10 Painfully Obvious Truths Everyone Forgets Too Soon

10 Painfully Obvious Truths Everyone Forgets Too Soon

The truth does not cease to exist when it is ignored.

You know how you can hear something a hundred times in a hundred different ways before it finally gets through to you?  The ten truths listed below fall firmly into that category – life lessons that many of us likely learned years ago, and have been reminded of ever since, but for whatever reason, haven’t fully grasped.

This, my friends, is my attempt at helping all of us, myself included, “get it” and “remember it” once and for all…

1.  The average human life is relatively short.

We know deep down that life is short, and that death will happen to all of us eventually, and yet we are infinitely surprised when it happens to someone we know.  It’s like walking up a flight of stairs with a distracted mind, and misjudging the final step.  You expected there to be one more stair than there is, and so you find yourself off balance for a moment, before your mind shifts back to the present moment and how the world really is.

LIVE your life TODAY!  Don’t ignore death, but don’t be afraid of it either.  Be afraid of a life you never lived because you were too afraid to take action.  Death is not the greatest loss in life.  The greatest loss is what dies inside you while you’re still alive.  Be bold.  Be courageous.  Be scared to death, and then take the next step anyway.

2.  You will only ever live the life you create for yourself.

Your life is yours alone.  Others can try to persuade you, but they can’t decide for you.  They can walk with you, but not in your shoes.  So make sure the path you decide to walk aligns with your own intuition and desires, and don’t be scared to switch paths or pave a new one when it makes sense.

Remember, it’s always better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb than the top of the one you don’t.  Be productive and patient.  And realize that patience is not about waiting, but the ability to keep a good attitude while working hard for what you believe in.  This is your life, and it is made up entirely of your choices.  May your actions speak louder than your words.  May your life preach louder than your lips.  May your success be your noise in the end.

And if life only teaches you one thing, let it be that taking a passionate leap is always worth it.  Even if you have no idea where you’re going to land, be brave enough to step up to the edge of the unknown, and listen to your heart.  (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Passion and Growth” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

3.  Being busy does NOT mean being productive.

Busyness isn’t a virtue, nor is it something to respect.  Though we all have seasons of crazy schedules, very few of us have a legitimate need to be busy ALL the time.  We simply don’t know how to live within our means, prioritize properly, and say no when we should.

Being busy rarely equates to productivity these days.  Just take a quick look around.  Busy people outnumber productive people by a wide margin.  Busy people are rushing all over the place, and running late half of the time.  They’re heading to work, conferences, meetings, social engagements, etc.  They barely have enough free time for family get-togethers and they rarely get enough sleep.  Yet, emails are shooting out of their smart phones like machine gun bullets, and their day planners are jammed to the brim with obligations.  Their busy schedule gives them an elevated sense of importance.  But it’s all an illusion.  They’re like hamsters running on a wheel.

Though being busy can make us feel more alive than anything else for a moment, the sensation is not sustainable long term.  We will inevitably, whether tomorrow or on our deathbed, come to wish that we spent less time in the buzz of busyness and more time actually living a purposeful life.

4.  Some kind of failure always occurs before success.

Most mistakes are unavoidable.  Learn to forgive yourself.  It’s not a problem to make them.  It’s only a problem if you never learn from them.

If you’re too afraid of failure, you can’t possibly do what needs to be done to be successful.  The solution to this problem is making friends with failure.  You want to know the difference between a master and a beginner?  The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.  Behind every great piece of art is a thousand failed attempts to make it, but these attempts are simply never shown to us.

Bottom line:  Just because it’s not happening now, doesn’t mean it never will.  Sometimes things have to go very wrong before they can be right.  (Read The Success Principles.)

5.  Thinking and doing are two very different things.

Success never comes to look for you while you wait around thinking about it.

You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.  Knowledge is basically useless without action.  Good things don’t come to those who wait; they come to those who work on meaningful goals.  Ask yourself what’s really important and then have the courage to build your life around your answer.

And remember, if you wait until you feel 100% ready to begin, you’ll likely be waiting the rest of your life.

6.  You don’t have to wait for an apology to forgive.

Life gets much easier when you learn to accept all the apologies you never got.  The key is to be thankful for every experience – positive or negative.  It’s taking a step back and saying, “Thank you for the lesson.”  It’s realizing that grudges from the past are a perfect waste of today’s happiness, and that holding one is like letting unwanted company live rent free in your head.

Forgiveness is a promise – one you want to keep.  When you forgive someone you are making a promise not to hold the unchangeable past against your present self.  It has nothing to do with freeing a criminal of his or her crime, and everything to do with freeing yourself of the burden of being an eternal victim.

