In this post, I am outlining several sentences that distill things I learnt in life so far.
I hope they can help you too.
#1 – Do what you WANT.
This is inspired by one of my favorite books by Michael Ende, the “The Neverending Story”, and it has always served me well over the years.
It is not as easy as “Do whatever spontaneously comes to your mind at any given point in time.”
Some people make decisions out of fear or convenience. Or out of bad habits.They think they follow their instinct, but they really only follow the goal of short-term pain avoidance.
Otherwise, I could eat candy all day and come out winning!
Instead, you want to figure out what you really want in life. What is your long-term vision? Where do you want to be in 5 years? How do you want to look?
For example, if you want to be able to dead lift 400 lbs in 5 years, you could plan on doing 225 lbs in one year, 270 lbs in the year after that, then 315, 360 and 400 lbs.
On a monthly or weekly base, you have to dead lift three days a week to get to where you want to be.
This takes precedent over temporary feelings of laziness or avoidance behavior.
Always think about whether what you are doing every day brings you closer to or further away from your goals.
#2 – Life is a series of missed opportunities.
My old chemistry teacher said that. And he was right.
I promptly proceeded to miss out on his advice to study chemical engineering and open a German beer brewery in Singapore.
And here, 20 years later, I hear Aaron Clarey recommending the same thing for millennials or people that are now in their 20s (up to the Chemical Engineering part anyways…).
We often have an idea and the tools to follow through – yet for some unclear reason we fail to act. At least that’s the case for me.
I think over my lifetime I have seized more opportunities than I have let pass, and those that I missed are simply more prominently in my mind.
The girl I failed to kiss. It used to be a big deal to me 15 years ago – thankfully not any more.
The scientific hypothesis I had when I did my first postdoc in Princeton and that I failed to act upon – now somebody else published it.
The gym that was close to my work place and I failed to use for a long time – now I do not have the advantage to work close to where the gym is located.
Failure to take chances or seize opportunities comes from different directions.
The wish to “play it safe” and not taking a bold step when it is needed.
Listening to other people’s advice even though your instinct tells you this time they are wrong.
Hesitation to execute because conditions are not “ideal”, only to realize later on that conditions are only worsening now.
There is one other reason people miss an opportunity, and we should not worry too much about that. Some people need rigorous planning before they start, others want to hit the ground running right out of the gate.
In “Think Big: Make It Happen in Business and Life“, Donald Trump talks about the right timing to execute on a business deal. You want to make sure you did your due diligence and know about the background and history of the opportunity that you are looking at, all the logical aspects of it. Then, you wait for the moment where you think conditions are best. That is more of a gut feeling or instinct and can only be improved through experience.
And there you have it – you have to take chances and pounce on opportunities, because that is the only way to learn.
In this connection, here is another piece of advice: Failure weighs ounces, regret weighs tons.
Seizing an opportunity is not always the smoothest way of action, but you will be absolutely glad you took it. In any case, you learn, and next time, you are less hesitant to make a deal.
The bottom line? Just go for it.
#3 – Only the moment is eternal.
This is also wisdom I gleamed from reading the“The Neverending Story”.
We are all following a series of events. If we never stopped and contemplate or reflect on what we are doing, we would just follow a script – whether we write it ourselves or not.
But if we keep our head down and just move along, we will never find out what we really want to do. To come up with a vision as described in #2 above, we need to know what we are good at, what we prefer, what makes us happy.
We need to find out what is always true for ourselves. What is timeless.
And for that, we need to stop the stream of time and look, but that can only be done when we focus on the moment.
If we are doing what we really want to do, what we love more than anything else, the moment will exist in eternity and there will be nothing else to perceive.
Meditation is a good way to find out what we really want. Headspace has a great program to learn some guided meditation; the first 10 days are actually free.
#4 – A little rebellion goes a long way.
You should not do everything people tell you.
Always try something new and different. Always be a bit of a contrarian
That does not mean you should always be “against” something as a habit.
It means to throw some curveballs here and there.
Dare to make a small difference, because that way, you never attach yourself so much that you have trouble letting go.
if you want to look at a more detailed explanation of what it means to be a contrarian, Ludvig Sunström has a great in-depth post about it.
#5 – Telling you something ‘can’t be done’ is your license to start
So much what people say you supposedly “can’t” do is exactly the reason why you should go ahead and do it anyway.
If you really want it.
The only way to know if something works for you is to try it out.
So much what people say is born out of ignorance or used to be true for them in a very specific condition that is no longer valid.
#6 – Your audiences’ emotions are your machine’s fuel
The best projects are those that make an impact on the world, your life and the friends around you.
This impact can either exceed people’s expectations in a positive way.
Or it can make the very same people uncomfortable, because it runs counter to what they think.
When I did my PhD thesis, I was looking at the way cells moved past one another to get to their destination place during the development of an organism.
Cells that will later form part of the brain, for example, are not always borne where they later on need to be. So they need to migrate towards the head region.
Our idea was that cells that were too ‘sticky’, exhibited too much adhesion, would have problem moving.
That caused quite a bit of concern.
Back in 2005, scientists still believed that cells needed to be able to adhere well to one another to get traction and to move.
We showed that this was not the case. I still remember people becoming very adamant in defending the old position.
And that showed us that we were on the right track.
People always attack those that stand up against the status quo.
But if you are right, then your ‘contrary’ ideas become the new status quo in a couple of years.
#7 – Every hater begets a lover.
Your environment reacts to what you do on a scale from total disagreement and hatred to complete agreement and love.
10% of people will always hate you, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.
The good news here is that there are 10% on the other end of the spectrum that love you no matter what. The rest is somewhat negative or tends to be positive.
Think about that. It makes life so easy. Do you. You will find people that love you and want to hang out with you no matter what.
#8 – The crater of impact is decorated by love and hate.
This builds on #7.
If you want to make an impact, you will polarize people.
If you don’t do anything out of the ordinary, then no one will form a strong opinion pro or against what you do.
However, if you start doing something unexpected, people will make a decision whether they like what you do or not.
And the bigger impact you make, the stronger people will agree or disagree with you.
In extreme cases, you will literally find zero people in the middle and everyone either loving or hating what you do.
For example, I once went out – as part of Good Looking Loser’s Approach Anxiety program – to greet women on the street with “You mad, bro?”
I remember a couple of girls absolutely loving it, while with another woman, a couple of men who overheard me jump to her ‘rescue’ and berating me I could not ‘harass’ her.
Just for saying the simple but unexpected words “What’s up, bro?”.
So know that you get a lot of strong hate when you push extremes. But you also get lots of love.
#9 – What you do unto others, you do unto yourself.
It’s a variant of “do unto others as you would do unto yourself”.
I believe that those that put out hurt and push people away and up hurting themselves the most. When the others are gone, they will likely forget about it – not so the ones who did the pushing.
However, if you love others, try to make a connection and deliver value, you will become happy yourself.
#10 – Always make your bed.
This is synonymous for anything. Start getting the first step into shape, always, and the rest will follow.
If you want to check out “Become an Idea Machine”, you can do so here.
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What are some life lessons you have learnt?
Do you think there can actually BE common lessons?
Thanks for reading and let me know in the comments below!
(Image taken from Wikimedia Commons.)