Life is an adventure of growth. These are the essential pillars that have shaped my character for the twenty fives years I’ve been on this beautiful, perplexing, spinning rock. I’m hoping that as I evolve into all I’m meant to be, so will these traits, insights, lessons, and skills.
1. Choose education and creative output over entertainment
“The most successful people who are the healthiest, wealthiest, and wisest choose education over entertainment.” — Jay Shetty
Once I graduated from college and could learn about what I’m genuinely interested in, the floodgates were demolished.
With no T.V. in my home, I spend my off-time reading, writing, drawing, playing piano, listening to audiobooks, podcasts, or watching educational videos from the people I admire on Youtube.
Khan Academy is a wonderful resource for short videos during lunch or dinner.
2. Don’t gossip
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
It feels good to talk about people. We get that rush of dopamine flooding our system. Gossiping is easy. The difficult thing to do is to keep quiet and not contribute.
The courageous thing is to speak up, change the subject, and view everybody as doing the best with what they know.
“The world is constantly telling you that the path to a better life is more, more, more — buy more, own more, make more, be more. You are constantly bombarded with messages to give a f*ck about everything, all the time… The key to a good life is not giving a f*ck about more; it’s giving a f*ck about less, giving a f*ck about only what is true and immediate and important.” — Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
There is simply too much prying for our attention these days. We’re worried about how we look on social media, how we measure up with others, how more things will make us happy.
Constantly adding to our lives complicates the hell out of it. Boil down your life to the things you care about most, and focus on those with the entirety of your being.
Focus on two or three things, essential things, that you can accomplish every day. When you do them, feel good about what you’ve done!
4. Focus on helping just one person
“From Neale Donald Walsch: Your life is not about you. Rather, it’s about the lives of every single person you touch.” — Vishen Lakhiani, The Buddha and the Badass
This has been huge for me, especially as a writer. More than just a means to express who I am and what I love, writing has connected me with people from all over the world.
It’s been my way to say, this is who I am, and it’s okay to be exactly who you are. When I can impact the life of just one person who tells me that they relate to what I’m saying, I know I’m doing the right thing with my life. We’re on this earth to connect, to be there, and to grow with one another.
Just focusing on helping one single person has a compounding effect. Without our knowing, the energy emanating from our hearts may very well change the world.
5. You can’t change people
“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” — Buddha
I’m not going to try to change you.
I can share the things I love and what makes me who I am, but I’ll never tell you it’s the right way to live. There is no right way, and we all have to make the discoveries of who we are on our own.
6. It’s okay to feel the way you do
“Beauty is not less
For falling in the breeze.” — James Clavell, Shogun
Just like the seasons, we must go through our times of change. We must sit with the anger and the hurt and the pain if that’s what we feel like doing. We can’t fight our human nature.
But like the seasons, know that the darkness will eventually pass.
7. Plant seeds of joy
“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”
— Robert Louis Stevenson
As kids, we tend not to want to share our things. Ah, to be a kid. Similar to helping just one other person, maturing to me means living to share what we have. It means sharing the things we love, our joys, skills, and knowledge.
I strive to be an open book with all that I have. When we live to plant seeds of joy in those we meet, we’re changing the world.
8. Practice gratitude throughout the day
“The moment you feel gratitude your healing begins; the moment you feel grateful for your life, your life is going to change.” — Dr. Joe Dispenza
It’s easy to focus on what we don’t have. But damn, is it powerful to realize what we do have. A body that functions, a mind that works, eyes that see, our breath… It’s a blessing to be alive.
One way I practice gratitude is by writing three things I’m grateful for in the morning. And don’t do it to get it done, because I fall into that trap. Think deeply about it, feel the emotion of the practice. It makes everything else worth it.
Before dinner, take thirty seconds to think about how you’re grateful. Sit in it. Don’t rush. Honor the food on the plate in front of you.
9. Music can change everything
“No, don’t you worry, we’ll all float on, alright
Already, we’ll all float on, alright
Don’t worry, we’ll all float on…” — Float On, Modest Mouse
Float On is one of my favorite songs. No matter how many times I hear it, my spirit lifts when that chorus plays. I listen to music on my best days and I listen to music on my worst days.
Music can be so simple, yet so incredibly powerful.
10. Be there for your friends
“No matter how wonderful the safety of your home is at the moment, remember that it’s not promised forever. Evil is alive and well in the world, and it is on the march. You can choose to stay in comfort and pretend that evil doesn’t exist.
Or you can band together with your friends, go out into the world, and face, fight, and overcome evil in all of its forms. That is the ultimate call to adventure.”
— J.R.R. Tolkien
My friends are everything to me. We are on our individual journeys. Yet sometimes we need to figure things out on our own. But if I get a call from a friend in need, I will be there.
Reach out, too, when there isn’t any trouble. Check in. Sometimes that’s what means the most.
11. Don’t let the world take your joy
“The greatest empire is to be emperor of oneself.” — Seneca
It will try.
The only thing we can control is our mind. There are so many factors at play out of our control, determining every single thing that happens to us. We have the choice to remain joyful through it all.
12. Remember that you’re just a kid at heart
“Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play.” — Heraclitus
Remember when you were a kid and you didn’t question everything so much, you just did?
Remember when you could get lost in doing what you loved, even if that was playing with playdough for hours?
Remember when you believed anything was possible?
That kid is your fire, your spirit, your essence. Hopefully you’ve matured in the ways that matter, but never forget what it means to be a kid. Harness that fire, and lever let your inner kid fade.
13. Create the life you truly love
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” — Steve Jobs
This one takes digging deep. Often we’re scared to search because we know we’ll find the answer if we do. That might be too much to bear.