7.  Some people are simply the wrong match for you.

You will only ever be as great as the people you surround yourself with, so be brave enough to let go of those who keep bringing you down.  You shouldn’t force connections with people who constantly make you feel less than amazing.

If someone makes you feel uncomfortable and insecure every time you’re with them, for whatever reason, they’re probably not close friend material.  If they make you feel like you can’t be yourself, or if they make you “less than” in any way, don’t pursue a connection with them.  If you feel emotionally drained after hanging out with them or get a small hit of anxiety when you are reminded of them, listen to your intuition.  There are so many “right people” for you, who energize you and inspire you to be your best self.  It makes no sense to force it with people who are the wrong match for you.

8.  It’s not other people’s job to love you; it’s yours.

It’s important to be nice to others, but it’s even more important to be nice to yourself.  You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.  So make sure you don’t start seeing yourself through the eyes of those who don’t value you.  Know your worth, even if they don’t.

Today, let someone love you just the way you are – as flawed as you might be, as unattractive as you sometimes feel, and as incomplete as you think you are.  Yes, let someone love you despite all of this, and let that someone be YOU.  (Read Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It.)

9.  What you own is not who YOU are.

Stuff really is just stuff, and it has absolutely no bearing on who you are as a person.  Most of us can make do with much less than we think we need.  That’s a valuable reminder, especially in a hugely consumer-driven culture that focuses more on material things than meaningful connections and experiences.

You have to create your own culture.  Don’t watch TV, don’t read every fashion magazine, and don’t consume too much of the evening news.  Find the strength to fill your time with meaningful experiences.  The space and time you are occupying at this very moment is LIFE, and if you’re worrying about Kim Kardashian or Lebron James or some other famous face, then you are disempowered.  You’re giving your life away to marketing and media trickery, which is created by big companies to ultimately motivate you to want to dress a certain way, look a certain way, and be a certain way.  This is tragic, this kind of thinking.  It’s all just Hollywood brainwashing.  What is real is YOU and your friends and your family, your loves, your highs, your hopes, your plans, your fears, etc.

Too often we’re told that we’re not important, we’re just peripheral to what is.  “Get a degree, get a job, get a car, get a house, and keep on getting.”  And it’s sad, because someday you’ll wake up and realize you’ve been tricked.  And all you’ll want then is to reclaim your mind by getting it out of the hands of the brainwashers who want to turn you into a drone that buys everything that isn’t needed to impress everyone that isn’t important.

10.  Everything changes, every second.

Embrace change and realize it happens for a reason.  It won’t always be obvious at first, but in the end it will be worth it.

What you have today may become what you had by tomorrow.  You never know.  Things change, often spontaneously.  People and circumstances come and go.  Life doesn’t stop for anybody.  It moves rapidly and rushes from calm to chaos in a matter of seconds, and happens like this to people every day.  It’s likely happening to someone nearby right now.

Sometimes the shortest split second in time changes the direction of our lives.  A seemingly innocuous decision rattles our whole world like a meteorite striking Earth.  Entire lives have been swiveled and flipped upside down, for better or worse, on the strength of an unpredictable event.  And these events are always happening.

However good or bad a situation is now, it will change.  That’s the one thing you can count on.  So when life is good, enjoy it.  Don’t go looking for something better every second.  Happiness never comes to those who don’t appreciate what they have while they have it.

Your turn…

What else would you add to this list?  What important life lessons do you often forget?  Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

Photo by: skoeber


  1. Donaven says

    This is by far one of the best posts you guys has written, and I love all them. This really touched home. Thank you guys, as always…

  2. Betty says

    @David Rapp–you absolutely can “divorce” your family and particularly, friends. Not to say that it’s the easiest thing to do, but sometimes it’s necessary. I’ve spent much of the past year separating myself from a long-time friend because I’ve realized she only gives lip service to respecting me ( and herself, for that matter). While I still check in to be sure she’s okay, I don’t allow her drama into my life.

  3. Suzanne says

    @Vicki-regarding #7, I wanted to thank you so much for your post. I can’t tell you the insight and comfort it has given me.

    I have a friend in the throws of the addiction cycle, who has not spoken to me in a few years. This was after I pointed out her addiction and told her something needs to change, that our relationship was no longer healthy and I was worried for her. She cut me off completely, no discussion, nothing. For a long time I was very hurt and could not understand how she could abandon a friend who had always been loyal and caring. I felt very guilty as well, like I should have said nothing at all.

    After reading your post, I realized the shun really had nothing to do with me. It was just her addiction, which always seems to be the loudest voice in the room. I hope someday she can hear the small, still, clear voice that speaks the truth about the people who really love her and have her best interests at heart. I know now I did the right thing in speaking the truth to her, even if it did hurt her feelings. Thank you again for sharing–my heart feels less heavy now.

