26 Lessons I Learned As I Get Older - Thomas Mondel

26 Lessons I Learned As I Get Older

If I could travel back in time, I would punch myself in the face – on multiple occasions. I would also tell myself these key things I learned along the way.

Here are some of my biggest “aha-moments”:

1) You are NOT in a hurry

Sleep less, and work more. That’s what THEY try to tell you. If you work hard you can become the next “overnight success”. But you’ve gotta move FAST…

It’s all a big lie.

All these stories of famous and successful people who came out of “nowhere” have clouded our minds.

They made us believe that success is luck. And happens in an instant. They neglect the hard work. And the time that goes into the craft.

Still, you are not in a hurry.

Once you find something you ENJOY doing, patience comes naturally. And suddenly you are “enjoying” yourself towards becoming the next “overnight success”.

Finally, you are not in a hurry anymore.

2) There is no need to “achieve” anything

People/TV/Media/Society.

All these external influences might tell you that you SHOULD build something great. Something that outlasts generations. Build your legacy. Or else your life didn’t mean anything. You failed.

That only if you HUSTLE can you become the next Zuckerberg. You can build the next Instagram.

But it’s all a big bullshit.

You are here to live your own life. And once you rid yourself of these external things you are SUPPOSED to do, you are free to do whatever makes YOU happy.

Now you got your free will back.

3) Social conditioning has a strong drag on people

I once broke up with a girl because my social circle didn’t “approve” of her. She didn’t fit in. I liked her. But I preferred to belong. So I broke up with her. Stupid teenager decision-making.

Sometimes I am still still acting this way today.

We want to find approval from the people we care about. And then we shape ourselves and our actions into something we THINK that others will appreciate.

Only to find out later that it actually works the other way around. It is only by being authentic to YOURSELF that others can appreciate you.

When you present yourself like you REALLY are, only then can others see you — and appreciate you for the same reason.

4) Nobody teaches you anything you need in life during school

I wrote about that a lot. Mostly because I felt so lost myself once I finished school.

  • Nobody tells you how to get a job. How to apply for one. How to behave at the interview. Or what to say when the interviewer argues that you lack practical work experience (because you spend your time STUDYING the field and not WORKING in the field).
  • How to be a less shitty person. How to be kind to each other. And accept one another. Important stuff.
  • How to love yourself. And find your unique path and place in this chaotic world. You just get pushed into it. And you are supposed to make it work. Very little preparation from the education you got.

Yes, you get educated.

But you are not getting prepared for life.

5) All people are insecure and scared

Some are just better at hiding it. And others have found ways to do what they are trying to do BESIDE their insecurities. They found ways to beat their inner demons. 

People are just “people”.

We shit ourselves when we are scared to mess things up. We are afraid to speak our mind because we don’t want to be judged poorly. Or we hold back because we don’t want to hurt the ones closest to our heart.

We make dumb mistakes and act stupidly.

Because we don’t know better.

And yet we tend to forget that everyone is going through these struggles from time to time. We might often think that we are the only ones who suffer. But EVERYONE is going through the same challenges.

We are all just people trying to find our way in a world without a proper manual.

6) Your problems are NOT Special

The more special you think your “problem” is, the more generic it actually is.

You are NOT special.

(Sorry, sweetheart!)

Whatever problem you have right now, there are millions of people out there who have gone through the same (or similar) challenges.

They have done it.

And then written books about it.

And gave lectures about it.

And taught people about it.

Everything was done already. Everything that needs to be said, was already said. But because nobody was listening, everything needs to be said again.

I read a funny quote the other day:

“When you think you are one in a million, there are still about 8000 people out there just like you.”

Math.

And here is a little thing you could do:

  • Pick one major problem you have right now.
  • Go to Amazon.com and search for it.
  • Buy the first ten books that come up.
  • Read these books and take actionable steps along the way.
  • After three months, see if the problem persists.
  • If is doesn’t, great. If it does, repeat the process with the newly gained knowledge and fine-tune your search.

7) You DON’T know what and how other people feel or think

There might be times where you think you get people. But what one unique person is especially going through will always be a mystery to you.

Therefore, just be kind to each other.

You have no fucking clue what these people are going through.

Don’t be the dickhead who “listens” to someone’s problem, and then ASSUMES he already knows the answer halfway through the guy talking about it.

8) Alone time is very important

Go to bed earlier. Be alone with your thoughts. Reflect on life. See what works and what doesn’t. Own your mistakes. Take responsibility. And apologize. Tweak and prepare for tomorrow. Do better the next day. Rinse and repeat.

