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
“#2. You have to do lots of things you aren’t good at to grow.”
This is something I’m just realizing is true. I used to think if something made me uncomfortable, that I shouldn’t do it. Lately though, I’ve been making decisions that haven’t been comfortable or fun at the moment…but the outcome, the outcome makes it worth it! Now I want to do as many things that make me uncomfortable as I can. So far, doing so has only brought growth and happiness I didn’t even know I was missing!
Glad to see this piece of advice on here!
I can’t wait to see this person’s response when he sees this article! I would add that adulthood isn’t as glamourous as we make it out to be when we’re younger. Everyone is obsessed with getting older because we think age automatically brings wisdom, happiness, and more. Yes, being older is VERY awesome, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy my freedom and the fact that I am wiser than before, but even in adulthood we’re all still figuring it out and making things up as we go along. None of us have it figured out.
If we all realize this sooner then it’d make life a lot easier because the expectations are unrealistic sometimes. Adults mess up, we all do. We’re not perfect, but no one says it thoroughly enough (or often enough.)
I completely agree with all the points mentioned above, specially the point that flaws are beautiful and likeable. Failure makes you learn the hard way and you grow and mature in the process. However, it is important that you take these failures in a constructive way and learn from them for future growth.
I would add the underestimated, immense power of saying “sorry.”
I used to act like the world is painted in black and white. I wish I embraced flexibility much sooner.
You need stay open to new approaches and new possibilities. There is not only one way that is right. You are missing out when you try to force on life your ideas no matter what.
‘Happiness is found where interests and capabilities intersect. ‘
So true. It’s my quote of the day.
Louis Adkins says
I would add “Be sure to listen to others. Listening just costs you some time and patience, usually. You might learn something new or different, or you might just leave the other person feeling better to have had an ear, or to just have been heard.”
I would like to add:
“You cannot control what other people think, say or do.”
Everyone’s thoughts, words and deeds are a reflection of themselves and their own programming, just as your own thoughts words and deeds are a reflection of your own programming. Therefore do not get hurt when other people do not like you as a person, or do not agree with what you believe in. They are only showing you who they are – and that they may be different from you. People will change their thoughts and beliefs according to their own experience. Your encounters with them might contribute to the change, but ultimately they have to choose to change.
Thanks a lot for the posts. They continually inspire.
I don’t think that any of this is off-beat advice, I think it just isn’t what the mainstream self-help gurus would focus on.
My grandmother had a fifth grade education but she was the wisest person I have ever known. She frequently said that wisdom is not about knowing stuff like impressive facts, it is about understanding people. She made sure her children and grandchildren received a formal education, but she taught us all to be humble about what we had learned because books don’t teach us to respect each other.
Thank you for the timely reminder of what is important.
Maureen O'Danu says
These are excellent pieces of advice. I especially like “sometimes the most unpleasant people just need a little love”. One of my roles in life is as a mental health therapist, and people often ask me how I can deal with ‘those people’.
First of all, there is no ‘those people’. There are only people, and if they’re coming to therapy they’re typically seeking help with a problem.
When they start getting 45-50 minutes a week of someone listening, supporting, and affirming them, while gently challenging them to try “this” and try “that”, people who are ‘unpleasant’ often become some of the most generous, funniest people around… but only in that context.
We all carry around a lot of pain. People who walk around ‘unpleasant’ have chosen a way of avoiding more pain that is challenging to others, and not as effective as they’d like. As they build better skills, they become more ‘pleasant’.
And besides, is being pleasant the be-all and end-all? Sometimes the important skill to learn is how to get up in peoples’ faces and stand up for what you believe in.
Great post, again. Thank you.
I love that you put wisdom as #1. “A smart man learns from his mistakes. A wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” I would add keep your mind open for the next lesson. When someone older offers his advice, it is often because he has already made the mistake and wished to share what he has learned. While our life experiences don’t always mirror others, we might still learn a lesson from theirs.
Mark Whittington says
I wish I had learned that everyone is put in our path for a reason; and that we are a codependent Nation.
Enjoy the moment you are in right now: When we are young we are busy thinking and planning the future. When we get older we think about the past. But what really matters most is the moment we are in right now; experience it, enjoy it, make the most of it.
tara dillard says
Yes, you can trust your inner voice.
