Important Life Lessons to Fall Back Upon
The Artist is no other than he who unlearns what he has learned, in order to know himself — E.E. Cummings
While writing full-time for almost three years now, I have spent a lot more time looking inwards (and would continue to do so) than I did before. When I reflect on myself, I am able to look outwards with more compassion and a deeper understanding of life. And this growing insight into the external world and my own form the roots of my personal growth and my art, both of which, in turn, feed the soil with the dew from their leaves.
Learning paves way for more learning.
In this piece, I share everything that I have learned so far as a writer and from before. I believe that all that was important must have made itself available to my mind and heart while I was writing the article. And if I have missed something, either I do not care about it enough or it will appear in some form later and is not crucial until then.
Though this is more a cheat sheet for me and less an article for a reader looking for the wisdom of life, I hope I have shared some experience that will help you sail along this immense sea of life with a bit more ease. I am 32 years old, and this list of life learnings is long so you can skip ahead and read a section (all are randomly arranged with short titles) or go grab a coffee and then come back later to continue from where you left.
By Caspar David Friedrich / Public domain
Work, Skills, and Perseverance.
Quoting Galib or Bukowski or Edison doesn’t make anyone a poet or a writer or a visionary. Ideas hit hard as a hailstorm by living a dedicated life. 1
You will have to put in immense effort to create a remarkable life. There is also a teeny-tiny factor of luck. 2
Things take their course. Hydrate yourself with patience. 3
You can only shift the world right now, not in five minutes. 4
In simple terms —The quality of the 10,000 hours you spend to build skills is significant. The number of hours I sit on the chair to write is important, but the number of hours I don’t know if I was on the chair is even more important. Don’t pretend, do. 5
A tiny bit and one more tiny bit and another tiny bit matters̶ more than one large bit. The sum of many small things might not be greater than one big one, but several intangible forces start working in your favor when you are consistent. 6
Your honesty aids you more than it benefits anyone else. 7
Honesty is a formless invincible savior. 8
Personality and Behavior.
A good life is not defined by work or relationships. The size of your bungalow or the freshness of the kingfish at dinner doesn’t quantify happiness either. Though these things might affect your mood or make you more comfortable, none of these alone or together can keep you happy and fulfilled. 9
Your temperament decides if you would live a good life filled with happiness. Temperament is the mesh that holds everything together. 10
If you get upset at small things, you will stay unhappy and guilt-prone. 11
Having a bad temperament doesn’t make you a bad person. But people around you would feel like using you as a punchbag every full moon. 12
You can always improve your nature but you will have to lift heavier weights¹ than you do in the gym. 13
Every day, the smallest of the things that you do make up who you are and what you would become. 14
If someone talks about work-life balance, tell them they are lying. 15
Work-life is not different from personal-life— You don’t enter into a new realm after breakfast. It is the same world of your ideas, your cat, your husband’s messages, your ginger tea, and your books. 16
After work, you don’t migrate to a new realm of personal life, but you get access to a more freely flowing time. It is the same world of your thoughts, interests, and temperament unless you hate your work. 17
The more fluidly work and personal life flow into each other, the easier it is. And then one day you can’t tell the difference which is which. 18
Passion is the remedy for some people. 20
In the absence of passion, there is still always something that you can be good at. Find it. 21
Practice abstinence from following people unless you want to always walk behind. 22
How you do one thing is how you do everything. 23
How to know if you are doing the best? A constant judgment of your choices or results would leave you more confused than a cat looking at her reflection. Your best efforts aggregate over a period of time when you work with compassion, dedication, patience, and maneuver your path every time you realize you have made a mistake. 24
You can always do better, but you don’t know how, yet. 25
Rueing over a mistake is worse than trying to unfry the salmon. 26
You shouldn’t care about that Friday in 2014 when your ex Italian boyfriend threw your cashmere sweater out of the balcony as you would lie to yourself to fill the gap of memories³ and would hurt yourself by thinking imaginary things that are not winning you the best humor-book award either. Past is a fading star, and your reality is that milky moon up in the sky today. 27
The more you think about the past, the more habitual you become of thinking about the past — You start thinking to justify your actions and life so far but every time you feel you are done you will find more things to defend. You increase your reasons to worry rather than reducing them, ironically. Now you are watching the past from behind a hazy screen while your present is hazing away, too. 28
Letting go is the key to fulfillment.29
Things of real consequence.