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9) Reading books is NOT boring

  1. Yes, It is boring. And after the first couple of pages, you might grow tired and feel the urge to go for a nap.

(Nobody teaches you that shit. Nobody tells you that this is totally normal and OK…)

Your brain is just not used to this new “exercise”. And since nobody told you the benefits you get out of it in the long run, you’ll just stop.

But reading books is rather essential.

Not for just being a smart-ass and act all pseudo-wise by quoting dumb texts. But rather for educating yourself.

You can only learn SO MUCH by yourself. In your given time.

Why would you NOT work with the wisdom of other people’s life work? It’s simply practical to make use of these years of experience you would not have access to otherwise.

Don’t be stupid and try to learn all by yourself.

You might end up wasting a lot of time.

Be efficient and get yourself some help.

10) Going out and getting drunk is not as cool as I believed it to be

There were times in my life where my friends joked that we were not going home until someone throws up (which was pretty much always me).

I wanted to be cool and belong to something. Anything.

And any label was better than none. For a little while in my life this label was “the one who drinks too much and then throws up”. Better than being a “nobody”, right?

As you grow older and become more and more of your very own “somebody”, you begin to give less and less shit about what labels other people try to put onto you. 

Again:

Freedom.

And peace.

11) A few good friends are way better than a mass of “meh” friends

I love the few friends I have right now.

I can count them on one hand.

They know who they are.

And I choose spending time with them over any shallow friendship I had in the past.

12) Your parents are not stupid

Sometimes I want to run from my family because they drive me crazy. Other times I have no clue how to live without them.

Yes, you can’t change your family. And some families are pretty fucked up. I get it. Everyone has these challenges.

But you’ll learn to deal with it. And then you’ll do better with your own life. And with your own family at some point.

However you define “better” for yourself.

That’s up to you.

The older I get the more I realize that my parents were right about a lot of things. More stuff than I wanted to admit to myself at first.

You begin to see for yourself that there are certain patterns in life that repeat themselves.

And your parents have seen them repeat more often than you have. You might think they don’t get you. Or they don’t understand you at times. But I begin to believe that they just see through the superficial bullshit, see the same patterns they had in their youth, and simply understand.

When I was a little teenager, I was stuck at looking at the superficial stuff. My parents didn’t get me. So I thought. But we were only looking at different things. At different levels. Different depths.

Now I get older. And I explore things more deeply myself.

And I understand what they tried to tell me all along…

My parents are pretty wise.

It was just me who was the stupid one here.

13) There is not much in life to be afraid of

You learn to deal with a lot of bullshit and begin to handle it better and better each time.

Let’s be honest here:

Most of the “threats” we have in our modern life today are actually mind-made. They are made up. In our minds.

The things you are most afraid of are most of the times things that will NEVER happen.

And even IF they happen, it’s rarely the end of the world.

Remember that thoughts based on fear and scarcity invite more thoughts of fear and scarcity. And they grow more intense too.

Thoughts of abundance do the opposite.

You choose.

14) Life is short

But this shortness eventually gives it some importance.

If you would live forever you wouldn’t do shit.

You just wouldn’t care.

Weeks-block-LIFE1

There are actually not so many weeks in a lifespan.

Better make good use of them.

15) There is enough time

Oh, the contradictions.

Yes, life is short. But it’s also pretty long.

(Have you read “On the Shortness of Life”?)

Furthermore, it’s about how we use it. There were times where I all I did was play computer games. I told myself that I deserve a break and I am having fun for once.

But after a while you’ll see a difference between “playing games to relax” and “playing games to avoid life”… and I was slowly drifting towards the latter.

It’s not that there is little time.

Furthermore, we use it very sloppily.

16) Newspapers suck

They excel at making everyone believe that a MINORITY of bad people occupy the world. And everything that happens out there is fucking dangerous and corrupt.

Now I don’t read newspapers.

And I don’t watch TV.

At first I thought I might miss out on a lot of stuff. But soon I realized that I’ll be fine. And even better off.

Now I might occasionally miss the start of the next soccer world championship. Or don’t even know who is in charge of our political system at the moment.

But I live pretty happy without all that as well…

17) You create your own reality

Whatever you believe might eventually become true. And I don’t mean that in some kind of hippie spirituality kind of way.

It’s like you focus your thoughts, words and actions on certain things. And eventually everything just flows and in the end, just happens like you wanted it to.

Maybe in a couple of years I will finally understand this enough to explain it more easily.

