- You can talk yourself into (or out of) anything. The only difference between smart people and other people is that smart people do this with bigger words and more complex arguments. Be confident, but also assume that you are broken in ways you can never spot. Find some ways to get a checksum on life decisions every now and then.
- You don't need very much at all. Maybe a laptop computer and a couple changes of clothes. Pictures and videos of your life. That's about it.
- Nothing will ever replace experiences. No matter how big the car, nice the house, or professional-looking the suit, it's never going to be as much fun or mean as much later as the experiences you have in life. And it's not just having the experience, it's looking forward to them, and planning them, and making pictures, movies, and blogs out of them. The best part, oddly, may be the planning. So planning a 200-dollar trip to the beach in the Fall with people you love may give you many hours of happiness this summer -- along with the fun of the trip itself.
- Learn to keep picking topics and immersing yourself in them. Most everybody will say to drop out and become part of the system -- 9-5 job and TV/games/internet in the evening. If you want a life you could sleep through, that's fine. But if you want a life you can tell stories about, keep reinventing yourself. And that means constantly learning.
- Lots of shit in life that once looked dumb or stupid opens up into this huge panorama of beauty once you learn the rules. In so many things you are like the guy who never saw a baseball game going to the world series. You kind of get it, but it all seems silly. You don't know the rules. Decide to learn how to appreciate music, for instance. Get a few college lectures on tape, get some good music to listen to, hang out with folks who are music connoisseurs. The more you know about various art forms, the richer your life is.
- Forget philosophy and meaning-of-life shit. You're too young. For now, you are what you do. Go do something worthwhile
- Stick to a daily exercise routine at all costs
- If you are changing and getting better, that means you are changing friends too. This was very difficult for me, but you can't hang out with the same folks and expect to become a better person. There are exceptions, of course, but to a large degree your life is controlled by whom you choose to be friends and hang out with. Be aware that you don't want to be the same person at 30 as you were at 20. I'm not saying be an asshole -- keep being friendly by all means -- but be very careful who you hold yourself up against as "normal"
- Dating is a numbers game, like a lot of other things. Learn the skills of dating and don't sweat picking up chicks (or guys)
- Concentrate on your weaknesses. Make them stronger. When you get to your 30s you can work from your strengths, but there has to be some time in your life to work on shit you suck at, and for me it was when I had the most motivation, my 20s.
- Speaking of which, you have to learn management. No matter what you do, there will be a manager. Even if you don't want to be one, you have to understand what the job is like to help out your manager. Being a good leader means being a good servant. This concept sounded easy (or facile) to me in my 20s, but proved hard to apply in practice.
- You are never ready for kids. Have them early while you have energy. Read all the books about kids if you must, but realize that creating a replacement is about the most biologically easy thing you could do. After all, evolution has been working on making you a great gene transferral and primate-raising machine, so don't get paranoid and neurotic about all the latest parenting fashion. Use some sense.
- Everybody wants to be a rock star and win the lottery. Nobody ever does, and the ones that do end up destroying their life. Realize slow success is a million times better than overnight success.
- Much of the stuff in life that normal people do is geared around killing time by distracting you with shiny things of no value. You may never be able to fight this completely, but you should at least deeply understand it and how it affects your goals
- Create. With a passion. There are two major kinds of people in this world, consumers and creators. The herd will push you to consume, life will push you to consume, consumption is the easy and default path, but true joy and a full life come from creating. It does not matter one bit how many people like what you create, just create. Write. Blog. Make videos. Make a movie. Write a program. The longer the format and the more creativity involved, the more you are going to turn on and exercise key parts of your brain. Nobody wants to be 80 and only have stories of being at the office, but fuck, if you were at the office creating something at least you tried to make a difference. I'd rather be that guy than the one who watched Sumo wrestling everyday (or played 20,000 hours of WoW during his 20s) The only thing you're going to have at the end of your life are the decisions you made, the things you created, and memories. Learn to maximize these things.
