Creating a Conversation Worthy Life

by Alexander Heyne · 13 comments

Maybe it was yesterday, or today, or will be tomorrow.

But at some point you’ll get tired of living a mediocre life, about a whole lot of nothing, filled with tons of work with no inherent purpose.

Regardless of when that time hits (it always does), here are some suggestions for how to make your life conversation-worthy.

I will try to avoid the obvious suggestions, but some points are so painstakingly obvious that they are overlooked unless repeated.

This list is a quest for each person to ask themselves: Will anyone give a shit if I die? What will they remember about me?

1. Be a story teller

“No storyteller has ever been able to dream up anything as fantastically unlikely as what really does happen in this mad Universe.”

-Lazarus Long

Everyone has experienced being in the presence of a master storyteller:  Time freezes for those 5, 10, or 15 minutes.  It was like you were transported into the action, your heart rate elevates, your palms sweat a little, and if someone interrupts the story you go all spider monkey on their ass.

Storytelling is one of the oldest traditions of humanity.  It is an incredibly powerful way to captivate people and want to have them hear more from you.  Jot down a couple of your best memories or stories and pass them on at social gatherings.

2. Do something you enjoy

“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

-Carl Buechner

A conversation-worthy life is born from something worth talking about.  If there is nothing special in your life — your job, your girlfriend, your aspirations, your day to day schedule, your hobbies… then you obviously have nothing to talk about.

That makes it pretty hard to to stimulate conversation.  Plus, people can see it in your eyes when you talk about something you’re passionate about.  It’s contagious.

3. Learn to speak to the inner child

“The most sophisticated people I know – inside they are all children. ”

-Jim Henson

Ever wonder why “pursue your dreams” has become one of those severely overused sayings?

I think it’s because it connects with an ancient, original part of our character – the child who is unrestricted in his thinking, dreaming, and daily activities.  Do you ever tell a child not to start a lemonade stand because she’ll never make big bucks off it?

Hell no! You’re a real bastard if you do!

I’ve found a surprising truth out about people (no matter the age): if you ask them about their original dreams, their singular purpose and passion in life, you’ll begin to see a spark in their eye you may never have seen before.

4. Do something incredible, stand for something incredible, or challenge something incredible

“As long as you’re going to be thinking anyway, think big.”

-Donald Trump

There are clear other ways to stand out too.  Do something incredible — invent the next iPhone of our time.  Stand for something incredible — be the Ghandi of our time.  Or challenge our notions of something we already think is incredible or a given — be the Copernicus of our time.

5. Be really, really useful to others

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

A sad fact of the world is that people who often get to that wealthy, successful, famous stage forget to come back down and help others.

In Buddhism, a Bodhisattva is a being who has reached enlightenment but doesn’t fly out and say what up to god — instead, it stays and helps others.  Now that’s cool.

I sometimes feel like success is found in concentric circles – people around the same level of achievement find each other and bind together, but rarely interact with the lower echelons.  Think about ripples in a pond.  There is a ripple that grows equally on all sides, but is disconnected from the future smaller circles.

Instead, the people in the new, smaller circle eventually find each other until they once again can grow into a larger ripple in a pond.

You’d  be one hell of a decent person if you broke that cycle and helped others get to where you are.

Mind-blowing content alone definitely does not guarantee people will find you. A sad truth.

So one of the key ways to be remarkably unique is, in the midst of fame, never to forget about the small guy.

6. If you aren’t inherently memorable, hang out with memorable people

“People never improve unless they look to some standard or example higher and better than themselves.”

-Tyron Edwards

Some people think they aren’t very interesting or don’t have anything interesting to talk about. That may or may not be true.

However, hanging around people often lets you bring out stories you may never knew you had, goals people never knew about, or re-kindle old hobbies.  Everyone has gems you never knew about before.

7. Read as much as you can, about everything

“To read is to fly: it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many inquiries.”

-A.C. Grayling

There is something really qualitatively different about talking to someone who reads a lot. I’m not necessarily talking about news, although that counts, but information.  Someone who is varied in their interests: a reader of philosophy, fiction, business, kung fu, tea.

It is one of my greatest pleasures in life to sit down to a glass of [ tea, coffee, wine ] and talk with someone who has a lot of varied interests.  I don’t know why conversations are so inherently fun.  Maybe because you question a lot of previous assumptions? Or maybe it’s because life is fresh for a moment as you consider something new.

Anyway, you’ll definitely remember the guy who tells you: “Hey did you know that barnacles have the largest penis of any animal, relative to their size?” Yup, he’s a keeper!

8. Do first, share later, and never reveal all your secrets

“If you don’t like the way the world is, you change it. You have an obligation to change it. You just do it one step at a time.”

-Marian Wright Edelman

This one’s killer. A lot of people I tend to look up to are those who have accomplished things and never mentioned them.

“Whaaaaaat, I never knew you ran a marathon?!”

“No way, you had 15 gerbils as a kid?”

“You once saved a unicorn from  a freak gasoline fight accident?”

Amazing! It’s not news to anyone that people who walk their talk command way more respect than most other people.  And the walk does the talking for you.

So what about your secrets? It works the same way as intrigue in dating.  Never let everyone get all your goods at the start, keep them guessing and you’ll have a clinger.  Be mysterious or deliberately vague.  Frustrate people but be playful.

