50 Ways I Want to Live My Life

According to smart people and listicles I’ve read

  1. When you meet someone new, use their name when talking with them In general, we’re all pretty egotistical. We love ourselves, and there is no facet of ourselves more integral to us than our names. There is just something about hearing someone who is not expected to know your name say it. So if you want to make someone’s day, use their name.
  2. Never be indifferent, it is the worst quality a person can possess There’s a pretty bomb speech by Elie Wiesel at the White House about this. He says indifference is worse than hatred. Hatred can at least evoke a response that can be used for good. The problem is that many of us are raised to be indifferent. When we see someone with a different background than us, we were told to be “colorblind.” Sometimes I hear people say things like “I don’t care if someone is gay, they can do whatever they want.” At surface level, this thinking might seem admirable. However, it turns a blind eye to the hardships that other people often deal with when they come from marginalized background. You should recognize what people go through, support them, offer your love, and be anything but indifferent. Change has never come from the people who were indifferent.
  3. Make eye contact while talking with someone As obvious as it is, you would be amazed how poorly people follow this advice. Gazing off in the distance during a conversation destroys any chance you have of coming across as charismatic. So look down the barrel, people will be transfixed by your subtle confidence. If that’s too much for you, just focus on their lower forehead, most people won’t notice.
  4. If someone invites you to something, be the person to say “I’m there” not “I’ll try” Not only is decisiveness a trait that makes you seem more interesting, it is a courteous thing to do. There is no friend better than the one you can rely to show up.
  5. Sing out loud and don’t be afraid to dance There is no debate that singing and dancing are intrinsic parts of human history. What’s the worst that will happen from doing them? If you’re with others, either they admire your enthusiasm and confidence (or skills?) or they think something negative about you which means they’re a dick and you needn’t concern yourself with them.
  6. Save as much money as you possibly can and invest it Even if it isn’t much, a little can do a lot. $5 a week invested in the market for 50 years will leave you with over $100,000! Compound interest is the best friend you will ever make.
  7. Books make the best gifts, especially with notes in the covers Used books can literally cost a dollar. Yet, giving someone a good book can open their minds, provide them with hours of entertainment, and associates you with their experience and memories of the book. That’s quite the return on $1.
  8. You are not as busy as you say you are So stop telling people that. You have the same number of hours in a day as Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg (who still reads a book every other week). Quit making excuses and quit wasting time and quit humble bragging to your friends about how busy you are.
  9. Read at least a book a month This is realistic no matter how fast you can read. Life is short, cliche but true, and there are infinite experiences you will never be able to have. Reading will exponentially increase the number by opening your brain to different stories, perspectives, and ideas you will miss out on otherwise.
  10. Run at least a mile every single day One mile is nothing. Even if you’re slow, you can pound this out in under 15 minutes. You don’t need to get ready, just throw on some shoes and go. It gives you something to accomplish every day, leaves you feeling like you are a million bucks, and gives you a platform to work on improving yourself. Not to mention the health benefits. Doing this your whole life will literally make you live forever. I like running, but I guess swimming or biking is cool too.
  11. Buy clothes too expensive for you that you absolutely love If they are just out of the range you are comfortable spending, you will A) be less likely to buy more clothes after B) be more likely to take proper care of the garment C) actually wear it because you love it. Not to mention the fact that it will probably be higher quality as well. Better to have one beautiful sweater you absolutely love than two crappy ones you don’t wear.
  12. When talking to someone, ask more questions than you answer People like to talk. Even the quiet ones. If you want people to like you, ask them questions. The most interesting people are the ones who make you feel like the most interesting person.
  13. Write every day It can be a novel. It can be a journal. It can be an article. Writing is a skill worth having, as it has been since our ability to do so. Furthermore, writing is a muscle and needs to be exercised regularly if you want to be good at it. Communicating verbally is important, but close behind is the importance of being able to do so with a pen. Even if no one ever reads it, this can be a form of meditation, outlining your thoughts and ideas, and helping you to form a more clear picture of who you are and what you think.
  14. When you find yourself surrounded by people you don’t know, introduce yourself with smile All too often, people find themselves at a party or hanging out with friends or even sitting at a lunch table, and they don’t introduce themselves. They hang in the background, unsure whether they belong. It takes courage, but you will never regret meeting new people, and it will without a doubt make you feel more comfortable in any given situation if you know everyone’s name and they know yours.
