Thursday, July 27, 2017

My 33 LIfe Lessons

By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved

I haven’t lived very long, my short 36 year existence on this planet is but a blink of the eye, however I have learned a few things that I wish I would have known in my younger days.  Then again I think it is quite beautiful how we learn as we grow older so maybe even if I could share some words of wisdom with my younger self perhaps I wouldn’t.

Being 16 was a very significant time in my life and I remember it like it was yesterday.  At 16 I thought I had the entire world figured out and looking back it turns out that I did; only the world I had figured out was the world of a 16 year old.  When we’re children we don’t live in the real world and instead we live in an artificial social environment made out of our parent’s homes and school.  The only thing in the real world that really comes close to this artificial environment is the military, to a certain degree, and prison.  It doesn’t take too much to figure out how to successfully navigate that life and once we do we feel vastly overconfident and we don’t understand that the world we have figured out is a world that not only doesn’t really exist but will be ending very soon.

In our early 20’s we realize that we might not have been so wise in our teens after all and that perhaps our parents were a bit wiser than we gave them credit for; by the time we reach 30 we have lived long enough in the real world to see that wisdom has to be earned and does not belong to the youth.  This state of humble unknowing is the first step on the path to true wisdom.

Probably the biggest thing I learned as I approached 30 is not to take myself too seriously.  When I was a teenager and up until my late 20’s I took myself pretty seriously and while I didn’t get angry or embarrassed very easily I did take criticism much too harshly even to the point of considering it a personal attack.  About the time I was 30 I realized the problem was me and I wasn’t allowing myself to be human and make mistakes.  Once I started to not take myself seriously I was able to laugh at myself and today I enjoy the lightness found in laughing at myself and I do so constantly and with great joy.  There is a freeness of spirit found in admitting that instead of being some great thing you are merely an imperfect fuckup who barely knows his ass from a hole in the ground and once that is realized what is there left to do but enjoy a good laugh?  If great men like Buddha and Aristotle refused to stand on pedestals and bask in their own greatness who are we to pretend to be so important?

In any case during my short time here on the planet I have made a diligent effort to read and study and I have picked up a few things that I believe are worth sharing.  So here are 33 life lessons I’ve put together that I make an effort to abide by myself and I believe will improve your life as well.

My 33 Life Lessons

1.) Don't be afraid to look silly.  Most people spend much of their time missing out on life because they want to avoid looking silly.  Don’t look back on your life when you’re an old man and realize that you missed out on some things that might have been really fun because you didn’t want others to see you and think you looked goofy.  9 times out of 10 the people looking at you and judging you for looking silly are secretly wishing they had the freeness of spirit to have that much fun themselves.  Harsh judgement is often envy in disguise so when life calls for dancing one should dance.

2.) Don’t take yourself too seriously.  If you take yourself too seriously you’ll often spend most of your time defending your ego and your opinions and then one day you’ll look back on your life and see all the opportunities you missed out on to enjoy yourself or have a good laugh.  The human condition is one of imperfection and it is in embracing that imperfection that we become perfectly human.  Learn to take yourself with a grain of salt and laugh at yourself and you’ll find people like you better and life overall becomes less stressful and a lot more fun.

3.) Always have a goal you’re working towards.  If you're not moving towards a goal in your life, even a small one, you’re not moving forward in life.  Life is about improving ourselves and not standing still and letting our feet grow roots.  Our time on this planet is more enjoyable and we feel more fulfilled when we are working towards and accomplishing a goal.

4.) Start working on your bucket list now.  When people are interviewed while on their death beds they often talk about all the things they wanted to do but didn’t because they always thought that they’d have more time.  Make your bucket list now and make a plan for how you’ll accomplish everything so by the end of your life you’ll have crossed everything off.  Time is not guaranteed and life is meant to be lived.

