Update: Very long and probably boring post, if you find it boring it’s probably for you. It’s more unstructured than it is boring. Possibly even bad or wrong. Hell, you know what? Don’t read it. ‘insert sarcasm here..
If I were to talk to my twenty something old self, I’d have just two things to say that would make my life from then on a whole damn lot better. Maybe I’ll have to tell my kid instead, when he starts having problems. The “maybe” part is put there for a reason – he’s quite smarter than me and I’d just do him an injustice if I lectured him before he pondered on it. He’s different, you know? Why should I assume he’d make the same mistakes I did? Part of my knock-on-wall-using-head life experiences taught me that some people are just different. So far, he’s reaaaally not me – he’s faster, he’s smarter, he knows how to smile to girls (and boy that one hurt when he’d smile the way I still haven’t learned how to copy, not for the lack of trying and the inevitable smack I get from the wife) and he’s also very stubborn. That part is the key, in my opinion. Also, that one he’s got from his mother, if you’re still guessing. Honey, if you’re reading this, I’m married not dead, you know…
Of course I’d tell him eventually, but denying him the option of him thinking for himself is not my idea of a good education. It’s like, think, dude. You may sometimes be wrong but if you’re not thinking you’ll always be wrong. Which is kind of what the number one thing on my list is:
Success is 30% effort (including learning things), 30% willpower, 30% planning and the rest 10% is just plain ol’ luck. If you don’t start early and use that brain of yours supposedly god gave you, you won’t understand the power sustained effort has on success rate. Don’t take things for granted, you ain’t god’s gift to the world because I don’t remember giving gifts to anybody. Save. Money, time, other resources. Save. Prepare yourself. It’s never too late to start.
You think it’s not that way? Not interested to hear it, then. I’ve seen careers change on luck, I’ve been many times quite literally on the “lucky” part of the equation and so far I’ve postulated just one bloody thing about it (besides the fact most people say others are lucky if they can’t stand them, otherwise it’s skill or just reward): you won’t know when it’s luck or bad luck until after a lot of time passes. I’ve lost a position as management somewhere and after a few weeks I’ve been accepted somewhere else and in this context I’ve learned, after just a year, that the job I’ve lost to some other fellow was .. what’s that word?… downsized. Reduced. As in that particular job and a few more others just went poof! after a year. I lasted a lot longer, so in my book my bad luck turned out to be good luck. Didn’t feel that way at that time. Also I’ve been on the other part of the employment equation, I’ve been job-less, penny-less and other less-es you might find around and it’s really bad. I feel for you if you’re in the same situation I was back then. I’ve had an advantage though – I had a family to think of, a very stubborn wife and a happy kid – those made me forget some “learned” behavioral tricks (like that nice joke – “don’t scare the ostriches, the floor is made of concrete”). I literally had to pull my head out of my arse (there’s an image I need to permanently erase, where’s that bloody whiskey when I need it) and realize my opinion and way of doing things were worth exactly jack shit. This article explains it better.
You need more on that? Too bad, I’m still not over it so that’s a no. But if somebody would have talked to me when I was young and just beginning to think out of the box and tell me I had to work hard and keep working hard no matter what people say or think and do that in a disciplined, planned fashion, that’d have saved me a lot of stomach ache and Maalox. You want to succeed? Think big. Choose something – programming, physics, engineering, medicine, art, anything, but it’s preferable you pick something that you’d take pride in, something you like. After you choose, and take your time that one’s it’s going to last, go over it again. Again and again. Don’t be afraid to rethink things. Choose something that can coexist with a family, with hard work. No, money isn’t an objective. No, fame isn’t an objective.
Think again. Think long term. Think happy. So you got it, right? Now research what you need to get what you chose and plan how you’re going to get there. Rethink what you need to rethink. Go over it again, a few more times. Talk to people, preferably those in the know. Once you’ve ironed out what is needed (skills, abilities, knowledge) and know the general timetable of how to get it, divide the timetable on several sub-elements but keep ‘em clear, clean and simple. I mean, sort of like “learn how to do trigonometry (angles, projections, Cartesian mapping) by Jan 1st 2017” or “then learn Riemann geometry by Jan 1st 2020”. Define those deadlines by calculating what 2 years mean in learn-time, for example from a day you take out 8 hours of sleep, 8 hours of work/school and 3 hours for other stuff (driving to work, washing your… hands, talking to people, and so on) and you get around 4 hours (also, left one hour for i/o debugging) a day on average that you can use for learning stuff. How much can you cram in there knowing that’s the top limit? I mean you drink a beer, watch a football match or bloody ballet for all I care, and whoops it’s time to go to bed. Make your goals realistic. Recap. Then start on it. Be stubborn. You don’t get points for going out with your friends or partying like there’s no tomorrow. Keep at it. Work, learn, use. You get points for having a job in the same area your goals are (but it’s not mandatory). Celebrate reaching your goals, mark those dates in your calendar. It’s a morale booster. Now do that for 10 years while ignoring distractions, idiots and jury duty and juggling dirty diapers. Collect happy or try something else. Start again from the beginning because zen changes. Set new goals. Repeat.
