In my traditional form of copying my sister– here are 22 things I’ve learned in my 22 years on this earth. Some of these will be esoteric and snooty, others will be nitty gritty, and some will just be dumb- but that’s a reflection of my personality so I’m ok with it. I think I had enough material for about 10 good points- but the format requires 22, so here we go.
(this is also my first listicle, so bear with me)
1. The more things change the more they stay the same
The older I get the more this cliché shows itself to be true. Guess it’s a cliché for a reason.
2. Your happiness is now
Especially when we’re young we have this image of constant motion- when you’re a teenager a year seems like a lifetime. There’s a presupposition that I had when I was younger that when x happened I would be happy. When I got a girlfriend. When I graduated high school. When I got a summer job and had money. I continuously deferred my own happiness to future me- I didn’t want to get myself sorted out because I assumed that once x y or z just “happened” everything would be just peachy. Don’t outsource your happiness to future you- because I hate to break it to you, future you is still you- and is unlikely to have any special insight into how to get you to the life you want to live. The time to get the life you want is now.
3. Hangovers get worse as you get older
Adults are probably reading this thinking “well duh”. But seriously- hangovers do get worse the older you get. This was when I became acutely aware of the fact that time was passing and I was getting older. At some point, hangovers that I used to be able to easily shrug off and go about my day, became debilitating. I, with rare exception, try to avoid them now at all costs, after all, I’m getting old and life’s too short to spend it hungover.
4. Reading is fundamental
Read, read now and read widely. One of the most incredible feelings was my senior year of college having reached a critical mass of knowledge and reading- being able to easily synthesize idea from different authors and genres and started having some thoughts of my own. That is- what I think- it means to reach intellectual maturity.
5. Writing is fundamental
If you want to feel yourself grow and your ideas develop in real time- write. Write anything, and write it now, then do it again.
6. Don’t worship other people
Other people are not Gods. Your professors, boss, girlfriend, that celebrity- they’re just people, like you and me. There’s a difference between respect and worship. Respect your professor, and listen to what they say, but engage with them, don’t genuflect at an altar before them. I know it sounds silly- but we all know people who do this, who worship people- either for their success, charisma, intelligence, talent, fame, or what have you.
7. Don’t allow others to worship you
On a similar thread. Even though it feels good, don’t allow other people to worship you. Ideally, you should be pursuing relationships with people who are your equals and treat you as such. Being in a relationship with someone who treats you like a God is no better than being with someone who treats you as if they were a God you a mere mortal. Successful friendships and relationships are built on mutual respect.
8. You need to have principles, and you need to stick to them
There is I think an extreme lack in the modern world of people holding real principles and sticking to them. Start doing that- find something you believe in and stick to it, even when it hurts.
9. Fake it till you make it
Self-explanatory- but it seriously works. If you go through the motions for long enough “faking it” eventually you’ll find you’re actually doing it.
10. Build relationships- with a purpose- not an agenda
Build relationships with people whom you respect, people who can help you achieve the life you want. But don’t use people, because no matter how slick you think you are, people can always tell.
11. Means v. Ends
I’ve spent a lot of my life turned around, confusing my means and my ends. An end is where you want to be, the means are how you get there. Money is a means to an end, it should never be an end in itself. Think about your ends first, what result are do you want to achieve, and then find the means to that end.
12. How to treat people
To build on the last one; you should always treat people as an end in and of themselves- never as a means to your end. Treating another as a means to an end is one of the cruelest things you can do to another person, and has lead to great evil throughout history.
13. Descriptive v. Normative
A concept which I was introduced to through political philosophy is the dichotomy between descriptive and normative claims. Descriptive claims purport to explain human association as it is, as it exists now. Normative claims purport to explain human association as it should be. In your personal life, it’s important to consider both. In order to be the person you want to be, the person you should be, you need to understand the person you are.
14. Think about the future
Think- don’t stress- about the future. Think seriously about where you want to be, about the life you want to live, and then figure out how to get there. A lot of college students I know are often trapped in the short term. “The Future” is the next test, the next semester, or graduation.
More than thinking about the future, get comfortable in you own head, with your own thoughts.
16. Learn to be alone
We’re so hyper-connected now, you never have to be alone with your own thoughts unless you choose to be. Do that more, you may be surprised what you find.
17. Learn to be intimate
No, this is not what it sounds like, although that’s important to. Being able to maintain a one on one conversation with someone the goes past very shallow small talk is hard, and something many people (including myself) aren’t good at.
18. Drink coffee
Coffee is my early morning inspiration. There’s nothing I love more than a meditative cup of coffee on a quiet morning. It’s a meditative experience. One of the more cathartic moments of my years at college was a late night cup of coffee and a cigarette during a time of extreme stress and uncertainty.
19. Drink alcohol
I’ll defer to Chesterton here;
Drink because you are happy, but never because you are miserable. Never drink when you are wretched without it, or you will be like the grey-faced gin-drinker in the slum; but drink when you would be happy without it, and you will be like the laughing peasant of Italy. Never drink because you need it, for this is rational drinking, and the way to death and hell. But drink because you do not need it, for this is irrational drinking, and the ancient health of the world.
20. Be an expert hobbyist
Find something you like to do and get really good at it. Photography is a hobby of mine, and over the past few years I’ve gotten quite good at it, which has brought me a lot of joy. Being somewhat of an expert in something you like doing is very satisfying. It can be anything you enjoy doing, it doesn’t need to be practical, useful, or lucrative- but everyone needs a serious hobby.
21. Be proficient
That being said, you should strive to be at least proficient in as many areas as possible. Be able to change a tire, make smart investments, cook a handful of simple meals, and use the Socratic method. In a world of increasing specialization, it’s my bet that generalists or multidisciplinary experts will have a rising stock this generation.
22. Remember people’s drink and coffee orders
A tip I was given by a boss of mine- whenever you have the chance, jot down people’s coffee/drink orders in your phone so you remember what they like for future reference. Whether it’s a coworker, potential client, boss, or a woman you’re interested in, remembering how they take their coffee or what they drink when the opportunity presents itself can be a valuable relationship building tool.