First of all, I’m surprised I made it this far without getting pummeled at least once. Anybody who knew me growing up would probably say I beat the odds on that one. I guess if you make yourself useful to enough people, you create your own guardian angels.
Last year, I wrote 9 things I learned by living to 37. It received great reviews in that nobody told me to take a hike. I also received quite a few emails from you about what your realizations were when you hit that completely random milestone. My favourite was from some dude living in the Philippines:
“I realized that I didn’t like my dog very much because it occurred to me he had a better life than I did.”
Here’s nine more bits from another year of being alive.
1. Complete happiness is easily attainable. I’ve learned that happiness is not the attainment of something. It’s the removal of most things. Almost everything, from people, to position, to ideologies, to stuff, is bundled with a dark side. And that dark side is the desire to maintain it. The less you seek to acquire, the less you’ll have to maintain. Happiness is the absence of things to worry about. (Read this: How to be ridiculously happy)
2. It’s much better to be bold. Life became instantly awesome for me the moment I stopped giving a damn about what people felt about me. Everything became a game of “I wonder how I’ll be shot down next,” and yet, the more I played the game, the less I got shot down. Folks, encourage your kids to ask for everything. They might not get everything they ask for but never discourage them from asking. If they don’t ask, the answer is always no.
3. There are a lot more good people than there are bad people. Monsters do live among us and they do cause great harm. This past year has seen many innocent lives taken heinously due to the actions of a very few. Yet in all catastrophe, there is an overwhelming abundance of good people who help out without concern for safety or reward. By sheer probabilities, if you speak to 10 strangers today, you will be speaking to 10 good people who are just doing their bit to make things better, or at the very least, not make things worse. (Read this: A note to Brandon)
4. People care far too much about how other people live their lives. This is not a political statement. I’m politically apathetic and I do whatever I can to not care about issues that do not affect me personally. This is just a simple observation. I understand why some people’s lifestyles might not be congruent with your beliefs. I personally am not interested in piano neck-ties and will never wear one. But I would never press for legislation to ban piano neck-ties. And if my son grows up to like piano neck-ties, all I can be is supportive and loving because I’m not the one who is wearing the tie.
5. The only indicator of success is happiness. I’ve mentioned this in half-a-dozen posts; my definition of success is the ability to come and go as I please. I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate and most of my good fortune comes from winning the cosmic lottery that is being born in a western democracy. (Read: Life is a colossal waste of time). I’ve never had to look for more and I’m at a point where if things are as good as they get, it’s pretty damned good. Chase the rabbit if the chase makes you happy. Don’t chase it because you think others will think more of you when you catch it. Nobody is as important to others as they think they are.
6. Everybody is hiding something. Whether it be an irrational belief, a prejudice or something down right perverse and criminal – everybody’s got a thought or ten in their head they would never share. Just a random selection of Twitter-feeds or Facebook statuses will tell you that a lot of people are barely able to keep a cap on it. I’ve learnt to see everybody as just some guy like myself; a dude who’s wearing a mask to play a role.
7. You really need to pick your fights. Even when I was young and stupid(er), I saw through the facade of most arguments – that people argued not to defend a position but argued to show off how brilliant they thought they were. I would fall for that trap and get drawn into the game only to discover that the only prize was a moment of smugness. Most battles can be walked away from with no loss of dignity or treasure.
8. It’s very easy to detect bullshit. Just say “I don’t know. Tell me more.” And listen. Don’t listen for things you want to confirm. Listen for things they want to confirm.
9. Having a kid is awesome. I just bought my six-year-old boy a pitching machine. Enough said.