Small things are small. To keep them small you will have to stop obsessing over them. 30
Remove the phrase “it wasn’t fair” from your vocabulary and act as you deem correct or else get ready to unfry the salmon again. 31
Don’t be burdened by things that don’t seem to go your way. Things happen on their own accord, and it is hard to say what would do us good or what would do us bad. 32
You start to lose your understanding of yourself over a period of time. But remembering your roots is important to stay kind and compassionate. As they say, keep those old clothes hidden in the back of the closet. 33
The easier it is to bother you, the more you will be teased. 34
The world doesn’t care if you are in a bad mood or a good one even if you are Amitabh Bachchan. 35
No one is responsible for your happiness. 36
Self-pitying people always create a reason to pity themselves. You are not a reason for anyone’s unhappiness or the heart attacks they tell you they might get. 37
People and Human Condition.
If you want people to care, tell stories that they care about first. 38
People are waiting for you to cheer up so that they can laugh with you. 39
Laugh and make people laugh to keep it light. 40
People will always tell you to do what they think is right. And they all think they are right. 41
The more you try to please people, the difficult it becomes to please them. 42
People accept criticism better once you have appreciated them. 43
People like you if you put yourself below them. Put yourself on a lower pedestal a few times but don’t get used to it else you will always find yourself crawling on the grass. 44
People like you more if you let go of small things. 45
If you banter with people and show that you understand where they are coming from and you are like them, too, you have them. 46
The day you stand up to lead, people will follow you. But they will only continue following you if you bring conviction and relentlessness. 47
Everyone – even the richest and most popular people – get scared of missing out. Everyone gets jealous. 48
Christian Satin / CC0
Worry and productivity.
Worry is constipation for the mind. 49
You worry more than you need to —You always overestimate the amount of effort or pain required to complete a task. When the time comes, you don’t quantify the effort and only care for the thing to get over. Later on, you always feel that it wasn’t that hard or it was different from how you had imagined it. Worry less. 50
Bad days won’t leave you alone. Someone who doesn’t have bad days is playing PubG on Google Pixel or binge-watching Money Heist. 51
Instead of brooding on bad days, do something you enjoy, whatever gives you pleasure or brings clarity. Get to your deliverables when you stop wishing the world to end. Now you don’t have a bad day but a few relaxing hours. 52
Sometimes doing nothing and watching squirrels frolicking around should be your g̶o̶a̶l̶ essence of the day. 53
Fun is not the coolant but it is the fuel. Or: Don’t play to work better — Play to play. 54
Enjoyment doesn’t mean instant-gratification — You don’t have to grin every second, but the idea is not to cry to sleep every day either. 55
Instant gratification does refill our willpower. Now manipulate the willpower to do whatever you like. 56
Language needs to be changed with the company like one changes socks as per the wind of the day. 57
Seriousness versus Frolick.
In the advent of being sincere and poetic and philosophical, you don’t have to don Neitzsche’s countenance or stop forwarding cat memes. The greatest philosophy is in knowing and accepting who you are. 58
You can not only alienate yourself from others by being too solemn, but you can also miss out on intersecting with the free wavelengths of life. 59
Be sincere, not serious. 60
If you know a little bit about everything, you are better placed than a lot of other people. 61
The easiest way to learn a lot about a lot of things is by reading books. 62
Don’t learn to be better than others. Learn to understand better. 63
Money can’t buy happiness or wisdom or well-being or relationships or anything valuable. But no-money buys unhappiness. 64
You are precious if you are not running behind money like everyone else. If you have skills, the money will come. 65
Money can buy flight tickets to Colombia and peri-peri french fries and these come close to happiness on some days. 66
Every act of kindness has the power to multiply like water hyacinth. 67
Kindness flows back. 68
Being kind sucks sometimes. 69
Ask everyone who shows up at your home for water. You never know who is drying in the drought. 70
You shouldn’t depend on your partner to do all the benevolent deeds — If he is softer than you, you still have to keep your flame of compassion and kindness ablaze. 71
Care, Writing, Art, and Performance.
