Early 2015 I was pretty frustrated with my career. Just a year earlier I said goodbye to my entrepreneurial aspirations and took a job at an IT-research firm in London.
Normally, that’s a good thing. The pay was good, so were the benefits, and I had great colleagues. But it wasn’t for me — I felt like I gave up entrepreneurship.
And on top of that, my personal life wasn’t great either. My girlfriend and I decided to end our relationship. And in that same week, my grandmother, who I loved dearly, passed away suddenly.
I felt a lot of things. But mostly, I was felt like I didn’t understand life. Have you ever thought about it?
What is life? What are you supposed to do? It’s not like babies are shipped with manuals that teaches them to be awesome human beings.
For the first time in my life, I started looking for answers because I was tired of just living/existing without purpose.
When I went back to Holland for the funeral, I also caught up with one of my mentors. The last time we spoke was over a year ago — before I moved to London.
I told him the whole story, and he said:
“Even though there’s no right or wrong way to live your life, there are certain universal principles that lead to a happy, wealthy, and healthy life.”
Naturally, I asked him, “what principles?”
In a Mr. Miyagi way he said:
“I think you know the principles. Everyone does. But 99% of all people don’t do what they know.”
That’s about the best, and most bad-ass pieces of wisdom I’ve ever heard in my life.
People hardly do what they say. That was also the story of my life.
So for the next year or so I spent thinking, reading, and researching to find the principles my mentor was talking about.
I asked myself: What are things that people talk about, but they never do?
Here’s what I came up with until now.
1.No Strain, No Gain
We often talk about doing all kinds of crazy shit. Climb mountains, run marathons, skydive, start businesses, travel the world, write books, record albums, make movies, the list is endless.
Just think about what’s on your bucket list for a second. Now, can I ask you one thing? Why haven’t you done those things?
The answer almost always comes down to this: It’s hard.
Well, I hate to break it to you, but life is SUPPOSED to be hard!
That’s probably the most valuable lesson I’ve learned. Don’t shy away from hard things. Instead, train yourself to become a person that can endure difficulties. Physically and mentally.
The cliché is 100% true: No strain, no gain. If you don’t strain your muscles, they get weak. If you don’t strain your brain, your cognitive ability will decline. If you don’t test your character, you become spineless.
“If you rest, you rust.” — Helen Hayes
2. Avoid Negativity At All Cost
Again, everybody knows this, but I almost never see people apply this in their life.
They put up with negativity at work, at home, with their friends, family.
And it’s not weird. Because everywhere you look, there’s negativity. In fact, people are inherently negative. That’s how we’re hardwired.
That’s why you see so much complaining, lying, blaming, backstabbing, jealousy, bullying, in the world.
But here’s the thing: All those things keep you from living a healthy and wealthy life. So why do you let yourself be exposed to negativity?
The problem with us, humans, is that we always see the good in people.
- “He means well.”
- “She’ll turn around.”
- “He didn’t mean to hurt me.”
- “Things will change.”
You know that you can’t change people, right? So why try? People only change when THEY decide to change.
It’s best to avoid negativity. At all cost.
3. Give More Than You Take
As a baby, you’re taken care of. Your parents give you food, shelter, and if you’re lucky, a lot of love. Even if you had a bad childhood — you’ve been given many things like education, food, etc.
Weirdly enough, that behavior of taking things tends to stick with us as we grow up. We think it’s normal to take, take, take. In fact, we think we SHOULD get everything we want.
I was in the same boat for many years. But looking back, I was delusional. We’re not entitled to anything.
Who says you SHOULD get that job you applied for? Or the promotion that you want? Or the hot girl/guy at the gym? Or widespread success?
Instead of always focusing on what you want from the world, start thinking about what you have to offer.
Life is not about taking. Please, do yourself a favor, and start giving more. But don’t be surprised if you also receive more.
“The effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is.” — Jim Carrey
Helping others is the most important thing you will ever do in your life.
4. Time Is More Valuable Than Money
Out of all the resources in the world, time is the most valuable resource you have.
“Yeah dude, I know that by now.”
But why do we collectively spend time like we have an unlimited supply of it?
Do you ever stop and think about how much time you have left on this earth? Let’s say you get to live to 80 years. Just do the math. It’s not that long if you keep wasting your time.
Be more selective with your time. Don’t squander it like you can always get it back. Sure, you can always earn back the money that you’ve spent, but you can never earn back time.
Once you spend time, it’s lost forever.
5. Create Your Own Path
We look at others and view them as examples. Fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends, bosses, mentors, authors, entrepreneurs, artists.
I’ve done that too. In fact, I still do it. Learning from others is one of the best things that I’ve done. Being humble is a good thing.
But here’s the catch: You’re not all those people. You are you.
That means one simple thing: Get off the beaten path, and create your own.
Of course, traveling the road that has been paved by others is much easier. But it’s not fulfilling. And accomplishment weighs more than money, status, and even comfort.
Don’t be afraid to go into an unknown direction. Go places where people never been before.
How do you know you’re going somewhere new? People will likely not understand you. And that’s a good thing.
“Men almost always walk in paths beaten by others and act by imitation.” — Niccolò Machiavelli
6. Do Whatever Life Expects Of You
Look, life is random. Why are you born to your parents? Why do you live where you live? Why were you bullied at school? Why, why, why?
Do you have the answers? I doubt it.
Instead of wishing that things were different, accept the circumstances of your life. No matter how bad they are.
Things are what they are. Look at it this way: Regardless of where you are in life, you are there for some reason. God, the universe, invisible forces.
It doesn’t matter what it is. But when life expects something from you, show up and play your part.
7. Life Moves In One Direction
You can live in three different time dimensions in your head.
- The past
- The future
- The present
If you live in the past, you’re stuck in “why” mode. That means you always think about why things happened. That’s a recipe for unhappiness.
If you live in the future, you live in “what if” mode. That state of mind causes anxiety about everything that MIGHT happen in the future. Again, that’s a recipe for living a timid life.
You know that damned well. You also know that there’s only one ACTUAL time dimension; the present.
Why don’t we live in the present? There are millions of things that prevent us from living in real time.
One thing that has helped me let go of the past and future is to understand this: Life keeps moving forward — it doesn’t care what I think or do, so I might as well not waste my time on stuff I can’t control.
If you look at it from a practical point of view, it doesn’t make sense to question the things that happen in our life — we just have to keep moving forward.
There you have it — stuff you know, but you don’t do. I can’t guarantee a good life if you follow all principles. But when you follow these principles, you have more respect for the subtlety of life.
Because these principles have one goal: Get the most out of life. And that’s the only point there is.