10 gut-wrenching truths that make you a better person

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We’re approaching a high-tech era where apps could tie your shoelaces. We have food at our doorsteps, an entire superstore a thumb away and what else? Living such a sophisticated life, we often get carried away overlooking the truths that life holds. Maybe a quick recap about it would inspire us to be more aware, mindful and contented. In no particular order, here are 10 gut-wrenching truths when accepted makes you a better person.

1. MAGICAL CHANGES DON’T EXIST

You have gargantuan aspirations. CEO of an enterprise? Dancer of the era? Sloth of the decade? (Duh! That’s me, Ahem…) Often you do live out them, in your cushioned sofas, legs miles apart forming a giant V, with a bowl of potato chips sitting beneath your groin, eyes fixated to the TV screen for 5 straight hours. You regret wasting your life during the commercial, only to end up watching 3 more hours of GOT, devouring all the popcorn you got.

Why?

You wait for this perfect moment which occurs only when the sun rises in the west, clocks spin in reverse or when an alien and a human copulate to give birth to a pony.

You want overnight results, shortcuts and believe in tooth fairies, unaware of their futility. You assume success or taking back control of your life results from a single humongous pivotal change rather than consistent tiny changes. Consider the following graph

If you had improved 1% every day, you see massive changes. You cannot have 17-inch biceps or washboard abs just because you worked out 5 hours in the gym on a Sunday. Consistency’s the key. Median effort and consistency outperform superhuman inconsistent efforts. Try to be consistent, not superhuman.

2. YOU’RE IMPERFECT

You aren’t the smartest, sexiest or the charismatic guy in the room. You often find yourself comparing to successful personalities, spending all your time in self-loathing, misery and greasy potato chips. You’re fat, nerd, introverted, skinny, gay, transgender or black. You wish to change. But every time you try, you’re back to square one.

For god’s sake STOP! If you aren’t comfortable under your skin, how will you comfortable around other people?

We have our share of issues, shortcomings and addictions. Accept that you’re imperfect because all of us are. You’re not in this alone. The lives on Instagram aren’t real. If people make fun of you for being who you are, Fuck them! You’ll find people who love you for who you are. Be okay with your imperfections and try to work on them if it’s possible. Not for others but for yourself.

It’s these imperfections that make us unique and us, us. Own them and wear them as a badge of honour.

3. HAPPINESS IS OVERRATED

There are over 8 billion results for the search “How to be happy all the time”. Thousands of books and experiments later we cannot define a perfect path to be happy. Why? There isn’t one. Read that again.

You think of happiness as an end goal, a lost treasure something you strive hard to find. But it never works that way. Happiness is a result, not a cause.

You play football because you love it. You go out with your friends on vacations because you enjoy hanging around them. Not because you can be happy. Do you ever strap on your shoes, fix your hair, dress up, ask your friend to pick you up and wait till then wondering how this meet is going to make you happy? Don’t even answer that.

Happiness arises out of the act and not the act itself.

Chasing happiness backfires, every single time. And melancholy is just the other side of the same coin. Can you prove success without failure? Happiness and sadness are similar, interdependent and teach us in their unique ways.

When happiness helps you look back over your achievements with your face blushing out of joy, melancholy makes you aware of your shortcomings, helps you introspect on what went wrong and make desirable changes to become better. And trash the idea of trying to be happy all the time down its throat. Stop fantasizing. People who claim to be happy all the time are either naive or hiding their pain. It’s okay to be sad.

Don’t be the one looking for a double-headed coin. Pick the normal one. Why? Coins Dude! Valuable coins. Just pick it up and act like you weren’t the one farted amongst a crowd. People won’t notice.

The moment you stop chasing happiness, you become happy

Sandy Hyatt-James

4. YOU DON’T DESERVE ANYTHING

You’re the centre of the universe, the alpha and the omega. And your inability to choose between a neon or yellow underwear is more tragic than a global economic recession. At least that’s how you feel.

Living in a “Me me me” culture it’s typical to fall for what I call the “Entitlement trap”. Can you relate to any of the below ones?

“I have worked harder than him, I deserve that job”

“People take me for granted. I deserve more respect out of them”

“I deserve to be happy”

But the fact is you don’t deserve anything at all. You deserve a job because you worked hard? There’s another guy who hasn’t slept for 2 continuous nights working for the same job. Do you think you deserve happiness, just because you went through “a lot”? I will show you dozens of people who have experienced far worse things and aren’t complaining about it.

Entitlement is quicksand. The more entitled you are, the deeper you’re sucked into will be your misery, pain and anger. Make it clear for the 3-pound meatloaf that sits between your ears that it doesn’t deserve anything. Work for whatever you want, if you don’t get it, work harder. But never let entitlement suck you in. If you do…the rest is history.

