Today I turned 41 years of age and here are the 41 lessons I have learned in these years. None of these lessons were easy, they all took a blood sacrifice..a slaughter of the old, an atonement for naivety. I am documenting these here for posterity and to remind myself how far I have come from the days of the bright-eyed-bushy-tailed-over-ambitious-people-pleaser Bushra to this older-wiser-plumper-happier Bushra.
1.Find “Sohwakhaeng” every day. I came across this concept from Haruki Murakami and instantly fell in love. It’s a Korean concept that literally translates into “small but certain happiness” and he uses this to refer to things like a morning run, a wake-up call from your loved one or your favorite meal served warm and fresh.. things that bring you “small but certain happiness” in your day. The way I see it is to live a life that’s just a series of simple and pleasant days with no big jolts, just a lazy joyful predictable day. A day stitched together with a string of Sohwakhaengs.
2. If you are not busy living, you are busy dying. Today is all we all have. So do something with it instead of just scrolling through yet another meme on facebook or ogling the six-packs of an IG model. Write a few lines, sing a few notes, paint a few strokes, strike a new conversation, hug for just a few seconds longer, smile, run, jump, laugh, sweat, swim, try..LIVE.
Today has just started and you are here, make it matter if only for a few seconds, if only for a few people, if only for an extra few words that you wrote from your heart. How fortunate that we are alive today, that we get to see another sunrise, that we get to snuggle up to the warm bodies of our children this morning, that we get to hide in the crook of our partner’s arm, that we get to sip a coffee, bite into warm toast and breathe free air. So many are denied these simple pleasures. So rejoice that you are alive and make the most of it.
3. Luck has nothing to do with who you are married to. You don’t get lucky if you are with a good person, You made your own luck when you chose them… when you worked on your relationship every day (or chose to walk away if it was not reciprocated). I am married to a glorious human being and I thank my lucky stars every single day to have him as someone to share my life with but I don’t believe I “lucked out”. I think we chose each other because we were the best fit and then we worked very hard on this relationship to be at a point where we coexist in mutual respect, love & hilarity.
4. Luck has everything to do with who you are born to. On the other hand, who your parents are IS a matter of luck. I learned this the hard way when I saw some really cool people with some really shitty parents. I come from a culture where the parents’ word is the gospel & disobeying your parents ranks right there with murder and blasphemy so seeing those really cool people struggle with their lives, their morals and frankly their whole entire existence because of who they are born to, is heart-breaking. I am also incredibly grateful that I have parents who love support & cherish me. Parents who still after all these years give so much love, so much care and so much of themselves to me and mine that I can’t think of any other way to be a parent myself. Yes, I “lucked out”.
5. Your inlaws are not a nuisance, they are your family of choice. Speaking of families, stop seeing your inlaws as a nuisance especially if you love, admire & respect your spouse. The reason your spouse is a certain way has a LOT to do with who raised them and who they grew up with. My Mother in Law has played a massive role in shaping the man that’s my husband and how he sees the role of a “wife” which btw is VERY different from our cultural expectations. My Father in Law has set an incredible example for my husband to follow and I love seeing how he is becoming more and more like his dad as he grows older. Your inlaws are your family of choice and unless there are major issues, it makes no sense to treat them with anything less than love & respect.
6. The worst things in the world are unrequited love, unacknowledged genius, unappreciated joke, and undeserved praise.
7. You don’t need cheerleaders. I know I know the popular narrative is all about having your band of brothers, your posse of business besties who cheer you on and who you can turn to for motivation & support. My experience has been different, I have built a hugely successful business without any cheerleaders and even though cheerleaders are great for your ego and sanity, it is not NEEDED for your success. I have also found that when you only have yourself as your cheerleader, you flex & grow those motivation muscles so much faster. Relying too much on external validation & support for every little thing you need to do actually atrophies your motivation muscles.
8. Tiny steps trump massive actions any day. Listen,I did the whole massive action thing and it almost killed me. Yes, I made tons of progress but it was virtually impossible to stick to and the loss of sanity was just not worth it. When I chose small daily consistent actions over sporadic “massive actions”, my business blew up and I became a better human (LOL ask my husband about that someday) It also comes with a tiny little benefit of not burning out because that shit is insane.
9. You don’t need to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. It’s one of those things that people say that always made me be like ‘but whyyyyyyy”, Why do I have to suffer? Why do I have to do things I don’t like? Why do I have to work on my weaknesses? Why can’t I just work on things I am comfortable with? Things that are easy, fun, joyful? Why can’t I always choose happy? So I did and nothing broke. I stopped doing things that were uncomfortable, I stopped making myself suffer, I stopped being uncomfortable just because. I am happy to report that things continue as they are and I am a happier human being with less anxiety and a lot more brain cells.
10. Non-negotiables are non-negotiable. Non-negotiables in life, business, relationships make life easy, save decision making and just free up your brain to do things that matter. Lack of integrity from a client is a deal-breaker for you? Make it a non-negotiable and cut off ties immediately. Lack of respect or affection in a relationship? Lack of fun in a gathering? Lack of meaningful conversations in a friendship? Figure out what your non-negotiables are and be ruthless about them. It makes every decision easy.
