“Who’s Tim Minchin?”, you might ask.
The more pertinent question is, “What can we learn from him?”
He gave a speech at the University of Western Australia in 2013.
His words really resonated with me, and I thought to share the life lessons he outlined.
You don’t have to have a dream.
People always talk about their dreams.
Fine, if you have something you’ve always wanted to do, go for it. If it’s a big enough dream, it’ll probably take you most of your life to achieve. So by the time you get to it and are staring into the abyss of the meaninglessness of your achievement you’ll almost be dead so it won’t matter.
I never really had one of these dreams and so I advocate passionate-dedication to the pursuit of short-term goals.
Put your head down and work with pride on whatever is in front of you. You never know where you might end up. Just be aware that the next worthy pursuit will probably appear in your periphery, which is why you should be careful of long-term dreams. If you focus too far in front of you won’t see the shiny thing out the corner of your eye.
Don’t seek happiness.
Happiness is like an orgasm. If you think about it too much it goes away.
Keep busy and aim to make someone else happy and you might find you get some as a side effect. We didn’t evolve to be constantly content. Contented Homo erectus got eaten before passing on their genes.
Remember its all luck.
You are lucky to be here.
You are incalculably lucky to be born and incredibly lucky to be brought up by a nice family who encouraged you to go as far as you have in life. Or if you were born into a horrible family that’s unlucky and you have my sympathy but you are still lucky.
Understanding that you can’t truly take credit for your successes nor truly blame others for their failures will humble you and make you more compassionate. Empathy is intuitive. It is also something you can work on intellectually.
Play a sport. Do yoga. Pump iron. Run. Whatever, but take care of your body, you’re going to need it.
You’re most likely going to live to nearly 100, and even the poorest of you will achieve a level of wealth that most humans throughout history could not have fathomed.
…and this long, luxurious life ahead of you is going to make you depressed. But don’t despair. There is a correlation between depression and exercise.
Be hard on your opinions.
“Opinions are like assholes in that everyone has one.”
There is great wisdom in this but I would add that opinions differ significantly from assholes in that yours should be constantly and thoroughly examined.
We must think critically and not just about the ideas of others. Be hard on your beliefs. Take them out onto the balcony and hit them with a baseball bat. Be intellectually rigorous.
Identify your biases, your prejudices, your privileges. Most of society is kept alive by a failure to acknowledge nuance. We tend to generate false dichotomies and then try to argue one point using two entirely different sets of assumptions. Like two tennis players trying to win a match by hitting beautifully executed shots from either end of separate tennis courts.
Be a teacher!
Please! Please! Please be a teacher. Even if you’re not a teacher, be a teacher. Share your ideas. Don’t take for granted your knowledge. Rejoice in what you learn and spray it.
Define yourself by what you love.
I found myself doing this thing recently where if someone asks me what sort of music I like, I say, “Well I don’t listen to the radio because pop song lyrics annoy me.”
…and I see it all the time online — people whose idea of being part of a subculture is to hate Coldplay or football or feminists.
We have a tendency to define ourselves in opposition to stuff. But try to also express your passion for things you love. Be demonstrative and generous in your praise of those you admire.
Send thank you cards and give standing ovations.
Be pro stuff, not just anti stuff.
Respect people with less power than you.
I don’t care if you’re the most powerful cat in the room, I will judge you on how you treat the least powerful. So there!
Finally, to all my young adults, don’t rush.
You don’t need to know what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. I’m not saying sit around smoking blunts all day but also don’t panic!
Leave it to humans to think the universe has a purpose for them. However, I’m no nihilist. I’m not even a cynic. I am actually rather romantic and here’s my idea of romance: you will soon be dead.
Life will sometimes seem long and tough. You’ll sometimes be happy and sometimes sad and then you’ll be old and then you’ll be dead.
There is only one sensible thing to do with this empty existence and that is fill it.
In my opinion, until I change it, life is best filled by learning as much as you can about as much as you can. Taking pride in whatever you’re doing. Having compassion, sharing ideas, running, being enthusiastic…
…and then there’s love, travel, wine, sex, art, kids, charity giving, and mountain climbing, but you know that stuff already.
It’s an incredibly exciting thing this one meaningless life of ours.
These are his ideas and mostly his words, I just curated it into a consumable post. The original speech can be watched here.