10 Things About Life I Wish I Knew 10 Years Ago
“Don’t listen to the Amardeep of the past, he was an idiot.”
A friend of mine recently asked me for advice and broke down her plan in detail. I threw lots of objections her way and suggested things she could do instead. Then she hit me with the killer; “This was your idea, you told me to do this a few months ago…”
My face went red but I was also proud in a way. I’d given poor advice in the past but at least I could spot it in the present. I seem to have a remarkable ability to convince myself I have everything figured out only to look back a year later and realize I knew nothing at all.
This effect is even bigger in the longer term. I looked back to 10 years ago when I was an insecure 18-year-old trying desperately to seem like he had things under control. This is what I’d tell that scrawny kid.
#1. You’ll recover from missed opportunities.
At 18, I was one place off gaining admission to Cambridge University. For me, it was the end of the world, proof I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was. I snobbishly believed my life would never be as good as the one I missed out on.
I’ve had many of these knife-edge moments in my life and each time I told myself it was game over. I was wrong every time. Things might not go to plan but sooner or later something good will always come along.
So don’t mourn too long over what could have been because what is still to come might be even better.
#2. Sleep isn’t for wimps.
In my final year of university, all my exams happened to be starting in the late afternoon. Being the genius I was, I decided to shift my sleeping pattern to wake up at 3 pm every day so I could work all night for a month.
I regularly did stupid things like this and underestimated how much sleep I needed to function properly. I simply used energy drinks and sugar to keep myself ticking along during the day. Doctors don’t recommend that for a reason.
Over time, I kept bringing my bedtime forwards and now get 3 hours more sleep than I did back then. My body and mind thank me.
#3. Prioritize the right people.
I’ve always been a people pleaser. I’ll do the stupid thing to get everyone to laugh because I tell myself I can take a joke. I play up to caricatures of myself to make everyone else feel more comfortable.
It took me a long time to realize this isn’t a desirable trait. I’d do random acts of kindness not out of the goodness of my heart but because I wanted people to like me. Then I’d get frustrated if the sentiments weren’t returned.
At times it felt as I was putting on a desperate show to the world but I was always focused on those who didn’t naturally get on with me. I saw it as a personal defect. I learned the hard way I should flip this to appreciate the people who appreciate me. There’s plenty of personalities in this world and you can’t be everyone’s best friend and that’s ok.
There will be few things in life I will regret more than not prioritizing my loved ones.
#4. Live a life you don’t need to escape from.
When I started in the working world, it seemed normal for everyone to be counting down until the weekend or a vacation they had booked. I was conditioned to think the week was something you had to endure to get to the good bits of life.
I followed this mindset for years and have been to 47 countries mainly because I told myself I needed something to look forward to. I wished away days, weeks, and even months until I could fly away and everything would be ok.
This is completely wrong. When you take this mindset, it’s almost impossible for you to enjoy normal days because you are telling yourself you will hate it.
I already knew about the Japanese concept of ikigai but I didn’t apply it to my own life. All you need to do is find joy in the every day. For me, stopping on my morning commute at a scenic spot and staring out at the world made a huge difference.
If you seek reasons to wish you were somewhere else, you’ll find them. If you seek reasons to be happy, you’ll find those just as easily.
#5. It’s ok to be ok.
When we’re younger we are taught to get our self-worth from our relative position. As soon as I got results on class tests, the first thing I would do is ask everyone around me what they got. If I were in the top set of results I’d pat myself on the back otherwise I’d sulk.
Who I beat in those chemistry tests could not be more irrelevant to my life today. I used to bring this intensity to everything I did because I had a constant need to prove myself. I always wanted to be near the top of everything I did. Yet even if I managed it, I was burnt out and tired most of the time.
I take more of a “so what?” attitude now. I can go bowling for fun without the feral need to win because so what if I’m good at bowling. I focus my energy on the things I value rather than trying to be everything all at once. I’m much happier because of it.
#6. You don’t remember 99% of the stuff you see on social media.
Oh, Amardeep of the past is a fool. I’ve wasted thousands of hours of my life staring at trash on social media. None of it mattered.
And no it doesn’t mean I should have spent that time running marathons instead. Yet it’s polluted so many moments of my life. How many times was I not properly following a conversation? How many times was I not tasting my food? How many hours of sleep did I lose?
These days I’m strict with myself but I still have my moments of weakness. I wish I had spent less time staring at my phone over the last 10 years. I’m embarrassed.
#7. Everyone is fighting their own little battle.
I grew up in East London where if someone was a little different then it was a signal to mock them not to show compassion. It was an environment where everyone wanted to seem tough even if they weren’t (I wasn’t). Thankfully most of my old Facebook photos with me as a wannabe gangsta are private now.
This attitude carried over to adulthood but increasingly I was seeing how common these problems were. I wasn’t used to showing weakness and felt shame when I did. My response was always to “man up” and expected others to do the same.
I’ve undergone a huge mindset shift and I regret I only realized through the experiences of people close to me. I’m constantly learning and try to be mindful so I can offer support when need be. I never thought I’d know people who went to therapy or took anti-depressants but they are some of the bravest people I know.
I always thought it was just an exaggeration whenever it was on the news. I now know so many people were fighting battles in their minds and I was too naive to understand.
#8. Being boring is cool.
I’m not ashamed to admit my life has become more boring since I got older and it’s not a bad thing. While lockdown doesn’t give me much of a choice now, even before I was far less socially active than I had been. I stopped feeling the need to say yes to every event even when I’d rather be at home.
Fear of missing out is rarely well-founded. Most nights you go out will be pretty average and by going less often they feel more special. London has a pub-going culture where several times a week, you go for drinks with the same people and talk about the same stuff. On repeat.
Stop thinking what the stars do in the movies makes someone cool. Nothing is cooler than someone who knows who they are and acts in alignment regardless of whether others think they are boring.
#9. So much of success is driven by luck.
I confess I was once caught up in my own brilliance. I got top results throughout school and university so it must be because I’m a genius. Yeah, not quite.
In reality, I was exceptionally lucky to be raised by a loving family who valued education and in an area with high-quality schools. Luck comes in all shapes and sizes, you probably have things I could only dream of and don’t even appreciate them.
Everyone likes to put their success down to working hard but there are a lot of people working hard and struggling. I find this hustle culture serves to just make people feel inadequate when really all they are missing is a slice of luck.
When things are going well, keep your ego in check as some of it is just a fluke. When things aren’t going well, keep your head up because you might just be down on luck.
#10. You know nothing.
I hope I read this piece in 10 years' time and cringe. I hope future Amardeep thinks Amardeep of today is a moron. It will mean I’ve grown as a person and adapted my beliefs to match.
I wouldn’t have thought this way 10 years ago. I thought I would keep my same principles forever and only learn new things on a more superficial level.
Many fans of cancel culture think in this way. If you thought in an undesirable way when you were 18 then it doesn't matter if you later grow and change your principles.
Yet we’re human. We’re wrong a lot. All we can do is try to be less wrong and keep our minds open to new ideas. It’s never too late to change. It might sound intimidating but I’m excited for the journey and I hope you are too.