Everyone can write. But you can only write well on the things you care about. 72
A lot of things can be only done well if you care. 73
Don’t shun something you aren’t proud of. See how you can improve. And that might make all the difference. 74
Lack of focus might not have anything to do with the quality of the result— Maybe it wasn’t the right time for that idea. Try it later. 75
Believing in a secret ingredient can delay you from forming your own magical formula. 76
You cannot be there before you are there. The process is the result. 77
Feelings and experiences.
We feel, and that is why anything matters². 79
You can never feel anyone else’s experience or happiness so don’t pity them or hate them. 80
Jealousy, Comparison, and Copying Others.
Everyone is figuring out something or the other. 81
The people you think got it easy never had it easy. Even a white, well-educated American male struggles in deciding how to handle the privilege. And his experience counts. 82
If you want to get something that someone else has, you should try exchanging your genome to theirs, living their past life, and getting in their head first. If you haven’t had enough, try following their routine for a month. Start with Elon Musk. Now notice how absurd the idea was. 83
The more we try to become like someone, the further we go away from becoming ourselves. 84
If you are doing something because others are doing it, then the only thing you are doing is copying. 85
You don’t have to avoid something because others are not doing it. 86
You can forgive people or you can reproach them about how they hurt you — But it is not about them anymore, it is about you. 87
Instead of a reprimand, a gentle nudge in the right direction can do more good to everyone. 88
People, Dispositions, and Human Condition.
Experience helps but being a novice at something could be lucky sometimes. 89
People don’t mean everything they say. Stop taking everything literally. 90
Not everything is about you. 91
Instead of defending yourself, hit a joke with another joke. Have fun. 92
Crime isn’t committed by bad people — It is committed by people. You could have been one of those people if things didn’t work out for you the way they did. 93
Good looks leave a better first impression. Sorry, the world is biased. 94
Close friends can heal you faster than a cup of tea. Create healthy relationships for they carry you when you cannot walk. 95
Friends won’t wait for you eternally — Their life is going on while you are busy creating yours. You can either be in both lives at the same time or you can see yourself disappearing slowly from their story. 96
Doing One Thing at a Time.
Don’t try to do it all . 97
If you can’t resist doing it all — do it one at a time. 98
Multitask in things that aren’t that important. 99
Blogging and Art.
Blogging or writing or cartooning or doodling or Youtubing comes from a space within. It is not about how much you know, it is about how less you know and how curious you are. 100
No two blogs can be the same — people behind them are driven by different things. 101
A dilettante can’t win long-term by pretending. 102
Things of Real Consequence.
The world is a jungle book — and you can be the man-cub. Being different could be your way. 103
Not everyone cares for your stupid examples. 104
If you are thinking about the same problems over and over (the dictionary of Obscure Sorrows describes this weariness with the same old issues as Altschmerz) it doesn’t mean that you haven’t made any progress. Progress reflects in how you struggle with those problems. 105
It is okay to not know about the art classics as long as you know about the classics of life. 106
There are fewer things better than love. Let yourself fall in love. 107
Love will come and go but don’t forget to work on yourself while you are floating in the pool of love. Else you will sink soon. 108
If you are on the wrong path, you wouldn’t miss it because you were not thinking about it. But if you overbear yourself with the same thoughts, you would definitely end up tumbling. 110
Work, Monotony, Skills, Fun, and Life.
When something becomes really boring, then we are in a position to change the rules. 111
This constant tug of war between work and recreation cannot be always justified by spending more time at work — it can be only pacified by being more aware while working. 112
Doing laundry is not a waste of time. Rather than detesting the household chores, you can be open about learning something new and giving it your best as life isn’t only about the time you spent typing on your Mac. Instead, you type because you live a life away from the keyboard. Remember that work and life aren’t disjoint. 113
Things of Real Consequence.