  15. If you see someone wearing something you think looks cool, tell them It’s easy to make someone’s day. So take advantage of every opportunity. It makes everyone, including yourself, feel better.
  16. When you have someone to your home, offer them food and drink It sucks being hungry and it sucks being thirsty. This is just being a good host, and it goes a long way for shaping someone’s perception of you. Be a gracious host and people will return the favor.
  17. Only go out to eat at restaurants you absolutely love Don’t waste your time with okay places. The money you save by picking a cheaper option you don’t like as much is not worth it. Instead, just don’t go out as much. One great meal is worth five mediocre ones. So go somewhere where you will genuinely appreciate the food and where it will improve your day, week, hey maybe even life.
  18. Don’t talk about your income, your test scores, or any other quantitative measure we mistakenly associate with success What good could possibly come of it? You either make someone feel bad because you are doing better than them or you end up feeling bad yourself because someone else is doing better than you. Furthermore, it only perpetuates the idea that success in life can be quantitatively recorded.
  19. When you want to go on a date with someone, ask them on a date No frills, no asking their friends if they’re interested, no over-thinking it. Be honest with them and be honest with yourself. If they can’t handle such openness, they probably aren’t your best option.
  20. Let people be generous towards you Don’t put up a fight when a friend pays for your lunch. Say “thank you” and remember to be generous yourself in the future. Create a cycle and a culture of generosity in your life.
  21. Ask elderly people about their lives There is a serious problem in our culture of dehumanizing older people. Presuming their thoughts and opinions are somehow devalued by virtue of their years. If they’ve made it so many decades in one piece, odds are they have some pretty interesting experiences worth your time to hear about. So ask them.
  22. Take photos when people aren’t posing These are infinitely more fun to look back on. Seeing close-ups of people’s faces is great, but in the future, it’ll be easier to recollect a memory if you actually see a photo of it while it was occurring and you were engaged.
  23. Help those in the world who need it, not just across the world, but in your own backyard You don’t need to take a mission trip to Guatemala to make a difference in people’s lives. Every big city has soup kitchens and homeless shelters and places where you can help improve the lives of others.
  24. Have opinions, defend them, be willing to change them People with opinions are more interesting than those without. They lead to decisiveness and confidence and force you to learn to argue about what you believe. When you’re talking to someone new and ask them what sort of music they’re into, if they say “All music,” or “rock music,” it is infinitely less interesting and will end any chance of leading way into a more thoughtful conversation than if they say “Oh I fucking love the NYC indie DIY pop scene.” The key is being able to admit if you’re opinion is proven invalid or being able to appreciate the people who disagree. Everyone will like you more for it.
  25. Play an instrument Do not say you don’t have talent or time. Do not say it doesn’t interest you. Making music is a pretty integral role to the human experience. You don’t need to play an instrument “well” as long as you try. Singing counts too. But anyways, playing an instrument, whatever it may be, is as valuable as learning a new language because music is a language itself. It enables you to communicate and connect with both yourself and other people in a new way and is something not worth missing out on.
  26. Learn to code (a little bit) I’m not saying you need to learn how to make an app or get a degree in it. In fact, there is most definitely a fetishization of computer programming in our culture. However, when you look at how much our society relies on technology, it’s totally bogus if you don’t think it’s valuable to learn a tiny bit about how code works. There are endless online resources and you can pick up the basics of Python literally in an afternoon. You don’t need to apply it, but it is worth your time to know because it will increase both your appreciation for and understanding of the world around you.
  27. Learn another language This is really hard, and I sure have yet to do it, but if there is one common trend across all of the self-help listicles on Medium, it’s that learning a foreign language is worth your time. I can’t speak to this, but I sure believe it. Without a doubt it will open your mind and expose you to more of the world. What really blows my mind is how there are words with certain meanings in some languages that literally don’t have a translation to others. Thus, knowing more languages increases one’s ability to articulate their thoughts and emotions and that is valuable.
  28. Have at least one goal to accomplish every day, and no more than three It doesn’t need to be “cure cancer.” It can be as simple as “put on pants today.” The point is that you can end your day knowing that you achieved what you set out to do. It gives you direction and if you write it down, it holds you accountable. More than three and you end up with conflicting priorities which leads to procrastination. Keep it simple.
