You’ve come a long way, and you’re still learning and growing. Be thankful for the lessons. Take them and make the best of things right now.
For my 18th birthday, many moons ago, my grandfather on my mom’s side gave me four lightly-used flannel shirts that he no longer needed. The shirts were barely worn and in great shape; my grandfather told me he thought they would look great on me. Unfortunately, I thought they were odd gifts at the time and I wasn’t thankful. I looked at him skeptically, gave him a crooked half-smile, and moved on to the other gifts sitting in front of me. My grandfather died two days later from a sudden heart attack. The flannel shirts were the last gifts he ever gave me, and that crooked half-smile was the last time I directly acknowledged him. Today, I still regret the little thing I didn’t say when I had the chance: “Thank you Grandpa. I appreciate you.”
That was a huge wake-up call for me — one that has served me well for over two decades now.
And here are eight wake-up calls for YOU — some important life lessons worth learning before it’s too late:
1. You might not have tomorrow to say, “I love you.”
About 15 years ago a coworker of mine died in a car accident on the way to work. During his funeral several people from the office were in tears, saying kind things like: “I loved him. We all loved him so much. He was such a wonderful person.” I started crying too, and I wondered if these people had told him that they loved him while he was alive, or whether it was only with death that this powerful word, love, had been used without question or hesitation.
I vowed to myself then and there that I would never again hesitate to speak up to the people I love and remind them of how much I appreciate them. They deserve to know they give meaning to my life. They deserve to know I think the world of them.
Bottom line: If you love someone today, tell them. If you appreciate someone today, tell them. There might not be a tomorrow. Today is the day to express your love and admiration. (Note: Angel and I discuss this in detail in the Relationships chapter of our book, “1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently”.)
2. Your judgments of others are often inaccurate.
You will never know exactly what another person is going through or what their whole story is. When you believe you do, realize that your assumptions about their life are in direct relation to your own limited perspective.
Many people you believe to be successful are extremely unhappy. Many people you think have it easy have worked their tail off to achieve their status. Many people who appear to be wealthy are in debt because of their extravagant tastes for material possessions. Many people who appear to be too old and uncool were once every bit as young and hip and inexperienced as you are right now.
3. Not trying is why most people fail in life.
It’s not the mistakes and failures you have to worry about the most, it’s the opportunities you miss when you don’t even try that hurt the worst. Trying — truly trying — always leads to some level of success, regardless of the outcome. Even mistakes and failures teach you what not to do next time. Every outcome, good or bad, is a lesson that makes you stronger and wiser over time.
So keep reminding yourself that in the end there’s only one thing that makes a goal or dream impossible to achieve: the failure to try. Because the results you achieve in life are NOT based on what you plan to do or what you say you’ll do. Your results come from what you actually try and do consistently!
Yes, your life will get better when YOU get better. Start investing in yourself mentally and physically. Make it a priority to learn and grow a little bit every day by building positive rituals and sticking to them. The stronger you grow and become, the better your life will feel in the long run.
4. Patience does not mean waiting and doing nothing.
Patience involves productive activity. It means doing your very best with the resources available to you, while understanding that the results you seek are worth the required time and effort, and not available elsewhere for any less time and effort.
Patience is the realization that the quality of your life in the long run is much more significant than the quantity of things you fill it with today. Patience is your willingness to accept and appreciate what you have right now, while you gradually work hard for the dreams and goals that matter most to you.
5. You don’t need anything more to be happy.
Intuitively, you already know that the best stuff in life isn’t stuff at all, and that relationships, experiences, and meaningful work are the staples of a happy life. Yet you live in a consumer driven society where your mind is incessantly subjected to clever advertising ploys that drive you, against your better judgment, to buy material goods you don’t need or even want.
And at a certain point, the excessive material objects you buy end up hurting the emotional needs advertisers would like you to believe they are meant to support. So next time you’re getting ready to make an impulsive purchase, ask yourself if this thing is really better than the things you already have. Or have you been momentarily tricked into believing that you’re dissatisfied with what you already have? (Read Soulful Simplicity.)
6. You aren’t perfect, and neither is anyone else.
All humans are imperfect. At times, the confident lose confidence, the patient misplace their patience, the generous act selfish, and the knowledgeable second guess what they know.
