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Monday, February 18, 2013

From Me At 50 To Me At 20

Dear Me At 20,

Here are a few suggestions for your next 30 years:

  1. Show up. Learn how to be completely present here and now. Give your presence to people. That will allow you to have amazing friendships and relationships.
  2. Pay attention. You'll be amazed to know how powerful your attention is. Learn how to use it. Meditate, concentrate, let it expand and contract. Learn how to sense beyond what you can see, hear, taste, touch and smell. Your attention is a core power in this world. At some point see if you can discover where your attention arises from. It might blow your mind.
  3. Participate. Your temperament tends to put you in a more observational role, but that also sometimes leaves you feeling left out of things that you really want to be a part of. Go ahead and join whatever party is going on. Have at least one good conversation before you go home.
  4. Eat real food. You don't notice it now because you're still young but the fast food, the soft drinks and the junk food are killing you slowly. You're making yourself sick. Buy locally grown, fresh and nutritious food and cook for yourself as often as possible. And don't feel like you have to eat everything on your plate. Leftovers are OK.
  5. Exercise every day. You have a propensity toward laziness. Get off your ass and get in the habit of moving your body and maintaining your strength. Swim, walk, water ballet...whatever. If you make it a habit, you'll miss it when you can't find time.
  6. Don't confuse attraction for love. Love at first sight is exciting, thrilling, stimulating and fun. Trouble is, most of the time it's not really love, it's attraction. There is a difference. Love happens as you really get to know someone and let them know you. The real you. Attraction also isn't a sufficient basis for a relationship. It can leave just as quickly as it appeared. Then what? Love takes willingness, communication, effort and persistence. It has to see you through some not so easy times. It's also worth pursuing.
  7. Always have health and dental insurance. Even if you have to choose between taxes and insurance, choose insurance. The government will take installments. As you get older you'll need to have it. A health crisis can happen to anyone at any time. If you don't have insurance it will almost certainly ruin your finances and place limits on your ability to work from that point on. Even though it's a racket, it's expensive and you don't like it, pay for it anyway.
  8. Do what you love for the love of it. If you can make a living at it without losing your love of it, great! If it's not sustainable, don't try to make it so. You love music? Great! Join a rock band and go for it. Go for it now before you decide to settle down and have a family. If you're going to do what you love for a living, you need to know all that you can about running a business, because that's what it is. You need to know about profit and loss, business planning, contracts, collaborating, entrepreneurship, and so much more. Not even a business degree can prepare you. Find people who are successful in business and ask them to be your guides and mentors. And learn when to ask for help. DIY is a one way ticket to burnout. If you would rather spend your time creating rather than bookkeeping, hire a bookkeeper.
  9. Discover your gift. You already know what it is, but you don't realize just how special it is. You take it for granted because it comes so easily for you. It's not something you've learned how to do, nor is it a special aptitude or talent. Your gift is who you are in the world, not so much what you do. You'll know what it is because people come to you for this all the time. In every conversation your gift just seems to happen. Your gift is also what you're here to share. People need it, want it and value it. When you're looking for a career, a job, an opportunity, or a way to serve, always start with your gift. It's self energizing and you will both deliver and gain much joy just in sharing it.
  10. Learn a new skill every year. Knitting, graphic design, computer programming, photography, acting, public speaking, stand up comedy, creative writing, recording, film making, video editing, auto mechanics. These are more than just hobbies. They are things that will enrich and inform every other aspect of your life. They'll help make you an interesting person to know, and they'll help you meet people you otherwise wouldn't.
  11. Don't spend too much time alone. I know you're an introvert, but going for several days without human contact is going to mess you up in a number of ways. Social life matters, as does just being a part of the community that surrounds you. Community is where you'll find everything you need to thrive. Isolation keeps you in poverty.
  12. Identify your specific desires and learn how to ask for their fulfillment. Overcome your fear of rejection by opening your mouth and asking for exactly what you want. 'No' is not a problem. Silence is. Your silence is your guarantee that your need will most likely go unmet. Your resources are abundant and available for the asking.
  13. Trust your intuition implicitly. Your hunches can be counted on. Gut feelings are there to help you make decisions in real time. Don't second guess them.
  14. Use your imagination every day. Envision your desired life as exactly as you can. Imagine every outcome exactly as you'd like it to unfold. Imagine every aspect of how it feels to have the life you want in vivid multi-dimensional technicolor.
  15. Let your passion help you direct your energy. Serve the people and things that you genuinely, deeply care about. Your passion and your gift together help you to understand the purpose of your life, and that understanding is the the beginning of a very meaningful path for you. 
  16. Once a month or more, identify one person that you'd really like to know and invite them to lunch. Prepare for the lunch by doing some research about them so that you can actually ask them questions that mean something. Write down your questions if you need to, but be very thoughtful about each one. End the conversation by asking if there is anything you can do to help the person. You just never know.
  17. Your family deserves your best. Don't hesitate to give it to them. Even when you are exhausted, angry, hungry or needing to be alone. 
  18. Be nice. This one isn't always easy for you. Sometimes you can be a real bear, and not in the teddy sense. Your arrogance doesn't help much either. You really don't know as much as you think you do, and you will never stop learning. I'm not saying you have to be phony about it, but at the very least you can manage to have decent manners. Your mother has made sure that you know what they are. Use them.
  19. Complaining about the system without working to change things is a cop out. If you're not going to do something about it, shut up. Otherwise get involved and make something good happen.
  20. Screw the golden rule. Treat other people how they want to be treated. That requires that you actually find out what they want first. Try it.
I'm sure there are more, but 20 is a nice round number to stop at. These aren't commandments, just suggestions. But they may help your life be a little more easy, sweet and meaningful. Take care,

Love,

Me At 50