7 Pieces of Offbeat Advice I Wish I Knew Sooner

7 Pieces of Offbeat Advice I Wish I Knew Sooner

This morning I was writing a blog entry at a local coffee shop here in Austin when a young man approached me.  “You’re Marc, right?” he asked.

I looked up at him.  He had bright blue eyes and a big smile, but nothing that rang a bell.  “I’m sorry.  Have we met?” I inquired politely.

“No,” he replied.  “But I feel like I know you.”  He held up his iPad and on the screen was Marc and Angel Hack Life.  “You look just like your photo,” he said in a cheerful tone.

I smiled, we shook hands, and then accepting my invitation, he sat down at my table.  Due to the modest success of our blog, most young twenty-something’s who randomly approach Angel and me want to know more about our blog, or about our sources of inspiration, but this young man immediately jumped to a different topic.

“So, I’m working on a college speech project entitled ‘Offbeat Advice,’” he said.  “And I thought it would be cool to cover offbeat advice successful people wish they knew sooner in life.”

I smiled again and then we chatted for about a half-hour.  I answered his questions as best as I could, and tried to give decent advice in the short time we spent together.  But on the walk home I realized our conversation really intrigued me and had me thinking, “What other pieces of offbeat advice do I wish I knew sooner?”

So I sat back down when I got home, I powered on my laptop and opened the word processor I use for blogging.  After gazing at the blank white screen for several minutes, I placed my fingers on the keyboard and titled the page, 7 Pieces of Offbeat Advice I Wish I Knew Sooner.”

1.  Wisdom is not about knowing all the answers.

It’s not the answers you get from others, or even the ones you formulate, that will help you in the long run.  It’s the simple questions you ask yourself on a regular basis that will determine the type of person you become.  Wisdom is about asking the right questions.

Regardless of your age or stature, life is always filled with unanswered questions.  It is the courage to ask these questions and adventurously seek the answers that continues to give life meaning.  Have patience with everything that remains unresolved in your heart.  Try to love the unanswered questions themselves.  Do not demand all the answers; they cannot be given to you because you have to live through them.  It is a matter of experiencing everything.  Only when you do will you gradually, perhaps without even noticing it, find yourself arriving at the answers you seek.  (I discuss this process in more detail in the Goals and Success chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

2.  You have to do lots of things you aren’t good at to grow.

If you do what you have always done, you will get the same results you have been getting.  If you want to stunt your growth and feel stuck in the same place forever, keep making excuses.  If, on the other hand, you want to stop feeling trapped, you have to start doing things that make you uncomfortable, things you aren’t very good at.  You have to streeeetch yourself.

There is no excuse for remaining stuck.  There is no excuse for doing the same things over and over again.  Life is too short.  Ask yourself if what you’re doing today is getting you closer to where you want to be tomorrow.

The day is rapidly approaching when the risk to remain perched in your nest is far more detrimental than the risk it takes to fly.  Fly!  Spread your wings.  Start now.  What a disgrace it would be for you to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of your full potential.

3.  Everything you own has an emotional cost of ownership.

No matter what you own there is a maintenance cost.  We can speak in dollars – insurance, taxes and interest.  Or even in time – cleaning, updating and protecting.  But the hardest maintenance cost for most people is simply sentimental value.

We transfer our feelings and memories onto an object and decide we can’t let go because we’ll risk losing the feeling or memory.  Before long, we become surrounded by these visual reminders of our memories and no longer have room to make new ones.  It’s hard to move forward in your life when your past is crowding your present.

The answer, of course, is to get rid of some of this stuff.  But that’s way easier said than done.  We often need to be compelled to do this with a move or a lifestyle change.  Imagine how much richer life would be if you moved the junk out and made room for new opportunities instead of grudgingly making room only when it was forced upon you.  (Read The Joy of Less.)

4.  Flaws are beautiful and likeable.

Nothing is perfect; the world itself is not perfect.  But we’re all here living for our dreams and each other, trying the very best we can.  And that’s what makes us so darn beautiful.  The little things about you that you think are your flaws are often the reasons others fall in love with you.

Accept your flaws.  Admit your mistakes.  Don’t hide and don’t lie.  Deal with the truth, learn the lessons, endure the consequences of reality, and move on.  Your truth won’t penalize you.  The mistakes won’t hurt you.  The denial and cover-up will.  Flawed and vulnerable people are beautiful and likable.  Liars and phonies are not.  Every beautiful human being is made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions and finished with unique edges.

5.  The things you do for fun can pay the bills if you do them right.

Work, if it is interesting, is a stimulant.  It’s worry and a lack of interest in what you’re doing that drains and discourages you.  Every one of us should have our hobbies and side interests – as many as we can handle efficiently and happily.  Our interests should never be allowed to lag or get cold so that all enthusiasm and passion is wasted.  Each day can be a success if you feed your interests as graciously as they feed you.

