When I was debating whether or not to quit my job at the beginning of this year, the majority of my friends and family told me not to. But, I did it anyway.
It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made in my life (a decision that many would consider “illogical”), but looking back, I didn’t really have much of a choice. It was something I had to do.
Was I scared? Absolutely. I was terrified. But the fear was calling me. Scratch that. The fear was pulling me.
It’s hard to describe, but you know that feeling, when you just know that you have to do something? When you can just feel it, deep down into the very core of your being?
I’m not a big touchy-feely kind of guy, but that’s honestly the best way I can describe it.
At the end of the day, I had to either face this fear head on and deal with the consequences or spend the rest of my life wondering “what if?”. So, I quit.
Anyway, ever since I turned 23 a few months ago, I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection. For the most part, working for myself for the last few months has been everything I’ve imagined it to be (fucking awesome), but the journey that has led me to where I am today definitely hasn’t been easy.
While there are days when I’m feeling on top of the world, there are also days when I feel like the biggest failure to ever walk the face of the earth. And it seems that every time something good happens, something bad always follows. The ups and downs have felt more extreme than ever. And I know that I still have a long journey ahead of me.
But, guess what? That’s life.
You can either hold on tight and wish and pray for the ride to just end already, or you can trust that you’ll be okay, throw your hands up in the air, and learn to enjoy the ride.
Of course, “learning to enjoy the ride” is a lot easier said than done. But, that’s why I think it’s so important to spend some time reflecting on your past. So that you can learn from your mistakes and do your best to avoid making the same ones again in the future. While there’s no avoiding the inevitable dips of life, the least you can do is try your best to minimize them.
And that’s exactly why I wanted to write this post—to share some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from all the ups and downs I’ve been through over this past year.
I have absolutely zero regrets, but if I could go back and impart some wisdom on my 22 year old self, here’s what I would say.
1. Get ready for the hardest, but most rewarding year of your life.
When the going gets tough, keep going. Embrace the struggle and remember that there are no benefits without costs. Remember why you’re doing what you’re doing, and remember that it will all be worth it—it already is all worth it.
2. Don’t let anyone tell you what to do.
Your friends and family care about you. A lot. Which is exactly why they’re going to tell you to not go after what you really want. Not because they don’t want you to be happy, but because they want to protect you and keep you safe. But remember, this is your life. And sometimes playing it safe is the biggest risk you can take. Be open to other people’s feedback, and listen to what they have to say, but don’t let them make decisions about your life for you. Only you know what’s best for you.
3. Surround yourself with people who fuel your passion.
No one ever succeeded without the help of others, so stop trying to do everything alone. Start building an army of like-minded people who will support you, encourage you, and help you out when times get tough. How? By supporting, encouraging, and helping them first. Proactively seek out environments where there will be a concentration of passionate people and physically put yourself in places where you’ll increase your chances of making the connections you want to make.
4. Never stop pushing yourself.
You’ve come a long way, but you still have a long way to go. Don’t let yourself get comfortable. Keep doing things that scare you. Keep pushing yourself. Keep growing.
5. Get rid of any baggage from your past.
Don’t let that shit consume your mental energy. You have to move on. Learn for your mistakes, take the positive, and leave the rest behind.
6. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Let yourself have bad days. If you ever start wondering, “what the hell is wrong with me?” remind yourself that nothing is wrong with you. Whatever you’re going through, whatever you’re feeling, know that other people have been through it, other people have gotten through it, and so will you.
7. Lean into your negative emotions.
Don’t try to resist or suppress your emotions. The more you try to suppress them, the worse you’ll feel. It just creates more tension and anxiety. Instead, lean into your emotions. Accept them and see them for what they are. Give yourself time to explore them and understand where they’re coming from. This is the fastest way to get past them.
8. Take care of yourself.
Get enough sleep, eat healthy, and for God’s sake, stop playing the victim card and do whatever the hell it takes to fix your back. Stop expecting other people to give you the solution—do your own research and consider all options. Do whatever it takes and then start getting back into some sort of a consistent workout routine. Your health (both mental and physical) affects all other aspects of your life, so take good care of it.
9. Don’t overestimate the world and underestimate yourself.
Have confidence in your abilities. You are better than you think. You should never feel entitled to anything you haven’t worked for, but don’t be afraid to give yourself credit for everything you’ve accomplished so far. You’ve accomplished a lot and you have a lot more experience and knowledge than you think.
10. Stop being selfish.
Stop thinking about yourself all the time. Stop focusing on your self-centered concerns of how you feel and what you want. Place your focus instead on helping others as much as possible, in any and every way possible. Remember, this isn’t about you. Take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Put your head down and force yourself to do the work—even when you don’t feel like it. If you don’t, you’re not only hurting yourself, but the whole planet.
11. Stop trying to change people.
The greatest gift you can give someone is to let them truly be themselves.
12. Take more risks. You’ll be fine if it doesn’t work out.
Trust yourself to be able to handle the results. Know that even if things don’t work out the way you want them to, you’ll bounce back. Plus, when you look at the bigger picture, most of the things you consider “risks” really aren’t even risks at all.
13. Get used to the fear.
It’s not going away anytime soon.
14. Stop trying to fit in.
Seriously, fuck being normal. Be proud of your uniqueness and own it. Nothing great was ever achieved by following the herd.
Get rid of the clutter in your life (both physical and mental) and focus on what matters. Do less better.
16. Plan time off in advance.
Manage your work time around your downtime, instead of the other way around. It’ll keep you motivated by giving you something to look forward and it’ll also prevent you from burning yourself out.
17. Stay present.
Goals are good for giving you direction, but hold them lightly and don’t ever let them interfere with the experience of now. Be grateful for wherever you are in your journey, knowing that wherever you are right now is exactly where you’re meant to be.
18. Do more things that make you happy.
And less things that don’t.
19. Get smarter with your money.
Be prepared for worst case scenarios and always live below your means. Save as much as possible. Create a budget, spend less, and invest more.
20. Don’t rush into things.
It never ends well. Be smart and play the long-game.
21. Celebrate the small wins.
It’ll make the journey more enjoyable, it’ll feed into your momentum, and most importantly, feeling like you’re winning is a precursor to actually winning.
22. Win or die trying.
There are going to be days when you’ll start to wonder if it’s all worth it, and there will be days when you’ll think you’re ready to throw in the towel. But, you already know that this is just part of the process. You know that no matter how many setbacks you face, that’s all they are–set backs. And so, each time this happens, you’ll eventually come to your senses, you’ll get back up on your feet, and you’ll keep going. I know you already know this. But, all I want to say is that in those critical moments when you feel like giving up, just remember—you don’t have a choice. Giving up isn’t an option. This is what you were born for, and you’re either going to succeed or die trying.
Okay. Your Turn.
As the title of this post indicates, I wrote this for myself. Hopefully you found at least a few of these ideas applicable to your own life, but now I’m curious to hear from you.
What advice would you give to a one year younger version of yourself?
Spend a few minutes reflecting on everything you’ve been through over the past year—all the good and all the bad—and then leave a comment below letting me know 2-3 of your biggest takeaways.
Do it not only for your own benefit, but also for everyone else’s, too.
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