  29. Write down your thoughts at least once per week Get a journal. All the historically significant people kept them, so there’s probably something to gain from it. You don’t need to overthink this either. Just sit down for at least five minutes once per week (no one is too busy for that) and write down a stream of consciousness. It helps you iron out what is floating around your brain and helps relieve any pent up emotions you should be articulating to someone but haven’t. You don’t need to read it ever again, as long as you write it. Plus this can count for your daily writing.
  30. Every day, write, call, or text someone you care about and ask how their day is going The people you have relationships with are the most important thing in your life. You can go decades chasing other things and realize this on your deathbed, or you can just acknowledge it now. Plenty of people have made that first mistake and fortunate for us, we have plenty of wisdom passed down to reinforce it. Some things are worth learning over the course of your life, while others like this are better to just realize right now. So show people you care. Once every day, reach out to someone in your family or one of your friends and just catch up. You don’t need to schedule lunch or talk about “eventually getting together” because that is more than necessary. All you need to do is ask how they are doing in a sincere way. It just takes a few minutes a day to maintain your relationships. There are few things in life with such a huge return on investment.
  31. Find a way to see the world It can seem expensive or unable to fit in your hectic life, but this is a consistent item on everyone’s list of life advice and one you should probably heed. Reading and watching and listening to different mediums will help expand your view of the world, but will never replace experiencing different cultures at ground zero. I am still early in my travels, but if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that the world is a hell of a lot bigger than it can sometimes seem from the view in your backyard.
  32. BUT you don’t need to travel the world to find deeper experiences and meaning This is a common misconception lots of young people seem to have. That you need to backpack through Europe or something to uncover a piece of yourself. Well as dope as backpacking over the Alps sounds, if I’ve learned one thing from the wisdom of people more experienced than myself, it’s that if you can’t discover yourself at home, you won’t do it atop Mt Kilimanjaro. Self discovery comes from within (hence the “self” part). There is culture and experiences to be had all around you, whether you live in a small town in northern Wisconsin or in New York City. One thing I see constantly that I find bothersome is the way people right here in my home (Minneapolis) think that real culture is waiting to be discovered at all these other places. Our home is full of it! We have a world class music scene, culinary scene, museums, sports, and so much more. You can literally see Picasso’s and Van Gogh’s at the MIA here for FREE. You can catch local bands at intimate and nationally recognized venues for dirt cheap. We have endless bike and running paths and parks to adventure on and you have no reason to complain. Sorry, had to make a plug for the Twin Cities.
  33. Any statement that starts with “No offense, but…” is not worth making This doesn’t need an explanation. What are you trying to accomplish if you’re telling someone that? I can think of no best case scenario. You will always look like a dick.
  34. Correcting people when they’re wrong is rarely worth it Here’s a hypothetical that I’ve seen variations of a million times (often myself making the mistake): you’re out to dinner with a bunch of friends, some you know well, others you don’t. This dude says something about how pandas are endangered and it really worries him because he’s such a saint who cares so much about nature. Of course, you know that pandas are not still considered to be endangered, so you say “yo dude, actually pandas aren’t endangered as of like a week ago.” What did this accomplish? Do you feel intellectually superior now? Well you made that dude feel like a fool and all you got in return is everyone at the table thinking you’re annoying for feeling compelled to make your intellectual dominance known. Lose, lose situation. Rare is the occasion where correcting someone about little facts will prove a benefit to you.
  35. Complaining is okay, though moderation is good There’s a certain person who loves to remind you whenever you are complaining about a shitty day that “there are kids starving in Africa.” A totally true statement. You should definitely recognize the privilege in your life and how your problems tend to be insignificant in the grand scheme of things. However, life is relative, so don’t feel bad about the occasional gripe over a bad day. If you compare your grievances to someone in an obviously worse situation than yourself, you’ll end up in a vicious cycle, because there’s no doubt you could compare that unfortunate individuals hardships to someone who has it even worst and so on. In the end, that would mean the only person who could complain about anything would be the one with the worst life in the world. The system falls apart. So, although complaining too much can definitely be unhealthy and lead to cynicism, don’t feel bad about it.
  36. Breaking bread with someone is a special thing to do, so appreciate it This goes back throughout human history. It’s a sign of peace and friendship and people need to appreciate it more. So just make sure you thoroughly enjoy the next time you share a meal with someone.
  37. Hold the door for people, say thank you when they do for you It’s a simple thing to do, but sometimes simple gestures go a long ways. Adding this because I really appreciate it when people hold the door for me. I mean they are basically saying that wherever they are going to can wait while they make your life just a tiny tiny bit easier. More powerful than you may think.