Happiness is found where interests and capabilities intersect.  If you do what you love and then master it so you can do it much better than anyone else you know, it is entirely possible to make a living from it.  Even better, you will not get tired out from working when your work interests you.  The key is to find the point at which what you love, what you’re good at, and what people will pay for, intersect.

6.  Some of the most unpleasant people just need a little love.

Provide support when it makes sense, even when people are cold and unfriendly.  Some people are rude and complain as a way of crying for help.  They may not be conscious of it though, so their comments come across as attacks rather than requests.

Show a little love and concern.  Do something nice for them.  Just a simple “Are you okay?” or “Is there anything I can do to help you?” can do wonders in certain situations.  Resist the urge to judge or assume.  It’s hard to offer compassion when you assume you have them figured out.  Let them know they are not alone.  People overcome the forces of negative emotions, like anger and hatred, when the counter-forces of love and support are in full effect.  (Read The Mastery of Love.)

7.  Sometimes the best thing you can do is nothing at all.

Sometimes you need to be alone… not to be lonely, but to enjoy some free time just breathing and being YOU.

In order to be one with your relationships and life’s work, you have to turn away from the busyness of the world for a while.  You need to find solitude to refuel.  You must become so alone that you withdraw into your innermost self.  You must do nothing at all, except to be still with the moment.

You need to ponder your successes and failures in seclusion; you need the sunshine and the moonlight to warm you without companions to distract you, without the ongoing banter, face to face with your inner core, with only the sound of your heartbeat for company.

The floor is yours…

What would you add to the list?  What do you wish you understood sooner in life?  Please leave a comment below and let us know.

Photo by: Trey Ratcliff


  1. Kylie says

    I really enjoyed this post. The best bit of advice I was given was by an old boss, about someone who was being particularly difficult to me. My boss just said ‘perhaps they’re trying to help you’. As a result of that seemingly simple comment, I’ve found that turning every situation 180 degrees, taking a deep breath and thinking in the opposite way to the immediate feeling something provokes, immediately changes my breathing, mood, perception and leaves me much more open to tackling issues in a positive way. I regularly share it with others as a tactic if it feels like it might help.

    I loved Dal’s comment “What I want is usually hiding behind something I don’t want to do” so much that I’m stealing it and it’s my quote of the day. This is exactly where I am at the moment!

  2. Tanvi says

    I would add “keep life simple”. As we get older our lives seem to get more and more complicated and we make excuses because we find it harder to break out of those ruts and take chances. Sometimes its liberating to consider the lowest common denominator: know who you can’t live without, know the values you won’t compromise, if you don’t like something change it, recognise that Rome wasn’t built in a day but that it was built and its still standing! Keep it simple, get out of your own way and bring some enthusiasm even when you’re terrified inside.

    @ Lyn: the beauty of having the slate wiped clean is that, when you’re ready, you can build up new, carefully analysed belief systems that will create a solid foundation for your future. In the interim, have faith and don’t punish yourself for not having all the answers. All the best!

  3. katj says

    Two things I learned later on in life:

    Be thankful for the crummy, mean, really bad bosses and supervisors you get….I learned the most from them because I learned how NOT to treat people and how to be a better boss.

    Be the first to apologize even if you’re wrong. I used to hang onto the anger because I was “right” and I wouldn’t “give in”. It is amazingly freeing to apologize and move on, and in the long run no one but you cares if you were right or wrong in the first place.

  4. Stan says

    Marc and Angel, welcome to Austin. I hope some day I am as lucky as this young man was to have a chance to speak with you personally.

    #3 really is something I need to focus on. I tend to be sentimental and hold on to items from my past that need to let go of. Somehow, letting go almost seems like I am betraying the person who gave them to me, yet if the memories bring me sadness why do I cling to it! It is exactly as you state that it prevents me from moving forward. I wish I knew how to start the process of eliminating the items from the past without causing myself guilt for it, so that I can start building a great future. Any suggestions on how to get started are greatly appreciated.

  5. Linda Hyams says

    I’d like to add a couple I’ve learned:

    Never use a hammer when a screwdriver will do.
    Sometimes, we over fix problems and make things worse. There is no one way to do everything. Have many ways.

    It’s okay to be quarky, odd, or shiny. It’s those personality quarks that give depth to friendships and relationships. It’s what makes life interesting. Don’t try to hard to fit a mold of what you think people want.