It is okay if you don’t remember high school science. But high school science does make adult life better. 114
Keep your basics right. Visit the dentist. Get that checkup done. Now shift to autopilot and free yourself for other stuff. 115
Don’t get married or have a baby as absentmindedly as you switch on the television every night after returning from work. Getting married or having a child is a personal decision in spite of what the world tells you. 116
Television is designed to engage you in brainless activities that keep you hooked. Unhook and pick a book or play cards with friends, you will be more fulfilled. 117
Habits can kill you or make you. Go back to the time when your mother used to discourage you from eating chocolate solely by making a statement about it being a good habit or not. 118
Worrying about forming good habits is paradoxical. Don’t do it. 119
Things of Real Consequence.
Life could end anytime. But you live like it won’t until the last moment. 120
Most probably people would judge you, but it has nothing to do with you. 121
Keeping a gun isn’t about personal protection. 122
Democracy is a pretense. 123
Don’t let any relationship define you. 124
Banks never care about the customer. They only pretend to. Think for yourself. 125
It is okay to feel lonely. 126
Parents are jealous of their children. Your life always seems easier than theirs. Don’t hold it against them. 127
Getting the Best.
Getting the best every time is only worth it if you are unaffected if you don’t get the best. Worrying over perfection is paradoxical. 128
Things of Real Consequence.
If you can think about it, someone else can, too. If you feel it, someone else has felt it, too. What makes you different from others is what you do then. 129
Life isn’t like a book, but more like concentric circles. 130
Creativity is larger than life because it creates life. 131
A day is made up of good time, okay time, and bad time. 132
Every day is different from the previous one, even though it seems like exactly the same. 133
Not everything can be resolved by reading an article about it. 134
Stubborn, egotistic, and relentless avant-garde people shift the world. 135
You like to hide things deep inside. Then you think about those things to comfort yourself in the hour of need, and that is okay. 136
You would feel like hurting people at times. Especially if they are more successful or more beautiful or they have hurt you before. But don’t do it. 137
Ethnolinguistics should be a subject in school. So should be emotional intelligence, personal growth, sex education, writing, arts, speech, gender identity, international relations, communication skills. If they are not, study them on your own. 138
Learn new words to express the best you can. 139
Studying a subject meticulously doesn’t take the poetry out of it. You would know the concepts and patterns so that you can identify them and use them or refuse to use them on your will. 140
Watching that molten sunset could be one of the most fulfilling things of the day. 141
Don’t do something just because someone else asked you to do it. Run on reason. 142
Things of Real Consequence.
Until you think right you are compromising. 143
Find the fuel that your creativity demands. To begin with, live, laugh, run, cry, talk. 144
When you don’t understand something, pause. Or restart. 145
You don’t need to justify why you want to travel alone. (the linked article is only an expression of how I feel when I travel and not a justification. )146
The beginning of a solo trip is always a little scary. You feel that it is you against the world. You imagine that everyone is watching you or laughing at you because you are wandering alone. But if you let the fear go for a second and look up, you will see that people are minding their own business and not staring at you. Trust the universe. 147
You would have to step out of your comfort zone if you want to grow. Travel is the means to this end. 148
Things of Real Consequence.
Everyone gets scared. But in spite of the fear, you should let yourself walk, make a mistake, receive feedback with open arms, and do it again. Break that wall of fear brick by brick. Now you are free to face another fear. 150
You would never be able to win the approval of negative people, so the earlier you show them the way out, the less emotional baggage you will carry. 151
The show goes on. Participate. 152
The Continuum of The World.
Everything is connected — The work we do, the way we treat people, the way they talk to us, the appreciation we get, the food we eat, the people we hang out with, the places we want to visit, the guilt we carry, and the memories we relish. Don’t have disjoint expectations from each part of your life. 153
The world is a continuum. The better we can interconnect ideas, the more easily we can float in life⁵. 154
Things of Real Consequence.
