’ve come up with some pretty elaborate rituals to process those emotions, but at the end of the day we’re just dancing monkeys wishing away an existential dilemma we’re not smart or brave enough to confront directly.
How do you deal with your regrets? Part of growing up is figuring that out. If you don’t have any regrets yet then congratulations. In the meantime it would be mature of you to get a head start on figuring out how human beings find absolution when the need arises.
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