And guess what? You’re human — we all are. We make mistakes, we lose our tempers, and we get caught off guard. We stumble, we slip, and we spin out of control sometimes.
But that’s the worst of it; we all have our moments. Most of the time we are remarkable. So stand beside the people you love through their trying times of imperfection, and offer yourself the same courtesy; if you aren’t willing to, you don’t deserve to be around for the remarkable moments either.
7. All the little things make a big difference.
Life isn’t about a single moment of great triumph and attainment. It’s about the trials and errors that get you there — the blood, sweat, and tears — the small, inconsequential things you do every day. It all matters in the end — every step, every regret, every decision, and every little affliction.
Yes, the seemingly useless happenings add up to something. The minimum wage job you had in high school. The evenings you spent laughing and socializing with coworkers you never see anymore. The hours you spent writing down your thoughts on social media posts no one ever read. Contemplations about elaborate future plans that never came to be. All those lonely nights spent reading novels and news columns and Twitter threads and fashion tips and questioning your own principles on life and sex and religion and whether or not you’re good enough just the way you are!
All of this has strengthened you! All of this has led you to every success you’ve ever had. All of this has made you who you are today.
Truth be told, you’ve been broken down dozens of times and put yourself back together again. Think about how remarkable that is, and how far you have come. You’re not the same person you were a year ago, a month ago, or even yesterday. You’re always growing… stronger!
8. Excuses are mostly just lies.
Just because someone else can, doesn’t mean you can, right? Because you’re not good enough, or you’ve already missed your chance, or it’s just not in the cards for you. You look for reasons they can do it but you can’t…
- “Maybe he’s an internet entrepreneur and freelance writer because he has no kids.”
- “Maybe she’s way fitter than I am because she doesn’t have all the work and family obligations I have, or has a more supportive spouse, or doesn’t have bad knees.”
OK fine, it’s easy to find excuses: but look at all the other people who also have considerable obstacles and have done it anyway. Angel and I have a family, and have coped with significant loss in our lives, and still managed to make meaningful progress in our lives. And just as we’ve turned things around for ourselves, we know hundreds of other people who’ve done the same. Through nearly 15 years of work with our students and our coaching clients, we’ve witnessed people reinventing themselves at all ages — 48-year olds starting healthy families, 57-year-olds graduating from college for the first time, 71-year-olds starting successful businesses, and so forth. And stories abound of people with disabilities or illnesses who overcame their obstacles to achieve incredible outcomes.
No one else can succeed for you on your behalf. The life you live is the life you build for yourself. There are so many possibilities to choose from, and so many opportunities for you to bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be. NOW is the moment to actually step forward!
It’s your turn…
Today, I hope you will have another inspired day, that you will dream boldly and dangerously, that you will make some progress that didn’t exist before you took action, that you will love and be loved in return, and that you will find the strength to accept and grow from the troubles you can’t change. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and wisdom in this world), that you will, when you must, be wise with your decisions, and that you will always be extra kind to yourself and others.
And please leave Angel and me a comment below and let us know what you think of this post. Your feedback is important to us. 🙂
(Finally, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to sign-up for our free newsletter to receive new articles like this in your inbox each week.)
A million thank yous wouldn’t be enough to express the gratitude I feel towards both of you for writing such brilliant articles and emails each week. Your words inspire me every single day in every way possible! Every time I read them, I wonder “How do these people know exactly the advice I need…” 🙂
This article particularly hit home… and hard! Especially #7 and #8… I always keep coming up with excuses to not do things. I really need to work on not lying to myself. Thank you again for the constant encouragement you provide… your words always make my day. Bless u both! And I’m also enjoying your newest book on relationships. 🙂
Rachel Lima says
Beautiful post. Sometimes in my daily grind I tend to lose sight of what is really important. Your posts and emails are always the wake-up call I need. Thank you so much for sharing.
Sandy P. says
Marc, what an intimate and beautiful story about your grandfather. I can relate on so many levels. Also, number 1 is such a profoundly important message. I had an opportunity to express my forgiveness to my ex-husband for divorcing me after our son tragically died. He just couldn’t cope, and I knew that’s what it was. I am so grateful for that conversation because three weeks later he died. I’m sure it was of a broken heart.
Thank you for weekly inspiration and healthy reminders.