Thank you for this. I share these with my granddaughter from time to time. She is definitely one who marches to a different drummer and yet at the same time wishes she were more like other kids. Entering the teenaged years is fraught with mixed emotions and letting these kids know that it’s okay to be different helps, I hope. Sharing this one too!
I wish I knew earlier that my own personal comfort had to come in first place. I sacrificed it a lot in order to make excuses for someone or went beyond my comfort zone so someone would feel better. It’s okay to do that “occasionally” but mostly my own comfort shouldn’t be sacrificed on a continuous basis for someone else’s.
#5 “The key is to find the point at which what you love, what you’re good at, and what people will pay for, intersect.”
I’ve been trying to figure this out for a couple years now. It’s much easier said than done. I’m not giving up on it though. 😉
Lilit Aghabekyan says
You dont need to know everything that will happen in your life. All you need is to really want something, be patient and go forward to the goal. People waste so much energy on being worried for their future. That energy could be used to build the future.
It’s okay to veer from the manual. Sometimes we get so caught up in following the instructions that we fail to realize there is an easier way. If it works, so be it. It’s okay to take the short cut! We can customize our own life.
Susan Torp says
The doing is more important than the product.
Life is a practice. A few years back I was going through a difficult divorce that required a number of lawyers. I wondered why lawyers like doctors call their profession a practice. I always wondered why I have to pay a lawyer so much money for him to practice! I thought that for what I’m paying him and her for law advice they better be finished practicing and know what they are doing. Then I came to the realization that everyday of our lives is a practice. Practice the 7 points above, practice “The Four Agreements”, just practice at doing your best everyday. Give more than you take, love more than you are loved and care.
Thanks for the inspirations…
Jenny Jacobs says
Whenever I read your blogs it is crystal clear that you two are living your authentic life. Your words are simple, inspirational, and spot-on. I find myself continuously nodding in agreement! It is rare to find such powerful content. Thank you.
Jennifer Haston says
#8. Life isn’t fair. This sounds really negative but the truth is, it is not. If I had known that going in, life isn’t fair and you often have to figure out things without expecting it to be fair, would have been better off.. 🙂
#9. What other people think of me, is none of my business. I spent so much of my adolescence trying to impress other people and when I look back I see a lot of wasted time. You live you learn, but if I could just impart that knowledge to one person a little younger than I will be doing a great service, I think 🙂
Kari Kilen says
I don’t know quite how to phrase this, but I wish I had known years ago that when people are negative towards you or your ideas, etc., that it is a reflection of them and their life story, not you. Don’t let it stop you from pursuing your dreams and being who you want to be.
I’ve been struggling with #1 myself lately in regards to a particular relationship. Time to just let go of that I suppose. Xo
Lana Vaughan says
Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
Excellent stuff, I love what you guys put out, please know it touches so many!
@ Erica, that was my input as well, to Notice, and Enjoy the Moment we are in, it’s really all we have. Our lives are happening one Moment at time, always Right Now, spending too much time in the past or the future robs us of our lives, how tragic it would be to realize that only at the end…
Chris Forver Young
Love these posts! I’m fortunate to work with dogs (MY loves) and spend the day on the beach, cruising down the boardwalk, walking into Bird Rock, etc. All of the outdoor time afford us the opportunity to meet loads of people as dogs are magnets and folks flock to them. The most important lesson these animals have taught me is to get out of my head, live in the moment, accept others and myself, live joyously, move on if I don’t like a person, situation, what have you…just be. Be happy. Be free. Be love. BE ME.
I would add two more:
Everything works out…just not always how you intended. Nothing is permanent and we can’t always force outcomes so relax and stop trying to control outcomes. A year from now you will wonder what you were worrying about.
Smile more. Sounds trite but it is powerful in all kinds of relationships.
Good read. Also, check out ‘Positivity‘ and other books by Barbara Fredrickson.
Lin jackson says
Hey Marc and everyone,
Could you help me? I don’t know what to believe in …I used to believe in something…now I believe in nothing…though i want to again…its really complicated and its driving me crazy. How do I find hope for a brighter future?
Thank you for this brilliant post!
It reached me just at the right time and in the right place and was exactly what I needed to read to get me through a rough spot and put some things into perspective. Perfect timing!