5.)  Follow the principle of “Kaizan.”  Kaizan is a Japanese principle meaning “continual improvement” and it is widely used in Japan for making changes in your life.  Kaizen recognizes that often we want to make changes in our life but don’t because they seem too big or too scary so normally we never actually make those changes at all.  However, by taking the change and breaking it down into very small steps we can reduce that big scary change into small pieces that require a very small commitment and is not scary at all.  For example, if you want to run on the treadmill but just can’t seem to get yourself to do it then you can resolve to just stand on the treadmill for 1 minute per day.  A minute is nothing and there is nothing scary about that and after a week you’ll be used to being on the treadmill so perhaps the next week you’ll turn it on and slowly walk for one minute a day.  Then you slowly build up from there and after a time you learn to overcome the fear little by little and soon you’re running on the treadmill and enjoying it all the while wondering what was so difficult about it.  If you take something you have resistance to and break it down into steps so small they don’t scare you, you can overcome them small step by small step.

The other side of Kizan is that change upsets the equilibrium of an environment so if you have a complex environment like a workplace if you make drastic changes quickly it can scare and upset people who are used to a status quo.  Therefore, big changes should not be made abruptly and should be introduced slowly so people can gradually adapt.  This will make people happier, more comfortable, and less intimidated.

6.) Discipline is happiness.  Aristotle said, “Through discipline comes freedom.”  Most people find the idea of discipline intimidating but the purpose of discipline is to allow us to live life more fully, not less; self-discipline frees us instead of weighing us down or restricting us.  Every time you embrace self-discipline it is like feeding your soul and it is discipline that will allow you to live the life you want and achieve your dreams.

7.) Everything in life, including discipline, should be done moderation.  Set aside time regularly to do nothing, to be lazy, to eat too much, to watch a really bad movie, and to enjoy all the other pleasures that life has to offer.  Self-discipline, moderation, love, and humor are the keys to enjoying all life has to offer.

8.) There is no specific way things are supposed to be.  Don’t hold fast to the idea that life is supposed to be a certain way and therefore things are “wrong” or “bad” if life doesn’t adhere to the notion of what you think it should be.  Life will always win so don't fight life.  Relax and totally accept each and every moment as if you’re a leaf floating along a river just along for the ride.  Say "yes" to each and every moment and each and every feeling.  There is nothing but pain, bitterness, and sadness found in resisting life, resisting the present moment, or resisting the way you feel.

9.) Understand the nature of happiness, in that no one and no thing can make you happy.  People believe that happiness is a result of some “thing” and therefore they have to do something to achieve happiness; a byproduct of this belief is that they cannot be happy if said thing isn’t done or hasn’t happened yet.  Happiness is a state of being and can be achieved regardless of the conditions, regardless of what you have accomplished, and regardless of how much or how little you have.  

There are two components to happiness: love and your thoughts.  Happiness is found not in being loved by someone else but in the act of loving.  If you love something then that love will bring about the state of happiness; if you simply practice loving things, perhaps the pen you’re holding, the computer you’re working on, or the bird that is outside your window, you will find that you’re in a constant state of happiness.  You cannot feel love and be unhappy at the same time.

The other component to happiness is your thoughts.  Your mind can’t tell the different between something that is actually happening and something you’re vividly imagining, so by holding onto a thought or a memory your body will experience the emotions that go along with that thought.  If you think really negative things then you’ll experience negative emotions however if you think positive thoughts or relive positive memories you’ll experience those positive thoughts.  Someone who understands this understands 90% of how to control how they feel and this is a lesson the great sages have been preaching for thousands of years.  All you need do is continually think about things that make you happy and think about good memories from the past and you’ll quickly notice that whatever you’re current situation you are actually experiencing happiness, and the more intensely you think about them the stronger the related feelings will be.  

Make it a constant practice to think about happy things and feel love for other people and other things and you’ll quickly realize that you live in a constant state of happiness.  You’ll also realize that you control your happiness and not anyone, or anything, else.  No one has the responsibility, or the ability, to make you happy.  Happiness is something only can achieve for yourself.

It is said that a man waits all week for Friday, all year for summer, and all life to be happy.  Don’t wait to be happy when you can be happy now.

10.) Life is about love.  That is all it is…love.  It is not about being loved either, it is about loving others and loving yourself.  Be a loving person, live a loving life, base all your decisions on love, and I promise you that you’ll be the happiest person on the Earth and you will die an old man without a single regret.  