1. That your buddies will always be there in the clutch - many times they won't (a good test: whether they will value your friendship over, say, an opportunistic money grab - many people, in my experience, fail this test).
2. That you can succeed with corner-cutting (the easiest way by far to really learn something and to advance is normally the toughest way: to really dive in deeply and master the fundamentals, with hard work, and then to apply what you learned with diligence and hard work to achieve practical outcomes - the "quick" way is almost always inferior, though its lure is always there to entice you when you are young).
3. That ultimate satisfaction will come from the accumulation of money (nothing wrong with gaining financial success but money in itself can never satisfy the deeper needs of life).
4. That you can abuse your body with any form of excess without needing to care about longer-term consequences (big mistake).
5. That you can relate to others in a haughty way without consequence. Younger people are prone to have a sense of invincibility about what they can do. Don't presume. We are all frail and fallible. Treat others as you would have them treat you.
6. That you need not concern yourself with developing a core center for your character. You can lose everything and still keep your character. In the long run, this is what matters most because it ultimately defines you. Work at making it a good one.
I don't think I could disagree more. If I focused on my weaknesses, I'd still be working on my handwriting. I spent years in school trying to learn how to write legibly, and as soon as I got out I dropped that and used a computer for everything. I'm a published author now, and without a computer I still can't legibly compose a sentence. You know what? nobody cares that my cheques are hard to read.
Sure, you can focus on bringing up the things you are bad at to 'average' and be a mediocre person, or you can min/max it, and be /really good/ at some things, and really suck at others. Sure, we'd all like to be good at everything. But you know what? for most of us, it's not happening. you need to make choices.
As a child, your mom (or, at least my mom was) all about how important doing your laundry, cooking, doing the dishes, etc... is. In the real world? you can pay other people to do that. You don't even have to pay them very much. Your first programming job will pay enough to eat out every day and have someone come by and clean your house once or twice a week. (granted, knowing how to cook is a good skill; it's usually healthier. My point is just that no matter what you are bad at, there is almost always a way to solve any problem using one of your strengths.)
granted... your first programming job won't pay for that /and/ a spiffy new sportscar every five years, but for me, the free time to work on the things I care about is worth more than a sportscar.
Figure out what sorts of things you are good at learning. Become /really good/ at those things, and put yourself in situations where your strengths matter and your weaknesses don't slow you down too much. Cultivate friendships with people who have complementary skillsets.
I /always/ will have more tasks that i want done than I have time. I need to decide what tasks I drop on the floor, what tasks i delegate to others, and what tasks I do myself.
dropping tasks gracefully is a /huge/ part of being 'responsible.' part of this needs to be thought out ahead of time. Don't promise things you later are going to drop on the floor. If you must drop something on the floor that someone else is expecting (and you will need to do this, sometimes.) you need to notify them as soon as possible.
He wasn't asking you concentrate on all your weaknesses. Prioritize your weakness based on their importance and then eliminate them.
for example: If you don't know how to drive a car- that is a weakness, and driving is a very important skill, so you try to eliminate it.
(This is just an example. You can always argue by saying that you can hire a person to drive the car for you, but think about other high-priority weakness you have)
That was a huge one for me too. For years I'd thought I needed at least $50k/yr, a nice car, fancy apartment, etc.
Then I spent a few years starting a business, and really learned what I do and don't need to spend money on. When food is an opportunity cost it changes your perspective. The first thing to go was trashbags - suddenly the idea of spending money on something going directly in the garbage seemed absurd.
So, I haven't had a car in 2 years, I love my apartment but its not huge, and I don't make a ton of money. But I'm happier than almost anyone I know, I can drop everything to go on an impromptu beach trip, and I wake up every day to a job that's exciting and fulfilling.
It sounds odd, but learning to live on almost no money made me calmer and happier.
The thing I've found is that getting small amounts of money is almost trivially easy... if hiring yourself out for short periods of time for $80-$150/hr is pretty easy (as it seems to be for me) optimizing things that only cost a few dollars a month doesn't make that much sense.
