I hate listicles. They simplify human experience into easily digestible bites. They contribute, I feel, to the general stupefaction of our society. I have a general policy of unfriending anybody who sends me the latest listicle they’re excited about, claiming how it changed their lives.
Come on, lets face it, if a listicle can change your life…you’re doing something wrong.
However, here’s the unavoidable truth: people love reading these things. So, in the spirit of experimentation, here’s one from the heart, see how it goes:
Many times in my life I’ve been wrong. I’ve made terrible mistakes. I don’t know if having an older version of me during those times would have helped. Usually when I’m in that “Lets-screw-things-up-mode,” I don’t listen to anybody, not even myself. But in the interest of self analysis, I’m going to – for just one minute – imagine I had that older self there.
1. The first thing I would tell my younger self is this: Assume that you’re wrong.
Many of our mistakes stem from pride. They’re mistakes on top of mistakes. We do something wrong and a part of ourselves knows it’s wrong even while we’re doing it. But at that point we’re invested in our mistake. We’ve bought our own bull. Now it becomes twice as hard to reverse our course.
Assume that you could very likely be wrong. It’s so simple. That doesn’t mean you don’t fight for what you believe to be right. It only means that you acknowledge your fallibility. Don’t be ashamed to admit that you’ve made a mistake. It’s the first step to making the right decision.
2. Listen. This is a big one. We spend our lives thinking what we’ are going to say next. We don’t listen to the other person. We don’t really care.
Sometimes I’ll be listening to a conversation and one person is about to say something when the other interrupts. Then that person that was talking just starts the sentence again. Then if they’re interrupted one more time they start the sentence a third time. Except now they have this tone, as if saying, “I’m going to keep repeating this sentence until you listen. I don’t care if I have to start it a thousand times.”
In this particular conversation none of the parties are even remotely interested in listening. They’re just trying to make a point. All they care about is making that point.
That conversation is a waste of breath. So many conversations are.
Words are imperfect at communicating meaning anyway. If you don’t even listen then you just made a hard job impossible.
If you take the time to listen to what the other person has to say, you might change your mind in the process. What’s so scary about that? Maybe they’re right. Maybe they have a good idea. I mean…don’t you want the right answer, no matter how you come to it?
3. Never regret. You heard me right…never!
God knows I’ve made some dumb decisions in my life. I’ve quit jobs that were excellent, left girlfriends that loved me, taken on projects I didn’t believe in, started fights. Some of those decisions might have very well been 100% wrong. But the truth is that part of my life is done and over with and lingering in the past can only lead to one thing: missing the present. And the present is the only thing you got – like it or not – that’s it.
So fight for what you believe is right and never regret. Being conservative gets you nothing, only a fake sense of security. You can lose it all just the same, no matter how careful and clever you think you are.
4. Nothing lasts. This might sound pessimistic but it’s not. It’s only pessimistic if you hold on to things.
This is just the nature of life. We are only here in passing. No mater how important we hold something to be, one day, in the not so distant future, that thing will be gone. And that doesn’t take away from its importance now. Why should it? Just because it isn’t forever that doesn’t mean it is less strong or significant or valuable. On the contrary, it is its impermanence that makes it even more powerful.
I’m reminded of those mandalas the Buddhist monks make, made out of colored grains of sand. They spend days making them. The detail on them is painstakingly beautiful. They are magnificent. But they are only made out of sand.
When the monks are done and the prayers are said, they sweep up the grains into containers and they return the sand to the river.
What better end to all that beauty?
It is one of the most powerful metaphors for life I have ever seen. All that splendor there for a second and gone the next, returned to the source.
The fact that it is impermanent doesn’t take away from it. In some strange way, it is the source of its power.
5. Stick to what you love. This is the best piece of advice I can give my young self. You know what that thing is, stick to it. No matter what, learn to live with it, because it is the thing that you are. It is the thing you where put on this Earth to do. And yes, I do believe we were put on this Earth to do something. A kind of divine assignment. An assignment given to us probably by us.
I was listening to one of these Alan Watt’s videos that’s making the rounds on Facebook and the philosopher was talking about the divine nature of the human spirit and he was saying that if we were able to dream any dream we wanted, if we were immensely powerful, we would dream the perfect dream of life. And we would probably do that for a thousand nights and it would be great. But hen one night we would add some kind of difficulty to that dream just to make it interesting. And then night after night we would add more an more difficulties to that dream until eventually we would arrive at the life we lead now.
It struck me as so true. We are magic and we can achieve anything we want. Life is our obstacle course, designed by us to make things worth while.
Love is the alarm system. It’s the thing built in to let us know we’re going in the right direction. Love is what shows us the way. So when you feel it, listen, it is a message from the divine part of yourself.