  6. says

    Hi Mark, Angel and friends, the one biggie for me has been that asking for help is a sign of strength and not weakness. I always felt that by requesting assistance I would, firstly, be imposing on another person (forgetting that they are allowed to say no, and are completely capable of doing so) and secondly, would be admitting that somehow I was not good enough to get along on my own.

    In fact, it is the opposite. Working together is part of our humanity, and part of the mechanism of intimacy. If I work with others I show that I am strong enough to be intimate and rely on another person for help. This is ultimately something that increases my brilliance, rather than something that weakens me.

    Sure took me a while to work that one out. Not to go write a blog about it, thanks for the inspiration people!

  7. Mary Nardo says

    Great post!
    I Recently Read: If prayer is our way of talking to God, then intuition may be God’s way of talking back.

  8. says

    I think this is sort of related to telling the truth. If you need to vent to a friend, say “I need to vent.” If ask someone for advice, say “I need some help with something.” It’s much better to start a conversation with a (semi) clear purpose. Venting under the pretense of asking for help just leaves people confused/frustrated/annoyed because you are ignoring their advice and turning the conversation into a guessing game. Your friend will appreciate your honesty.

  9. Aiyana says

    I would add ”Different people come to your life to teach different lessons. I wish I understood sooner in life that we all don’t go on the same path. Some people, like myself have alternatives from doing a local job to going to college for two years. Can you please do blogs about autism and Asperger’s Syndrome? We need to break stereotypes within those areas.

  10. Ron says

    You can’t fix everyone. Don’t take everyone else’s problems as your own. You can have apathy for them, be there for them, give them advise even. You have to let others take responsibility for fixing themselves. Somewhat fits into #3. Surround yourself with people that lift you up!

  11. says

    @Kari: So great to hear from someone who has put this practice into place. It sounds like you’re reaping the benefits of feeling uncomfortable. Cheers! =)

    @Vincent: Your 30’s, 40’s and 50’s won’t feel like your 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Adults are just older children. When we get older we won’t feel as old as we imagined we would. For the most part, as you said, we still feel exactly the way we felt the year before, just a little wiser and more confident.

    @Bia: I completely agree. Imagine if everyone was willing to both apologize and accept an apology. Is there any problem that we would not be able to solve?

    @Louis Adkins: Great point! A skill that is so simple but is often under used. Be sure you listen to understand, not to reply and hear yourself talk.

    @Victoria: Sounds like your grandmother was an amazing woman. =)

    @Mark Whittington: It’s better to learn and understand this lesson late then never.

    @Erica: Salute! =)

    @Susan: Remember, no action always results in a 100% failure rate. Couldn’t agree more.

    @Jim: I love it! Practice until we die. =)

    @Bones: Isn’t it amazing what we can learn from animals? My cat would never overthink a problem. =)

    @Lin Jackson: Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know in your heart that there is strength inside you that is greater than the challenges you face. No one can do it for you. Believe in YOU.

    @Mary Lynn: Thank you for joining in on the conversation! I hope @Lin Jackson read your comment. Welcome!

    @Dal: Reminds me of the quote by Joseph Campbell, “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”

    @Mike Martel: Great advice. Everyone’s dream is to get paid for doing what they love. Find it and practice every day.

    @Thomas Joe: Thank you for sharing your struggles and successes. I am so happy you had Rhys in your life and I know your story is going to help so many others. Thank you!

    @Dona Miller: Extremely valuable advice, thank you! =)

    @Stan: Thank you! Shoot us an e-mail at angel@marcandangel.com if you’re in the area. As Echkart Tolle said, the past has no power over the present moment. It’s time to let go.

    @Slackerjo: Communication is key in all relationships. Mind reading occurs when two people assume that they know what the other is thinking when they don’t. This process of wondering and trying to guess what someone is thinking is a rapid route to feelings of insecurity and stress. Great advice!

    @All: Regardless of our age, these offbeat pieces of advice are invaluable.
    It’s about learning as we go and positively adjusting our attitude and efforts toward future possibilities. Thank you everyone for the added insight. We’re constantly learning from each other. =)

  12. Raawi says

    There can be three ways people enter our lives:
    For a reason, a season or a lifetime.
    Cherish and rejoice. Cheers!

  13. Greg says

    We all go crazy in our own way! It is what separates us and unites us all at the same time and it is something we are all good at accomplishing.

  14. Teri says

    First, disappointing others is not always bad. Ask 5 people about their biggest disappointment in life and the alternate path they took as a result. You will likely find 5 people who went outside their comfort zone or the “approved plan” and found something better than they had ever imagined. This discovery helped me to let go of my paralyzing fear of disappointing others.

