(29 Dec 2015)
I woke up today and learned that Lemmy from Motorhead is dead. I wasn’t particularly a big fan of the band, but I always thought he seemed like a great guy. He seemed very genuine. And while he lived a good 70 years, the news that he’s gone is still pretty jarring. For some reason, it seems like the most jarring celebrity death I’ve heard about in the past few years. (I suppose Robin Williams would’ve been more jarring if I had grown up watching his films; I’ve mostly been enjoying his work posthumously.)
I want to reflect on this for a while. Lemmy’s death triggers several different thoughts for me.
1. I’m getting older myself. I’m 25 going on 26, I am not a child or a teenager or even a “young adult” any more. This is it, this is full-contact adulthood. It definitely feels like I wasn’t adequately prepared for this, but it’s also clear that hardly anybody is, and that being bitter about this fact achieves nothing.
2. This is not a practice life. This is not a rehearsal, this is not a drill. This is IT. The real thing. We’re live. Everything we’ve experienced and done do far, that’s our history. We can’t change that. Everything we do today and tomorrow will echo and resonate through us for the remainder of our days.
It is a tremendous responsibility, managing yourself. Avoiding it doesn’t make it go away. So live into it. Don’t leave it up to chance and circumstance.
3. There are already several if not many regrets, mistakes, fuckups. There will definitely be more, and we will have to face that.
That said, we owe it to ourselves and our circumstances to reduce the avoidable ones, and to navigate the remaining ones as best as we can.
After all, it would be a little disappointing, wasteful, boring if we reach the end of our lives making the same mistakes over and over. If nothing else, life is an opportunity to play and experiment, to learn and grow. Stasis is itself a kind of death. Let’s not die before we’re dead.
4. So much of life is trivial, yet our experience of reality is utterly dominated by a small number of non-trivial events. And people inevitably express regret at under-preparing, under-anticipating and under-estimating the non-trivial. We’ve made a lot of mistakes but let’s not make this one, not where it counts the most.
If we want a quality life, however we define that, we have to focus on quality thoughts, build quality relationships with quality people, do quality things and so on. A 25 year old man has no excuse for not knowing what he wants, for not having a vision of what a good life means to him, for not having a plan to enact and realize that vision to the best of his capability. The bulk of his resources (time, energy, focus, capital) should be devoted towards building himself the life that he desires.
What are the usual excuses?
I don’t know what to do: Find out.
I don’t know where to find out: Google it. Ask friends, peers, mentors.
I don’t have any quality peers: Find them.
I don’t know how: Find out.
I’m overwhelmed: Start with the simplest basics. Breathe. List out your
problems. Pick the most painful one. Break it down into smaller steps. Pick the most important one. Solve it. Move to the next step.
I’m scared: So’s everybody else. Face your fear and do it anyway.
I’m tired: Put everything away and rest, fully. Exercise. Eat. Hydrate.
I don’t know how to exercise or what to eat: Find out.
I have bad habits: Destroy them.
I don’t know how: Find out. Every habit is simply a pattern of behavior. There’s a cue, there’s a response, there’s a reward. Map out your bad habit- what triggers it? What do you do? Why do you do it? Find alternative ways of dealing with it. If you relapse, don’t be childish about it. It’s a new data point for you to learn from.
I’m not strong enough: Get stronger. Exercise. Do a little more than you did the last time. Everybody can do one more pushup than they last did, lift more weight off the ground than they last did. Being able to do that helps you internalize the powerful idea that you can grow and become stronger, doing things you couldn’t do before. That’s the beauty of life.
I’m lonely: Find people. Don’t make it all about yourself. There are other people who need help. Adopt a dog. Dogs love you unconditionally. Volunteer.
I’m anxious: Meditate. Exercise.
I don’t believe I can do it: Write down what you believe you can and cannot do. Then evaluate those beliefs and ask why that belief exists. What is the basis of that belief? What is its history? You weren’t born with limiting beliefs. You learned and inherited them. And more often than not, those beliefs were thrust upon you by people and circumstances who don’t have your best interests in mind, or have a misconstrued idea about your best interests.
I’m spread too thin: Eliminate the non-essential.
But life would be painful without my [games/social media/porn]: Yes. Life is painful. If you want to be more and do more, you’ll have to tolerate pain. You can handle a lot more pain than you think, you just need a good reason to. Which brings us back to the importance of having a clear vision of what you want.
Consider young children who cry because of a little discomfort, or because they don’t get what they want. Or imagine a young teenager heartbroken over their crush snubbing them. Those things can seem laughably trivial to adults, but to those littler, less-developed humans, the pain is all-consuming, unmanageable. How do they grow out of it? The stimuli doesn’t change. Their response to it does. Their attitude towards it does. Their belief system around it does.
Adults don’t cry ugly, screaming tears when they don’t get what they want because they recognize that reality doesn’t owe them anything. (And also because they’ve learnt to be considerate of other people, who have their own problems to worry about.)