“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
Milk the Pigeon is a very small part of a larger movement. It’s part of the “quit doing shit you hate” movement.
It’s part of the “if your job sucks, quit it” movement.
And it’s part of the “if this is my only life, why the hell would I spend it doing things I hate?” movement.
That’s why, as best I can, I try to write some posts that serve as a code to live by for people in this new movement.
I’ve talked about living a life that’s conversation worthy.
And I’ve talked about stopping doing stuff you hate, and doing what you enjoy with your life, in my ebook Killing Your Old Life and Living the Dream.
This post is yet another code of honor to live by, written by one fish in a large pond who is tired of seeing time fly by but so many people remaining miserable.
The following 12 principles, I hope, will provide some food for thought regarding how to make every day like your last.
#1 Thou shalt not live someone else’s dream
“I am not in this world to live up to other people’s expectations,
nor do I feel that the world must live up to mine.”
The first rule of getting a life that doesn’t suck is this: live life how you want to, not how someone (or everyone) else wants you to.
That goes for:
- College graduates who are now doing what their parents (or society) expect them to
- People who have ‘gifts’ that everyone tells them they should capitalize on
- People in general who are tired of what they are doing, and are doing the “correct, expected” thing but aren’t realizing any fruit or happiness from it
I see so many of my friends in life paths that they don’t want to be in. It’s just expected of them, so they assume it’s right.
Multiple friends work financial jobs, multiple friends are becoming doctors, multiple friends are becoming lawyers. How many of them actually want what they’re doing? I think 1.
The rest are just thinking this: “Ehhh it’s alright, it’ll get the job done.”
Don’t do that.
#2 Thou shalt not live vicariously through others
“You only live once, but if you work it right, once is enough.”
It amazes me time and time again that people casually say they live vicariously through someone.
It’s like watching a James Bond movie and wishing you could be him – and actually being him. There is no comparison.
It’s like watching someone doing what they enjoy and wishing you could quit your shitty, meaningless job – and actually doing something meaningful to you. There is no comparison.
Stop living vicariously through others, and start doing exactly what you want with your time here.
After a year has passed, what are you going to have to show for it? If “exactly what I have right now, and I’m still unhappy” is what you’re going to answer, you might want to set aside time and ponder your life.
# 3 Thou shalt not live a life that sucks without making a change
“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”
-Henry David Thoreau
It sounds pretty obvious to not live a life you don’t enjoy, but most people do just that.
We do jobs we dislike. We go home, and instead of doing something worthwhile we watch TV. On the weekend we drink beer with friends and watch more tv.
Years pass, and nothing except our waistlines has changed.
There is no reason why you can’t enjoy 100% of what you do every day. Wake up when you want, work when you want, work on what you want, find challenges in everything you do, make life an adventure day after day after day.
If something in your life makes you miserable day after day, or even if you just aren’t sure about something – stop it. And then figure out what you are sure about. I personally put “I hate” and “I’m not sure” in the same category. They are the “everything except what I know I want” category.
The only difference is this:
Quit shit you hate.
Explore things you aren’t sure about.
That goes for work, friends, where you live, how you spend your time, whether or not you enjoy what you’re doing.. if any facet of your life isn’t enjoyable, change it for chrissakes and quit putting yourself through unnecessary hell.
# 4 Thou shalt not be afraid of the unknown
“Every man, through fear, mugs his aspirations a dozen times a day.”
Monotony is a soul crusher for some people. For me, it’s not necessarily monotony that makes life boring – but the predictability associate with monotony.
When I lived in China for a year life was amplified by 1000. The fear, the fun, the rate of learning, the freshness, the excitement. It was like 10 years packed into one year, both memory-wise as well as learning-wise.
And it’s boldness that is the gift of freedom in escaping monotony. Any time you have a choice between routine and <anything else>, take the anything else.
I really mean that.
If you have the choice between doing what you do every day (even if you enjoy it) and doing something fresh, take the “something new I’ll actually remember at the end of the week.”
If someone asks to go out to dinner, or to an art exhibit, or to rock climbing.. never refuse. Deliberately choosing to do anything to go beyond routine will be the single greatest way to make your life interesting to yourself again.
And boldness – the gift of trying new things despite the fear and uncertainty – is what drives that.
Be bold. Change your world.
# 5 Thou shalt not deliberately be boring
“Boring is already taken. You have no choice but to be awesome.”
Seth Godin loves talking about creative marketing and standing out. And one thing I liked about his book Purple Cow was when he talked about what makes certain things unique.
First things first, obvious – good service is the bare minimum these days. It’s expected. It’s expected that your airplane is going to take off and land in one piece.
It’s unexpected, aka extra-ordinary, that you’ll get a massage and free champagne with your plane ticket, and that’ll “wow” somebody.
Along the lines of standing out, he talked about how everything plain and boring – vanilla ice cream, for example – has already been invented. If you want to invent ice cream flavors these days, you’ve got to be more creative to be extra-ordinary.
And what about people?
Boring is already taken. You have no choice but to be awesome.
The main reason I recommend deliberately not being boring is not so that you can impress or woo others, but so that you can be interesting to yourself. Being interesting to yourself is a sign of accomplishment, knowing that you are at least somewhat invested in your own life and not living vicariously through another.
#6 Thou Shalt not wait until retirement to have all your fun
“In the Deferred Life Plan there will always be another prize to covet, another distraction, a new hunger to sate. You will forever come up short.”
