Monthly Archives: June 2020

“No matter what happens, I will be okay.”

There is a lot going on in the world right now.

A pandemic. Protests. Mass unemployment. Riots. Everywhere you look, there is something to worry about or be anxious about – and thanks to the 24/7 news cycle and social media, even smaller events that aren’t part of a larger story get turned into a bigger issue than they actually are.

But for the most part, there’s a lot of stuff to legitimately worry about right now.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. It’s easy to feel like the world is a chaotic mess, that you are powerless, and that you are a victim at the whims of random chance.

I don’t want to feel or think this way. I don’t think it’s useful, or healthy. Instead, I’m trying to adopt a belief I’ve heard in a few places:

“No matter what happens, I will be okay.”

Let’s be clear: This is a belief. This is a mindset. This is a narrative. This is not a statement of certainty about the future, this a statement about how to interpret the things that happen to you – and a statement to help choose how to react to the world around you.

Think of the small things people dread on a daily basis. Asking someone out, and getting laughed at. Asking for a raise, and having it rejected. Speaking your mind, and having people disagree with you. Then think of the larger fears: Disease, war, natural disasters.

You might get rejected. You might be in the middle of a natural disaster. These things might happen to you. Just remember:

“No matter what happens, I will be okay.” It’s not a statement of being immune to disaster, it’s a statement that whatever happens:

  1. The things you fear won’t be as bad as you think they are
  2. You are capable of getting through whatever life throws at you
  3. If worst comes to worst, problems can be solved, and you’ll be okay in the end

It’s a statement of confidence. You believe in yourself. You have a mindset dedicated to empowering you in the face of life, rather than being anxious. And you have a narrative that turns the disasters and challenges of life into solved problems.

It’s very difficult to solve a problem or face a challenge if you don’t fundamentally believe in yourself.

“No matter what happens, I will be okay” isn’t about arrogance, narcissism, or false confidence in the face of life. Bad things can happen to you just like everyone, and chances are you won’t enjoy them. But in the end, you’ll still have yourself, and have learned something for when you face tomorrow. This too will pass, and you might even emerge from your trials stronger.

It’s going to be very hard to believe this if you’ve lacked confidence for your entire life – but now is the time to start trying. Start being a little more honest – or at least lie less. Do something that scares you every day, even if it just means trying a new food. Talk to someone you’ve never talked to before – especially that cute girl/boy/person that makes you nervous. Start thinking about how to get through disasters and challenges, and not just how much you don’t like them. Act like you’ll be okay, until you believe it.

We live in interesting times, times that grow more interesting by the day. But whatever happens, whatever comes up, whatever challenge gets thrown your way, just remember:

“No matter what happens, I will be okay.”

Memento Mori: You Will Die Someday

You are going to die someday.

You can try to forget about it. You can ignore it. You can try to deny it. You can even pin your hopes on the Singularity, cryonics, or medical nanobots that go inside your body and fix all of your health problems – personally, I’m not going to bet on them, no matter what Ray Kurzweil says. Chances are, like every other human being who has ever lived, you are going to die someday.

You’re not going to live forever.

If you live in a developed country, have access to healthcare, and don’t get hit by a bus, your average life expectancy is somewhere around 80 years old – plus or minus a few years. If you’re female, add a few years. If you’re lucky, you’ll live into your 90s, and if you’re very lucky, past 100.

That’s less time than you think. Take 80 years, and subtract your current age – that’s probably how long you have left, and the years probably passed by quicker than you thought they would.

If I could give everyone in the world a message, I’m not sure what I would pick – but one candidate would be “Memento Mori.”

Memento Mori is latin for “remember that you must die.” You can find the idea throughout art and philosophy, but it is especially popular with the Stoics.

“Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. … The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.” Seneca

“Memento Mori” a reminder that you are mortal, and you have one chance to live your life well.

Live your life as fully and excellently as you can right now – because the current moment is all you’re going to have. Stop wasting time on things you don’t want to do, or things you know that you shouldn’t do. Stop doing things you know you’re going to regret at age 80. Stop putting off the things you’ve been dreaming of for years, waiting for the perfect moment.

There is no perfect moment. There is only your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time.

Do the work! – whatever that means to you. Make something you’re proud of – especially if you’re looking back on your life so far, and don’t have much to be proud of right now. Start thinking about your legacy, and what kind of impact you want to have on the world when the final chapter of your life is written.

You don’t know when that final chapter is going to be written. You might be in the final pages.

Memento Mori, reader.

Dear Perfectionists: Lower Your Standards

I am a recovering perfectionist.

Throughout my life, I’ve always tried to do things perfectly, from my daily work to my daily habits – the end result being that I rarely get started with anything, let alone finish anything.

Take it from me: this is not a recipe for success. This is a recipe for a lifetime of wasted potential, unfinished dreams, and constant disappointment.

So I have a message for perfectionists:

Lower your standards.

That doesn’t necessarily mean being lazy and doing a terrible job (you already know how to do that). It means lower your standards for your habits, and for the work you’re willing to put out into the world.

From now on, the goal is no longer to do things perfectly or create masterpieces – the goal is the produce, create, and finish.

Your goal is to get things done, not get things perfect.

This doesn’t just apply to obvious things like writing a book or essay, it applies to everything.

Don’t set out with the goal of exercising for an hour – you’re probably not going to do it. Set out with the goal of exercising for 10 minutes, or 5 minutes, or even just 1 minute. Set the easiest possible exercise goal, and build up from there.

Don’t set the goal of meditating for an hour – at least at first. Meditate for 5 minutes, or even 1 minute. Start small, and build from there.

Read 1 page a day, and build from there.

Floss 1 tooth a day, and build from there.

Write 1 terrible page a day, and build from there.

Hell, write a single word, and build from there.

Building a product, or service? Create the crappiest possible version of it, and then build from there.

Start small. Start easy. Get the first and worst version of whatever you’re thinking about out of your head and into the world as quickly as possible.

Motivation is fleeting, and inspiration is like lightning – never hitting the same place twice. If you keep waiting for the perfect moment or perfect idea, you’ll be waiting forever. Habits and discipline are better in the long term, and you need to build those up over time. Start small. Very small. Extremely small. Start with the smallest and easiest version.

Make it as easy as possible to start – and build from there.

The people who get the most done are the people willing to produce the most work – even work they aren’t very happy with and will cringe at later.

You did a terrible job? Fine. At least you did something at all, when most people can’t even say that much. It’s not your best work? No one cares, and no one will remember it – whether you’re building a business or painting a portrait, we only remember the best 10-20 things any creator did. You could have done that habit better? Excellent! You have room to improve.

Stop waiting for the heavens to open and the gods of creativity or the gods of productivity to take over your body. Get started. Stop aiming for perfect. Make something. Build something. Produce the worst version of the work or habit you want, and improve later. Make it as easy as possible, and get it out of your head. You can revise it later, fix it later, and make it better later. The first step is to actually have something in front of you that you can improve.

Lower your standards. Get started.