Some people dread reaching middle age.
I know I used to, but now I’m there or thereabouts, I’m loving it.
I love that I sort of know who I am and how I tick. I love that I know that where I am is mostly where I want to be. Also, most importantly, I love how I have a degree of confidence in myself which I’ve never had before. Not arrogant know-it-all, but a quiet – this post notwithstanding! – confidence that I actually might be able to add some value to a conversation or to a new relationship.
That is not to say that I feel I’ve ‘arrived’, that I am successful. By my own measure I’m still on that journey (see item #11 below). I still get imposter syndrome and am terrified when I do or say anything publicly, but that terror isn’t derived from a default position of self-loathing or worthlessness; it’s more that I might trip up or say something really dumb. This feels a bit more normal.
However, rewind 20 years and things were slightly different.
I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life & I was fed up with being skint and having no prospects.
Overall, I lacked direction and whilst I was insecure and severely lacked confidence in my abilities to do anything, I did have a general feeling that I could eventually do something useful with my life; I just needed to know what that something was.
Back to the now.
On a recent cycle ride, I was considering a conversation I’d been having with my kids earlier that day about their future. You know, the sort of ‘you can be whoever and whatever you want to be’ type speech. So as I was cycling I got to daydreaming about what I would say to that 23 year old plugged into a SNES playing Mario Kart and feeling that he didn’t have much to offer to the world (except kicking ass at Mario Kart, obviously).
It made me stop, literally, and looking over the plains of North Shropshire I started compiling a list of advice for the then-me which I’ve edited down to the following.
1. Try hard to stop worrying
Worry or anxiety can be debilitating. Feeling anxious all the time isn’t healthy, don’t normalise it and assume everyone else feels the same way.
Whether you’re worrying about a thing that happened or stressing about a thing that might happen, tying yourself up in knots about something you have no control over is a total waste of your time and just messes your head up.
Focus on what you can control right now.
2. Look up
Similar to #1, there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on around you. Have a look around. See that bird? That leaf? Have you noticed the gargoyles on that striking building over there? (Yes, that one you’ve been walking past these 5 years)
Don’t spend your life inside your head, make sure you keep looking around and try hard to notice the beauty right in front of you.
3. Set goals and work towards them
Spend some time visualising where you’d like to be, then come up with a rough plan to get there.
Break this down into achievable tasks and then start working towards ticking those tasks off. Review this plan regularly, at least once a year.
Things will change, this is OK. But make sure you are on some sort of path that you’ve chosen.
4. Enjoy the ride
The future-you will write some thoughts about this. But basically you are likely to get carried away with #3 so make sure you do more of #2 and don’t sacrifice enjoying your life now for some possible longer term ideal.
To re-iterate that last point as it’s really important:
Don’t sacrifice today because you’ve constantly got your eye on the future. The stuff that happens today is your life.
5. Go outside more
See #4. You’ll probably have a tendency to spend a lot of nice evenings and weekends in front of a computer.
6. Start meditating
Stop rolling your eyes mini-me! You don’t need to start chanting or wear any tie-dye. This’ll help greatly with #1 & #2 and make you see that #4 is really important.
There’s science to back this up and everything.
Do it already.
7. Start forming positive habits
There are things that you probably want to be doing every day but that you keep forgetting.
A few simple exercises, flossing or cough some meditation maybe?
Make a list of those things and then take the first on the list and do one of that thing each day, say 1 press-up, and if relevant, build it up gradually day by day.
By the end of the month you’ll be doing it without thinking.
Now move to the second item on the list.
Don’t try and do them all at once. It’ll become too much of a faff and you’ll drop them all. Slow and steady wins the race here.
8. Save a bit of cash each month.
I’m not going to tell you to be frugal because you’ll ignore me. But as soon as you’re earning any money worth noting, start putting some of it away each month. 5% would be ideal.
You might find this book a (quick) interesting read on the subject.
9. Not everyone will like you
Get used to this. Don’t try and ingratiate yourself with these people; move on.
10. Failure is OK
You will screw up, this is fine. Just make sure you learn from those mistakes.
Don’t avoid stuff because you fear things might not work out. You’ll get nowhere fast like that.
11. Define your own success
Don’t let others tell you what success looks like. Particularly marketeers or what’s on the TV.
Psst: More stuff is unlikely to make you happy. Experiences and people will.
12. Don’t worry about what other people might think
They have their own stuff going on and they don’t give a monkey’s about you or what you said, what you did or what you may do. They might for a brief second look up and snigger if you trip over, but then it’s back to being all about them.
Just get on and do it.
13. Be kind to yourself
That internal monologue can be a right nasty piece of work and you’re likely to be a hard task master on yourself. Cut yourself some slack.
Nobody is perfect, just do your best and even if you don’t? You can always try harder next time.
14. Treat your body well
You are not indestructible.
Treat your body and mind well or you’ll break something. Seriously.
Old-fart you recently paid the price for not heeding this advice and it took a while to come back, it might be easier on everyone if you try avoid it in the first place.
15. Start Running
I get it, you were the skinny geek who was crap at sports in school.
But, remember how you used to be not totally rubbish at the school cross-country every year? Well, you’d be amazed at how even some basic training will make it feel a lot easier, even pleasurable.
You’ll take to it like a duck to water. It’ll also sort your head out!
I’m not sure how much the younger me would have listened to any of this. Some old fart telling me a bunch of stuff that didn’t relate to me? Whatever.
Still, with the benefit of hindsight, I wish I’d known some of this stuff at the time.
Are there any things you’d like to go back and tell the younger you? (buying Apple stocks, or early bitcoin mining doesn’t count!) If you can think of any wise words then I’d love to hear them. Please drop a note in comments below.
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