I think this is key to the 'living light' lifestyle. optimize the things where you get a big reward for not very much sacrifice. To me, driving a $30,000 car is nice... but a $3,000 car probably gives me 95% of the value I would get out of the more expensive car, so I drive an old beater, and I don't worry about scratches and dents. But, say, clipping coupons makes little sense, as I'm probably earning min. wage on the time spent.
I will often do my own auto repair. The person cleaning my house? $10-$15/hr. the mechanic? $75-$95/hr. And I enjoy working on my car, while I don't enjoy cleaning the kitchen.
* Eliminating non-essential expenses. i.e. Stuff you want, but not need.
* Minimizing your foundation costs. Shelter, utilities (internet, phone, electricity, etc), transportation, medicine, food.
Eliminating the first is easy and can be done without sacrifice -- you don't need them. The second can be considerably harder as there's always a floor.
However I will say this, from experience. I've found many people to look very strangely at the first item. I'm not a minimalist, but I really don't own a lot of stuff. The general reaction I've gotten with dates has been initially positive (because the space itself, and what is there, is beautiful) but grew increasingly negative as a result of consumer culture. I've only found two gals who "got it".
Concentrate on your weaknesses. Make them stronger. When you get to your 30s you can work from your strengths, but there has to be some time in your life to work on shit you suck at, and for me it was when I had the most motivation, my 20s.
Concentrate on your strengths, even at this age. Peter Drucker's argument sold me: If you work on your weaknesses, the best you can be is, if you're lucky, acceptable. If you on your strengths, however, you have your best shot at being outstanding. You'll also have more mental energy for the fight.
I wish that, in my twenties, (1) I knew this, and (2) I had the balls to be brutally honest with myself about what my strengths and weaknesses were.
This is a hunter-warrior/contractor vs a jack-of-all-trades/leader.
IMHO, highly specific expertise is overvalued by young people. Academia is the only place where specialization really shines; everywhere else you need to get along with people who don't understand your field.
really? from what I've seen of the Engineering field, there is rather a lot of tolerance for people who can't communicate with 'normal people'
My experience as a business owner has been that yeah, dealing with people outside your field is the hard part. Sure, if I had a better understanding of law, that'd be great. I'd be able to better choose lawyers.
But would I choose that better understanding of law at the expense of Engineering experience? hell no. I've set up my business so that as long as I don't make completely abysmal legal decisions, my legal decisions won't matter all that much. There aren't any weird legal twists to my business plan. As long as I can avoid getting sued into oblivion, my lawyer is doing what I want him to do.
But even a relatively small difference in the skills of the engineers I can hire for the amount I'm paying can make a huge difference, and at this point, I'm pretty much counting on my ability to spot 'diamonds in the rough' - last week a mistake made by both myself and an employee (the mistake was that it took us 8 hours to spot a problem that we should have seen in 30 mins) cost us north of ten grand in SLA credits. If I was just a little bit better (or had just a little bit more sleep) we'd have saved the SLA credits /and/ we would have saved a pretty big bruise to our reputation.
Obviously, choosing a different business model would have required that i could identify and economically purchase other skillsets; but there really is no getting around the 'It takes one to know one' principle. If you run a business, you better be good at the core things that the business needs to be good at. For me, this is why I chose the business I chose, and why I chose to bootstrap rather than run with investors.
Furthermore, a lot of skill sets transfer over easily to related skill sets. It can help you get better at the areas where you are already strong, by pointing out specific aspects in them that you may have been overlooking.
shrugs I've usually been too much of a generalist, so I'm currently trying to specialize a bit more. Your mileage may vary.
Being a pure generalist probably sticks you to the initial triage role (which is no fun), but having a very large number of baseline competencies is handy.