A few years ago, on a day I was praying to St Michael, the archangel, to intervene on my behalf for strength and guidance, one of your hack life posts mysteriously appeared in my inbox. Based upon both your website name, content, and the unreal timing, I subscribed. As I sit here now and reflect, I know it’s time to share. After a bitter divorce and having to raise 3 young kids into adulthood, I am finally able to live for me. Through pain is growth. Through giving you receive. And the timing is not of our choosing. Sometimes, faith is the only thing to hold onto. And, it is enough. Tomorrow I move from Chicago to Colorado to fulfill my calling. I don’t know exactly what that is, but would like to sincerely thank you for your part in my evolution. Blessings to you both.
Patrick J Sweeney says
Marc (and Angel), an outstanding piece of work. It’s going out in an email to my extended family as a must-read — and a must-do.
Wendy Malmborg says
I was 19 and leaving on my big planned multi-month adventure around Australia. As I drove away I watched my Mum waving from the footpath. I gave her my little stereo as she always said she would get one for herself when I left. Just one of all the things she said she would “get later.” But she didn’t get all those things, as she died suddenly just a couple months later. I have always been grateful of my last memory of her — of her gratitude — and the lesson to really seize the moment. Truly, you might never get another chance to hug someone or to dance crazy or visit a friend or explore places you’ve always wanted to visit. Make time and life will fit in around it. That story I just shared was nearly 50 years ago and have no regrets.
Karina Martinez del Sobral says
“Make time and life will fit in around it.” Beautiful words. Thank you for sharing.
I’m literally sitting in the airport tearing up right now over this post an the comment above mine.
Thank you. Hugs, Megan
Perla milner says
Thank you , thank you , thank you for making a difference to so many that need reminders! 🙂
Brilliant post! I love getting your uplifting emails and posts in my inbox.
I have lived through almost every misery life has to offer. I am 62 and still can find some uplifting truths and reminders in your writings. God has gotten me through it all.
A wonderful set of things to live by. I once knew a brilliant psychologist who told my husband and I that we were the last people who really knew our own minds. What he meant by that is that even our view of ourselves is often inaccurate. Just as we judge other people based on our limited perspective, we also judge ourselves with that same filter. Thanks for the post.
Zaretha Taylor says
Hello Angel & Marc,
I really appreciate y’all bold, straight up tender loving advice. God is always right on time… I’m very happy the spirit lead me to receiving your messages.
Y’all have a Blessed Day
This piece is so informative and educational. I believe that we all need to get out of our comfortable Zones.
Thank you so much for always blessing me with these reminders.
Anastasia Preston says
These words are Golden.
I think that everyone needs to read this before they take one step further in life. The words here are so true and moving. Thank you for reminding us to never let the sun set on an argument, cross words, or failing to let someone know how we truly feel about them and appreciate the blessing of their presence in our life.
Thank you for this post to help us to live with no regrets.
Shannon Sadler says
Wise words. Thank you!
It’s not like i didn’t already know all of these things, but somehow the way you have written them here, it makes them so much more meaningful and real. Thank you.
Your article came at just the right time in my life. I have been getting knots in my stomach facing issues at work lately. I really needed to hear your beautiful words of wisdom. I have been thinking along the same philosophical lines as you have written above, for years. However, I tend to let these tidbits on how to live life, slip to the back of my mind, fading into never never land when I get busy. Thank you for your inspiring words. I now realize I must try harder not to forget these things that make life meaningful. Please keep writing these articles, so that my brain stays awake and alert to what really matters in life.
Juliet Marvin says
I just read your post for the first time and have to tell you my story as it resonates with your advice to tell those you love that you love them. I did just that to a man who was the love of my life 40 years ago. We ended badly, my fault, and only reconnected recently after a long search on my part. I had this strong urge to find him and tell him that I still cared. I did find him but sadly he had lost all memory of our years together so while our story does not end the way I hoped, I am glad that I was able to tell him how much he meant to me. Thank you for your life advice – Julie
Jeanine Waddell says
I want to thank you for this lesson. I read the entire thing and understand the things I need to do. Mostly it is an inspiration for me to want others to see and apply this to their lives as well. My daughter for one, is having some of these issues like me. I pray you all stay focus on the this path to help others. God has me read this and understand it as well. Thank you again.