  4. Nancy says

    Betsy, Kathy, & others,
    I’ve raised two daughters, who are very much alike in many ways. They were raised the same. It happens that daughters go through a period of difficulty w/their mothers during their teens. Anyway most of my friends did as well as us. I remember when I did at that age. To continue my story, my daughters who are so similar and were raised by the exact same parents in the exact same way, have much different outcomes. One daughter is a junkie who does heroin and the other graduated from university magna cum laude and is now studying law. True story.

    We each make our own decisions and are the authors of our own lives.

  5. Glenngus says

    IT IS SO BE, This is my new mantra. Yes I know four two letter words but life is meant to be simple, so is this mantra. IT (being life) IS, on a moment to moment basis the flow of life takes you into the unknown. There is no way to change what each moment will bring IT just IS. So BE, Relax, enjoy and be thankful for the ride of life. Take in the scenery, the people you meet and the situations you encounter including the challenging ones. Learn from and appreciate the harder moments in life, move on and BE!

    Thank you and blessings.

    • Yael says

      I’ll borrow your mantra, if you don’t mind? Using it whenever it’s becomes difficult for me to BE in the moment (for example being with people for too long can be stressful – even distressful.) By myself I have slowly gotten better at handling more difficult emotions, but when I read your explanation for the mantra I felt it resonated with what I need as a “grounder”: I have the ability to talk myself into a state of mind, usually using a “meaning-filled” sentence. And this will be my mantra for situations I need to relax in and just Be.

      Thank you, namastè,

  6. Marika says

    Be deliberate in your actions and prove the truth to yourself first before you even consider showing others that you are serious about your belief / opinion/feelings/goals. Prove the truth to yourself above all. Don’t just poke at the task, slap the thing hard! Mean it, get the message through to yourself. Example: say “sorry” and look the person in the eye when you say it – feel it in your bones; throw out the clothes you don’t wear/fit/like, clear out the pantry/fridge completely and start over, move house/town, stop seeing a person who is toxic to you.

  7. Sunny says

    I always liked: “being alone doesn’t mean you’re lonely.” I think you need to enjoy your own company, before you can expect anyone else to enjoy being with you :) Good topic.

  8. says

    Re #2 “You will only ever live the life you create for yourself.” That and the habit of too often dwelling in negativity are maybe my greatest enemies. It’s an obvious truth that I always battle. Living a life that someone else – or society or our culture – determines for you is emotionally disastrous.

  9. says

    I produce a video blog called Lessons From My Grandson. I started it not long after my father died when I realized that IF I died right then, my grandson would grow up Not Knowing me.

    Many of the lessons you have here are included.

    But what I say is the first lesson a toddler learns is this: when you fall down, GET UP.

    Falling down isn’t always the same as failing (which I prefer to think of as FEEDBACK and not failure). But little kids learn this really early, but we adults often forget it.

    So… when you fall down, Get Up!

    Charlie Seymour Jr

  10. says

    True on all 10. How about this one:

    “You can get everything in life you want if you’ll just help enough other people get what they want”

    Give and you’ll receive 10 fold, regardless of what it is you give.

    Bruce Haines

  11. Allez says

    To add to Glenngus’ idea – Don’t wait to be happy til your free from your challenges. There will always be bad/sad/hard things happening. As well as good/happy/rewarding things. Deal with the challenges and then focus on the enjoyment and magic of life. You can choose to be happy in any circumstance this way.

  12. Gowthami says

    The more you move closer to the person who don’t value you, the more you get away from yourself.

  13. Leilani says

    Thank you so much for this article. I woke up in a frenzy this morning and wanted to walk down the path of self destruct and sabotage my relationship.

    Having gone through two failed relationships I had very little faith for a third one.

    I can definitely relate from 1-10. 6-8 was bang on for me. Before reading this article I was in self destruct mode to a 100 now it’s been extinguished to 0.

    I thank you and my current significant other probably thanks you too.

  14. Maverick says

    If I get a second chance… I’ll try to live my life with good moral values and think twice before saying anything hurtful. I’ll make jokes that would make people laugh without hurting anyone else, and will try to work hard and respect my parents. I’ll try to be the walk away from people disrespecting me, instead of responding to everything.

  15. Sammie says

    Pretty great post and quite straightforward with good explanations.

    Points that stood out to me were: that someone just might not be right for you, patience is a good attitude, you aren’t what you own, that life is short.

    I take for granted that life is short because so many days are the same and it’s hard to not be shocked by death. We always mourn the pain someone endured prior to death or the freak accidents that seemed too unfair especially if someone loved life or sought more. Suicide also is tragic to me but only some some think so. Difficult subject.

