I don’t remember turning 20 at midnight on Saturday, but it happened regardless. In the wake of my two-decade milestone, I took a moment to reflect on the experiences I’ve gathered over the years and wished I could impart my lessons to 10-year-old Max (although I doubt he’d listen). Therefore, I give you my top 10 life lessons I wish I could impart on my younger self.
10. Lower Your Expectations
Just lower your expectations in general. You’ll be happier that way, especially with people. This may come off as a cynical remark, but few people will uphold the initial, idealistic vision you have of them. It’s not as cynical as it sounds. I know myself; I am often scatterbrained, inconsistent and, in one word, confused. I’m confused about myself and the world around me. All my values and opinions are subject to change on any given day, and I have yet to feel fully grounded in any facet of my life. I can only suspect that every other person is experiencing, or has at some point felt, that same sense of existential despair and are prone to mistakes. Finding out what you can expect from someone takes trial and error so don’t stop putting yourself out there.
9. The truth shall set you free
I know how much you’re going to hate cliches in a few years, but this one should be a golden rule in life. You don’t know it yet, but the truth is an essential component of your future career and it’s needed more now than ever. The truth is hard, but the truth is necessary. It’s not only necessary to be a good journalist, but also to be a good man like your father. You can try to bottle up the truth and conceal it, and it may work for a while, but eventually it will surface. You will save yourself a lot of pain and turmoil from being honest with others, and more importantly with yourself. Truth is the foundational aspect of any relationship you will have for the rest of your life, so take pride in being someone who can treasure it. It may seem difficult and unwise initially, but the repercussions are worst. Breaking someone’s trust is a feeling you should often avoid. People are going to dislike you for something regardless, so at least you can say you’re not a liar.
8. Complacency is for chumps
It’s easy to keep your head down and your mouth shut when you’re conflicted about a situation. But that knot in the pit of your stomach isn’t a fluke-it’s your natural alarm that something’s wrong. Don’t fight it. When you look back on your past actions you’ll want to know that you were on the right side of things. When faced with a difficult path, it’s the weak and unconfident man who follows the one of least resistance. People will recognize you as a leader and you can feel fulfilled in your commitment to your values. You never know the difference you can make by speaking up, until you do.
You only live once. This infamous phrase is generally hollered right before someone attempts something extremely dangerous while heavily intoxicated. This is a misuse of the mantra. If you live your life acting recklessly, you’re going to lose it quickly. That being said, don’t let what other people think of you dictate your actions. Be cognizant of how your actions affect others, but recognize that your quirks and oddities make you an individual. Pursue your passions to the fullest and don’t let the words of insignificant people alter your actions. Confidence is cooler than any other outfit you wear.
6. Stop buying Yu-Gi-Oh cards and invest in Bitcoin
Dude, seriously this Bitcoin thing is about to blow up in a few years, so stop pouring your money into meaningless things. I know you. I know you don’t actually know how to play Yu-Gi-Oh and you just make games up with your brother. It’s going to be created next year and few people will know about it. I still don’t fully understand how it works, and it seems like fake money, but I hate to break it to you: all money is fake. We stopped backing up our money with gold years ago kid, get with the program. Just hop on that cryptocurrency train ASAP and you can buy a million sets of Exodia the Forbidden One, I promise.
5. Nobody exists on purpose
This is more of an existential issue I don’t think you have pondered yet. Now your current Catholic school teacher may not like this too much, but I don’t think there’s an inherent purpose or meaning in life. I think it’s a waste of time to stress over such an unanswerable question. You can agonize over it all day but ultimately you will find doubt in every answer you produce. Let’s say you come up with an absolute answer. Then what? You’re just going to die anyway, and then your great realization will represent an enormous amount of wasted time. Focus on finding meaning through your actions and dictate your own purpose.
4. Speak less, listen more
Your mother always tells you that you have two ears and one mouth for a reason. There’s nothing wrong with being outspoken but you will learn far more by keeping your mouth shut. Just because you think you know a lot about something doesn’t mean that you know everything. People have a wealth of perspectives that will only make you wiser if you absorb and analyze them all. Also, people respond better to someone who can listen without imposing. If you want to understand people more, listen up.
3. Listen to your mother
On the topic of listening, just listen to your mom’s advice. I’m sure you’ve heard this from her dozens of times already but she’s experienced everything you have and is far wiser than you are. That wonderful woman’s sole interest in life is your well-being, and is the only one whose wonderfully high expectations can be justified. She gets on your case and this will lead to future battles. Understand that your resistance is futile. Don’t let your immature ego and stubbornness cloud your better judgement. Mother knows best.
2. Contentment comes from within
I know the discomfort you feel when other people don’t like you. You do your best to be nice and likeable to everyone you meet, but trying to make everyone like you is an exercise in futility. Trying to validate yourself through the opinions of other will drive you insane. I can’t advise you on happiness because I don’t think anyone fully achieves it. But if your seeking satisfaction you must find it within yourself before you can find it in your life. Focus more on yourself.
1. Look at the grand scheme
Don’t let yourself get dragged down by the minor mishaps and bad encounters you face. Sadly these troubles will only increase as you grow older. If you can’t get past your daily obstacles you can never succeed at anything in life. You cannot experience joy without pain, or success without failure. Whenever you feel yourself dwelling on a bad experience always remember: this too shall pass.