But there will always be something missing from our lives if we don’t ask the tough questions to find what truly lights our soul on fire.
This life is too short to settle for anything less.
14. Go for a wander in the rain
“Gil: This is unbelievable! Look at this! There’s no city like this in the world. There never was.
Inez: You act like you’ve never been here before.
Gil: I don’t get here often enough, that’s the problem. Can you picture how drop dead gorgeous this city is in the rain? Imagine this town in the ’20s. Paris in the ’20s, in the rain. The artists and writers!
Inez: Why does every city have to be in the rain? What’s wonderful about getting wet?” — Midnight in Paris
Midnight in Paris; what a movie. ‘Nuff said.
15. Let it go. What’s the point of holding on?
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.” — Tao Te Ching
The ultimate liberation is letting go of the past that holds us back. Our past can become emotional baggage if we cling to it too tightly. Let it go, for we’ll miss the moment right in front of us if we don’t.
16. Go to the bar for your drink, and smile
“Freedom lies in being bold” — Robert Frost
Be bold. One of my greatest memories is when I fell into a warmly lit bar in Amsterdam to escape from the torrential rain. I didn’t have much time to think when I opened the door. Everybody looked at me. I was dripping wet and the only non-local.
I went straight to the bar and worked my way in with a big smile. From there, I made the memory of a lifetime.
17. Show everybody the same high amount of respect
“I am the earth. I see no difference between people.” — Conn Iggulden, Genghis: Birth of an Empire
It doesn’t matter if you’re a five-year-old kid or a CEO. I’m going to treat you like a human being, and all human beings deserve respect. Nobody is better than you, and nobody is less.
If you show sincerity in who you are, that should shine through.
18. Be insatiably curious
“Over the years, as his [Leonardo Da Vinci] scientific study got more serious, he filled pages with outlines and passages for treaties on topics such as flight, water, anatomy, art, horses, mechanics, and geology. These are the outward-looking enthrallments of a relentlessly curious explorer. Leonardo was following a practice that had become popular in Renaissance Italy of keeping a commonplace and sketch book, known as a zibaldone. His notebooks have been rightly called, ’the most astonishing testament to the powers of human observation and imagination ever set down on paper.” — Walter Isaacson, Leonardo Da Vinci
Ask questions; wonder about trivial things; look at the sky and wonder why it’s blue. Truly wonder.
The world doesn’t have to be the way we see it. Ask why things are the way they are, and see what response comes of it.
We may find that we’re living in an outdated world in need of an upgrade.
19. Swim across bodies of water
“Life is the C between B and D.” — Jean-Paul Sartre
What Sartre means in this quote is life is the Choice, between Birth and Death.
When I see a body of water, I must swim across it. I made this decision because I feel like a million bucks after, every time. We could all use a good shock to the system every once in a while. Challenge yourself, get uncomfortable.
The feeling of discomfort is the feeling of growth.
20. Learn to cook for yourself, and own it
“Cooking is a craft, I like to think, and a good cook is a craftsman — not an artist. There’s nothing wrong with that: The great cathedrals of Europe were built by craftsmen — though not designed by them. Practicing your craft in expert fashion is noble, honorable, and satisfying.” — Anthony Bourdain
Cooking, to me, is one of the greatest pleasures in the world. It’s a time to turn up the music and have fun. It’s a time to stray from a recipe and throw in some heat. It’s an opportunity to connect and learn about people.
Learn the basics and develop your intuition. Then, allow yourself to grow, learn, and have fun in the kitchen for the rest of your life. And do the dishes as you go...
21. Dance and sing with others
“Never the too-cool-for-school guy who leans against the wall and smokes a cigarette at the party, no, I was the guy who danced at the party.” — Matthew McConaughey, Greenlights
Life is too short to lean against the wall to act like you don’t care. You do. So care. Dance, sing, make a fool of yourself. Enjoy life.
22. Lifestyle, not a diet
“The Blue Zone centenarians don’t count calories, take vitamins, weigh protein grams, or even read labels.” — Dan Buettner, Blue Zones, 9 Lessons For Living Longer
This one has been essential in my life. Health and food are fluid concepts. How we think about our food is constantly changing. I’ve found that sticking to a diet is self-defeating in the long term if we’re limiting ourselves.
What’s the point of dieting if we’re losing our mind?
Eat what makes you happy and learn about how the body works, not just what diet is trending.
Eat Smarter, by Shawn Stevenson is an amazing book to learn about foods that boost our immune system and metabolism. There is no right way to eat; there’s only what makes you feel like the best version of yourself.
23. Do favors without expecting anything in return
“ The gift is to the giver and comes back most to him — it cannot fail.” — Walt Whitman
Give. Give your heart without expecting any love in return. Give compliments freely. Give the things that make you happy, and your life will change.
24. When traveling, forget the plan
“I’m a big believer in winging it. I’m a big believer that you’re never going to find a perfect city travel experience or the perfect meal without a constant willingness to experience a bad one. Letting the happy accident happen is what a lot of vacation itineraries miss, I think, and I’m always trying to push people to allow those things to happen rather than stick to some rigid itinerary.” — Anthony Bourdain
I had to include another quote from Bourdain, one of my greatest inspirations. Of course, it’s fine to map out what you’re going to do on a trip. Have some ideas, know the main spots so you’re not completely lost.
But then let go of control. Allow yourself the time to sit in a park and watch the world go by. That, I’ve found, is the most lovely way to get to know a place.
25. Don’t sweat the small stuff
And it’s all small stuff.
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