5. MOST PEOPLE DON’T CARE ABOUT YOU

Take a minute and try to count as many people in your life you could recall. Be it friends, family, neighbours, basically anybody. (Waiting…) Ah! I guess you would have counted from 30-60 people. Now among those, try to find the top 10 people who care about you on a much deeper level. Like your parents who were with you through the ups and downs of your life, who didn’t brush you off when you were stuck, the ones who accept you for whom you are. (60…59..58…) Only a handful right?

Probably that’s how many people really care about you. It may be a handful (if you’re lucky), 5, or even 1. With that in mind,

Don’t expect everybody to care about you(Entitlement trap). Why? It’s not that the people who don’t care are sickening sadists but because it’s realistic. Not everybody can be friends with everybody, can they? This works the same way too.

And don’t get me wrong. You need all kinds of people the ones who you smile but never bothered to ask what their name was. The ones who hang out with you, the ones who’re sort of close with you. But be clear not to expect them to care about you. It’s better for both you and them.

6. YOUR VALUES AND BELIEFS ARE FLAWED

Regardless of what you believe in, be it money, relationships or crazy incomprehensible Illuminati theories you may be wrong. Why?

Humans are complacent creatures, highly biased, can be easily influenced and are filled with prejudice. Our brains are stubborn, uncontrollable, diaper wetting kids. It refuses to feel threatened or contradicted. And as a result, we tend to keep sustaining in our old belief systems.

You believe you know what makes you happy, but you don’t. You believe having Twitter followers with the size of China will make you ecstatic but it doesn’t. The problem arises when we’re rigid with our values and beliefs. Take a moment and look around. The people you talk to(the most) have the same set of beliefs and values as you do, acting as a fort with guarded soldiers who shoot conflicting perspectives on sight.

This places enormous confidence in your own beliefs regardless of your truth. You end up being that incorrigible kid, splashing around your puddle of pee in your wet diapers, just because you have people doing the same thing around you, without questioning it.

Adopt a mindset that your beliefs could be wrong. Be open to disagreements. Always be curious, not judgmental and condescending. Accept your shortcomings. Explore different cultures and philosophies, join Reddit channels on a variety of topics like Stoicism, Minimalism, Existentialism. Create a better view of the world.

Why? It’s better to err on the wrong side than to be so sure about it.

That’s a better way to broaden your perspective, build stronger beliefs and to break your cocoon.

7. THE UNCERTAINTY OF LIFE

For the first 15 – 18 years most people live their lives in what I call “Barter Approach”. Just like the archaic barter system. You give stuff for what you want.

You study hard, get better grades. You practice hard and win a medal in a 100-meter race. But this changes as you transition to the early 20s. The barter approach kind of takes a different turn. You now have to give stuff for things you have no clue about. You make crazy career choices, make big life decisions or marry a donkey(What?) without knowing what you’ll get in return. It’s like paying for a $1000 mystery box and opening it months or years later.

That’s uncertainty, real life. Whatever you do there’s an element of uncertainty in it. But how do you embrace it without being chickened out?

When you’re filled with uncertainty before making a big decision, ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”. You won’t die, right? Anything less than that is always better and choose the path of least regret. Uncertainty is a good sign that you’re doing something meaningful in your life. But what if something goes wrong?

Answer this, Would stand like a statue or do you make something up when you forget the lines of your speech? Improvise, adapt. Things would always turn out to be fine, not the way you expect it to. But fine. No one knows what they’re doing with their lives, we’re all in this together.

8. YOUR EXISTENCE MEANS NOTHING

Phew! This is a big one!

Ask yourself, what’s the meaning of your life? Are you meant to save the world with hammers, shields and crazy flying suits? Are you bestowed with the job of eradicating poverty throughout the world? What’s the exact purpose are you on this world?

The answer is nothing regardless of how many experts you talk to. We’re chunks of bones and muscles destined to exist in a limbo of big ball of blue, void of any meaning, thrusting through the insignificant, futile problems of our life.

Humans are the outcome of blind evolutionary processes that operate without goal or purpose. Our actions are not of some divine cosmic plan, if planet earth were to blow up tomorrow morning, the universe would probably keep going about its business as usual. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (2011). Chapter 19 – And They Lived Happily Ever After, Sub-Section: The meaning of life. Page 437 – 439.

Even if you do come up with one, have you come up with it on your own, or is it influence by external factors?

“Strut, fret, and delude ourselves as we may, our lives are of no significance, and it is futile to seek or to affirm meaning where none can be found.” Donald A. Crosby (July 1, 1988). “The Specter of the Absurd: Sources and Criticisms of Modern Nihilism”. State University of New York Press. Retrieved January 29, 2012.

If we go down this path I might end up telling you to jump off an 8-story-building like right now. So how do we deal with this existential crisis?

