“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.” –Mark Twain
It’s hard to say something about this quote that it doesn't say itself… but I will still try.
A common regret of people on their deathbed is they wish they would have lived a life true to themselves instead of one for others. Most people follow a path in life they think is for themselves when they are really just living for the approval and good option of other people.
Money, power, fame, keeping up the Joneses, family expectations, and the other ways we seek to “validate” ourselves is just a way of garnering recognition from other people. And according to those that have sought this their very thing their entire lives, we find that this is a grave mistake for one’s long-term happiness. If you make this mistake, you will regret it. This is now, for the most part, an axiom of life.
Start now. Live for yourself. Do what you want to do.
Life is too short to not live for yourself first. Your friends, family and cohorts may or may not accept your the life you want to lead, but doing so is still what you must do if you want to be happy. Or, in other words, if you try to align you happiness with the pleasing of others, you will rarely find a way to make that work.
This is why your happiness must come first. Always first.
You and I each get only one chance at this life—we will never get a second chance at living tomorrow, today or yesterday. This fact of life should be the motivation you need to start aligning your priorities in a way that is based on what you want and what is the best reflection of who you are as a person instead of some hollow path based on expectations and the good option of other people (cleverly termed “GOOP” by the awesome dude Peter Sage).
Of course, some people won’t understand your choices. They might not want to get them because your choices might offend them or breed resentment or jealousy in them. But such is life. You can’t please everybody. When you follow your heart, you will actively displease people. But that’s ok. They’ll be just fine. They are too worried about themselves to worry about you for too long so just let it go and accept it as par for the course. In time, most people will come around. And those that don’t shouldn't be in your life. Period.
And what if you don’t live for yourself? What if you decide to live a life based on the expectations of others? Well, according to Maslow, you would be neglected your highest need as a human being. In short, you become a life-wasting, stifled, unexpressed, zombie-like person that walks around with a calm exterior while living a life of quiet desperation. A price too high to pay if you ask me.
The Way Way Back
Did you know that our ancestors used to live as nomadic hunter-gatherers in small tribes of 40-80 people? Children were raised by the entire tribe. Tribes were a big family. In fact, it was impossible to tell who the father of a particular child was because there were no paternity tests and women were not “shamed” for sleeping with more than one man. Women were also not objects that a man “owned” by marriage or “commitment” because there was no concept of “property” within nomadic tribes. Tribes shared everything: resources, parenting, hunting, forging, building, etc.
It’s suiting, for my point, for you to realize where we have come from so you can see how human beings have evolved (some say devolved) from a life as nomadic hunter-gatherers living in small tribes to living in single-family households within our industrialized societies.
How Agriculture once again screwed it all up
The invention of agriculture allowed man to stay in one place while living off the land. There was no longer a need to live as nomads in constant search of food. You can see how this might be appealing to humans. Why take a risk in the wild when one can live in permanent structures with a consistent food supply.
For survival and the growth of the species, agriculture was a no-brainer transition. I don’t believe that agriculture is “bad” per se, in fact, it’s the reason I can enjoy typing on my MacBook while standing at my kitchen counter under AC with running water and a fridge and freezer full of food. Without agriculture, I would have never been able to enjoy these benefits. And this is where most get it wrong when they “blame” it all on agriculture.
Agriculture is the root cause of every human innovation for the last 10,000 years. It has allowed us to create medicines and vaccines for viruses, which has given us the power to beat nature and extend human longevity. It has allowed us to have books and the Internet and space travel and whatever the future has yet to bring. Of course, these innovations have not come without consequences. But such is life: a balance of opposing forces. If you take an intelligently active approach to your health, you can enjoy the comforts of modern life while still living with optimal health.
I digress… let’s get back to what happened after the introduction of agriculture. As humans started gathering food from a permanent location, land became valuable. So did the tools that were needed to farm that land. The concept of personal property was born, and the world forever changed.
With personal property, man established permanent trade through a barter system. The economics of supply and demand were born, and with it came warfare, theft, competition, and eventually, capitalism. In time, certain families (similar to the tribe when we were hunter gatherers) would rise to power and form serfdom and a new class of separation among people based on wealth of resources. Without going into a full-blown history lesson, just know that we have come a long way from living in the wild as nomads to the modern world we live in now.
While man has not genetically been able to “evolve” to match an industrialized food supply, society has definitely evolved. Man, as a societal whole, has undergone many political, societal and socioeconomic “arrangements,” “systems,” and “traditions.” Of course these are different come country to cottony, some of them include: capitalism, feudalism, serfdom, dictatorship, monarchy, republics, the caste system, democracy, and so on.
Many of these can be studied for what they did right or wrong. I believe that most came and gone for a single reason: inequality. A lack of balance, usually favoring those with the resources, can not last forever in a world where ideas are shared freely and instantly.
So, I bring this full circle back to why you must be weary of any following “tradition” or any life based on the expectations that have been set for you by yourself or someone else. If you were been born into a repressed, ancient, passed-down system that sets forth the path you must take in life (and that is probably dying with each new day that passes by), you must revolt!
Each revolution or uprising in the history of man has been necessary some way or another to get us to where we are today. We have learned and grown as a result of our ancestor’s sacrifices. Those of you that are living in modern society live in a time of great abundance and safety. The problems we face, while seeming big to us, would seem trivial to our ancestors.