11.) Don’t overcomplicate morality.  Don’t give up your sense of morality to people wearing fancy hats who ask you for money all the time; morality is very simple and there are a few simple principles: be kind to others regardless of whether or not they deserve it and regardless of whether or not you have a reason to; show compassion to others regardless of whether or not they deserve it and regardless of whether or not you have a reason to; show respect to others regardless of whether or not they deserve it and regardless of whether or not you have a reason to; love others regardless of whether or not they deserve it and regardless of whether or not you have a reason to; embrace humility even if you don’t feel like it.

12.) Be humble in all things.  Humility is a great virtue and a proven way to earn the respect and trust of others.  If victorious, regardless of how much work went into the victory, be humble and say it must have been luck.  If defeated, regardless of how bitter you feel, be humble and congratulate and compliment the victor.  If you have achieved great mastery in your craft, regardless of the years spent in dedicated practice, be humble and say you are merely a student.  If you possess much, regardless of how hard you worked to achieve it, live modestly and don’t show off your wealth, instead know that having more means you are in a better position to give to those who have less.

13.) If you’re having a problem with reaping examine what you have sowed.  If you feel as if you are not receiving enough love, attention, or friendship know that it is probably because you are not giving enough love, attention, or friendship to others.  Make a point to GIVE love and you’ll never had to worry about being loved.  If you feel bad things have happened to you in your life look at the choices you have made to make this situation come about.  Know that if you sow different seeds now you’ll have different outcomes in the future.

14.) Kindness applies equally to yourself and not just others.  Many people make an effort to be kind to others but then forgot to extend that same kindness to themselves.  I believe that kindness starts with yourself.  Being kind to your body means being healthy, getting enough sleep, and properly treating injuries and pain; being kind to your mind means doing things like meditating and continually learning and not abusing drugs; being kind to your spirit means spending time in quiet and doing things that stir your soul.

Being kind to yourself also means standing up for yourself and not letting others take advantage of you or giving other more than you should.  If you allow people to take advantage of you or in order to help them you give them things you shouldn’t then you will end up suffering in the long run.  Be kind to others but don’t forget to extend that same kindness, that respect, to yourself.

15.) Purposefully exercise at least 2 hours a week.  Not only is exercise good for you but it realizes numerous pleasure chemicals in your brain.  The more you exercise the better you’ll feel overall.

16.) Get enough magnesium.  Magnesium is very important and most people are deficient as the level in our soul has become depleted.  Taking magnesium supplements every day or baths in Epson Salt (which is magnesium and it will absorb into your skin) frequently will greatly improve your health and how you feel.

17.) Avoid sugar as much as possible.  The “Lipid Hypothesis” (the idea that saturated fat causes cholesterol and cholesterol causes heart disease) is wrong and propagated by bad science, cherry picked data, and money from the sugar lobby.  Ever since we were running around living in caves our bodies has evolved to run off of fat so why would we evolve to have a negative reaction to something that has fueled us for thousands upon thousands of years?  Your brain is basically fat and water, the connectors that allow your nerves to talk to each other are made of fat, and fat actually keeps your cells young and happy; people who make it a point to cut fat out of their diets have lower energy and will age faster as opposed to those who embrace fat, especially saturated fat, and report that since doing so they feel great, have tremendous energy, and actually look younger with brighter better looking skin and hair.

While your body is a machine designed to run off of fat what it is not designed to run off of is processed sugar.  The same time processed sugar became widely available and started being put in everything is the same time the obesity epidemic began and we started having problems like heart disease, which was incredibly rare before sugar was everywhere.  The sugar industry supported the idea that fat was to blame and even paid off scientists to agree with this idea because they wanted to hide the fact that their product was doing so much harm.  Plus, they knew that two things caused food to taste good and that is fat and sugar, so if people thought that fat is bad and put less fat in their food then they’ll need to put in more sugar to make it taste good and that means they’ll have to spend more money on sugar.