Only experience can tell if something will work. 155
You can’t win by always playing hard to get. 156
No one has the power to upset you unless you give it to them. 157
It is not always easy to differentiate the cause from the result. 158
You would forget that it was about having fun. Remind yourself frequently. 159
Our ideas, promotions, commitments, financial planning, relationships all are there to make life better. So if something goes down, don’t despair: its presence was to keep you good, but its absence doesn’t mean hell. You will get everything as long as you can breathe peacefully. 160
Things always work out if you just hold on a little longer. But they may come to you in a different form from how you recognize them.161
Intuition is the collective consciousness of the life we have lived so far. Don’t ignore it. 162
Any good service or product or writing or art starts with being about you but then it is all about the people. 163
To forgive someone might seem unfair to you, but when you forgive, you soak in peace — thus getting your fair share. 164
There is always an option. 165
Art breathes inside each one of us. 166
Smile for you feel how you act. 167
Don’t just respect someone for their age, respect wisdom and kindness, and all such noble dispositions. 168
Learning and Unlearning
There is art in science and science in art. Once you connect the two, you have found infinity. 169
To create, first understand the rules, and then break them. 170
At some point, you start limiting yourself — Maybe when your mother first tells you that you can’t go out alone or when the neighbor comments that his son could do better than you or when the teacher scolds you for trying to understand the basics rather than repeating her answer or when you see an advertisement for a fairness cream that suggests you get fairer to have a better life. But the truth is inside the box of reason. Open it. 171
The background noise sounds louder when you are having a hard time. 172
Goals and Determination.
You can do anything that you set your mind upon. 173
Without goals, you are as directionless as a sunflower is at night. 174
If you are ready to receive what comes along the way, you start moving in the direction of your goal little by little. 175
Give what it takes. And then some more. 176
Things of Real Consequence.
Don’t be scared to lose yourself, for you might be on the path of discovering yourself. 177
Think deep, not wide.178
Most of the things have a simpler solution than you think. 179
Society is judgemental police. 180
Don’t let anyone else write your story. 181
Everything has an expiry date. 182
Sometimes you do your best work when you are tired —You would only make the effort to write that sentence if it is too good to let go. 183
Soak inspiration from the universe. 184
Words are wings. When not wings, they are swords. Choose your flights and battles wisely. 185
Your brain would expand into the time you give it to do something. Too less, and it hurries up. More, it stretches out. 186
When you feel angry or dejected, eat. Eventually, it is all about some curry and rice. 187
Walk on dewy mountain trails fringed by pines trees often. The joy is unbridled. 188
If you let go of boundaries set by others, you can tune into infinite wavelengths of freedom and choice. But be careful to not tune into noise again. 189
You need much less than you think you do. 190
Climbing stairs is always better than taking an elevator. Move your body as much as you reflex your brain so that you can climb that mountain when you want to. 191
Eventually, everything gets done. So instead of worrying, pause and breath frequently. Or kick a punching bag. Or restart your laptop to first get rid of those annoying notifications. Fix the basics. 192
The best way to live is to act as if no one is watching you. 193
There is time. There is strength. And then there is love.
If you see a longer piece of work taking time in spite of your best efforts, stand in front of a mirror. 194
When you think you have given it all, the universe will ask for more, and you will find yourself giving it more. 195
Sometimes you get into something so deep that you forget that you are inside. Let love find you at those times. 196
Pál Szinyei Merse / Public domain
1-Benjamin Franklin made a record of his everyday routine and checked if he worked on his vices.
2-Daniel Gilbert says in his book Stumbling on Happiness— Feelings don’t just matter, they are what mattering means. Are war and peace more important for any reason other than the feelings they produce?
3. We don’t remember out past as well as we think. You will find enough proof of this in Daniel Gilbert’s monumental book Stumbling on Happiness.
4. If I could suggest one book to anyone, it would be The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
5. I don’t think I can put better than this: There are no separate systems. The world is a continuum. Where to draw a boundary around a system depends on the purpose of the discussion― Donella H. Meadows
Which of these life learnings did you relate to the most? Let me know in the comments.
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