    Anyway, moving on. I think some find it a little difficult still to judge relationships. I don’t seem to know anybody that makes me encouraged but I think it’s because I don’t approach my goals with a healthy attitude or they simply don’t know what to advise anyway. It’s not always easy to notice but sometimes others are right. But I suppose bad relationships are usually easy to see and sometimes develop unexpectedly due to circumstances that test the strength of the relationship. I think we should forgive those people first. Perhaps we don’t have to cut someone out completely but don’t let them get close haha

  16. Stacey McPhee says

    I live life by the saying “life can only be understood backwards but it must be lived forwards” To me it means that I can only make sense of the things that happened in the past. But sometimes I will never know why I did those stupid things I did maybe I will understand them when I am older but that’s the risk im willing to take im not going to lay around wondering why I did those things messing up my head while I can move on with my life.

    But it must be lived forward.. Your life involves you going into the future, experiencing new things.

  17. John Brough says

    Great reminders of Time. It never stops, reminding us that Nothing stays the same.

    You don’t get what you want. You get what you are.


  18. says

    This is so brilliantly written! I loved it. Sometimes, out minds “mute” the truth around us that resonates so often. We all need reminders like these.

    Once again, a big thank you to you guys.

    Cheers! :)

  19. Manong King Jay says

    The most practical & sensible thing to do in life is to EXPRESS LOVE, in any way you choose do it. That is the bottom line we become unaware of. If you want to live, then Love. If you don’t love therefore you don’t want to live.

  20. Grishma says

    Your post was such an eye opener… What i liked the most about your post was that… “I”…yes i am putting it in CAPITALS n quotes…because i am IMPORTANT… EVEN someone i like doesn’t like/love me back, doesn’t mean that i don’t have any value.

    From now on, i m going to LOVE myself, be content with life, thank God for everything…the good/bad experiences. Last but not the least…LIVE A LIFE I WANT….
    thnx guys…..May God bless you.

  21. Katarina says

    I have been reading your amazing advice for years and it helped save my life when I was diagnosed with a life-threatening chronic illness in 2009 – it helped me turn my perspective around and now, not only was I able to heal myself, but I have devoted my life to helping others in similar situations. I am now living abroad and would love to share your site, I’m hoping you will someday offer your site with an option to translate into other languages (Spanish, Italian, etc.). Unfortunately, not everyone who could use your advice speaks English. Please if there is an option through your site builder to add other languages, I know your message would INSTANTLY touch thousands of people. Thank you for what you have done and continue to do. I’d love to see your wisdom span the globe!!!

  22. Robin says

    I would add to this already great list: You can’t change anyone else but you are the only person who can change you.

    Also, (one I am really working on right now): Don’t spend time worrying about things you can’t do anything about.


  23. Amber says

    Life is too short to wake up with regrets. So love the people who treat you right. Forget about those who don’t. Believe everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said life would be easy!

  24. says

    All to often we forget (at least I know I do) to Practice What We Preach. Chances are if we think the advice is good for someone else, then it’s probably advice we should follow as well.

  25. Lynne says

    #7 – thank you. I need to continue to remind myself not to persue a connection that is unproductive and unhealthy for me. Thank you always Marc and Angel.

  26. Reshma Rajkumar says

    Ah as always, it’s just what I needed to hear. Its morning time where I live and I got my daily dose of advise to kick start my day. Thank you Marc and Angel. :)

  27. says

    Loved this article. Life sure is short and often surprising.

    I would add, do everything with good intentions. Live with integrity and transparency. Always, always, always be kind, and teach your children to be kind :)

  28. winter says

    Thanks once again for this very inspiring and life-changing post. Your encouraging words are helpful to me and to everyone. Keep posting and more power:-)

  29. Patrícia says

    I’m so great I’ve found this. I’m Portuguese and I can tell you guys that this article is the best thing I’ve read in years. It’s amazing how a few words can really change the way we feel. For me there are 3 classic rules about happiness: first BE THANKFUL. Second LOVE YOURSELF. Third ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST. I know that sometimes it’s difficult ’cause there’s a lot of people trying to put we off but, we have a powerful strenght inside us that we can never forget.
    A really really big thank you from Portugal*

  30. G says

    A truth I would add is, “No one likes being wrong.” The best thing you can do (and the only way you will get consensus or any movement toward your view point) is to let / help the person save face. Entrenching yourself to defend yourself and argue your points only makes them defensive and argumentative in return. Seeing their concerns and acknowledging then as reasonable (even if they aren’t) is the only way to find a happy middle ground. Insisting on your way (even if you’re 100% right) will leave you lonely and frustrated.

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