Many doctors are pointing to mounting evidence that processed sugar is an inflammatory and even small amounts of processed sugar cause inflammation; the big problem is the large amounts that are in our current American diet that over load the liver and cause massive inflammation in the body and it is this inflammation that attacks the heart and causes heart disease.  Why are Asian countries which have historically had very little obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease suddenly having these become a problem?  It is because they are eating more western food faced with loads of processed sugar.

18.) Eat a balanced diet.  Most people don’t eat enough vegetables and are therefore deficient in many nutrients; this leads to the person feeling sluggish without realizing that it isn’t how they’re supposed to feel.  Fruit, while fairy healthy, should be eaten in moderation and vegetables should make up a significant portion of your diet.  In the past couple of years I started to eat a mostly plant based diet during the week and only really consume meat on the weekends and I feel a lot more energized, not because I’m eating less meat (which I very much enjoy) but because I’m getting so many more nutrients now that I’m eating more vegetables.  If you don’t want to consume vegetables there are supplement “Super Food” powders you can buy (I know Walmart sells one) where you can get a concentrated dose of nutrients that is similar to eating a large portion of vegetables.  After a few days you’ll start to notice you have more energy and feel better.

19.)  Make fasting a regular practice. Fasting is revitalizing to the body and the soul.  Fasting, consuming nothing but water or fresh juice for a period of time, has been practiced for thousands of years for both weight loss, although to a lesser degree, but also primarily for mental clarity.  Many prominent thinkers throughout history would fast for a few days when faced with making an important decision, having to complete an important task, or having to complete a great work of art because they knew that when you fast you gain a degree of mental sharpness and clarity you would not have otherwise.  When you fast for at least 16 hours your insulin levels go down, your leptin (the hormone that makes you feel full and satisfied) starts to go up, your levels of human growth hormone go up, and your noradrenaline (a hormone that gives you a lot of energy and mental clarity) levels go up.

It is my belief that one should fast for at least one day per month and at least one week straight per year at a minimum.  The easiest way to fast is dinner to dinner so that once you finish eating dinner on one day you don’t eat until dinner time the next day; this way you get to eat every day but you achieve a 20-24 hour period of fasting.

20.)  “Manners Maketh Man.”  This, the motto of Yale University meaning that politeness and good manners are essential to humanity, is very true.  Being polite and having manners is one of the best ways to show respect for yourself and others.

21.)  Every now and then try to go part of the day without talking.  You will gain a lot from this if nothing more than the gift hearing things you otherwise would not have.

22.) Take at least 5 minutes out of the day to meditate.  We often see the value of exercising our body be then neglect our mind and spirt but those too need to be maintained.  You can take just 5 minutes a day and simply close your eyes and put attention on your breath and do nothing more than just use your mind to watch your breath go in and out, and then if you get distracted or another thought pops in your mind you simply notice that thought and then bring your attention back to watching your breath, you will quickly notice you start to become calmer, happier, better able to deal with anger and stress, and more focused in your everyday life.

23.)  Embrace the value of just looking out the window and doing nothing.  Everyone today is in a constant struggle to distract and constantly entertain themselves.  There is a great value to simple spending time doing nothing and letting your mind wander.  Take time every now and then to just stare out the window and let you mind do what it will without direction. Assuming that you’re not the one driving, a great time to do this in on car rides; put away the cell phones and gaming systems and simply gain the wonderful benefits from simply being quiet and staring out the window have to offer.

24.) Spend time near water.  Studies show that being around water, and even the color blue, makes us less stressed and happier.  People who spend time near rivers, lakes, and oceans tend to be happier and have a better outlook on life and people who live near water tend to be heathier and more active.  In addition, people who regularly spend time in salt water tend to experience less pain and have less inflammation than most people.

25.)  Not everything in this world is meant for you.  Somethings in the world are meant for you and some things are not; the trick is to recognize those things that are not meant for you and gracefully let them go.

26.) Learn to let go of your feelings. Most people either act on their feelings or they repress their feelings but both of these options normally end up with negative results.  The third option is to let your feelings go and this is one of the great secrets to life.  Really, you can’t actually let feelings go but you can process the energy behind those feelings and once done the feelings will simply run their course and then leave on their own.  A reporter once asked the Dali Lama if he got angry and he said that he did, after all he is human, however he just doesn’t stay angry for very long.  Why is this?  He doesn’t resist his feelings but instead processes his feelings and once he does that he can move past them.

