I don’t think my parents knew my name until I was about 25.
I don’t think I had a one on one conversation with either parent until my late 20s.
And my friends were all trying to figure things out as well. Boys don’t talk to each other about many things.
So at age 48, I know maybe some of the things I wish someone (a father? a friend? a teacher? a boss?) had told me by the time I was 22.
DON’T OUTSOURCE YOUR SELF-ESTEEM
I was always giving it away. I was a self-esteem slut. If I liked a girl, I’d basically just hand it over. “Here! You earned it!”
And then I would get destroyed.
It’s hard enough for one person to handle their own self-esteem, let alone yours. Don’t give someone else that burden. You’ll hurt them and you.
THERE’S A GOOD REASON AND A REAL REASON
I would tell my parents, “I need to do a paper route to save money.”
That’s a great reason. But the real reason was, “There’s a girl who lives on the paper route that I like and I don’t know how to ask her out unless she is forced to accept a newspaper from me every day.”
Her name was Beth. I loved her. And every day she’d answer the door and I’d maybe say ten words to her.
Eventually I asked her out. Pimply, gangly, curly-haired, braces, awkward me. I stuttered. I asked her out.
She shut the door and asked her sister to tell me never to speak to her again.
So I quit the paper route. Because there was no more real reason.
Whenever someone gives me a good reason for anything, I try to think if there is a real reason. 90% of the time there is.
When my daughter says, “I want to do my homework at the library” that’s a great reason. But…
When someone says, “You’re an idiot because…” to me then I look for…
Knowing this one simple truth has saved my life.
EXPERIENCES & MONEY
The other day a friend of mine invited me over for lunch. He had his friend, a chef, cook the meal.
The meal was a Big Mac, a big plate of pasta, bacon, bacon-flavored potato chips, and vanilla ice cream.
It was SO GOOD I wanted more. It was the best pasta I ever had. I had never even had bacon flavored potato chips before. And the Big Mac tasted better than the Big Mac at McDonalds.
BUT….the chef explained: there was no meat, no bacon, no potato, no pasta, and no dairy served at all in the meal. He had figured out how to simulate the look and tastes of everything perfectly.
My friend invited me over because for years we had had many interesting experiences together looking at new technologies and products.
The meal was free.
You can’t cash in an experience and have it go to nothing. Experiences only add up. But when you cash in money, you can go broke.
And in a life with many interesting experiences, you will eventually find that money is a byproduct.
Every day I try to have an experience.
INNER STRENGTH & GRATITUDE
One time I had a really bad day with investing. Someone said to me, “Find something to be grateful for. Be grateful for your children.”
I am grateful for my children. But that afternoon I spent time with my daughter, who was a baby then, and all I kept thinking was: when I go broke, what will happen to her?
And I felt worse than ever. Maybe people who are stronger than me can “gratitude” themselves out of fear and panic but I can’t.
Gratitude feels good. But it’s not strong enough to beat a bad experience.
But there are many things that can. I could’ve started brainstorming business ideas. Or books to write. Or people to help. Or I could have exercised to get healthier and have endorphins rushing to my brain.
It’s too easy to cave into cynicism. To think: it’s their fault! Or “half the country is stupid”.
At least once a day I am feeling down and a bit anxious. No matter what my life situation.
So I take a break from whatever I’m doing and try to improve my life in various ways. I know that incremental improvement will always make my life better in the long run.
One can improve:
• Physically – with exercise or diet. Even a small amount each day compounds over time.
• Emotionally – spend time with people who love you and uplift you. Doing this for a bit each day has a phenomenal effect on the type of person you become.
• Creatively – I write down ten ideas a day for things I can do or ways I can improve or people I can help and how.
• Spiritually – Understanding that this world and my time in it is precious and small and even the things we view as major problems are often our biggest opportunities for learning and nourishment
(I write down my ten ideas on a waiter’s pad each day)
THE 1% RULE
If you improve any part of your life 1% a day, compounded, then that’s 3800% in a year.
Read a little bit each day and you will see what I mean. Write down ideas every day and you will be amazed within three months. Exercise a little bit each day and call me in two months because you will be surprised.
Be around the “smartest person in the room” and you will understand why Harold Ramis (director/write of Ghostbusters, Stripes, Caddyshack, etc) said that when he started standing next to Bill Murray every day.
