This might be a topic better left for the me that will be here 4-5 years from now. By then my mid term goals should be complete and I’ll be in a much better position to give advice.
Nevertheless, I write this list now, not because I can make the best list of its kind but because there’s one thing everybody should be able to do: look back at all the times they slammed balls first into a wall and say “hey, maybe I should’ve dodged that”.
Lesson 1: If You Don’t Want To End Up Like Your Parents Don’t Follow Their Life Advice
My parents were not big on dental hygiene. I’m at 3 root canals now with another one needing to be scheduled. It’s easy to be angry at them for trying to instill all sorts of stupid shit into me but somehow miss on this very important element of life, if they weren’t both wearing prosthetics because their teeth lines were decimated by their own negligence.
My parents also struggled with money management & making profitable life decisions. They are both engineers but it took them years to find good, stable jobs after immigrating to Canada. After hitting serious depression starting in Grade 10, I told my mom maybe I should do a 2 year college, but she wouldn’t even hear of it.
Immigrant parents are very big on education, you must do a 4 year university. The “lawyers and doctors” talk was very common, occasionally interrupted by “ceo”. So I went to a 4 year university, with long (1 hour plus) commutes on subways packed to the brim with people like sardines. Not conductive to mood enhancements. A year and a half later my depression was so bad I didn’t even go to classes anymore.
I can go on and on, but the point here is that your parents aren’t the ones who have to live your life, you are. If your parents are successful in an endeavor you want to undertake by all means listen to their advice.
Just understand they are human. Most humans fail on the regular. Few achieve more than a mediocre amount of success. If you want more, and they don’t have it, there is little they can do to help you get it. Eat their food, shit in their toilet, use their room, then go do what you have to do, even if they don’t know or understand.
Lesson 2: Depression Is Despair, And Overridden By Purpose And Action
Despair, hopelessness, whatever you want to call it becomes chronic if you can’t see a way out. And the panic that comes with them can muddle your thoughts and prevent you from seeing a way out. Training an iron mind can act as a buffer against this, but the biggest issue for depressed men today is that their life has no purpose, and thus no meaning.
Others try to find meaning and purpose in simple but powerful elements of life like family, and it works for some of them, but for the rest of us it never satisfies that deep, primal desire to be tested against something hard and come out on top.
To beat depression you must find a purpose to live for that you can feel to the very core of your being, and bathe your mind in it until it overwhelms every other thought. And to do this it’s not enough to just fantasize about the final outcome, you must think, as much as possible, about HOW to get there. When I started the current phase of my self improvement journey a year ago, I didn’t just think about where I wanted to get, but how to get there. I’ve always had big plans, even during the worst of the depression, but this clear distinction, of planning a course of action and actually starting to make moves to make it happen is what finally snapped me out of it.
A destination without the journey is just mental masturbation. Think, plan, wonder and fantasize about the journey just as much, if not more than the destination. This is the key difference between getting there vs it remaining a distant dream.
Lesson 3: Take Care Of Your Body
“Mens sana in corpore sano“
When you are young you can neglect your health (never run, never walk for more than 5 minutes, never lift, half-ass brush your teeth once in a while, eat sugar by the kilo) & not usually suffer any serious physical consequences.
Once you near 30 this starts to change. There are mental side-effects to neglecting the basic things that would keep most of us healthy throughout adulthood, but once you’re in your 30s neglecting them starts taking a physical toll as well.
Every man who can lift should lift.
You should also do SOME cardio. You don’t need to run marathons, but going for a short walk daily (~30 minutes) and doing some HIIT will greatly improve your endurance in everything you do (including lifting).
Lesson 4: There Is A Trade-Off For Everything
Entire books could be written on this topic. But the bottom line is that there is absolutely nothing you can get without sacrificing something else. I call it the law of equivalent exchange (don’t @ me weebs). The wisdom comes in knowing that trades can be made across multiple attributes, and that the value of a thing depends in part on the needs of the two parties (or the arbiter). It’s why two people can exchange goods or services and both be satisfied and why we sometime sacrifice things we may have in abundance to get something we need (IE: money).
The harder part to grasp for many is that this law applies not just to consumer goods or services but also to your own future.
And when you trade for a future the transaction is not optional because what is being traded away is time.
Every second that goes by was traded away whether you want to let it go or not.
So trade wisely.
Lesson 5: Master The Basics
Money, health, relationships. I would add spirituality but I’ve never suffered on this front so despite being a very religious person I can’t offer much advice on this front, there’s a reason why the greatest saints were often reformed sinners.
Money doesn’t buy happiness but it does buy freedom and hedges against many things that cause misery.
Health is something you take for granted when you have it and which overwhelms all other considerations when you lose it. At the height of my weight I also had severe sleep apnea. To be diagnosed with severe sleep apnea you need an AHI over 30. AHI is a measurement of how many times per hour you stop breathing for more than 10 seconds while you sleep. Mine was 80. 100 when sleeping on my back. Thankfully I reversed some of the weight gain but for more than half a year I had to sleep with a cpap device. Not a pleasant experience. Long term it causes cardiovascular damage (as your heart struggles to provide enough oxygen to all your tissues) and contributes to other chronic diseases like diabetes.
Relationships are both overvalued and undervalued. I am not talking just about romantic relationships, but relationships with people in general. When I became depressed I also became more socially isolated. I was always a lone wolf but after high school I took this to extremes. And the lose it or lose it principle comes into play here too. When the depression lifted I found my social skills considerably less polished than they were before.
Mastering the basics doesn’t guarantee greatness, purpose or fulfillment but it is a requirement for just about anything else worth doing.