#4: Rules are illusions.
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I’ll never forget the moment I realized life wasn’t all about me.
An email entered my inbox from a Mexican bloke named Torrio. His email read: “Your articles have helped me a lot. If you could keep writing that would help me a lot.”
This was a strange idea. I was writing for myself. At that time I thought writing was all about reaching ‘influencer status’ and banking enough money to run down to the local Lambo dealership and buy a baby blue one.
Torrio was a wild dude. He would make sure he left a comment on everything I did. These moments that change how we see the world don’t always happen with fireworks in our brain and flashes of lightning outside our window.
An idea that changes your worldview hits you when you least expect it. Torrio’s first message to me was one such moment. Here are a few more.
You’re not here for long
In 2015 I had a near-miss with cancer. I woke up from the anesthetic in a strange hospital when I got the news. It scared the heck out of me.
I looked back on my entire life that day and realized, “you know what, we’re not here for very long.” A decade can go past quickly. A lifetime can disappear in the rearview mirror of time and before you know it you can be on your deathbed in some old people’s home ready to say goodbye before your exit from this world.
I think about this eventual day a lot. When life or people piss me off, I think about how much time we have left alive. Why waste all your time being angry or upset when in the grand scheme of things not a lot matters?
What matters is the work you do, the people you spend time with, the difference you make, and the experiences that bring you joy. Everything else in your life is just noise when compared to your final hours, before you pass away and reincarnate as an octopus.
Treat people ridiculously well
It’s easy to treat people poorly. It takes practice to treat people well.
I found that I was treating people badly for most of my life because I treated myself that way. The trick is to treat yourself well so you can treat others even better. It took me so long to understand that idea.
When the thought of treating people well entered my life and stayed, I found it easier to progress in my career, write online, find love, and discover a tiny bit of happiness in serving the interests of the greater good.
You can treat people well by just listening to them.
Create an avatar of yourself
A social media profile is your avatar for the online world. You live in the real world and learn through the online world.
I was scared to create a social media profile for years out of the fear people would judge me. Eventually, I got over myself and my romantic ideas about content. I set up a profile and started writing without a filter. What followed was something I could never have predicted.
The more content you share on social media, the more chances you have of releasing that one thought that changes the world in a tiny way. I’ve been lucky enough to release a few thoughts into the world that have helped move the conversation forward on topics like mental illness and working for huge corporations.
Imagine what you could do if you used your online avatar to share thoughts rather be held back by invisible backlash.
Rules are illusions
People used to tell me their rules for life. I took them as gospel.
Here are a few examples:
- Be careful what you say online, it could ruin your life.
- Don’t work a job and simultaneously try to be an entrepreneur.
- Avoid career gaps.
- Keep taboo subjects like mental illness to yourself.
- Make a lot of money and your life will be good. Being broke is a terrible idea that will ruin your life.
- The way you think is shaped early in life. You can’t really change it. You’re the finished product of your circumstances, parents, political choices, country of birth, and sexual preferences.
I broke every one of these rules.
Rules are opinions.
The traditional rules are the best ones to break to create a different reality (don’t steal from or kill anybody, obviously).
You could be the octopus
A female octopus lives for about 365 days. After that she dies when she gives birth to her offspring. It’s a sad story really. It’s scary being an octopus and running away from sharks. There are so many bad ways to die.
What if when you die, you become the creature you think you have leverage over or feel sorry for.
I don’t know what happens when you die. But this idea can bring you closer to humanity and all of nature. This idea is how you can have more compassion.
It’s rare to care.
So many people engage with you so they can listen to themselves and gain transactional value from you. What if all you had to do was care a little bit? I have found that when you genuinely care people hear you differently.
The thing is you can’t care about every person and every little thing. Otherwise, you’ll have no bandwidth left to genuinely care for a few people.
Practice showing genuine care to less than five people in your life. You will bring people close, thus bringing yourself closer to humanity.
What is humanity, anyway?
Humanity is unity.
That idea knocked me flat on my face. See, we can’t survive on our own. At some point we will probably need a new planet or a giant renovation of the Earth. We can’t save humanity by ourselves so we will be forced to unite.
Hate, separation, and division don’t keep humanity going; they are what risk humanity’s very existence.
If we are going to survive and let the future generations we give birth to have a place to stay, we are going to have to choose unity over the temptation of blaming, complaining, and shaming sections of society.