Don’t be afraid to rethink your goals mid-way. At 40 you’re not the same person you were at 20. Things happen, shit happens. You change your values, you change your expectations… Hell, now I wouldn’t think of working 12-14 hours a day just because it’d make me look good to my project manager and hope I’d be one myself in a year or so.. Believe me when I tell you, having people tell you you’re manager material at 25 doesn’t mean you really ought to be. Very few people are that kind of people person at that age and fewer still have the stomach for it. It’s one thing to be kicked around for failing shit and another thing entirely to be kicked around because one or more of those you’re ahem .. leading… are lazy and can’t be arsed to work or maybe one decided he doesn’t like you, wants to be the boss instead of you and makes the whole team fail so you get fired. I’ve seen some of those, they’s not a pretty thing. Fortunately, whatever you or I may think at that time, bad things don’t last. There’s always something far worse lurking around the corner. So, pace yourself. You need to.
My personal cheat sheet for jobs:
One thing I’ve learned that you won’t believe and can’t be taught because you need to Evrika! it yourself is: you have to want hard work (as in hard, challenging), control over how you do it (or at the very least it should be something that demands quality and not quantity), and absolutely no overtime except on emergencies. That way you can be proud of what you do, work your tail off and at the end of the day have enough time to play with your kids or your husband or wife and still be able to grab a beer with the folks from work once or twice a week at the local pub. I’m telling you that your happiness is worth it. Yep, I’m saying it again, your happiness for the rest of your life is worth working hard and skipping 10 years of parties, orgies and other themed carnivals.
The second thing I’d tell myself is shit happens – learn from it, put it behind you and take everything live throws your way with your chin up and chest forward. There’s a Franciscan prayer I’d like me to remember for the rest of my life: “Father, give me the courage to accept what can’t be changed, the will to change what can and needs to be changed and the wisdom to know one from the other”. I’m not a religious man, duh, but like I said before, give the devil his due – this one’s too important not to know and it’s also something I keep as guide to life, universe and everything. Even in base 13.
Bad things will happen whether you’re to blame or not. If you’re to have bad luck, you don’t have to board an airplane to die in an airplane crash – the bloody plane could drop on your house while you’re busy watching telly. We don’t know what’s to happen and therefore we can’t infer much of what’s coming for us in the future. Based on that, we don’t know if something we think is bad now will be still considered bad in the future. That also applies to good things. You won’t know if you’ve been lucky or unlucky until time passes and we see the consequences of that luck or bad luck. So the best we can do is consider events good if we can learn from them and bad if we can’t learn anything.
So far I’ve not been able to find a single bad event in my life – every single “oh shit” moment taught me something, sometimes even about myself, how high my pain threshold is and also what I’m worth. Bad memories, yes. Bad choices, oh yea. But I found no events I couldn’t learn from. So… You’re it, mon. Sure it can be painful sometimes, sure it’s not something you’d go through again, but then again my other philosophy in life is not to make the same mistake twice. Don’t be afraid to take your share of the responsibility and remember the only person that absolutely has to live with you is yourself – make sure you don’t lose sleep over “what if”-s and “I shouldn’t have done that”-s…
The point is if you’re able to infer, deduce or positively identify (baaaa, baaaa, black sheep…!) you could have made another choice, a better one, you’ve learned something. Don’t do the same mistake twice, then. Besides, you can only have a choice in the matter if there’s more than 2 alternatives you can choose from. Also, the only person responsible for your happiness (or lack of) is you. Don’t blame others, they only hurt you because you let them. That’s why I avoid idiots and fundamentalists, both groups aren’t able to understand they can and at times positively will be wrong. And surrounding yourself with people who want you to be just like them but not better, probably miserable and surely not successful is just another word for idiocy.
The only way to learn is to fail and the only way to fail is to actually act to improve yourself – so if you’re stuck on a “change is bad” attitude, you won’t learn much. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the very definition of insanity, right, Herr Albert? The true sign of intelligence is imagination, not knowledge. Surround yourself with people who imagine themselves better and choose not to be around those who think things couldn’t or shouldn’t be better (and fear change). The first group will try to find ways to be happier and the latter will find excuses for not trying. If one lacks imagination, how would one know what happiness is if those around him don’t have it? Hope for the best but bloody prepare for the worst.
Oy vey, this was a brain-twisting mind-boggling hideous beauty. Now I really need that drink. Besides, I’ve also subtly put aside a small health/neurological issue I wish I’d have known sooner but then again it was only defined in the early ‘80s so I doubt it would have made much more of a difference as there’d still be a lack of medicine for it.
This was a good weekend for me, my son taught me things that shouldn’t stick do stick on the ceiling in the right conditions. So, how do I adult again? I’m also out of whiskey.