Notes on Adulting and Getting your Shit Together
I generally feel, as a late 20 year old musician, that I don’t have my shit together. I’m not really independent, I’m far from ‘singing anywhere famous’, my singing technique is not up to scratch, I still haven’t mastered scorpion pose, I’m not as fluent in 4 months as I hoped I’d be in German… the list goes on.
But for the first time a few days ago, I really pondered, ‘Does anyone have their shit together?’
My answer, which comes from looking at my various ‘successful’ friends, is no.
Has an exceptional job, worked her entire life after graduating with an impressive Master’s. I’d think she has her shit together. But — on the downside, her flat is a mess, she has serious issues expressing her feelings, and probably has some sort of anger management. Also, she tends to spend most of her money on bags and travelling to visit her partner who lives an easy 8 hour flight away, and barely has any savings. Tough.
This is an older friend, he has worked as a ‘successful’ consultant most of his life, is incredibly intelligent and looks like he would have everything neatly organized and know exactly how to take care of his taxes and everything that adults find scarier than forgetting to floss. Except, this friend also has his shit everywhere — he’s very clumsy, can barely go a meal without spilling something, and incredibly disorganized — all of which are my strong suits, giving me a lot of hope in life that I can also be successful but disorganized and clumsy. YES!
This guy is really something else. Moved to a foreign country for work, learnt the language to above-fluency, very successful at his job — which he does in his THIRD language. Fit as a model, this guy never stops moving and exercising but… he had never had a girlfriend, and, in my opinion, has a very low sense of emotional sensitivity and empathy when dealing with people and seriously struggled to open up his feelings to anyone. It’s improved since he started dating his first girlfriend (unsurprisingly a psychologist). Also, he’s addicted to short-term stocks like a gambler.
Okay - giving these examples, I have to admit, there are some people that just do have their shit together more than others. My dad, the one person I HAVE to raise my hat to. He has a lot of his shit together: banks & finances, family documents, emotions, cleanliness. The man is disgustingly organized. Everything is filed on his computer in the most organized way, he has THREE backups for his entire computer, and FOUR EXTRA mobile phones — all with the same information on them. You’d think he ran a bank and not a restaurant. He also knows how to relax and have fun (at least in the more recent years) AND he’s very emotionally aware. Shit = together
Lessons learnt from the book “Getting Your Sh*t Together” (kindly gifted for my birthday), and ‘successful’ people (whatever that means)
- Delegate delegate delegate. The key here is to give tasks and your to-do’s to people who are better than you at it. Sometimes, and especially for bigger things, it will mean spending money to hire a professional or an expert. I.e., don’t fix your washing machine yourself, it will take your time and money. It seems obvious, but a lot of people really suck at this (control freak, anyone?)
*My dad’s told me this time and time again. It works.
2. On relationships
Be the best partner you can be. Play the ‘who is nicer’ game, but don’t tell your partner. Kindness usually brings out kindness in others. In this game, everybody wins. “Suddenly taking out the rubbish is a favour you’re doing for your partner rather than annoying chore” says Sarah Knight. EPIC.
I want to share this beautiful post (yes, a FB post) from my old drama professor,
You want to know the secret to good acting? Make your partner great’. -Carl Stilitano.
‘Make your partner great’. Please pause and really give this thought. This is an mindset changing sentence.
“This is about generosity on stage, about giving your partner the richest intention and most vibrant energy that they can luxuriate in their response to. It’s about listening to their offerings and responding in a way that makes what they gave you important, to yourself, to them, and ultimately, to your audience.
This was said in the context of actor training, but is this only for actors?
No. I don’t think so.
So, my unsolicited advice for the day is; Make your partner great.
Whoever that is, whoever you’re interacting with now. Give them something to work with; something kind, something positive, something heartwarming… Watch what happens. And enjoy!
Dana Blackburn, you are a gem.
3. On friendships
You are NEVER too busy for the people you care about. I just don’t buy it. A simple hi how’s it going you just crossed my mind and I hope you’re doing great, is all it takes. I change my mind often on this. Sometimes, I get angry when friends don’t ask about me and I feel I am constantly checking up on them, but then also try and be understanding and give them the benefit of the doubt. Currently, I’m going with: if you care, you care. Show it, or lose the friendship.
