In preparation for every birthday, I write down a list of things I learned over the past year, one lesson for each year I’ve been alive.
Insights about people, thoughts about life, opinions about how the world works — they’re all included in my Legacy List.
This gradual gathering of personal reflections has gone on for several years now and, consequently, I am slowly creating a numbered narrative detailing my own personal evolution.
It’s hard to figure out how I’ve changed, but it’s also interesting to look back at the person I was five years ago, to review what he had to say about the world, and to note how quickly things evolve, what it means, and why.
I think it will make for a fascinating read when I’m older, a collection of thoughts written by an ever-evolving me. That’s a project for another day but for now, here are the 12 most important lessons I learned this year.
1. Fuck the past: If it was meant to be, it would have been. Get over it. Move on. Don’t let what has happened determine what will happen. Don’t let donations to your past steal investments from your future. Don’t let history impede possibility.
2. Love is a dogfight: Just as nobody wins in war, nobody loses in love. Sharp tongues may tear like claws and scathing words may bite like fangs, but the fight itself is all that matters.
Being involved in the action, seeing what you’re made of, and pushing yourself to the point of destruction and beyond — that is what counts. The scars are merely proof that you fought hard enough to earn them. They are silent stories waiting to be told, memories for the future.
3. Be graceful in defeat: Failure happens to everyone. Things go wrong, setbacks are normal, and stumbling blocks are great detectives — they will find your best hiding place. Failing every day is the only way to discover what you are capable of achieving.
Fail forward, fail onward, and fail upward, but don’t focus on the failure. Focus on getting yourself back to success. However, if you are successful and still feel like a failure, it’s time to ask bigger questions.
4. Every moment is a battle: Sharpen your blade and show up for the fight. Sometimes life is tough, but always you are tougher.
5. Live before you die: Be bold. Take risks. Go out and make some fucking memories.
6. Do the work: Work so hard that your heroes become your rivals. Work so hard that you don’t need to be introduced to people. Work so hard that you fall asleep content and wake up on fire, burning with purpose and yearning to get going again.
Recognize that experts are beginners who never gave up, bosses are interns who stuck with it, and professionals are amateurs who refused to be defeated by life, critics, or confidence. Keep grinding.
7. Your life is yours alone: You create the power, you have the choice, and you make the decisions. Pay no attention to the doubters, the naysayers, and the pessimists always lurking, waiting, haunting. Just do what makes you happy. Do what makes you explode inside.
Do what tattoos a smile on your heart. Do what fills you with hope. Do what drives you. Do what you do best, and do what you love, and then do that for the rest of your life. You don’t have to do it like everyone else, but you do have to live your best life and become your best you. Do it now. Do it today.
8. Shortcuts are rarely scenic drives: They come at a cost. Take them at your peril.
9. We are one: Everybody is more alike than we realize, nothing more than suffering stardust surviving on starlight. We are all, each of us, a living, breathing miracle. There is strength in our collective togetherness. We all fell from the same family tree.
10. Time is irreplaceable: Be careful how you spend yours. Do not waste energy on discussions that don’t matter, people who are unkind, and communication disguised as connection. Do not give your time to a cause, conversation or confidant to abuse and ignore.
Do not donate your life to energy vampires, false friends, and random assholes who contaminate your heart with their pain.
Rather, allow people to show you what counts, let them lead you to what matters, and encourage them to thrust you towards something that intrigues you, excites you, and challenges you. Your time is precious and so are you. Use your time; don’t let it use you.
11. Push yourself: Regularly redefine expectations. Go out and give your limits a slap in the face. Shatter your glass ceiling, crash through your barriers, and stumble blindly beyond your boundaries.
The difference between success and failure is directly proportional to the distance between interested and committed. Get there.
12. Take the initiative: There is nothing more important than immediate action. Grab life by the balls and squeeze, twist, and pull. Punch your fears in the face. Kick tomorrow in the teeth. Get shit done, do good shit, and make shit happen. Go out and make a fucking difference in the world.
So that’s part of this year’s list. What about you? What did you learn this year?