A life lesson written by Bryan Dusseau.
Notice that I mentioned “What To Do” not “What Not To Do”. Those words are key. J.K.Rowling once said “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.” That quote has been glued to me. Especially when I see that pattern happen to the people around me. If you spend too much time worrying, you’ll never get anything accomplished.
It’s Not Too Late
If you’re fresh in your 20’s, or wondering if you’ve done your 20’s right, then this lesson is for you. If you feel that you are a failure and all hope is lost, don’t give up just yet. You actually have quite the advantage. The comeback is like a protagonist in a film. Once you find out what you need to do, you can go find that thing. Once you find it though, you’re going to have to take it. And that, comes with a price. Similar to Batman catching the Joker. When he does, Joker gives Batman a choice. To save Harvey Dent, or his beloved Rachel Dawes. Batman chooses Rachel, but mistakenly saves Harvey instead. This is the price Batman pays. Gotham needs Batman, but Bruce Wayne wanted to retire Batman to be with Rachel. The moral of the story is, what do you need to do, and what do you want to do? Know the difference, weigh your options, and follow your truth. The universe screams what you need to do. You just have to look and listen. Wants can be disguised as rose colored glasses, and they typically are.
Here are the lessons I have learned in my 20’s.
Have A Foundation Built, Or Start Working On One: I am sure you’ve heard of the 10,000 hour rule. If not, it takes 10,000 hours of practice (accurate practice) to master a skill. The key to this, once you have mastered one skill, you know what it takes to master another skill. And if you learn another skill that aligns with your current skill, it is easier to learn, and they benefit each other. When you are a child, and a teenager, you have the time to master a skill. You are not overwhelmed by a job, raising children, and whatever else life throws at you. But if you have not mastered a skill, I suggest doing so. It builds confidence, competence, and something you can be proud of. Not to mention, it makes you useful for a career, self employment, and you’re involved in a niche’ community where you can build relationships. The people I see that do not have a skill in their life are the people that go to dead end jobs, dread coming home, and regret their lives. They pretend to be in that “party phase” in their 40’s, 50’s, even 60’s. The only thing that makes them happy is forgetting about the world. Then on their deathbed, they will be full of regrets. I worked at a retirement home for two months in my 20’s as a nurse’s assistant. I never had a realization so hard in my life. Everyone was miserable. Everyone! Even me. Nobody wanted to be there, not the workers, and not the patients. Do you ever hear old people talk? When they ask each other how they are doing, they say “Not dead yet.” Or they walk up to each other and say “I see you’re still alive and kicking.” Look, I am all for a good joke, I love humor. But humor is also truthful. It’s like a little release valve on your perspective in life. If all you have to look forward to is death, then have you ever lived? Obstacles come up in life that we have to overcome. And sometimes we lose a skill due to struggles. Don’t be a has been, because you will always dwell on the past. Cultivate a new skill. Talk about what you currently do, not what happened five, ten, twenty years ago.
In Your Twenties, You Can Potentially Be The Fittest You Possibly Can Be
I am not saying you can’t do something physically impressive after your 20’s, and I am not saying you can’t be in better shape later in life vs. Your 20’s. But one thing I have learned is, in your 20’s is where your potential peak fitness level can be. After your 20’s, your body starts deteriorating. I am currently 33 years old, and I can already start feeling body aches. It takes longer to recover, and I am not as athletic. I am still very athletic, I just can’t fight in rings, run to and from work, race in marathons, and spend hours in the gym anymore. I have to pick and choose, life is different for me now. Regardless, I am thankful I was able to take advantage of my time and fitness in my 20’s. I am a very healthy 33 year old, and I plan on being healthy the rest of my life. Tom Brady is 44 years old and still plays in the NFL. That all came from putting in the hard work in his twenties, and even before that. I want to hike, camp, and see the world, and I prefer to not huff and puff and give up.