Lisa B says
I once heard piece of advice that didn’t sit well with me at first. Now, as I’m older, it really is a key to happiness
“Don’t be too good at a job you don’t want.”
Thank you for all you do Marc and Angel, you are appreciated!
I would add that you should listen to yourself when it comes to choosing a career. Parents and other well meaning people can’t tell you what to do. Do not let them tell you what to do.
Do not share your dreams with anyone who could dash them in less than 2.5 seconds. In fact, it’s best to keep your dreams to yourself (for a little while) before you share them with SUPPORTIVE people. It’s sad to say that the people closest to you such as family and friends may not understand. So… keep your mouth shut. 🙂
Mary Lynn says
Yours is the only blog I read, and at 66 yrs old I did not even know what a blog was until a friend sent me yours about 6 months ago.
This is my first comment as I was moved to do so after reading this one. As I reflect, the one thing I wish I knew a long time ago was to trust myself, my heart, my feelings, my intuitions, and my choices instead of trying with much difficulty to do what others thought best for me, as I was sure I was stupid and needed advice. Thank you for your research and insight.
What I want is usually hiding behind something I don’t want to do.
Tim Allen says
All of these great comments just make this whole article that much better, thanks everyone for the input.
I wish I could have understood sooner that life is about the journey, not the destination. We need goals to provide a path for positive growth, but we will spend far more of our precious little time moving towards the goals than we spend at the destination. We’re seldom in that moment of completion, I’m learning to immerse myself in and make the most of the moment, without losing sight of my goals. I think ambition is a good thing, but not at the sacrifice of a full awareness of now. Because I didn’t learn this sooner, many of my memories are very vague, hopefully future memories will be more complete.
Mike Martel says
Great list. I would add:
Don’t wait to be told to do something. Find something you like doing and start doing it. What I mean by this is especially when we are young, we tend to wait for instruction or direction at school or at a job. If you do this, many times you end up getting stuck with something you dislike. By taking on something yourself, when the other tasks come up, the teacher, boss, etc will find someone else.
Mandy Kloppers says
Great post and very true words. I also think that you never stop learning. No matter how old you are you can always learn and every person out there, from a hobo to a king can teach us something.
David Rapp says
1. Wisdom: Isn’t knowing the right questions, or the right answers…its staying, calm, cool and collected when you do not have either.
2. Doing things your not good at…I can only agree to an extent. Yes, you learn new things. Yes, you will grow. Yes, you will never know how they will apply in the future. But always stick to your guns. Don’t be the person who “learned accounting” to support themselves short-term, but are now stuck there 10 years later. Do what you do best, what makes you happy, what you would do 40 hours a week for free….
3. A few I learned along the way. “Never get good at something you do not want to do.”
4. Failure is an event, not a person.
5. Participation in life is not optional.
6. No one owes you anything, and no one can demand anything from you.
7. When circumstances appear to leave you no or few choices, change your circumstances.
Christine Weinkauff says
1. Failure is an opportunity to learn (if you allow it).
2. The greater the risk, the greater the potential reward.
3. It is never too late to change course.
Thomas Joe says
Just found your blog a few days ago and I love it!
I would say…
Your past is sometimes due to your upbringing and circumstances.
I have failed in life many times in the eyes of the world…
1. Dropped out of High school and never passed the 9th grade.
2. Ran away from home at the age of 16 and never went back.
3. Would steal and sell drugs to get by and survive.
This was my life growing up and I was the only one in my family that was considered the “Black Sheep”
I felt like I had nobody to turn to and share my problems with. I was mad at the world and ashamed at how I was living my life.
As I reflect on the younger years of my life I realized that I was just LOST and had NOBODY to guide me and give me direction.
* When I was entering high school my dad left and moved to the mainland…we were living in Hawaii. I still live in Hawaii!
* My mom had a drunk for a boyfriend who would verbally abuse me constantly…she stayed with him despite that.
These are some of the reasons why I had a hard time in school. Not because I wasn’t smart or just plain lazy…I was hurting inside!
I felt like a failure not graduating and when applying for jobs it made me feel embarrassed.
If they only knew why and didn’t just my character because I didn’t have a diploma they would have understood that I was actually a good person…NO a great person!
