More Life

Appreciation is a wonderful thing: it makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.

François-Marie Arouet

If youth knew; if age could.

Sigmund Freud

Deliver like you mean it.

My path is not a common one, and few people understand it. It's obscure, and they rarely know someone who's taken the same approach. It's not particularly special, it's rare.

I used to be self-conscious about this. I would bask in dread until someone asked me what I did for a living, then, where I went to college. My answer to this ("I never went") would immediately prompt another question: how old are you? I would deliver this information bashfully, not to feign modesty, but because I was actually scared of the question.

One day I decided to stop trying to control other people's judgements, or in other words: I stopped managing perceptions. I've noticed that what makes up people's judgements about a statement is how you deliver it, or rather, how you appear to feel about it.

When my tone indicates regret about my choices, the reaction is look of pity. When my tone is confident but modest, people perk up and want to hear more. When my tone indicates boastfulness, the reaction is disdain and a polite nod.

You might ask, isn't this another way of managing perceptions? Is this the code that you were trying to crack in the first place? Not quite.

You need to feel it. It's easy to feign courtesy, but difficult to feign delivery (and exhausting too). Instead of trying to shape people's opinions, I had to find a way to be proud of the path I took in life. This is the key - this is the part that frees you.

You can "fake it until you make it" all you want, but eventually, you need to believe what you say. Maybe the belief comes first. Maybe they happen in parallel. I'm pretty sure you don't just speak it into existence though.

Given the choice, would you want to be relatable or unrelatable? It can be comforting to pick the option that feels familiar - a limiting belief that you've carried with yourself. It's like a family member that never moved on, clawing you back into some manufactured drama. Deep down, you love them, but you know it's best to create some distance.

Part of growing up is getting away from these kinds of destructive thoughts and behaviors. We all still have them, but it's important to recognize that they are just that: destructive. They don't really serve a purpose.

Your delivery will reinforce the belief. Their reactions will reveal what you actually believe. I don't think you can truly believe something and not deliver it with conviction.

Don't ignore reactions.

Speech doesn't just make your reality, it makes the reality of others. Their perception is all that matters.

Read that again: their perception is all that matters. That is reality. If you're still trying to "ignore the haters" and avoid the judgements of others, give up. It's exhausting and it's 100% against your human nature. You can still qualify the validity of judgements and advice, but avoidance will only tire you out.

Assume people like you.

Just assume everyone likes you - most do. Most people want to relate to you and are simply looking for the go-ahead from you.

This mindset, if you can really let it sink in, opens up so many opportunities. As we get older, we make up all sorts of rules of engagement. It's weird to reach out to a new acquaintance. It's creepy to ask out a person you just met. There are unspoken commandments that you need to live by, or else you'll be shunned by your community.

These rules hold true in the extreme cases: don't ask a new acquaintance to go travel internationally with you, don't be presumptuous when asking out a girl you just met.

But they're mostly bullshit. If you don't know someone well, get to know them. If you want to go out on a coffee date, ask that person.

Imagine you're watching a movie. The protagonist, let's call him Harry, meets all sorts of interesting people. Harry meets his childhood hero and gets his contact details. But the childhood hero never makes another appearance, because Harry thought it would be weird to reach out. Then, Harry meets the girl of his dreams and they seem to connect. He gets her details at the end, but it would be too forward to ask her to meet up again. After all, he doesn't know her that well.

What a boring fucking movie. Think about any romantic film ever: they would all last ten minutes if you replaced the protagonist with spineless Harry. What's the point of getting someone's information if you don't use it to get to know them better? It never ceases to amaze me how much people self-sabotage rooted in this Catch-22 thinking. If you don't know them well enough to reach out, but you know them well enough to get their information, what gives?

Don't assume much else.

The problem about dictating your actions based on fake social norms is that you cut out a lot of great people from your life. Truly, nothing is more important in your life than your relationships (and the depth of these relationships). Don't assume they think a certain way or harbor intolerable beliefs. Actually confirm it. God forbid they dislike you!

Striving and perfectionism are the death of all great relationships ("there is always someone better around the corner"). Every time you do this, you rob yourself of what you already have. The reality is: nobody, however well they know you, will ever know the nuances of your experience. Life is complicated, and everyone harbors insights and secrets that nobody else will fully understand.

Assuming makes an ass out of yo(u) and (m)e. Dad jokes courtesy of my father.

Nobody is boring.

One of the laziest things you can do is label another person "boring". Consider that maybe you're just shit at asking good questions, or you're a bad listener.

Call them anything but boring. Say you don't like them, say they smell bad, say they're not funny. But boring? Maybe to a boring person.

By doing this, you shut off all desire to understand someone, and any possibility of learning from them. You have discounted them in your mind, marked them as lesser. You're effectively a financial analyst valuing a company with no real information.

Their perceived staleness is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You take your lack of interest, which is completely fine, and you project it onto the other person as "lack of depth".

All it really accomplishes is that it reveals a character flaw in you. If you assess people based on their entertainment value, consider maybe it's because you're an empty person. How entertaining are you?

Appreciate all moments.

You are lucky to be here. Life is a gift. Maturing is learning to accept and appreciate all moments, good and bad. This can be hard to find if all of the moments are bad. This can also be hard to find if all the moments are good. This is the teachable value of the bad moments — there is no point in suffering further.

Take these moments and make the best out of them, or they will bind your thoughts and muddle your feelings. Your most important belongings are not physical, but carry more weight than any object.

Simple but elegant words from the band Love:

Just be thankful for what you got.

They should have taken their own advice.

Accept your contract.

We are all bound to the same clause on a contract we don't remember signing. Death.

When you feel mad at another: remember that they will die, just like you. When you feel like time is going slowly: remember that time will stop.

Regardless of your convictions in an afterlife (or lack thereof), we can all agree on one thing: impermanence.

There’s something freeing in this, if you can accept it. Above all other distractions, avoidance of death is paramount. Most of us avoid even thinking about death. People spend their entire lives building up insurance: education, salary, title, prestige — all socially acceptable tactics to postpone your acceptance of death.

These distractions are travelling salesmen, all with the perfect pitch. Good salesmen understand what you want and the emotional factors that drive it. You don't need a fancy car, but you need to belong.

Given how much time we spend selling distractions to ourselves, I'm sure we're all excellent salespeople. If we had spent that time accepting our shared dilemma, we'd be able to look up from our desks and enjoy life a bit more.

Even a brief moment of acceptance makes this whole experience worth it.