I was reading a book a while back and one of the exercises that it wanted you to complete was writing your own eulogy. Kind of weird. The purpose was to focus on the fact that time is limited and to motivate you towards creating a legacy. Try and imagine all the things that you hope people have to say. I’ve tried several times to complete that exercise and I haven’t had much success. I started writing things down that I hope my children will learn or that I would like to tell them at some point. It ended up something like this:
You cannot be anything you want to be.
Society wants to say you can. But that isn’t true.
You cannot be anything you want to be.
However, you can do the things that you want to do.
You are free to pursue your interests and learn about anything you want. You have more tools than any generation, ever. Don’t waste it on cat videos. (Not all of it anyway.)
You can do the things that you want to do. You can work hard at those things and get better every day. If you are successful and diligent you can find ways to keep doing the things you love.
You will become the things that you DO most often.
So, if there is something you want to be… don’t hope to be it.
Go and DO it.
If you want to be a writer. Go write. Start a blog. Write a story. Send op-ed articles to your local newspaper. Volunteer to write things that need to be written and learn your craft. Get a degree in it or don’t… but write.
If you want to be a speaker. Go speak. Join Toastmasters or a local club. Volunteer to be a spokesman. Go speak at public meetings. Make a YouTube channel and rant about the diminishing cuteness of puppies. Get a degree in public speaking or don’t… but speak.
If you want to be a farmer. Grow something. Start a greenhouse in your backyard. Buy land and livestock. Go work for a commercial farm. Get a degree in agri-business or don’t… but grow something.
Go and do. If you do long enough then you will BE.
It isn’t exactly that simple but then again it is. There are roadmaps and requirements for everything you can do. Go and find the recipe for your life.
Set goals. In six months I will do this. In three years I will do that. In ten years I want to be here. Dreams are fantastic in the moment but they fade in the morning light. We all know that if dreams aren’t written down and recited then they are forgotten. Make a list. Make a schedule. Work towards a goal. If you miss a deadline, don’t give up. Re-write the schedule. Reset the goal. Tomorrow is another day.
Get rid of the notion that people are born “good” at something. Know that people are born into this world with the ability to do two things; cry about their situation and mess their pants. EVERYTHING ELSE is learned. You’ll be ahead of the game if you forget the first two instincts somewhere along the way.
Ask questions. Lots of questions. Dumb questions. Smart questions. Ask them all and remember the answers. Look for connections. The world is a mystery but there are answers. An expert is someone who has failed in every imaginable way. Impossible is a roadblock for some people and a to-do list for others. Everything new seems impossible until someone does it. You live in a world of things that were impossible to the generation before.
Remember that people can be mean. They usually attack for one reason; fear. People fear things they don’t understand and things that threaten their beliefs. It is an animal instinct. Part of the reptile brain. That is why true debate about religion, politics, and if someone’s child is less than awesome – is not a good idea. When you feel attacked try to consider why your opponent feels the way they do and says the things they say. Most strong opinions are built around good intentions.
Don’t put up with bullies. Bullies usually feel powerless and need to pick on someone smaller to feel powerful. This is an explanation not an excuse. Don’t take their crap. If they attack you physically then by any means possible, defend yourself. A well-placed elbow can enhance diplomatic relations. All is fair in love and war. Just be sure that you had no other option. Be fast to forgive and seek friendship.
This one is touchy and I hesitate to say it but… College isn’t for everyone. I prefer you take your education as far as you can. That doesn’t necessarily mean college. If you want to work in a trade then getting a degree in Philosophy doesn’t make a lot of sense. If you want to work in manufacturing or sanitation then you might not need to rack up school loans for four years at a private college on a partial scholarship for badminton. On the other hand, a business degree can be handy if you want to own your own business one day. Just think it through and have a plan.
You are not bad at math. No one is. That is a lie that is easier to repeat than it is to cure. I challenge you to find a single employee who wouldn’t raise a ruckus over a paycheck being off. Or set three kids at a table, in front of a plate with only two cookies on it and tell me people aren’t naturally good at math. Algebra will have all three of those kids nervous because 2 cookies/3 people is less than 1 cookie per person. Life is a series of word problems. Most math struggles are a vocabulary issue.
Get involved. It doesn’t take long to realize that there is no THEY out there controlling things. Only a group of WE’s that made it into management. If you don’t like what an organization is doing, join that organization and DO things differently. Or offer an alternative. Pointing out problems is easy. Implementing solutions is the real magic.
And finally… remember that life is a competition but not against each other. Not for the things that really matter. Most of the time the competition is between humanity and mortality. We need resources and medicine and social fabric. You could be the hero who cures all disease or you might be the guy who delivers his mail. Every improvement is an improvement. Share ideas. Help each other. Get excited about any and all success. Be charitable. Be loving. Be kind. It does come back to you.
I have to tell myself this stuff every day. Part of the list of good advice that I try to collect. I’m always open to more suggestions and you should be too.
I Love You,
p.s.- Shut the door when you are in the bathroom. You are not barbarians.