What It Has Taken Me 26 Years To Learn
About 5 years ago, Justin McElroy (co-host and co-brother of my favorite podcast, My Brother, My Brother, and Me) posted a collection of advice that he had developed throughout his life. A handful of times every year, I find myself back on the page for "What it has taken me 33 years to learn" when I am in need some inspiration or advice.
As today is my birthday, I thought it was as good a time as any to share a list of my own. I am not expecting this list to have the impact that Justin's has had on me, but I hope you will find at least some of this to be insightful or helpful in some way.
- There’s a good chance that you unknowingly play or have played an outsized role in someone else’s life. Be conscious of this in interactions you have with people outside your immediate circles.
- Two is one and one is none. Always back everything up.
- In friendships and relationships, it's easy to become too focused on the other person. Don't lose the person you were when you entered the relationship. That's who they wanted to spend time with in the first place.
- Give advice and opinions but don’t grandstand. I don’t drink alcohol or do any drugs. Preaching to people about that has never brought me anything but annoyed looks and fewer invitations to hang out. Joking about how I'm the designated-designated driver is usually met with a better reception.
- Hating someone who doesn’t even know that you hate them is a bad idea. While they sit at home completely unaware, you sit at home stewing about it. You’re only hurting yourself. Put that energy towards fixing the issue or moving on and doing something positive instead.
- If you can afford it, buy the phone with more storage. Don’t even think about it. Just do it.
- The biggest mistakes you make in life are often the ones you can learn the most from. Small mistakes tend to be the ones that stick with you and cause you the most anxiety. Size your risks before taking them and anticipate that the end results may feel disproportionate.
- When someone doesn’t understand something you believe to be simple, do three things: realize that you are smart and be proud, understand that people learn in different ways, and be patient. It helps immensely.
- Find the handful of items you use every single day and treat yourself the next time you replace them. Nothing beats a reliable zipper on a backpack or a pair of shoes that won’t wear out right away.
- Set simple, artificial limits on your technology usage. Devices and services that we use are built upon models that require and reward addictive behavior. You're the only one who has any incentive to decide what is and isn't worth your time.
- When something bad happens to you, look for the people who follow through after giving condolences and sympathy. Those are the ones who truly care for you and are worth keeping around.
- Treating privilege assessment as a punishment rather than an asset is misguided. Knowing your place and role can help you navigate situations in a far more effective manner for yourself and others.
- It's very easy to, after observing or receiving criticism, be made embarrassed by your interests and passions. Do whatever you can to make sure this does not happen. Keep liking that band. Keep watching that show. Keep reading those books.
- Go to the movies more often. It's great.
- Learning after you leave school is difficult and easy to ignore. Find small ways to keep learning. Listen to podcasts, read more books, talk to people with different backgrounds, and try to get interested in topics that bore you.
- Embracing my earnest desire to be kind to everyone that I meet has been one of the most helpful things I've done in my life. There's a big difference between being nice and being kind. Niceness is a passive quality that is basically the state of being inoffensive. Kindness is a much more active quality that comes along with consideration and generosity. The distinction is small, but it makes a world of difference in your interactions with others. Operating with kindness, backed by a healthy amount of confidence, allows you to avoid the crutches of rudeness and meanness. Opting for kindness over the more negative alternatives in a given situation may result in a similar basic outcome, but kindness allows you the opportunity to feel genuinely good about yourself and you leave others with a higher opinion of you.
- Google it before asking. The answers are out there. I promise.