Life lessons are full of wisdom because they often have to be learned the hard way. However, the hardest part about that process is realizing that sometimes not every opportunity lasts forever. You finally “get it” long after the fact.
If possible, it’s best to learn these things sooner rather than later.
1. If you want to “do what you love,” you have to work three times as hard as everyone else.
Most people do not get to spend their lives doing whatever it is they love. Instead, they do what they are told they should do, or what their parents or town or friends or peers suggest that they do. Or they simply pursue nothing close to their heart at all. But if you want to “do what you love,” you need to see that as a privilege, not an expectation. Those people are not the majority. So if that’s what you truly want, you have to put in the work now.
2. Beneath anger is always fear.
As the wise Yoda says, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” Whenever we suffer, especially for long periods of time, at first we believe it is because of something outside of us–something we hate. And if we make it past that emotion, we find below that hate is a rumble of anger, and certainly something we have held on to for far too long. But beneath all of that is always fear. A fear of loss. A fear of vulnerability. A fear of letting go. But if you can get to the point of acknowledging the fear, you will see its lighthearted shadow, compassion. And you will be able to move forward.
3. Our everyday habits form our future selves.
What you do today is one more action toward who you will be tomorrow. When that action is replicated over the course of a week, you begin to scratch the surface of change. When that action is replicated over the course of a month, you begin to notice a slight difference. When that action replicated over the course of a year, or two years, or five years, you may no longer recognize yourself–you will have changed, in that particular way, completely. Do not underestimate the power of each and every small habit, replicated over time. For good or bad, your habits determine who you will ultimately become.
4. Your emotions take practice.
When we think about practice, we often talk in terms of skill. You practice the piano, or you practice playing hockey. But the thing is, who you are emotionally also takes practice. You can practice humility, you can practice forgiveness. You can practice self-awareness and humor, just as easily as you can practice anger, resentment, drama, and conflict. Who you are, emotionally, is a reflection of the things you consciously (or unconsciously) practice. You were not “born” upset. You have merely practiced that emotion far more than you have, say, joy.
5. Everyone has his or her own agenda.
This is quite a cliché phrase, and is often said in a negative context. But I am using it differently: It is worth acknowledging that, at the end of the day, we all must provide for ourselves. We all have our own dreams, goals, aspirations, families, close friends, and significant others, and we all want the same fundamental things. There are those you can trust, of course, but the best way to keep yourself rooted and at ease is to know that each and every person has his or her own agenda. You cannot control others. You cannot expect them to put you before themselves. And trying to do so may work for a period of time, but eventually, the truth will rise to the surface. Instead, make it a point to address and help others move toward their own dreams, as you request their help in moving toward yours. The relationship will more smoothly move in the right direction this way.
6. Achievement will never be as fulfilling as the journey.
It is one thing to set and goal and enlist the help of others to see its achievement through. It is entirely another to sacrifice your own well-being, and the well-being of those around you, for that goal and its achievement. The high at the end is never worth the emotional strain that takes place to get there. If you are not able to enjoy the journey with those around you, then the end goal will become meaningless.
7. Working hard and laughter are not mutually exclusive.
Building on the previous point, I never understood why people feel that laughing means not taking the matter at hand seriously. The best ideas come through ease. The best flow happens in moments of joy. The human connection begins with laughter and to laugh while working or solving a problem is to be open to new possibilities. Some people never learn this–they become grumpy and old. But life is about having fun. And to have fun does not mean, by default, that you are not “getting anything done.” On the contrary. You can have fun and get more done than you ever thought imaginable.