You’ve two paths,

  1. Pondering about the insignificance of life all the time. Worrying, drinking, whiling away your time without doing anything.

-or-

  1. Embrace it and construct meaning. If your life has no inherent meaning you have the freedom to construct it. You can take paths least travelled, make crazy life decisions, travel all around the world. Why? Because it’s your life.

You could adopt nihilism dropping f-bombs about gods acting cocky, running around in circles screaming that you have found something most people don’t, sounding “smart”. But, just move on already. You found that life has no inherent meaning. What now?

Create meaning for yourself. It could be drawing cartoon characters that get turned into movies, creating a cure for cancer, or eradicating poverty. Whatever you do make sure you do something just because you love it, not because it’s “the trend”.

Many of you readers would find this very hard to digest. My suggestion would be to not to ponder about it so much but take in bite by bite. Explore existentialism if you’re interested, to get a clear idea of it. I have added a few resources below. And always have this in mind – Just because there’s no justification for life, there no reason not to live.

9. YOU WILL FAIL

Regardless of what you do with your life, you will fail. MISERABLY! You would go broke, make stupid decisions, and end up hating yourself. But as the cliche goes

A failure is only a failure if you don’t learn anything from it.

Consider any successful person in any career. Michael Jordan, Elon Musk, Ellen Degeneres, MS Dhoni, Abdul Kalaam. They failed in life, just like you would. And they have learnt from it. And you should too. That’s the entire point of failure. The more you fail and learn, the better you grow.

More embarrassing failures lead to less embarrassing ones and you keep treading that path for a prolonged period, you become just a “failure” (Psst… That’s when the world calls you successful)

MS Dhoni is a less of failure(in cricket) than you’re – That’s why they celebrate him. The point is not to be a great one, but to suck less.

Don’t be afraid to fail. Be bold, be aggressive, be hungry, be humble. Ask yourself what’ the worst could happen? And keep pumping. The world’s a big place and you could do it too.

10. DEATH

It’s something we fear talking about. As if we’re all gonna stay here forever. But have you ever asked yourself, why do you even fear death? What if death is not as bad you think it to be? 100 years from now, you, me, everyone who read or not read this article, every celebrity you’re inspired by will grow old and die. There’s nothing you could do about that. Dying isn’t a part of the human condition, but is central to it.

It’s death that makes life more meaningful. I cannot stop but wonder how funny our lives would be if we were immortal. Serial killers and psychopaths go unemployed, you would tell your age in astronomical numbers(5.2 million years) or how bored our lives would become. So boring that even we come up with death gods, perform rituals begging him to swoop us off this planet.

Death makes life worth living. And when it’s time for us we should accept it without resistance, (as if we have any other choice).

“What did all those people gain by dying old?” In the end they all sleep six feet under… Consider the abyss of time past, the infinite future. Three days of life or three generations: What’s the difference?Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (2002). Book 4. (50) A trite but effective tactic against the fear of death: think of the list of people who had to be pried away from life. What did they gain by dying old? In the end, they all sleep six feet under—Caedicianus, Fabius, Julian, Lepidus, and all the rest. They buried their contemporaries, and were buried in turn. Our lifetime is so brief. And to live it out in these circumstances, among these people, in this body? Nothing to get excited about. Consider the abyss of time past, the infinite future. Three days of life or three generations: what’s the difference?

Death helps you be more grateful, you stop taking things for granted, your relationships improve and makes you a better person. Embrace death. If you’re a parent reading this, it’s best to prepare your kid for your death. Eventually, it’s gonna come.

Don’t get me wrong. We have to be ambitious, driven, hard-working, helpful, kind and the best possible version of ourselves. But when our time comes we mustn’t breathe our last, with fear consumed our hearts, but with courage and humility, accepting death graciously without fear.

Happy living!

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FOOTNOTES

  1. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (2011). Chapter 19 – And They Lived Happily Ever After, Sub-Section: The meaning of life. Page 437 – 439.
  2. Donald A. Crosby (July 1, 1988). “The Specter of the Absurd: Sources and Criticisms of Modern Nihilism”. State University of New York Press. Retrieved January 29, 2012.
  3. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (2002). Book 4. (50) A trite but effective tactic against the fear of death: think of the list of people who had to be pried away from life. What did they gain by dying old? In the end, they all sleep six feet under—Caedicianus, Fabius, Julian, Lepidus, and all the rest. They buried their contemporaries, and were buried in turn. Our lifetime is so brief. And to live it out in these circumstances, among these people, in this body? Nothing to get excited about. Consider the abyss of time past, the infinite future. Three days of life or three generations: what’s the difference?

FURTHER RESOURCES

  1. In Pursuit of Wonder – The Best channel I know that provides thought-provoking existential content
  2. r/Existentialism
  3. Starter books – The Stranger, No Exit

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