Sometimes people just need a friend, mentor, and someone to show them that they care!
My friend Rhys was this person and he showed me that I had greatness within myself. He believed in me and was like the brother I never had…he was a positive role model and influence in my life!
* I got my GED
* I went to College / University of Hawaii
* I was able to mentor teens and college students
* I got to share my story to over 500 people
So yeah, I wish I knew sooner enough that I wasn’t a failure due to choice but rather circumstances.
I was really hard on myself after high school and felt like a failure. I hated telling people I dropped out because people assumed your a bad or lazy kid.
If you know a kid not doing well in school…don’t get on them about their grades.
Find out what’s going on in their life. You may be surprised at what some kids are going through…it may shock you!
One Life / One legacy
cathy deely says
Travel beyond your state’s boundaries to learn about people and places that are different than you and your home place – it helps one appreciate the larger community of ideas and experiences that form how we think, what we believe in and how we live our lives.
Gayle Cook says
This is a response to Lin Jackson. There is a still small voice inside each of us. Some call it conscious, others call it God. Whatever you believe, listen for that voice and it will tell you what you need to know. Mine has said there is a reason for everything that has happened in my life. Even unbelief. Don’t let your current moment be discouraging. Just realize you are there to learn something.
chambers legend Onuoha says
I’d love to add: “Love isn’t earned”.
Ask a girl who’s in love why they love they love that very special person and you are likely to hear stuff like “he is very nice, caring……” More like he earned the love. Well somewhere down the line the guy stops being caring, nice and walks away…… The reasons she loved him are no more but she often doesn’t automatically stop loving him. How do I know? She’s heart broken. If those were the REAL reasons she loved him, I guess she should have automatically switched off and never get hurt as soon as he switches off and waves good bye.
often the reason we say or think we love aren’t the reasons. Surprisingly, we may never know.
one thing I now know is “love isn’t necessarily earned”
Charles Nevle says
It is never too late. Don’t let your past dictate your future. Not original statments, but I’ve found them to be so true. We should learn from our experience and this suggests we should change from time to time. We make mistakes, we see things about ourselves that are not part of who we want to be but sometimes perhaps feel trapped by a defenition of ourselves, or worse feel trapped by a defintion others have of us. We should not be afraid to reinvent ourselves in small and big ways to become the people we want to be. Thanks for the post, as always!
Dona Miller says
I have two off-beat things I’ve learned (the hard way) and tried to teach my children:
#1) Excitement feels just like fear to your body! Rapid heartbeat, gut-drop, dry mouth…basically “flight or fight”…So don’t miss out on exciting things because you confuse it with fear. Also, you can “flip” something scary into something exciting with just a little mental tweak!
#2) Just because someone says something about you doesn’t make it true! I know what I am…and I know what I’m not! If I don’t like something about me than it’s my choice to change it…and if I do like something about me I don’t have to be concerned with what anyone else thinks about it.
Christy King says
Thanks for the great post.
My bit of advice, related to your numbers 3 and 5, are don’t start off doing something that pays well unless you really love it. You think may think you’ll make money, save it and try something else, but most people just end up feeling trapped by their higher-end lifestyles.
Best advice I received was at a baby shower. The whole room of Moms was asked the best advice they ever received. Everyone had a cool nugget of information. One sweet great-grandma said quietly and eloquently, “The best advice? Don’t offer advice. You won’t be disappointed.”
Freaking love this blog post! You guys rock.
Here’s what came to mind for me when I read your words…
1) What other people say about you is entirely a reflection of them, and nothing about you. Be grateful that you’ve been a trigger for their own self-reflection.
2) Everything is nothing. Absolutely everything. Meaning arises from human minds creating it and labelling whatever we can in order to make sense of the world we live in.
3) When you do something wrong, that doesn’t make you wrong. When y0u do something bad, that doesn’t make you bad. Don’t associate events and outcomes with who you are at your core (learnt that one from Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly, which BTW is AMAZING!)
4) Don’t bother accumulating things if you’re only doing it to get secure and safe. No things can ever make you safe. You arrive with nothing and leave wtih nothing. Things are only for enjoyment as we ride the wave from start to end.
5) There is only one thing alone that can ever fill the void within you. Self-love.
Blessings to you!