More and more people are realizing that waiting until later to enjoy life not only is a shitty plan but also doesn’t make sense.
Let’s wait until I’m 65 to have fun, when I can’t run, my knees ache, and my prostate is like a watermelon. Pass.
Even young people, whose deferred life plan consists of working up the ranks of the corporate ladder so they can have their high powered corporate job by 33, have this illusion that they’ll be able to live life once they < get / attain / receive > something.
Well, good luck to you.
But this new movement is about current, right-now enjoyment. It’s about process, not product. It’s about people who see waiting to enjoy life as pointless as it really is.
There are a million and one ways and a million and one reasons why you should be doing what you enjoy today and not at all waiting for “some day over the rainbow”.
That means (if you decide it’s worth it), passing on the corporate job (or quitting it) in favor or doing something else for a year.
Spend a year off and invest yourself in skills and memories rather than stuff. I promise, all the stuff (including the corporate job) will be there waiting for you when you get back.
# 7 Thou shalt not believe that “The Greats” are unique
“Those people that are crazy enough to think that they can change the world – they’re the ones that actually do.”
Mediocre minds tends to associate with mediocre minds. The same is true for dreamers and high-achievers. And there is a reason for that; it’s not merely coincidence.
99% of people have themselves fooled into believing they are boring, unattractive, mediocre, and uninspiring… so they are.
It’s just like the super hot girl at the bar. 99% of guys have themselves fooled into thinking, “Man I wonder what kind of guy gets that girl?” And she’s often the loneliest girl in the bar.
People see hugely successful people and think “well, that person has something special about her,” or “she is one in a million,” or “she has resources that I don’t have.”
# 8 Thou shalt not blame others, for anything
“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.”
If your life is not where you want it to be – you accept responsibility for it.
It’s not a matter of who is right or wrong, and it’s not a matter of playing the blame game or not.
It’s a matter of perceived control. If you think that others are the source of your issues, you are powerless.
If you blame yourself and only yourself, you are in control, and everything in your life is your decision as to whether or not you want to change it.
But the reality of blame is that it’s cowardly and shies from responsibility – if you want change because you hate something in your life, grow some stones and change it. It won’t magically happen otherwise.
# 9 Thou shalt not lose motivation over failure
“Success is the best revenge.”
I’m not going to be all fine and dandy when I say “failure is great for experience, which someone can never take away!”
Because it’s not totally true.
Failure sucks, no doubt about it.
I can guarantee that most people who have failed a lot before they succeeded would rather have succeeded the first time – if it were possible.
But there are two methods of thinking about failure.
The first? You get experience from failure.
The second? Failure is a motivator because you decided on day 1 you are going to do whatever it takes to succeed. And failure makes you want to prove yourself even more.
# 10 Thou shalt not work for the “what” in your life, but the “why”
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
We always remember folk heroes for some reason. And that some reason is not that they were the most fearless fighter in history, the biggest badass, or the person who conquered the most villages – we remember them because they stood for something.
William Wallace, Robin Hood, Guy Fawkes. Do any of us really remember the details of what they did, or do we remember why they were doing what they did?
Principles, ideas, and purposes go beyond people – the people become secondary to the story.
Like in one of the last scenes of V for Vendetta, when asked why he won’t die (after being repeatedly shot), he answers:
“Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea,
Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof.“
The paradox of ideas is that ideas don’t necessarily need people, but people are infinitely more powerful with an idea behind them.
If you have a why behind you in life, a code of honor, a reason behind your life, you are powerful beyond your wildest imagination.
# 11 Thou shalt not hope, desire or wish without accompanying action
“The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live.”
Statements about dreams usually are only 50% of the equation, and they go like this: Dream big.
But dreaming big by itself does nothing.
Just like I don’t believe that most million dollar companies come from million dollar ideas, dreams alone are important, but the other 50% of the equation that is neglected is taking action.
Yeah, it’s insulting and logical, but so many people think that the dream will fuel you to see everything through. It’ll probably fuel you for a day or two, and then you’ll start to putt and stutter. And then one day you’ll find inspiration again for a day or two. And then it wanders off…
This sort of oscillation is natural for inspiration, which is why you can’t just rely on dreaming big. You need to rely on having a solid game plan to see you through the end.
Don’t ever wish something was different. Change it.
# 12 Thou shalt not work towards nothing and hope that your “career” will save you or “things will work out”
“Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torment of man.”
The driven / focused / not lost people my age have a cute excuse they like to use. When I ask what they are currently doing with their life, they say, “I’m focusing on my career.”
Hehe. Focusing on your career, eh? Sounds like an excuse for just working and not putting any thought into what you’re doing, or any thought into how you want to be spending your very short time on earth.
Don’t make the same mistake.
It’s like going to graduate school because you think you’re buying yourself time (very very expensive time). You’re not, you’re wasting it, collecting credentials (+ debt) and are still spinning your wheels while trying to deceive everyone around you that you’ve got your shit together.
And don’t assume that “things will work out as they should.” This silly lazy motto is adopted by people who, again, are terrified of serious introspection and don’t have the willingness to look themselves in the mirror and ask what they want from life.
As a creed I hope will unconsciously be adopted by people all over the world, remember this: don’t spend time doing “nothing”, just for the sake of doing “something”.
Spend time doing something that matters to you. Because that’s how you make a dent in the world, that’s how you change the course of human civilization, and that’s how you die knowing your time has mattered here.
This is Milk the Pigeon’s motto: Live Life Boldly. Don’t ever forget it –
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