What Nobody Told Me About Life

“But nobody taught me how to do that!” “I don’t know what advice to take and what to ignore…”

“How am I supposed to know what’s the right next step?”

That’s how I felt when I walked out of my boss’s office after handing him my resignation letter. It was a rough conversation, and I had no idea what to do next, how to write a client proposal, or how to set up my own business.

I had no idea if I could make it on my own.

My least favorite word in the English language is the word “discern” for one reason and one reason only — it’s so difficult to accomplish.

To discern is “to perceive or recognize.” In our lives, we’re constantly asked to discern what is best for ourselves and our loved ones — but the right path is difficult to identify, let alone choose.

Someone grant me the clarity of a Magic Eight Ball — awesome but highly unlikely.

Over the years, I’ve come across a few pieces of wisdom about life that have helped me along my quest to an awesome life. I’m going to share them with you in hopes that they’ll help you, too.

I just wish someone had told me this stuff sooner…

1. You’re the hero of your life

“You can be the bad guy. I’ll be the good guy!”

That’s what my nephew said to me while we played with his toys a few nights ago.

During a wonderful weekend at Disneyworld, everyone in the family was buzzing with the Hollywood sense of good versus evil. We helped Buzz Lightyear shoot lasers at bad aliens, joined Spiderman on his quest to defeat Dr. Octopus, and accompanied Harry Potter and his friends on their quest to escape Hogwarts and beat off the Dementors.

Helping the cartoon good guys reminded me that, in our own lives, we’re all the “good guys.”

We’re all put on this earth for a limited time. We each have an expiration date stamped on us — we just can’t read it to figure out when that date is up. All we can do in the meantime is live life for all it’s worth.

Being the hero of your life doesn’t mean things will always be cheery. It just means it’s up to you to turn things around.

When we’re having a bad day, could we just laugh about it? When a bad day hits me and I can’t muster up the giggles, I YouTube a funny video or think back to my most embarrassing funny story.

Nobody said life is meant to be all suits and ties and seriousness.

Being the hero of your life means you have a support team to back you up.

Harry Potter had Ron and Hermione. Batman had Robin. Woody had Buzz, Slinky Dog, Mr. Potatohead and other crazy characters helping him accomplish his wacky goals. Other solo cartoon heroes, like Spiderman, had loyal followers that helped him get the job done around the city.

In your own life, being the hero means gathering around the people that help you soar, the people that support you when times are tough, and the people that guide you when your unsure what to do next. Most importantly:

Like the X-Men had Professor Xavier, every hero needs a mentor.

Not all people will agree with you or want to join your quest to awesomeness. Not everyone will think what you’re doing is right. Not everyone will think you deserve to reach for something greater. I have something to say about those mean people…

2. Mean people want to feel better

I’ve come across way too many mean people — some older than my grandparents, some younger than my nephews. Mean people come in all different shapes and sizes, and you can find them in your own home or on the street, but there’s one thing they all have in common:

Mean people don’t want to make you feel bad. They want to make themselves feel better.

This applies to:

  • bosses that are under performance stress
  • friends that are suffering in another part of their lives (usually with a large dose of insecurity)
  • those who feel things are going wrong and are looking for someone to blame
  • people who say you don’t deserve your dreams

Learning the reason behind the things mean people say has helped me immensely over the years. It helps me empathize with someone for their actions or words instead of getting angry (or worse, getting even). For example:

  • When a friend of mine made a nasty comment about the school I chose to attend for my Master’s degree, I knew she was just trying to make herself feel better about her own choices. It sucked, but I didn’t let it get me down.
  • When a client made a nasty comment about my performance, I knew it was out of frustration at their own inability to execute the project. It sucked, but I stopped feeling bad about it after a few days.
  • When my parents questioned me about my career choices, I knew it was out of fear that I wouldn’t be happy, healthy, and safe by going out on my own and starting a business. I understand their fears, explained my plan, and now they’re totally onboard.

Being mean is a natural but sucky part of life. The trick is looking at the why behind it all.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not innocent here. I’ve been mean to people in my time — just ask my brothers. But when I realize I’m being mean, I reflect onwhy that mean side of me has emerged, what I’m trying to feel better about, and how to go about feeling better without letting the claws out.

Some people will always choose to act in ways that will make you feel horrible. You can’t do much about to avoid that. What you can do is decide how you want to take that negativity in and what you want to turn it into.

3. Your choices make you who you are

This weekend at Disneyworld, I didn’t work out once. I brought my workout clothes along for the ride, but every single day was too jam-packed to fit in even a ten-minute workout.

Who wants to do push-ups when there’s so much fun to be had with Mickey Mouse and Harry Potter?!

For about a split-second, I felt guilty about missing workouts. I never miss my workouts. This may have been the first time in five years that I just fail to exercise for an entire week. The guilt came down on me like a cloud, and then I said to myself:

“No, I will not feel guilty. I have exercised and made great choices for five entire years so that this weekend, on this special occasion when the entire family is united in a place as joyous as Disneyworld, I can skip my workouts. I’ve invested enough. Now, it’s time to withdraw.”

The only reason that makes sense, though, is because I have five solid years of making good choices backing me up.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle

From time to time, prioritizing family is also a habit I want to practice, a muscle I want to train. Family, to me, is everything.

What about you and your choices? What kind of person do your choices make you?

If you built my identity off of my choices, you’d say I am:

  • a workout geek
  • a lover of all things involving family and true friends
  • a healthy eater (90% of the time)
  • a writer of experiences and advice
  • an editor of web and mobile designs
  • a freedom addict
  • a hater of all things fake / unimportant / uninspired / etc

I’m not perfect, but I put in the choices every single day to make each part of my life better. Some days, I succeed. Some days, I don’t. But I have to keep trying.

If the choices we make are good ones, if the habits we build are good ones, if the love we practice is the good kind, we’ve done all we can.

Over the years, I came across these pieces of wisdom about life, and they helped me. I hope they help you, too.

I just wish someone had told me this stuff sooner…

It would’ve helped when I handed my boss my resignation letter. It would’ve helped when I started my own business. It would’ve helped when I started this quest to live an awesome life.

But now I know. And so do you.