This year I turned forty and so far I’m not freaking out. I wondered, however, what advice I would give myself at age twenty, if I had a chance. German as I am, I came up with some structured guidelines. All steps are based on everything I did horribly wrong over the last twenty years.
00 Step zero: Take a break.
Whenever you panic because you need to do something immediately, just stop. I know you think it is important, but it really isn’t. Yes, I know,… but no, it’s not. Go have a tea. Meditate on the toilet. Breathe until your heart starts to beat again. Take a step back and observe. Especially observe yourself observing. Learn to just wait.
Now, you can start with step one…
01 Find compassion.
Don’t be cruel to yourself. The world will be cruel to you. People will be cruel to you. You have to work with that, however you are not required to help them. You have to find empathy and you have to use it on yourself, too. You have to feel the pain of others, but you also have to acknowledge yourself as a friend at some point. This is the hardest thing you will ever do. You might as well start early.
02 Don’t let fear make your decisions.
You will end up doing that anyway. At least stay conscious of it. At every time of the day you are procrastinating something out of fear. You don’t have to be afraid all the time. Everything in life can happen. Especially nothing. You will die a thousand deaths every week and miraculously live to tell about it.
03 All you need is less.
Gain content in life by minimalizing it. Stop the illusion of needing. Needing is something that is purely in your head. You absolutely do not need all that crap around you. It blocks the view on your life. Find the place of needing and observe it intensely until it goes away out of pure embarrassment. Try to reduce your needing until it goes away. Trust me, you don’t really need it.
04 The key to success is showing up.
You have to put in the hours. Stop complaining, nobody cares. You have to keep pushing. Shut up and do your work. And I said pushing, not killing. There is a difference. To be able to train tomorrow, you have to let yourself survive. And no, there is no way to bypass the training. You have to put in the ten thousand hours. Stop arguing, you could have locked in another hour in the meantime.
05 Stay in clear sight of an emergency exit.
Never commit to one plan or one person or one dream or one career full and only. You will change so fast you will be surprised by yourself – if you notice, that is. Never go all in. Always come prepared with a plan B. Prepare for things to fall apart. Because they will. They always do. It’s what they do. It’s in their nature.
06 It’s about the result. Not how you get there.
Define a goal and go for that goal. If you don’t have a goal, don’t go. What you do has to have a desired result. Otherwise don’t do it. If you plan to be active as soon as >xyz< happens, you already lost. Don’t spent time on planning to structure the thinking about the actual doing. Do it.
07 Train to be brave.
Being brave needs practice. Your are not born brave. Seek out places in your life that make you uncomfortable. If there’s something scary waiting for you, start running towards it. If something scary lurks behind you, turn around and attack. Move in straight lines towards your fear. Once you arrive, there will be nothing there. I promise.
08 Other people can’t live your life.
Nobody can live your life for you. You have to do it yourself. You are the only person that can make you happy, nobody else can do that. It is your own opinion that counts for that. If you don’t have one, get one. You have to know who you are, where you are, what you stand for. Wearing other peoples opinions secondhand is useless.
09 Rely on your own power
There is no need to find a greater power outside of yourself. You can try, but you are wasting precious time. You are the creator. You create the universe you live in. Inventing beliefs just to outsource your responsibility is cowardly. So do respect other peoples gods, but don’t rely on them.
10 Go and find yourself
Spend your life searching for you. There is not enough time, so move slowly. Don’t trust the obvious, you’ll change. If it is very easy to catch yourself, you are holding the wrong person. Find happiness and peace and the end of suffering.