My point is just that some people learn certain subjects faster than they learn other subjects. my thought is that if it takes the same effort to learn a little in an area where you are bad as to learn a lot in an area where you are good, and you have a limited amount of effort to apply, you are better off applying that effort to the area where you are good.
I'm actually one of those people who has had a hard time 'managing to complete tasks you start' (and while i still have that problem sometimes, I think i have accomplished more than the average bear.) - now, I do fight that directly some; you are right, it's too much in the way of everything else for me to ignore it because it's hard, like handwriting. They make some /really effective/ drugs for that these days, amongst other things, but as for 'hacks' to avoid that weakness? becoming a SysAdmin is one. If you can perform well in emergency situations, where you /can't/ drop things on the floor, lots of half-finished projects get forgiven. (and really, in SysAdmin work, if you don't take care of something when it's not an emergency, you take care of it when it /is/) I mean, it's bad to not complete things in non-emergency situations, maybe even worse than being a less productive programmer. But if you can 'hero' it out, even if that is the sub-optimal solution, you usually don't get fired for it. Management forgets that you only notice your sysadmin if he's not doing his job.
But, I find even the threat of an emergency motivates me to fix things, so I don't think add sysadmins need to remain in the less-useful 'hero' role forever... but being a sysadmin does mean that our failure mode usually doesn't get us fired.
If you can manage to hold down a job long enough to get some good experience, hiring other people can also be a way to get around this. I can start something and have someone else come along and clean up behind me. Also, just working with other people, I find, helps keep me on task.
but really, if I didn't have a skill that was relatively hard to find, well, for most of my life, I'd have had a hard time holding down a job at McDonalds. Nobody is going to deal with a fry cook who keeps Engineering hours.
Speaking of talent, another important point is that talent is overrated. You never know when you will break through from being average to good or great. People who write themselves off saying "I'm just not good at that" will never have the chance. The effort that the greats have put it in is always hidden to us.
So my advice is if you enjoy something don't worry too much about sucking it at.
I actually agree with the advice on working on your weaknesses early in life, because pushing your limits helps you better understand yourself. I don't think I was dishonest about myself earlier, maybe too idealistic trying to fix some weaknesses that I nowadays consider part of my personality. And I'm not talking about skills here, but more about mental debugging of your emotions, ambitions, relationships etc.
As a guy in my early 20s from a small rural town that I lived in my whole life I can really relate to this. My best friends from home aren't planning on leaving and there just isn't really a place there for me. I think I sort of ruined college for myself because I didn't go far away despite going to a good school and I never really branched out because I could just go hang out with my "home" friends. It really crippled my four years. For this summer of my junior year I decided to move a few hours away to where it isn't convenient to drive home. The problem is I am trying to meet new people but that is definitely a problem in itself.
If you tend to be an introvert, then just take more time asking good questions, let them talk, and then expand upon the mutual interests. Most of my friends wouldn't know I tested on the introverted side on Myers Briggs. (I've moved towards the middle since high school, mostly because I like taking this approach to life so the answers as to what I'd do have actually changed.)
Good luck. If you throw out your location, you might be able to make some local connections through here.
I'm commenting here because I think you've given good advice on ways to slowly step away from this and these are things I've been putting into practice when I can. I'm more confident in engaging in small talk with people now, but it's typically someone I'm forced to interact with (hair stylist, waiter/waitress, mechanic, etc). I really need to take it a step further and target people outside of that comfort zone. I specifically like your idea of targeting other people standing alone, regardless of whether or not I have the confidence to do so - it's good advice.
Gonna heavily disagree with this one... This is an attitude that turns us into machines with expected outputs rather than people. We humans spend a lot of time limiting ourselves by placing labels on ourselves and limiting our perceptions by labeling others.
Discard the labels. Do not try to fit a role. You might program computers, but you are not a programmer. You fly planes, but you are not an aviator. You play a guitar, but you are not a musician. You teach, but you are not a teacher. All these terms have extra connotations we have all built up.