Voice notes are the best thing since the Scientific Revolution → you can literally press a button, ask someone questions while walking on the way to work or in the subway or wherever you go. It takes less time and effort than typing and you can relay a lot of information.
Friends and family love to hear from you, and you never know when a person’s having a bad day and would just love to hear that someone cares for them! It makes people so happy.
Walking into a room like you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t, gives everyone the idea that you really know what you’re doing. It makes you that much more believable. Watch people that inspire you around you and note what it is about them you like, and try to imitate it. This may sound a bit strange but learning from others in (what you think) they are better than you at, can sometimes be that push you need to get better yourself!
Another thing my dad always says and does.
5. Always ASK
I definitely don’t do enough of this in many areas in life, but sometimes all you need to do is ask CLEARLY for something you want, or how to get to what you want. Sometimes people don’t even realize you want something — whether that’s in a relationship or a pay increase at work, people are usually too busy and focused on their own lives to try and spend their time decoding your feelings. Don’t be passive-aggressive or passive about something that is weighing you down — easier said than done, I know.
An autobiographical anecdote on ‘asking’
My dad and I recently went to Japan together. It was epic, but we also bickered a lot — we have incredibly similar personalities and are almost like siblings fighting over the MOST ridiculous things. In this circumstance, he would always want to ask things in English and I’d always get embarrassed — first over the fact that he was speaking in English (when I could speak a somewhat decent amount of Japanese, but would need help from google to find the correct way of phrasing it), and secondly because he’d ask for things that I felt would make people go out of their way. He would always get what he wanted too. He kept telling me, if I would just ASK for something, I’d maybe get it, rather than just stay quiet. Asking is always free. He was right.
6. On working
Give yourself a time to STOP working. Everyday AND while on vacation — when you are off, you are off. Unless you’re a surgeon or working in critical emergency situations, no-one is going to die. And if you are, I’m sure you deserve the time off you get. Time off is a MUST, and not a luxury.
Chunking tasks is key. Having a 20 minute break from your work to organize something else — like that order of earplugs you need to make — is all it takes, and it gets off your to-do list, and gives your mind a break from what you were previously doing.
7. On Failure
This is probably where my dad’s old school mentality conflicts with mine. Accept that failure is an option, and then it no longer becomes as bad as failure. It just is. If it happens, just let it happen.
This comes hand in hand with Perfection. Social media is filled to the brim with people showcasing their ‘perfection’ and it (in my case at least) can make you feel you are on the other end of that spectrum. Get that spectrum out of your head. It doesn’t exist.
Perfection is not going to happen.
That being said, you still have to do something in order to get somewhere.
Give yourself small goals, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t achieve them. A very cool learning from the book has been the concept of Life Bingo.
Give yourself 5 or 9 tasks you’d like to do everyday, and if you do let’s say 2 out of 5, you win at life. In my case, it might be:
-Exercise -Organize the house -Don’t eat junk food -Sing for 2 hours -Learn something new
Be self aware. If there are things that you kind of suck at, acknowledge it. If you’re a shit listener, or get angry a lot, are always late when meeting your friends, never respond to messages, the first step is know it and acknowledge it. And then if you want, try and fix it.
Don’t be on the defensive. There’s nothing to defend.
ADULTING 101 IN A NUTSHELL (going backwards)
Know yourself, stop caring about failure, give yourself small goals (life bingo), always ask, be confident, care about friends (if you want), be loving with all relationships, and delegate shit you suck at. Adulting 101.
Always remember, life is a cycle. There is birth and death, growth and dissolution, cycles of success and cycles of failures. But it’s generally painted as good and bad and winning and losing. But does failure have to mean you are losing?
“It is not true that the up cycle is good and the down cycle bad, except in the mind’s judgement. Growth is usually considered positive, but nothing can grow forever. If growth were to go on and on, it would eventually become monstrous and destructive.” Eckart Tolle
I have to stop and remind myself of this. I don’t know what the key to Adulting is. Maybe it’s just trying to do your best, and accepting what it when it doesn’t happen.
In this crazy world, people are so busy comparing themselves and figuring out where they are on the imaginary ladder of success compared to others — physical, fame, skill, financial.
We rarely stop and just be.
Enjoy the rides of life, both the ups and the downs. Slow down.
Enjoy the process.
Let what comes, come.