Have A Sense Of Direction
You don’t have to know exactly what you want to do or need to go when you turn 20 years old. But you should have an instinct on wanting to improve. We need to be in motion during our twenties. That involves taking actions and making choices. This is where you move out of your parents house, see the world for what it is, and where you see yourself in that world. I saw myself wanting to enjoy my life by creating. I love creating, whether it is musically, story driven, intellectual/funny conversations, spending time with my children, cooking, brewing, adventures, creating memorable moments with my friends, and romantic evenings. If you would have asked me when I was 20 years old where I saw myself at 30 years old, I wouldn’t know where to start. I probably would have guessed a personal trainer in a prestigious gym, or for elite military operatives. That definitely would have been really cool, but still, I think I would have been confined to a certain role in life. I need flexibility. I am always learning, creating, and striving for new endeavors. But in my twenties, I did it right. I followed what my instincts told me. I went to college, landed a good paying job with benefits, which helped me save money for a new car, a house, and support two kids. I kept the momentum going and steam rolled. The thing is, it only takes a blink of an eye for life to steam roll you back. You can potentially lose everything that you currently know of. You can bet it will happen. The secret to battling that is just to start over and get back to steam rolling. If you dwell on the past, you’ll be stuck in the past. Which means you will never build a future, then you’re just angry at the world. You’ll start blaming everyone for everything that has happened to you. Don’t worry about everyone, worry about yourself and your timeline. What are you currently doing? If you keep doing what you are currently doing in life, what will the next 10 years look like? You’re not even guaranteed to see the next 10 years, and this is how you want to act? We’re on a rock hurling through space at 67,000 miles per hour, but you’re not moving at all. You’re still going to the same bar, seeing the same people, talking about the same thing every time. We are designed to be in motion. That is how the universe works, and that is how we work. Always be in motion, and when you get knocked down, start over. Life stings, sort of like a bee. You get stung, “ouch!”, you take the stinger out, patch it up, take a breather, then continue your day. You don’t let a bee sting stop you. Some people are deathly allergic to bees, and they don’t let that stop them either. Life stings a bit more than a bee, but the same motions apply.
Live Your Life
I know, this seems a bit anti-climatic. In your life, you are the star of the show. You have to make the decisions in your life. No one is holding your hand. You could be a trust fund baby fed with a silver spoon and wiped with silk toilet paper, but if you are not in charge of your own life, you will always feel empty on the inside. When it came to myself, I was a straight shooter. I knew what I wanted, what I needed, and I did not hesitate. But throw other people in the mix that have all kinds of personalities, that’s a recipe for drama. If you are not in charge of your decisions, and you give the power to other people, then that is a recipe for tragedy. Shakespeare’s famous quote “To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And, by opposing, end them.” It is your choice to be a victim, or a hero in your life. I found out that I was playing the victim. I didn’t have a victim mentality per say, but I realized I was not living the life I wanted. Did I have regrets? Of course, no one is perfect, especially me. You can’t change what has happened. You can learn from it though. And regardless what you do, there will be some sort of regret if you dwell on it. It’s the grass is greener on the other side effect. If you marry someone one, you’ll regret not having the single life. If you stay single your whole life, you’ll regret not cultivating a life long romantic relationship. If you think about what you have not chosen, it will poison your mind. Should have, could have, would have, who cares. What are you doing now, and what are you going to do is what you truly have control of. Keep in mind, once you do have the realization that you are playing victim, it takes unbearable determination to fight your way out of that role. The world sees you as you are, and has defined your role for you. Now you have to prove to the world who you really are, and that takes a hero’s journey. It’s the hardest thing you can possibly do, but being a hero is not easy. You’ll make some enemies, and you’ll hurt people. It’s not a good feeling, but you have to do what is right, and that is to take charge of your own life. It’s time to live, not just exist.