11. The only antidote to looming anxiety is constant gratitude. I have suffered from anxiety all my life, it comes in waves and sometimes the waves are giant mountains swallowing me alive, other times they are little ripples leaving me slightly breathless for days. I have finally found a cure. Be insanely grateful for everything. Found a new fun song? say a silent prayer of thanks to the music gods. Had a good BM after days of constipation? do a little jig in the toilet. The immigration line at the airport went quicker than you had expected? smile big and say thanks. Your food arrived warm and perfect? thank the server so much he’d wonder if you are a psycho. Seriously, try it for a day and you will be amazed at how easy life becomes and how many things you actually have to be grateful for.
12. Doing nothing is hard work. I have always had fantasies of doing nothing. I even free up time on my calendar to do nothing and gahhh it literally is the hardest thing of all for me to do. We have so much for our self-worth tied in with what we accomplish that doing nothing just seems like cheating. I have diagnosed the problem, now I just need to find a solution.
13. If perfection is the goal, you will never see the end. I am so anti-perfect, it’s laughable. My team jokes that if they ever see a text or email from me without a typo, they will just assume I have been body-snatched. I decided a long time ago that DONE is so much better than perfect and if I aim for perfection, I will never get to finish anything. That’s also the secret to my legendary productivity…everything is just DONE..not splendid, not perfect, just done.
14. Your children will turn out better than you if they see you work on your growth every day. This I believe in with all my heart and I see it already in my children. If you are worried that you will pass on your “issues” to your children, all you have to do is resolve those “issues” for yourself, and let them witness it. All the lessons here in this post, my children have witnessed me learn throughout their lives. They have seen me fight my demons; win some, lose some, get my ass handed to me by some but one thing they have never seen is me not trying. And THAT is what gives me hope about who they will become.
15. There is zero shame in asking for help, with things you are bad at AND things you are good at but hate doing. I do zero housework, I do zero paperwork, I do zero customer service. I get that it’s not always easy or affordable asking for help but to me, it’s about priorities. I hate housework so if I have to choose between a new dress and a cleaner, I know what my choice would be. If I have to choose between cooking a meal for 20 people and filling out a visa application, you can bet your last meal, that meal is happening today.
16. The nostalgia of the present is real and it’s glorious. The sign of a well-lived life is that we miss the joyful moments as they happen, we ache and long for when they will be gone as we go through them. We take pictures and write diaries to try & capture the present because we know how transient it all is and we are nostalgic about it as we live through it. How magical is this feeling?
17. Double the effort does not mean double the results. Stop listening to the hustle-die-lather-rinse-repeat narrative and consider working smarter not harder. I have tried doing webinars at 2 AM thinking if I only sacrificed enough sleep and be in the same timezone as my clients, I’d make more twice as many sales. I have written 100,000 new words every launch thinking I’d double my sales through the power of my shiny new words. I have worked as much as 15 hour days in the hopes of KILLING it when I only ended up killing myself. Effort is not directly proportional to success..sad but true.
18. Self-talk matters. The first words out of your mouth about yourself, your limits, your potential are like a telegram to your brain giving explicit directions on how far to let you go. Watch that telegram diligently, it can change everything.
19. Old age is a privilege denied to so many so stop freakin’ lying about your age, Stop being ashamed of your years, your laugh-lines, your wrinkles, your life.
20. Global poverty is not your fault but it’s your responsibility. The reason we have so much money while others don’t is because we are supposed to equalize the distribution of wealth….I know scary thought. Instead of closing your eyes to global poverty, think about what you can do to fix it a bit, not much..just a bit. Who can you hire? Who can you educate? Who can you help start a business? Who can you teach? Who can you help so they pay it forward?
21. If you feel emotional pain about a social issue, that’s God giving you a sign that you are chosen to fix it. Don’t try and dull that pain with food, shopping or other banal shit. Be angry, be in pain, and then do something to fix the issue.
22. Even if you win the rat race, you are still a rat. I decided long ago not to run. I don’t buy branded stuff even when I can afford to because I refuse to run the race of “who has more money”. I don’t indulge in popularity contests because I refuse to run the race of “who’s most popular”. I refuse to run the beauty race, the success race, the money race…because I refuse to be a rat.
23. Women are the future. If you are a woman, love a woman or raise a woman, this should be the center of your focus right now. The world will be saved by women and for that to happen, women need other women to support them, little girls need mothers who would let them fly, men need to step up and make it easy for their partners, sisters, mothers to dream big dreams and do big things. We all need to try a little harder because women are going to take over the world anyway, it would just be nice if we all play a role in that.
24. Your partner does not need to approve everything you do they just need to accept everything you do and love you regardless
25. Faith moves mountains. I have often wondered how people who have no faith go through life. I, for one, would have spent all my life curled up in a fetal position not daring to step out and live..for fear that something somewhere will go horribly wrong and I won’t have anyone to pray to..anyone to make it right..anyone to listen and fix it.
