Time scares the shit out of me.
You see, for a long time getting older was a reminder that I lost a year. In my head I was saying “You’ve got one less year to start doing the really important stuff in life. One less year to piss away.”
It’s not surprising then that most people also hate getting older. The clock is ticking, slowly counting down.
I’ve addressed this feeling of life passing you by before, but here’s another revelation: the people who are scared shitless by time are those that aren’t living the life they actually want to be living.
Makes sense right? If today, tomorrow and the next day you aren’t enjoying life, one less day is one less day.
But what about people who do feel they’re on their path?
I had an interesting conversation with a friend recently – the same one I profiled in the manifesto.
When you find your path, when you’re in a life that you feel like you’re supposed to be in, time intrigues you. You think, “Wow, this stuff is awesome, I can’t wait to see how much I know (or how good i’ll be) in 5 or 10 years.”
It’s exciting! You look forward to the coming years. You can’t wait to keep following the path and see where it leads. It’s the exact opposite of what most of us live. Everywhere around me I see people dreading that next birthday. It’s a cultural joke now, “Ahhh christ, alright It’s my 5th 25th birthday!”
When you’re not “on your path” time feels like you’re going away from something important.
But when you’ve found it, you’re sprinting down a path and can’t wait to see what’s next.
Everyone else is irrelevant; competition doesn’t matter
The alchemist is my favorite book for a reason – the premise being that we all need to find and pursue our personal legend.
When you find your personal legend, time becomes irrelevant. Many people (myself included) have this whacked out idea that “if only I were <something> NOW, life would be good.”
“If only I had my own business and could quit my job now, life would be good.”
“If only my wife and I were living in Paris for a sabbatical, life would be good.”
“If only I switched jobs and were working an awesome new job, life would be good.”
We want to skip to the finale. We want to bypass all the bullshit and jump into the meat. Obviously that can’t happen though. You need a beginning and a middle for there to be an end.
Time doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because you can’t rush finding your “path.” Three years ago I wanted to be fully self-employed. Life had other plans – three years of failures, which led me to my current self employment path. You can’t rush it – since life rarely goes according to plan.
Competition also doesn’t matter. You don’t compare yourself to anyone because you have found your path. it’s no one else’s but your own. You know you were born for it. Do you think young people that go into the priesthood compare themselves to their 29 year old buddies making 6 figures in New York City?
Doubt it! Different paths. Different ambitions. Different dreams.
The problem is that sometimes we convince ourselves we also want what other people want (even when it’s not true).
So when you’re on your path, when your dad asks about your lawyer friend making 120k his first year out of grad school, you feel confident rather than insecure. “Not my path,” you say to yourself. And you know it to be true.
I’m just doing my thing. You’re just doing yours.
Why you keep getting lost
The other day I was in New York City meeting two friends just to catch up about life.
I also have been thinking of making a move to the big city recently, so I figured I’d ask them each some questions on what New York city life was like. I wanted an insider’s perspective.
And you know what’s interesting? They both told me exact opposite things.
One told me something that scared the shit out of me, and made me feel like I was going to be eaten alive and have my entire personality changed. He said I’d become a manwhore, workaholic, then an alcoholic. Then leave the city once my health, prostate, and dreams were ruined.
The other said: “Look, the city is what you make it. It eats you alive only if you let it, only when you lose focus and let it eat you up, and only when you associate with people like that, too.”
How could that be? Two people, same place, same people, different perception. Almost 180 degrees.
It made me realize something important: the people who get sidetracked and lost in life are the ones that lose their focus on the important stuff.
They’re the ones who let their friends and family (or the city they live in) determine their life path.
New York city is a lot like life – it’ll eat you up if you let it. If you lose sight of the really important stuff, you’re just going to get swept into everyone else’s plan.
If you lose site of your plan (or you don’t have a plan and don’t know what you want), then everything can easily sidetrack you.
Your parents’ plan. Your girlfriend’s plan. Your friends’ plan.
You have no center to go back to and check up on.
You decide to ask other people for their opinion. You crowdsource decisions. You read lots of books and essays. You try to get a massive amount of information, which gives you the illusion that you’re making a smarter decision, but you’re not.
You’re ignoring you.
How to find your path again, and why you should ignore pretty much everyone
Virtually everyone gets sidetracked at one point or another. But some people never end up finding their path, and one day wake up thinking “how the hell did I get in this life?”
In fact, this is one of the most shockingly common emails I get from people over 40: “I’m stuck in a life I never chose. It just happened to me. And here I am.”
And here’s why: they listened to everyone else.
I’ve often talked about how, in life, it’s the blind leading the blind. Not that that’s a bad thing, it’s just that no one has it figured out – we’re all at the mercy of the seas.
If I listened to everyone else, here would’ve been the moves I would’ve made:
For relationships: “If you found a great girl, stay with her and go get a good job and start a family! I’d hate to see you leave her behind.”
Another: “Don’t ever let a woman prevent you from doing everything in life.”
For work: “Go get the nice stable job and get that $$$. Make bank now and become a workaholic so you don’t have to later.”
Another: “Go off and go on adventures, work in hostels, take jobs as they come, live an adventurous life. You only get one!”
For life: “Life is tough, you gotta be realistic, hunker down and work hard.”
Another: “Dream. Do all the stuff you want. Travel, learn languages, check things off your bucketlist. Do it all. Take it easy. Have fun. You only get one.”
If I listened to people, I would’ve been pretty fucked in the head by now. Everyone says something different. Who in the hell am I supposed to trust? Do you see how that works?
You’re getting lost because you’re listening to everyone else. Stop crowdsourcing your deepest questions about life.
Ignore Everyone. Ignore Age. Ignore Time. Do what you need to do for yourself – and listen to you
Stop worrying about time.
Stop worrying about people.
Stop worrying about your age.
Start doing what you know you need to do for yourself.
Stop asking everyone else to answer the tough questions in life. They’re just as lost as you are.
Stop asking outside of you for the answers you probably already know within you. It sounds cheesy as hell but western folks really suck at using their intuition. We consider logic and rational analysis to be the king of all skills.
But most of the time we have an intuition about every situation and every person, but we ignore it because we don’t trust it.
Oh, and don’t forget to repeat this to yourself… “people only fear age because they aren’t already enjoying life and haven’t found meaning, so age reminds them that they have one less year to start doing the shit that really matters.”
Time is irrelevant. Age doesn’t matter. The only important thing is that you start doing for yourself what you intuitively know you must do.
Image: Old dude