    Second, blessings typically follow on the heels of inconvenience. When we persuade ourselves to allow a sting of discomfort in the form of inconvenience, then we open ourselves up to the benefits that come from sharing in the real lives of others. The person who doesn’t allow herself to be inconvenienced, preferring instead to stay on task, un-mussed, and on schedule, misses a lot of really good things in life.

    These 2 things, taken to heart, can invite major changes in the way we navigate life, and the appreciation of its unexpected beauty.

  15. Syringa says

    You’re in Austin? Who knew…. A native Austinite, I felt an instant connection to your columns and I share them with my family and friends. It’s comforting to know y’all are local and maybe I’ll run into you next visit to Irie Bean. :) Thank you for y’all do.

  16. Terry says

    People of low character always criticize the virtuous in order to make comparisons with themselves less painful.

  17. Fred says

    Met a beautiful old lady who has lived a very rich and fulfilling life. When asked what her secret to such joy, experience and adventure was she simply said, “Always say ‘Yes’ as your first reaction to something new. You can always say ‘No’ later.”

  18. says

    Love reading all this wisdom in the posts and comments!
    One of the things I’ve learned over the past years is that it’s often our belief that we need fixing that makes us feel unhappy. Somehow we believe we’re *wrong* the way we are and we believe others will only like, love and respect us if we fixed ourselves first.
    But the truth is, when we are allowing ourselves to be who we truly are and when we stop fixing ourselves, that’s when we pave the path for genuine connection and joy.

  19. Shelly says

    The easiest way to wealth is to give away as much as you can. To me, wealth is not about an abundance of finances, but a feeling of fulfillment. The best way to do this is to share your life with others…by sharing experiences, teaching, helping others do things that they are unable to do themselves, and sometimes, just listening. I’ve never felt better about my purpose in life than when I walk away knowing I made an impact in someone else’s life. And even more thn that, that I have given someone the tools to make an impact in someone else’s life….”Pay it forward”. Along with this, being open to learning from others. If you don’t learn something from everyone you meet or every situation in your life, you’re missing a lot of opportunities to grow.

  20. Fallon says

    Thank you for having these!! These are really inspiring and really make you stop and think! They also introduce different topics to learn about and grow with. They are very inspiring and life changing! It’s nice to get advice from someone you don’t know, and use it in situations. These are good life lessons!! Grazie!!

  21. says

    I agree with the other Bernadette, and I would add, do not let others define you. Be your own person. If they think you are the most wonderful person in the world and your not…so what! If they think you are the worst person in the world…so what! The old Indian adage makes a lot of sense. Don’t judge a man unless you have walked in his moccasins at least for a fortnight. As one learns to understand others they can also understand themselves.

  22. Samantha says

    For Stan… Perhaps you could photograph these items individually, placing them in a special keepsake album. Write a small anecdote about each of them… who, where, why it came into your possession, how it makes you feel, and the importance it has/has had in your life. That way you are still ‘keeping’ them and can always look back at them and their significance and be able to share that with others. Find these items new homes by giving them away. They may even become something special to someone else. The sense of achievement, freedom and of weight being lifted is uplifting and inspiring. Now you are ready to move into your future with memories tucked safely away, but no longer causing a physical and mental block.
    For Marc and Angel… Thank you. I am constantly inspired to do better and be better. My self-talk is so much more positive and I find I am not as adversely affected by difficult situations as I once was. I look forward to reading your blog over breakfast everyday.

  23. says

    A lovely post full of practical wisdom in simple language straight from the heart. It is just as if someone stood by your side and shone light for you to see the path ahead. Perhaps I would like to add that the quicker one decides to step out of inferiority complex; life is going to be beautiful.

  24. Tara says

    If this one hasn’t already been mentioned, I’d like to add that smiling is very contagious. I read that somewhere and so I started doing it and it really does work. It eases tension, too.

  25. says

    Just stumbled across this blog. It is wonderful. Beats reading the daily arguments that take place on “news” websites and blogs.

    Here’s my addition to the topic. “There’s a pretty good chance you’re wrong.” So often I have clutched onto a belief as if it were a life vest saving me from a sea of uncertainty. Years later, after more experience, my beliefs changed. Sometimes in diametric opposition to my previously held belief. That’s why I’m no longer so quick to judge.

  26. Mo says

    My biggest fear used to be dying alone until i realized that as long as I am happy with myself, I will never be alone.

    Now my biggest fear is not living up to my potential. Life is short, take advantage of time!

  27. says

    -Be happy with what you have.

    -Be grateful for all your blessings, everyday think of three blessings and say ‘thank you’ to the Universe.

    -Remember to help others, give a hand up, not hand out to really have an impact on a life.

  28. A Brown says

    You can laugh your way through life! Don’t be so serious.
    Humor and a good laugh will always put things in perspective.

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