Processing feelings is all about the body and not at all about the mind; in fact the mind will just get in the way.  Close your eyes and lower your head (this helps to disengage the mind) then hold the thing that is bothering you in your mind and feel whatever comes up.  Normally you’ll feel uneasiness, tightness, or other strong sensation in your stomach or chest.  Without judging that feeling, resisting it, or trying to get it to leave, simply sit with that feeling and focus on your body and experience the full feeling of that sensation.  Once that feeling is fully felt and expressed it will start to dissipate and after a couple of minutes or so the feeling will leave and you’ll be left feeling lighter and happy.  This works with bad feelings, fears, past trauma, and even stuckness.  

If you’re stuck and don’t know what to do then feel the feeling of stuckness and normally behind that you’ll feel that fear or anger is the cause and then you can process that as well.  For really big or long time held feelings it may take a while to process and you may have to sit with it for several hours or in small sessions every day for a time but sooner or later the feeling will be fully expressed and you’ll pass through to the other side.

The Chinese say that “a cup is most useful when it is empty” and likewise our body and mind are most useful when it is empty of emotional baggage.

27.) Know that you don’t have to have an opinion about everything.  Our minds look at life as if it were a puzzle to be solved and therefore in any issue we want to know what side we stand on.  However, life is not something to be solved so breathe and relax and experience the freedom of knowing that you simply don’t have to have a position or an opinion about everything.

28.) Go to bed early.  The reason they put the sex phone lines and crappy infomercials up late at night is because that is when you get tired and your judgement starts to wane resulting in you making your worst decisions.  Therefore, always go to bed early.  If you are up late and thinking about doing something and you're not 100% sure it is wise, just go to bed.

29.)  “Do at least one thing a day that scares you.” –Eleanor Roosevelt.  Constant comfort is the enemy as it dulls your senses and your life experience.  The true flavor of life is found in embracing that which makes you uncomfortable.

30.)  Never push a loyal person to the point where they no longer give a damn.  The downfall of many people is they push those closest to them to the point where they betray them.

31.)  Growing your own food is like printing your own money.  If you have the ability grow a garden as it is a great experience, nurturing to the soul, will save you money on food, the food will most likely taste better then what you buy at the store (some produce sets around for up to a year before it is sold), and will result in a healthier diet.

32.)  If you try to possess the things you love sooner or later they’ll change and won’t be the same things.  If you love a flower and you pick it so that you can hold it in your hand then soon you will find that it will wilt and die; it is not better to let the flower be as it is so it will go on living and you can enjoy it day after day?  In this life nothing will ever truly belong to us because we are only here for a short time, at best we will entrusted to look after something for that brief blinking of an eye.  Learn to appreciate the things you love without trying to possess them.

33.)  Never piss off someone who handles your food.  Waiters, cooks, hostesses, bus boys, etc. treat them with respect, say “please” and “thank you,” and treat them like they’re important human beings and you’ll get better service and enjoy yourself more instead of eating food soiled with spit and possible worse things.


A.L. Weldon said...

Very much enjoyed reading this. Gives me much to think about, thank you!

Roger Allen Cope said...

An excellent list marred by poor editing with far too many spelling, syntax and grammar errors. There are many tools available to ensure a polished product. Weak presentation invites suspicion about the source and actual intent.

"So, we need to fill in the blanks and infer intended meaning in order to 'get it?"

Get help. Never proof your own work.

KOA Kenpo Karate said...

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Sasha said...

Thanks for the post.
Successful and I agree, we do not always know everything and how it costs us sometimes to realize our mistakes.

When I arrived from Germany it was difficult for me to find a realistic literature and that it really gave me the knowledge and help
that at that time I needed since I was going through a bad time. I was recommended this book (in "Meine ganz persönliche Erfahrung", I really liked it and it helped, in fact, if there is a second part I will buy it.

I hope it will be helpful also for more people.