When I was 23, I started my first company. I didn’t know what I was doing is probably the simplest way to describe it.
All I knew is what I wanted to try and achieve a successful life (whatever that is) and to carve my name into the world. I didn’t think about what I didn’t know but I certainly thought I knew a lot at the same time.
I remember resenting those around me who commented on my age as if it were some form of discrimination; and perhaps it was. I think it’s ironic that we spend our youth trying to be older and then our old age trying to be younger. Most people never learn to be ok with the present; always praying for magical beans while neglecting to water the plant.
But then that’s the great thing about youth – you are still seeing things for the first time and it’s still open to interpretation. You brush off ye olde experienced types as ‘over the hill’ and then a few years later you realise that your similar cries of warning to your younger peers are being treated with the same disregard. Life’s cruel like that.
Sometimes the youth teach us a thing or two and it’s why this system exists. Just maybe you will take over the world and revolutionise; don’t feel like a failure if you don’t. I am constantly reminded that the constant failures are the ones with the most interesting story to tell and the richest recipe. They’ve learned there’s more to soup than just water and vegetables.
It’s imperative to mention at this point that my path of grumpy old man-dom is still a long way away but I hope that I can share just some of my experiences to help my friends. This isn’t about growing up or having lots to learn; rather it’s about growing ‘into’ and ensuring you stop to appreciate what you have learned rather than dwell about what you haven’t.
23 for me was discussions of making millions, being a somebody, showing people a thing or two and perhaps most of all, world domination. I hear that phrase a lot and I think it’s worth exploring.
Since time begun, Man has been addicted to and fascinated with taking over the world for some interpreted belief. Whether it’s a side of the street, a town, a country, company, an idea or even just the office, there’s a power monger to be found. Sometimes there’s a specific agenda; other times there’s just the romance of being seen as king ding-a-ling.
If only Hitler knew his side project of making a people’s car (VW) would end up being a dominant automotive power, we could have saved a lot of misery.
Yesterday we called it world domination but then we realised it was a little Pinky and the Brain and its comedic connotations meant we weren’t taken seriously. So nowadays, we call it changing the world. Somehow it’s more politically correct and lands a softer blow to our imaginations.
Maybe we do want to change the world; perhaps it’s our version of territorial dog peeing. I think it’s actually to do with our own insecurities. We believe that personal sacrifice no matter the cost is the path to nobility; others call it martyrdom and we bomb them back into the stone-age – and we’re using our intelligence to convince ourselves otherwise.
I suppose it’s easier to point to a distant object in the sky and sell to those who can’t see it; it’s not so easy to convince you there’s something in my empty hands when we’re both a foot away.
It turns out that we haven’t changed nor are we that different from each other. We want the best for ourselves and our families, yet we’re oddly prepared to bet our souls and futures to win some pride. Is it a fool’s paradise or just an elite country club we all want to be a part of? Is there a difference?
I wrote about passion a week or so ago and queried what we really mean when we drop powerful and emotive words to describe a hobby that once upon a time started and ended wars. I’m going to add world domination to that list.
So much of our time and energy is invested in dominating the world at large that the majority of us neglect the world in front of us. The most important world of all – yours.
This isn’t a commercial for fatty yoghurt targeted at housewives, but rather a hard stare at the facts. From your diet, to your relationships, your sleep, your creative outlets, your heart and your warmth. We trade them all for a bigger pay check, greater wisdom and more social confidence. We act as if people and time are plentiful; common commodities to be traded and utilised.
We dutifully climb to the top, tick a box and then go forth to try and claw back what we readily gave away. Only problem is, we now have perspective from up on high and it’s not always what we thought it would look like and sadly, things we deeply cared for but sacrificed are mere remains.
The mental health industry is booming because of loss and regret.
So at 28, what have I learned since 23? Well let me give you a list and I’m sure in time I’ll elaborate and add to these in future posts. Whatever your age, just maybe these will help you. I’d love to hear yours too if you care to share them in the comments below.
- Love can be blind and consuming; and that’s a great thing. Don’t try to sterilise it or hide from it.
- My life is richer because of the people in it, not in spite of them. I won’t take them for granted as they don’t make replacements.
- Don’t get obsessed with finding out ‘why’. Let why find you. If you forcibly burn through the ‘what’ and ‘who’ with distorted conviction, you can end up with a great vision and an empty wallet and phonebook. This only leads back to more ‘why’ and it’s a downward spiral.
- Life doesn’t go in a set sequence apart from birth and death. It’s a scribble not a diagram. Appreciate the art; analysis is just emotional hindsight.
- Let yourself feel pain, failure, hurt, shame, embarrassment, loss and sadness. Cry as a man. You’re not weaker because of it. You’re finally being human and not a robot. Take solace that those who mock you have their own demons.
- Communicate as much as you can; it’s the only thing keeping us together.
- Guarding your heart will only cheat you out of love in the long run
- Be kind and patient to those who want to understand; succinct and efficient with those who won’t.
- Always trust your instinct even if it means you’ll be late or miss out. If you ignore it long enough, it falls out of conscience and it doesn’t grow back.
- Be selective and particular about your choices; they don’t care about the consequences as much as you will
- You’ll know in your heart what’s worth fighting for. Fight honourably and keep it tight. Messy battles will bewilder and drain you.
- Give everything you have to someone else. They might discard it and reject you or they might have found what they’ve been looking for and cherish it. You won’t know until you try. Keep trying.
- Learn to let go of things. Regret, resentment, anger and fear just seeks to kill you.
- Don’t value your interior by the exterior of others. Perception is reality and everyone’s lying to some extent because we’re all scared of judgement and rejection.
- Treat others the way you want to be treated even when they are treating you badly. It’s not for them, it’s for you.
- Never invalidate or disregard someone who wants to share with you; it’s the greatest gift of all.
- Only I know that there are tears on my pillow; make decisions you can live with even if they’re not popular with your parents, your friends or your peers.
- What comes easily to you might be years of study for others. Be willing to teach as they’re likely to do something easily that you struggle with.
- Don’t believe you’re better than others or treat them with disdain. If you’re lost and angry because your ironing lady left a crease, she’s not the useless one.
- Your family and your partner aren’t distractions, burdens or a work/life balance. They’re the who, the what and the why – and there’s nothing wrong with that.
World domination hasn’t ever been about helping the greater good. It’s always been about man’s fear of mastering his own small world first. The real world you live in has people, stories, relationships and emotions. If you close these out with the belief that learning and success is just a supply chain of milestones, you will grow older but you won’t grow wiser.