1% a day starts off slow. That’s the idea. But ends strong.
It’s really hard to be the best in the world at something.
Anders Ericsson and Malcolm Gladwell talk about “The 10,000 Hour Rule” – that it takes 10,000 hours to be the best in the world at something.
But if you are in the top 25% of one thing, and the top 25% of another thing (for example: public speaking and science) then it might be the case that you become the best in the world at the intersection (example: Neil deGrasse Tyson.)
Writing down ideas every day gives you topics you might want to explore further to become in the top 25%.
Idea sex is incredibly powerful way to become the best in the world at the combination of the things you love.
ANGER IS FEAR CLOTHED
A few months ago, a partner in a business I am involved in was very upset at me. He started yelling at me. Some of the things he was saying were inaccurate.
My first impulse was to be angry back. You’re wrong! My second impulse was to be a little bit nervous. Would this business get hurt?
But I try to remind myself (and sometimes I forget): Anger is fear clothed. I asked: what is he afraid of? This helps me understand his mindset better. In fact, it allows me to step back and say, “maybe he is somewhat right.”
It also allows me to say, “What am I really afraid of?”
By doing this I was able to “lean into the problem”, find a shareholder to buy him out, and continue to build the business.
IT’S OK IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO DO
At age 22 I wanted to be a professor of Computer Science. But then by the time I was 23 I had been thrown out of graduate school.
Then I wanted to be a novelist. Then I wanted to make a TV show, a company, a hedge fund, a venture capital fund, and on and on and on.
Some people know what they want to do at 22. But I think many people are hard on themselves if the world is a bit foggy.
Sometimes foggy is ok. Louis L’Amour, who went on to sell 150,000,000 copies of his books, wrote his first novel at age 52. Many of the world’s greatest leaders and innovators were much older than 22 when life whispered it’s greatest messages to them.
For me, I am 48. Maybe this is the year I will figure out what I want to do with my life.
OK, BUT WHAT ABOUT EVERYTHING I WAS EVER TAUGHT?
Ok, here goes:
Mathematics: If you can do basic probability and statistics in your head then that’s what you need to do except for maybe 0.001% of professions.
History: Understand that everything you’ve learned about history so far has another side to the story.
Science: The textbooks have to be rewritten every decade. When our Virtual Reality overlords come down and teach us real physics, then maybe the books can finally be closed.
English: After 12 years of high school, four years of college, and another 2 years of graduate school, I finally learned to appreciate reading at age 24. And it’s changed my life.
I would say I really READ my first book at that age. And I haven’t stopped since.
One time I was dating someone who turned out to have a severe mental illness. This was a long time ago.
I loved her very much.
One day she walked out and said, “I’ll be right back”. She had recently been diagnosed with the mental illness but the doctors had unfortunately put her on the wrong medication although their initial impulse was to hospitalize her.
After she walked out I waited for her to return. She was getting late on taking her medication. Day turned to night. Nobody was picking up her phone.
She left the country and never came back. I haven’t seen her since. We were going to be married.
Life is not a maze for you to figure it out. Life is not a path. And it isn’t the journey that counts.
Life is the worst case scenario.
And the beauty is: at age 22, you’ve already survived. Now is the day you start to find the miracle in why you were born.
I can give you a good reason why you were born.
But sooner or later you’re going to figure out the real reason.
I forgot one thing men should know by the time they are 22.
If you know this one piece of knowledge, you will be a success at every family gathering, every late-night degenerated study session in school, you will be both the envy and the enemy of all of your friends, and you will have bragging rights for days or even weeks on end.
The knowledge is this: buy the Orange properties in MONOPOLY.
Because the most popular landing square, by far, in MONOPOLY is Jail.
Because there is another square that says, “Go to Jail”, there are two community cards that say “Go Immediately to Jail” and if you roll three doubles you go to Jail.
And since the most popular roll of two dice is seven, the properties you are most likely to land on the most (and pay the rent if you don’t own them) are the orange squares.
So whoever owns the Orange properties and builds houses and hotels there are the most likely winners.
And, of course, this applies to life. Where are people most likely to go?
Go there also: find your friends, make your successes, create your art, and win the game.