What would I tell my kids about life?
This is the question I’ve been wondering about for a while. And even though I don’t yet have kids, I thought it'd be interesting to put together a list of things I’d tell them.
First, because this method of thinking implies honesty. There are no learnings I'd hide from my own kids no matter how painful or embarrassing they are. Second, because I don’t know the future. I don’t know if I’ll have a chance to communicate these ideas to my kids. I am mortal. And it’d be such a waste to not share with them things I’ve given years of my life for to learn.
I hope you will find my learnings useful.
I’ve always wished I had a life user manual of sorts. Like the one you get when you buy new software; full of tips and tricks on how to use the thing. I believe it would save me from making so many dumb mistakes. So in this letter, I’ve put together the big things I’ve learned by 24. I hope they can save you some time.
What to avoid doing
- Don’t “grow up.” It’s the term adults came up with to justify conformism, indecisiveness, and lack of courage. But you’ve only got one life, so make it count. Make it an adventure. When you get stuck, ask yourself: “If someone was making a movie about myself, what would the main character do?”
- Don’t get stuck upgrading your furniture. Money buys you freedom. But don’t let it trap you in a lesser game of following someone else’s desires. Remember: “Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.”
- Don’t work on something if it doesn’t excite you. If you feel like dying one minute at a time, stop it immediately. Life is too short for that. This applies to people as well – cut as much negativity from your life as you can.
- Don’t follow anyone’s advice. Always listen, but make up your own mind. Nobody knows what’s best for you better than you do. This applies to all advice, including this letter.
- Don’t overthink. Acting on a bad plan is better than not acting on a perfect one. Figure out the best possible action at the moment and do it because great opportunities will come if you work on good ones. Also, keep in mind that nobody will remember you for your thoughts.
What to do
- The most important thing: do things that can’t be bought or achieved quickly. Developing a skill, learning new things, building relationships, writing a diary. Do these things every day to get the highest compounded returns. Remember: the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today because today is the first day of the rest of our life.
- Be more ambitious. Very few people realize this, but the most productive person on Earth and the laziest one need the same amount of rest. This is something called energy equilibrium; if you throw a person into the ocean, he will be shocked but will adapt quickly and learn how to deal with waves. Design “the ocean” for yourself by taking on more ambitious visions and surrounding yourself with the best people possible. Remember Eminem: “Why to be a king if you can be a god?”
- Know stuff. No matter what you do, knowledge can’t be bought. And as very few people take the stairs to get it, you’ll be special. Focus on understanding, learn the basics well, mix up your practice, use metacognition & active recall, and teach others to learn well. But don’t stop on just knowing; apply your knowledge and drive change.
- When you don’t understand something, ask to explain. Don’t be afraid that people will find you stupid. It’s way worse to end up being dull because you’ve spent years nodding.
- Keep things in perspective. Being young and poor may seem like a disadvantage, but any 80-year-old billionaire would swap bodies with you in a blink. You can do things that other people can’t because of their status, age, or commitments. Turn weaknesses into strengths.
- When faced with a choice, do what you want, not what you “need.” This is the hardest one from this whole list. There always will be all these voices that want you to do things in a certain way. Sometimes, they even live inside your head and seem like your own desires. But don’t let these voices deceive you. If you’re in doubt, ask yourself what you would do if you had three lives to live, like Mario. Then do that thing because you’ve got only one.
- Act like the person you want to become. If you’re going to be the person who has a strong character, just start behaving like you already have it. “What would a person with a strong character do in this situation?” is a great question to ask. If you do the trick for a long enough time, you’ll become what you do.
- Plan your year instead of your day. It’s easy to spend a decade being incredibly busy and stressed but don’t go anywhere. Busyness is not equal to business, and what matters most is to plan your year correctly, not your day.
- Try many things. If you try more things, you have higher chances of finding something you love. It’s like fishing in that sense; if you don’t throw the rod, you won’t catch anything.
- Work with 10-year people. Ask yourself: “Would I love to work with this person every day for the next ten years?” If you gut feel this person is a force of nature and will succeed anyway, that’s good. If not, move on. Hint: these people tend to do things instead of talking about them.
- Do great work. If you can’t do big things, do small things in a great way. Remember Paul Jobs: “You gotta make the back of the fence - that nobody will see - just as good looking as the front of the fence. Even though nobody will see it, you will know, and that will show that you’re dedicated to making something perfect.”
- Get and stay fit. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you how easy life is when you’re in sync with your body. So just trust me on this one.
- Take the stairs. Almost everyone takes the escalator, so you’ll naturally end up in an extraordinary place. This applies to everything.
Finally, don’t be afraid to change everything.
“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Enjoy your life, kid.