Build A Circle
Build a circle of friends and family that reflects your values. You are who you attract. So if everyone around you is toxic, gossips, and is stagnant…guess what, you are too. Or you’re heading that direction. People want to bring you to their level. Whether that is down to their level to make themselves feel better, or up to their level to make both of you feel better. You will have to weed your circle. It’s like a garden, you have to tend to it. Yes, you can reconnect later. But if you stop tending your garden, weeds will grow. People change so much in their lives. They may seem the same, and still have that foundation that you have always known. But they build on top of that foundation. Whatever you consume, you reflect. How do you think cults happen? Do you think the 909 people that committed mass suicide in 1978 at Jonestown ultimately wanted that choice? In your state of mind, you’d think, well they did make that choice. But you could easily be one of those people. If you are around certain people often enough, you pick up habits, quirks, sayings, lifestyles, and choices. If someone is in your head so much that you can’t even think for yourself, they become your subconscious. It can happen to anyone. This is why it is important to tend your garden and pull out the weeds. Water your friend’s garden. Show them that you care. It really doesn’t take much, just connections, lifting each other up, laughing, and enjoying each other’s company. Life happens, we create families, move, get sick, fall into a rut, ect. But with technology now, and a little bit of effort, you can make time for your circle. And if all else fails, if you have a horrible week, you at least have your circle to look forward to.
Pick Your Battles
You’re not going to change someone’s mind that is not open for change. Most people come into an argument with their perspective and emotions. They want to express how they feel, not understand how you feel. Ron White said “You can’t fix stupid”. You’re just going to leave feeling more frustrated. This is the problem with social media. No matter what you say, someone will interpret it from their own perspective. And if that person is in a reactive state, they are going to contribute their negative emotions in a response. Idiots are like rocks. They exist in the world, but all you have to do is walk over, around, or ignore them. Now, if a rock is thrown at you, it affects your well being. It hurts! You have to have a line that you won’t let people cross, or else you’ll get stoned to death. But make that line reasonable. It can’t be to defend all of your beliefs at all costs. They are your beliefs for you, not for anyone else. Everyone is allowed to have their own belief system. That is what makes life so chaotic, interesting, and fun. We’re just one big world of emotional flubbers (The movie Flubber starring Robin Williams) bouncing around how we feel back and forth to each other. Instead of bouncing our feelings around, we should let them pass through us and not hold onto them. If you hold onto a feeling, it has power over your. If you let a feeling pass through, you have power over the feeling. Once your gain emotional intelligence, you’re playing life in “Damn I’m Good” difficulty. (Duke Nukem).
This is a tough one. I am always learning about self awareness, and most likely will never fully understand. All I can do is share my perspective. I have put over 20,000 hours of research into this, so I will try to put it in a nutshell. A textbook definition for self awareness would be something similar to Conscious of your own thoughts, feelings, reactions, how you see yourself, and how you perceive other people see you. You are more the observer of your own life versus the writer. You can think of your self awareness as a biographer. The universe writes the autobiography. We can’t fathom how the universe works. We can only try to understand it from our perspectives. So we write books, papers, observe, create documentaries, art, replicas of the universe. We do the same within our own minds. Think of your mind as a universe. You can’t understand it exactly, but you can try to understand it. You do this by reducing the noise. This can be noise you hear from your ears, and noise you have in your mind (memories, racing thoughts, anxiety, and subconscious). Once you reduce the noise, you can explore. Think of it as a fog of war. There is uncertainty everywhere, except where you exactly are. The only thing you can see is in your line of sight. Everything else is pitch black. Picture this inside the realm of your mind. Now you can explore one thing at a time. Observe without judgment. Perhaps you have a bout of anxiety, and you don’t understand why. Ask yourself “Do I have anxiety?” “Why?” “Is it doing me any favors by holding onto it?” “What will make me feel better?” It is best to catch your emotions as soon as possible. Or else you have to undo a lifetime of emotions. And yes, you do hold onto them, they are called memories. We have memories that our mind suppresses for survival. Carl Jung said “We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation did not liberate, it oppressed.” If you keep avoiding your dark side, you will keep feeding it and letting it run wild. If you accept that you do things out of character, think things that you don’t want to think, then you are now interacting with your dark side. Let’s say you have an anger problem, but you don’t have any reins on your emotional outbursts. Then that means you are not interacting with your dark side, you’re letting it take total control like a wild animal. Think of your dark side as a wolf. No matter what you do, a wolf is a very aggressive predator. You can’t tame a wolf entirely. But you can give the wolf what it needs (food/prey, habitat, and other wolves.) If you give the wolf what it needs, it won’t be leaving the habitat and try to eat you. Your dark side is the same. If you have anger, you can write your emotions in poetry, and stories. You can use it in martial arts, sports, and art. You can take up a career like law and fight for what you’re passionate about. The Buddhists call it monkey mind. Monkey mind is like a little toddler in your head that gets distracted and emotional. You have to calm that child so you are not distracted. Self awareness isn’t just about how you feel, but how you make other people feel as well. The words and expressions you give can really affect someone. And if you can’t see it on their face or in their body language, then you don’t realize how powerful your words and actions can be to a human being. People look up to you, and kids repeat what you say and do. You best believe there is always someone seeing what you are doing. You may not notice, but they do. I need to stop writing about this lesson, because I’m digressing. In essence, pay attention to your thoughts, words, emotions, inflections, body language, heart beat, and breath. When you feel confident in that, you can observe it in others as well.