  38. Don’t be afraid to do things by yourself Go to the movies alone, see a concert alone, grab a nice dinner by yourself. I wish I did this more. There’s this social stigma that you need others to accompany you when you go to these sorts of cultural events. It’s really unfortunate, because a lot of things can be appreciated in a unique way when you are by yourself. Just you and your food will probably make you think harder about the chef’s artistry in preparing your meal. A museum observed alone will give you a chance to think more deeply about the work without distraction.
  39. Don’t litter Okay I don’t know anyone who throws cigarettes on the sidewalk when they’re done or who tosses their McDonald’s wrapper in the grass, but they’ve got to exist because I walk around and see their shit everywhere. What could you people possibly be thinking? It’s childish, rude, and just about every other negative adjective out there. So do not contribute. If you’re really a great person, pick the crap up.
  40. Make big requests from other people, but not too often It’s a scary thing asking someone for anything big. But the truth is that these are the requests that can benefit you the most. If the person you ask comes through, it helps strengthen your bond with them (presuming you give appropriate thanks) because they feel like they contributed to your wellbeing and are thus invested in you. Sometimes the things we need in life are just a question away. Don’t be afraid to ask it.
  41. Get a healthy amount of sleep It seems like everyone I know claims they can operate at 100% averaging 6 hours of sleep a night. Well that is bullshit. Some researchers at UC San Fran published this study where they found only 3% of people can be perfectly healthy with only 6 hours per night. I have no doubt plenty of you reading this believe you are in that group. Well, you’re probably not. Less time spent being more productive is worth way more than the inverse. So lights out.
  42. Keep up with the news, but not too up It’s important to know what’s going on in the world. However, that being said, there is such a wealth of information out there at your fingertips that it can easily cloud your brain and prove a distraction. Avoid TV news. It’s filled with fillers and bogus. Instead, just check Google News every morning and you should be set.
  43. Eat at least one (green) vegetable every day I could definitely have a bunch of items about healthy eating. It’s really important. However, life can be demanding and good food can be expensive and time consuming to prepare, so at the very least, commit yourself to eating at least one green veggie every single day. Better yet, just eat it raw, making it more healthy and saving time. I like to eat a few handfuls of spinach every night. That way, no matter what I ate that day, I can say “hey, at least I had my veggies.”
  44. Forgive, and admit when you’re wrong before anyone else It’s hard to fight with someone who is apologizing and says they are wrong. In most cases, you’ll be better off just apologizing and moving on. In the one’s that you’re not, hopefully the other person will have read this list and will practice number 43.
  45. Drink lots of water (like 100 oz) every day Again, it’s pretty simple. We’re made up of mostly water, so it makes sense. Helps keep you healthy and functioning at a high level. And it quenches your thirst so you won’t be tempted by water’s evil cousin, water with sugar (soda).
  46. Don’t look down on other people because of their life trajectory I hate to get more general here, but the point I’m specifically thinking of has to do with college. If someone did not go to college, that’s cool. What do you have to gain from judging them negatively for it?
  47. There is nothing more worth your time than talking It’s pretty much all I do. Find a friend and talk. Think. Articulate. It’s even more fun if you do so while walking somewhere neat or at a dope restaurant. If you can stay satisfied by the little things like this, life will be easier.
  48. Your job does NOT have to be your passion There’s a lot of stuff out there about this. I think it’s bullshit. If you can find a job that pays you money and you love, that is amazing. However, there are a lot of jobs (janitor, retail, etc) that very few people will be able to call their passion or calling, but need to work nonetheless because that is how society works. So if we tell people they need to find a job that is their passion to be happy, lots of people are going to be pretty sad. A job is where you make money. If you love it, great. But at the end of the day, there is nothing wrong with doing it to support your family or your dog or your love of seeing concerts or painting or woodworking. Take pride in this.
  49. Every time you apologize for the same thing to someone, it means a whole lot less An apology can go a long ways, however, if you don’t actively work to amend whatever you are apologizing over, it loses potency. It no longer becomes an apology but a lie you are using to avoid further conflict. If you’re going to apologize for something (a good thing to do) mean it and act on it.
  50. Try your best This is the only real piece of advice my parents ever give me, so I figured it was worth including. Failing is good, winning is great, but the most important thing is to give it your all. I cringe at the cliche, but I believe in it nonetheless.