Live Your Life
Not living for you first is a great risk. Your parents (and other family) think the way they do as the result of their upbringing. But that was then and this is now. It’s time to accept the new world for what it is: equal, unrepressed, positive, optimistic.
The old ways are broken…
We live in the greatest time mankind has ever seen. You and I have access to as much food as we’ll ever need, medicine and emergency protection that will allow us to live long and healthy lives. We also have the means to pursue whatever passions we want while bringing offspring into a world that will enjoy the same safeties and benefits that we do.
Ask yourself: Are you living for others because they think they know what will bring you happiness? Are you living for others because they are putting their needs over yours?
Life is completely (and only) what you make it. Your perception is what you decide it is. You have the power to see life through a certain lens. If you don't like what you see, make changes until you do like what you see. Create life for yourself that is a reflection of what makes you happy and fulfills you. And do so unapologetically and as the foremost goal of your existence.
For most of you, drastic measures, like finding a new family, won’t be necessary. The majority of rational and loving people will always come around in time (keywords: “in time”). However, some of you may very well never talk to certain people in your life again should you choose to follow your path. But that is just the price you have to pay… and you have to pay it.
Don’t get upset with me. I’m just encouraging you to live the best life possible. This is serious stuff and it should at least warrant a few long, and honest, conversations with the important people in your life. Maybe you need a good cry, maybe they do, maybe both. Whatever. Don't do what many families do and go years, even lifetimes, avoiding simple conversations.
Don’t do that.
Do what you must do. You only get one shot at this life. It’s your life. It’s the most precious thing.
My experiences with people during my short 29 short years on this planet has given me the confidence to dole out this advice freely. I will not apologize nor sugar-coat it as both would be a disservice to you.
The fact is, most people in this world are stubborn, misguided and set in their ways. Most will do anything they can to get others to live the way they think they should live—good intention or not. I’m fortunate to have parents that did not force their ideals down my throat. They let me be myself, even at a young age. I am forever grateful for that gift. I can’t imagine what it must be like to struggle with the flip side of this coin. I’m sure it’s hard. But hard is just hard, and it’s nothing more than that. Hard is not impossible, hard is just an opinion of the level of difficulty that the thing you need to do is. That’s it. Never confuse what’s hard for what’s impossible (hint: not much is impossible).
Your entire life, your thoughts, ideals and beliefs have been morphed into what they are by your upbringing. And you had zero control. If you are coming from a place where the deck has been stacked against you, it’s going to be the hardest thing you’ve ever done to break free from those shackles. For you, this process could take years to overcome. You have to find the truth for yourself. And for all of you, no matter what, you have to make sure you…
…don't put your life in someone else’s hands!
You only have one chance to live… and then it’s over. Now is the time to live for yourself. Change starts the moment you decide it does. Start NOW. Then get moving with your new plans.
- Hate that major? Change it?
- Hate school? Drop it. (You can always go back)
- Hate your job? Quit.
- Have Toxic friends? Find new ones.
- Shitty relationship? You know what to do…
If you are “stuck” in something you don't want to be stuck in, drop that shit like a hot potato.
(A note on higher education: A college degree isn’t going to make you successful just as not having one isn’t going to make you not successful. Your success in life will always come down to your work ethic, integrity, and your ability to work well with others. That said, I don’t think college is for everyone.)
There are many ways to live a “successful” life. Find your own way. Society has mapped out what it considers the “best” is. It looks something like this: Go to school, get good grades, don’t break the rules, get a job, pay your taxes, blab, bla, bla, and then, if you're lucky, find happiness before you perish.
Let me tell you something about that… it’s a load of bollox. The overwhelming majority of people who follow this path are miserable.
M I S E R A B L E.
If so many of the people that choose this path (one set forth by a capitalistic society with politicians and the rich having the control) are miserable, then what’s the point? Is this the path to happiness?
Why are there so many divorces? Why is our country getting fatter and sicker? Why are so many people working their lives away to afford shit they don’t need? Why are we all in debt and not getting out? Why do we pursue the things that are expensive in time and money—like cars, houses, shiny crap—and squander the things that are free and sitting right in front of our faces—like friends, relationships, nature, and health.
Honestly, it’s fucked.
Traditions, the norm, and what “everyone else thinks” is a sure-fire path to living a life of quiet desperation. It’s time to live for yourself. Be rebellious. Show who you really are to the world and start living the life that reflects that. It’s time to choose the life you want for yourself and your dreams. Start living for yourself.
A note on money
Your life doesn't have to be based on monetary success or it can be—be careful either way. Money is something that society has convinced us is the path to happiness. And again, the notion is complete bollox. Money doesn't buy happiness; doing what you love and being around those you love does. The thing is, when you make your life about doing each of these, money usually comes without much thought.
No matter what you do, be wary of trying to fill this “happiness hole” with money, jobs, cars, houses, etc. That hole is a bottomless pit that you will never fill.
Pursue your passions in life whether they make you a lot of money or not. That is your human right and society can go to hell.
If you are true to yourself, and honest with the world about who you are, then you have done all that you can. The world will have to accept you for who you are. It isn't a debate or as discussion; it is you. Make the world accept you. The easiest way to do this is to be completely yourself beyond any reasonable doubt.
Live for yourself. The rest will follow.