Be Accountable For Your Actions
Admit your mistakes, it’s a sign of strength. When you admit your mistake, you have to troubleshoot how it happened, and use your problem solving skills to overcome your mistake. If you make a mistake repeatedly, be honest with yourself, are you really trying to do better? Or are you justifying your bad behavior? It’s a tough one, and it takes courage. Also, have empathy and understand what your mistake has done to others. What you do can really hurt someone, and sometimes that someone is an innocent bystander like a child.
If You Have Children, Spend As Much Time As You Can With Them
They will never be children again, and the joy childhood brings is a blessing from the universe. Nothing can compare to cuddling your little boy or girl. They have unconditional love for you, regardless if you are mad, sad, crazy, or corny. They love the crap out of you, and that my friend, is amazing. Don’t make that a regret for you or your child.
The Only Thing Permanent Is Change
Mother nature has seasons, and so do we. Every year summer is a little different. Sometimes we have El Nino in winters, sometimes we have a record snowfall. Things happen in our lives that we have no control over. A saying I have that I almost say everyday to my kids is “The more you fight against it, the harder it fights back at you. You have to slow down, and go with the flow. That’s how everything is in life”. It’s like the cheap finger trap toy. You put your finger in one end of this paper tube, and someone else puts their finger in the other end of the tube. The goal is to free your fingers. Well, the more you fight, the tighter it gets. But if you work together and bring your fingers closely, your fingers become free from the trap. You have to work with life, not fight against it. There is no changing the past, only doing better next time in the here and now, and thereafter. People become sick, accidents happen, divorce happens, death happens. Just like people can have their health, protection, marriage, and youth. If we accept the world for what it is, we can enjoy what it brings. The only things we have control over is our reasoned choice, reactions, and perspectives. We can’t control what happens to us, but we can choose how to view it, and what to do about it if we even can. There is a very old children’s song that sings “Row, row, row, your boat, gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream”. For you to go anywhere in life, you have to row, and keep rowing to get there. But don’t row too hard. Gently row down the steam because life if beautiful. But life is really what you dream life is. It’s what you perceive. If you want a good life, you have to work for it, but you have to work with the changes in life. You have to go with the flow. Be thankful for what life gives you, because it can be worse. Tomorrow is never promised. Then as your perspective changes due to reaping what you sow, you start seeing growth in life, and all the blessings that life comes with. Be aware though, there are droughts where we don’t see any growth at all. In fact it can be devastating. But that doesn’t mean where you are at is forever. Because the only thing permanent is change.
By taking on these life lessons, you will be more than ready for your 30’s. Most people don’t learn these lessons at all in their lifetime. You will start seeing this everyday in your life. Then you see it in stories, movies, art, speeches, and conversations.
Have you, or are you living your 20’s like this? If not, it is never too late to create your own lessons.