9. Be diversified and a connector

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

-Helen Keller

I’m guilty here, the first time I read about being diversified rather than a specialist, I thought: Bullshit! I want to be famous for just one thing and one thing only.  Keep my life simple, straightforward, uncomplicated.

Well guess what, that’s boring as hell.  In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell talks about connectors (ya know, those socialites that know everyone). One of their key characteristics? Varied hobbies, pursuits, and locales they frequent.

Be varied.  It’s better for you, your ability to be conversation-worthy, and for your ability to break free from boredom.

10. Be Playful

“Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature.”

-Tom Robbins

This consistently ranks pretty high on the “qualities loved in a significant other” list. Why?

Playful people are more fun, more adventurous, more spontaneous, more varied, more open to change, more willing to laugh, more likely to try new things.

Why wouldn’t you want that?

11. Have a sales pitch in life < your story >

“Everyone is necessarily the hero of his own life story.”

-John barth

It’s always kind of cool when you meet someone with a real underlying theme to their life.

“Ever since I witnessed how awful my parents were, I’ve dedicated my life to saving kids from child abuse.”

“I was born into a wealthy family where I didn’t have to worry about much and had the free time to pursue what I loved. I hope I can pass that on and do the same for others — be a benefactor to humanity.”

“My parents were divorced four or five times, and I was moving to new countries every few months throughout my childhood.  All I want is to find one guy I really love and be the best mother I can to a couple amazing kids.”

People like stories.  But even more, we like the justification behind things, especially if it’s a story because it makes us seem human.

12. Have a code of honor

“Get beyond love and grief: exist for the good of Man.”

-Miyamoto Musashi

There’s a book called Dokkodo written by Miyamoto Musashi (the greatest swordsman that ever lived).

His book literally translates to “the way of walking alone” or “the path of aloneness.”  It is his own personal code of honor that he wrote just before his death.

Why have a code of honor? It reinforces to others that you have principles your life is based upon.  It shows that you have your head together.  And it makes you seem like a badass.  You are respectable.

Some of Musashi’s personal statements are as follows:

#4. Think lightly of yourself, and deeply of the world.

#11. In all things have no preferences.

#17. Do not fear death.

#19. Respect Buddha and the gods without counting on their help.

#20. You may abandon your own body but you must preserve your honor.

#21. Never stray from the Way.

13. Get your shit straight (Be a simple [wo]man)

“The world makes way for the man who knows where he is going.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

That’s not a question. That’s a statement.  Always try to be a better person: more cultivated, stronger, wiser, more business-smart, more generous, more passionate, more willing to help others.

Also try to be less: simplify your life in the truest sense possible.  Narrow your life purpose to just three things. A hobby, your passion/work, and your family. Be large in your thinking but small in your desire.

Know what you want every day of your life.  If one day you wake up and things feel off, change it.  Ever met someone who always knows exactly what they want from life?

The whole universe makes way for that person.

 

 

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Jon Morris August 7, 2013 at 10:45 pm

I really enjoyed reading that. It’s funny though that you say, ‘don’t tell your secrets’ because I feel you invest quite a bit of yourself in your writing, quite a deep part. Brave and vulnerable in the best ways, your words have the weight of secrets. Thanks

Reply

Alexander Heyne August 10, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Hey Jon,

Haha, I don’t really see any other way… I think the world needs to hear this ! Otherwise, save some secrets for yourself ;)

– Alex

Reply

Eva November 12, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Just found your website today (while at the job I hate being at). It is great, been reading for a while now and can identify with almost 100% of what you say. Just have a quick question for you: “Be large in your thinking but small in your desire” on #13 …that sort of contradicts your whole philosophy to stop thinking to be happy. What do you mean?

I am a thinker…a very unhappy thinker…always trying to figure out the reason for everything I, and other people, do.

Reply

Alexander Heyne December 5, 2013 at 11:50 am

Hey Eva,

You’re right. I picked the quote encouraging people to “think big and go for your dreams” , but that doesn’t mean think a lot or be a constant thinker. Does that make sense?

Reply

eden salilig September 4, 2014 at 3:35 am

I keep bookmarking all the articles I read from your site. I’m so glad I discovered your blog. The advice are not very cliche and it’s definitely opened my eyes to a lot of things. Keep it up Alex!

Reply

Alexander Heyne September 7, 2014 at 11:04 am

Haha, thanks Eden :-).

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Erwin Cuellar May 5, 2015 at 4:14 am

I definitely agree with your statement on helping the small guy become successful. I myself went to college and got into a good-paying finance career. One of the reasons I left to start my own business was to employ the people that weren’t as lucky as I was to be naturally intelligent, go to college and more. While I now make less money than I did before, I have one full-time employee and a few part-timers. My main employee is 60-years old and it’s so fulfilling to know that I can provide enough work, exciting work, decent to well-paid work, to someone who didn’t have this before.

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Bruce Hering July 30, 2015 at 11:03 am

Very good stuff! I am getting geared up to write a book/blog about “life in general” and how success is not always rewarded in the ways people assume it would be. I have experienced the phenomenon of getting metaphorically shoved to the ground when it was perceived that I was “doing too much”. I was truly shocked that some people would resent someone accomplishing a positive goal! The challenge for me now is to write in a way that focuses on the positive aspect of succeeding and not getting bogged down with the naysayers in the story. Thanks for your inspiration. Do you have any advice for me?

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