26. The best prayer is a prayer of MORE…more love, more joy, more togetherness, more wealth, more impact, more ease, more health.
27. I spent the first half of my life hating myself (my face, my intellect, my dreams, my everything) and the second half being fascinated by the same things. I prefer the 2nd half so much better.
28. Love shifts, spins, rolls & transforms a million times. Love is not a constant so when people complain about men changing after marriage or teenagers becoming weird or children becoming distant as they grow older, they (note to self: ME) need to remember that love does not remain constant, it changes a million times. Sometimes it is clingy, sometimes it gives your space, sometimes it is romantic, other times it is almost spiritual. Sometimes it is distant, other times it makes you claustrophobic. And that is OK, that is what love is…a constantly shifting bundle of emotions.
29. “Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor and it can never be used to hurt you. — Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones
30. The worst state is the state of nothingness. Lack of love is not hatred, it’s nothingness. Lack of action is not laziness, it’s nothingness. Lack of ambition is not passivity, it’s nothingness. Lack of life is not death, it’s nothingness.
31. Hope is a habit and like all habits, you need to work on developing it. My default mode is always to panic, to think of the worst possible outcome, to imagine disaster. I have to work on flexing my hope muscles every day and with time, it does become the second habit, you just need to train your brain to “think happy thoughts” no matter how idiotic it sounds on paper.
32. Fake cheer is better than no cheer. No matter how horrible you feel, put on Youtube’s biggest fail videos, some laughing baby videos, some Geroge Carlin clips and report back with how much better you feel about life.
33. If you don’t enjoy your own company what makes you think others will?
34. “You have changed” is the best compliment you can ever receive. You have absolutely no obligation to be the same person, hold the same views or like the same thing you did last month, last year or even the last hour. Change is good, change is growth. If you are not changing, you are not growing and if you are not growing you are decomposing.
35. Forgiveness is hard work and I can do hard work. When you forgive people, you are yourself freed. The best thing I have ever done for my sanity is that I have chosen to forgive people. Heartbreaks, injustices, harsh words, disrespect and so so much more. Every single “personal wrong” I have chosen to forgive has freed me from feeling like a victim.. like I was wronged…. to feeling like I am a big person, a brave person because I chose to forgive those who wronged me. Of course, they have no idea I have done that but again it’s my journey, not theirs, they need to walk their own path to forgive themselves.
36. The money you give is from the given and is like a boomerang on steroids. Seriously, my one battle-tested tip for growing your money is this; understand that your money is GIVEN to you so when you GIVE it, you are giving from the GIVEN and that this GIVEN pot replenishes faster than you could ever imagine IF you actually give away some of it. It literally is like a boomerang on steroids and every time I want to make a lot of money, I just give away a LOT and it comes back 100X (#truestory)
37. Grief is forever and it is selfish. I lost my sister when I was 26 and still to this day, I think of things she would enjoy, foods she would relish, jokes she would crack up at, people she would find fascinating, philosophies only she would get. And every time, I come across these things, I miss her. I miss telling her, showing her, sharing with her…it is always all about me…all about how “I” don’t get to do those things, all about how “I” have been denied the privilege of her company, about how “I” am the victim here. Grief is selfish and it stays with you forever and I will fight anyone who tells me otherwise.
38. Sometimes it is fun to talk about makeup, clothes & people. Other times it is fun to discuss ideologies, bad choices and the transient nature of human existence.
39. “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”Winnie the Pooh
When I go visit my parents back home and it’s time to leave…eyes are teary, hearts are heavy and hugs are tight. How absolutely lucky am I to have something so beautiful that every goodbye is painful. When I travel for work (I seldom do) and the kids count & divide the days to include as many hugs and tuck-ins as possible before my travel date. It makes my heart rise up in my chest & out my throat just thinking of how lucky I am to be here.
40. The Last time someone says your name is when you really die. In Mexican tradition, there are three deaths: 1) When you first realize you’re mortal and you will die. 2) When you are actually dead and buried. And 3) The last time someone says your name. (Reference: Jason Silva)
41. At the end of the game, the king and the pawn go back in the same box. Think about that for a second and excuse the morbidity. All the petty games we play, the power moves, the under-handed ploys, the politics of it all mean nothing at the end. What matters is that you literally and figuratively go sleep in a box at the end of it all. So maybe stop with the madness and the pettiness and LIVE a little instead of making everything a game…a race..a BATTLE. This is as much a lesson or me as it is for those reading.
Bushra Azhar is an international bestselling author and Founder of The Persuasion Revolution. She started her business in July 2014 and managed to go from an absolute nobody to building a multi-million dollar brand in less than 5 years. Get your copy of The Ultimate Guide to Persuasion: Use the Psychology of Persuasion to Sell Your Ideas, Your Work or Yourself (with your sanity, your dignity & your lip gloss intact)