Your footprint on the world is a culmination of your actions, so in a sense, your actions mark you in the perceptions of others. However, as we humans are so adaptable, we can discard the notion of who we think we are and start afresh, always pick new directions. We do not have to be what we have been, and we do not have to cater to what other people expect of us.
Just because you get a college degree in X and work 30 years in X does not mean you cannot ever do Y; that is a self-imposed limitation reinforced by the X label.
Purpose of life? To live. Nice and fundamental. Meaningless enough to show you that you can do about whatever you want if you have the interest and make the effort. Limitless enough to give hope that if, in your 20s, you feel you are not doing what you want, you can try something else.
No, you are not what you do. You are you. What you do is what you have chosen to do at that time. It is okay to change, okay to do the unexpected, okay to break out of your comfort zone and whatever comfort zones and roles that TV and society have tried to impose upon you.
They're not mutually exclusive: You might be a hacker-painter-parent. You can keep adding roles as long as you have time to do things. They're also not necessarily permanent: You can stop being a hacker if you don't like hacking anymore. But if you don't do any of those actions, you aren't any of the accompanying things.
My point is to discard the label/role from your thinking because it can lock you in place. Multiple roles suffer the same problem as singular roles in that the name has boundaries. It is harder to see where the lines blur (the shades of gray) because you have lines. Looking for the blur in the first place is a sign that you have accepted an arbitrary label with its connotations and are trying to climb your way out of that casting.
This is an example of where the language itself limits you. You hack, so you are a hacker. But "hacker" does not just mean "one who hacks". It might also make you think of Jolt. :)
The danger is when you start to mold your identity to fit in with the group that shares that label. Do you own a t-shirt that talks about your love of hackerdom? "10 kinds of people understand binary"? If you make it part of who you are, then you will find it more difficult to change.
There are several kinds of situations where this identity labeling makes someone feel trapped or slows them down. If you have never intimately known or been yourself suicidal (and managed to recover from it), for example, you would see that part of the problem is an inability to change, a clinging to the past, to an identity. Others and I were trying to eliminate that identity. We had to change in order to continue living. A similar problem exists for job loss.
Another way to look at this is to consider your choices. When your choices conflict with your identity, you have run into one of those labeling conflicts.
Every minute you make new choices, do new things, and those choices and actions are your life. The things you do, the decisions and actions you take, even if nothing more than decisions to be happy under miserable circumstances, constitute your life. You own them, and by continuing to take ownership and dancing above the chasm, you live fully.
We must imagine Sisyphus happy.
Yes. And this is why "clinging to what you think you are based upon actions you have performed" is an exceptionally _bad_ way to make decisions and do things. Do not do this.
You are adding in a past-tense here where none is intended. You are alive this instant. You make decisions. This is your life. There is nothing in this advice about thinking you are the culmination of past decisions. You are alive now. You make decisions now. The decisions you make right now are your life.
The things you may or may not have not done in the past have nothing at all to do with it. In fact, as you point out, if you define yourself by your past actions? You've missed the point of what I was saying.
You are your decisions, but you are not the history of your decisions. You are your present-tense decisions. You exist now -- not as some trend, pattern, or tendency. People can worry about history when you are dead if they like. It's not worth your time now. Your life is the decision you make right this instant.
We are not disagreeing. I believe you misunderstand.
- Stick to a daily exercise routine at all costs
You aren't too young. This is his philosophy which he's telling you to forget: forget every philosophy except his.
For me nothing can replace learning new interesting things and understanding new interesting concepts.
I feel that history is just one of possible fictions. The fact that it actually happened (even to me personally) poses little significance to me. Physics on the other hand is something real, very distinct and intrinsically interesting.
Learn to tell stories about it to your kids and grandkids if you must, they way people did for thousands of years before camcorders. But the actual moment is fleeting, so live it, be present in it, don't miss that trying record it.
About rewriting memories... You do not only fill the blanks in your memories. Your brain also fills the blanks in what you are looking at, the exact moment you are looking at it.