Don’t Look To Gurus For Inspiration On How To Live
If you’re a control freak — like me — it’s tempting to want to understand what your life is about, and what you should do next. It’s even more tempting to look at other — usually, much more successful — people and find similarities between their paths and yours.
“Is Seth Godin a writer? Great, me too!”
“How old was Naval Ravikant when he built his first business? Older than me? Great, I still got time!”
“Kevin Kelly is into media, well, so am I! Hence, I should do everything that he’s doing.”
Life is art. Living is drawing without an eraser. And like with any art, it’s natural to seek validation for your choices in other people’s stories. But it’s important to remember that their stories have nothing to do with you.
‘You are unique.’
You’ve probably been told that already.
Let me repeat that again: billions of people lived before you, billions of people live now, billions more will live after you die. And none of them — not one — will have the same genetic material, knowledge, and background as you do.
What career you pursue, what makes you excited (and what makes you bored to death) — all of these things are yours, uniquely. Never forget that.
Life Is a Single-Player Game
You’re born alone. You live alone, mostly absorbed by your own thoughts and problems, and you die alone. Yes, you do meet other people along your way, but for all of us, life is a single-player game because only we feel our stresses, anxiety, doubts, and concerns. Other people might empathize, but our feelings are exclusively ours.
Nobody Can Tell You What To Do
I’ve always been fascinated by GaryVee.
Not because of what he says, but because of what he had accomplished through his content. The guy is not saying anything new; he’s not particularly smart or inventive. But he’s brilliant at what he does, and it’s great to observe.
I’ve always been wondering, “Why do people keep watching GaryVee after all those years?” He’s not saying anything new.
The answer is simple: people are looking for permission, not advice.
When Gary tells you, “Go and throw your college diploma out of the window,” most people feel inspired and motivated. We’re herd animals, and when somebody has the nerve to tell you what you should do, we usually listen. It’s easier to outsource responsibility for your life than to take it.
But of course, nobody can tell you what to do. No advice will help you. Because what GaryVee does, what you should do, and what people should do in general — are three different things.
There Are No Rules
I remember watching a movie, where the main character tells his friend:
“Do you know your biggest problem? You’ve lived life as if there were rules. And there aren’t any.”
Anytime when somebody tells me what I “should” or “should not” do, I remember this phrase. It doesn’t matter who you are — an entrepreneur, a writer, a boxer, a golfer — you can do whatever you want, really.
There are no rules, and that’s precisely why life is art — and not a mathematical equation.
Your Life Is Weird
Leave it that way.
It’s tempting to want to change your life because it doesn’t fit the scenario you’ve constructed for yourself. Or the plot that you can easily copy from somebody else. But if you can’t see anybody else living life as you do, it’s a good sign that you’re onto something. You’re original.
The Opposite Of Coherent
When you’re graduating from college, you have a plan. But life almost never goes according to plan. This shouldn’t disappoint you.
It’s tempting to want your life to be coherent, like a deck of cards. The first year after graduation — a stable job. Five years in — your own business. Ten years after graduation — retire as a millionaire with wife and kids. It seems right, even possible. It’s coherent.
But life is rarely coherent. It’s ups and downs, and too many things that you can’t control.
You learn that by trying to control, you only leave yourself stressed out. But by letting go, you get the opposite of coherent.
You get interesting.
Internalize Your Goals
The key to dealing with the world we don’t understand, and with our in-coherent (but probably, fascinating) lives is to internalize goals.
It’s a term from the Stoic philosophy. When stoics internalize their goals, they don’t think about what might happen to them. Instead, they focus on what they can control: their effort.
You might want to get rich. To become successful. To become a famous blogger. To write bestselling books. All of these goals are noble.
But they also might not happen. The key to avoiding heartbreak is to internalize goals: do what you can, and let it be what it’ll be.
Don’t Look To Others For Guidance.
Seth Godin, Kevin Kelly, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk don’t know what you should do. Their lives are entirely different, and they are where they are not because they’re better than you, but because they followed their unique path.
When you listen to advice from “successful people,” it’s easy to fall in the trap of neglecting your own feelings, and doing what you “should.” But nobody — except you — can tell you what you should or should not do.
The key, as I discovered, is to focus on the body. People spend so much time in their heads, that it pays to listen to what your feelings tell you. Every time I made a decision based on how I felt, it was the right decision. And the opposite — every time I told myself to follow a specific rule because some guru said so, I usually ended up worse than I started.
Instead of looking to others for guidance, listen to your body. It never lies.
I frequently doubt myself and think my life is too weird. After all, my background is strange, I don’t have a college degree, my job is not what most people do for a living, and I often feel like an impostor.
One thing that helps me — is reminding myself that no matter how weird it gets — if I trust my instincts and don’t pressure myself with other people’s standards, it’ll be alright.
The key to a good life is self-honesty.