For now, I just know that it works that way.

18) People need your love more than you think

Oftentimes, those who aren’t the easiest to love, are the ones who need it the most.

So be kind to people.

You have no clue what they are going through.

There are some people out there who are mean to us for no particular reason. They just dump their shit onto us. And we are supposed to deal with it.

You might ask yourself “Why me? What did I do wrong? Why do they make MY life worse by being this way?”

But you have to realize that they live in this nightmare EVERY DAY.

The shit they dump onto you is the same shit they live in 24/7.

They can’t escape.

They are stuck there.

“How do you deal with these people then?”

Usually you just exclude them out of your life. No harsh feelings. Done.

But sometimes this isn’t possible. For whatever reasons.

Whenever I have to be around someone whose life is an “unconscious mess” and they hurt people by their words and actions not even noticing what they doing, I try to picture them as a person on their deathbed.

Treat people like they are dying.

And the world would be a kinder place.

Who would bitch about someone who is about to die?

  • Suddenly a person stepping up is seen as inspirational and not a target of your mobbing.
  • Cursing at the person who cut you off in traffic is, like totally irrational. Maybe he really just didn’t see you.
  • Or the guy who just bumped into you by accident is suddenly no big deal anymore. It just happened.

19) There is magic in tiny unimportant things

Like watching kids play.

Or something meaningless like a tree.

People just don’t see it because they are in too much of a hurry. Or simply distracted…

tweet-in-real-life

Sometimes I drive around in public transportation and look at all the people. As they are looking at their phones.

No one is talking to each other. Thousands of people crammed together. But still no real connection.

They are all living in their very own little bubble of distractions.

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WAKE UP?

Please…?

20) Money is not the root of all evil

As you grow older you begin to develop a “relationship” with money. And the healthier this relationship tends to be, the more (financially) rewarding life turns out to be for you as well.

There is a lot of bullshit about money out there:

Like…

  • Rich people are awful people.
  • They are superficial.
  • Money makes you a bad person.

And a lot of other crap.

I rather believe in the thing that more money makes you more of what you already are.

If you are a jerk, you’ll end up being a bigger jerk after hitting the financial jackpot.

(So don’t be a jerk…)

21) Accepting yourself as you are RIGHT NOW is a pretty good way to live a longer and happier life

I still struggle with it.

But at least I now KNOW that I do. A couple of years ago I didn’t even notice.

It’s hard to accept certain things in life. Even harder when there are situations you can’t change. Like your body. Your looks. Some drastic life events. Or even your personality.

I recall quite a lot of painful moments where I WISHED to be or do something else. I neglected what I was. For what I thought I should become. And then you are neither of both.

You are simply stuck somewhere in the middle and two forces will pull you apart.

No wonder you are “in pain”.

But have you ever wondered what causes this pain?

It’s not like the life situation itself is what makes you suffer. But more like your “idea” of what it SHOULD be like.

Acceptance is what helps.

  • You can accept your current situation and try to improve it along the way.
  • Or you neglect it, add additional pain and suffering and lack the energy to move on.

But I know.

It’s easier said than done.

22) Everyone out there has the right to live his life on his own terms

And you are not here to convince them otherwise.

You have no right to put your ideas, dreams and passions onto others just because you want them to.

There were times I tried to tell people what they are supposed to be doing. I told them the “right thing to do”.

I thought I knew better.

“I know what they should be doing. I am just trying to help THEM! Why didn’t they listen?”

But you don’t know people and what ultimately drives them. Unless they clearly tell you. And even that might be a little bit deluded and distorted.

Just because one’s lifestyle goes against YOUR ideals and values doesn’t mean that you have the right to correct it for them.

Who do you think you are?

23) People are their own worst critic

This is one of the main reasons I would go back a couple of years and slap myself in the face. And then tell little past me that I should finally stop doubting myself so much.

I wish I could hammer it into his brain that he is good enough. That he has something to be proud of.

I would love to see him acknowledge his accomplishments.

At least for once.

I was holding myself back so often it now hurts my head when I think back and recall all these different situations. And as soon as you have “enough” of these sad experiences, you are kinda fed up with how they make you feel.

But at some point I just stopped. I cared less about what others thought of me. I wasted less time with thinking about what they might think about me (because people usually don’t even think about you at all).

It was time to stop raising my own hand against myself. And allow myself to do what I wanted to do.

Cue Rocky Balboa’s inspirational talk…

And once I stopped judging myself like a criminal, life got a lot easier.

24) Don’t follow the money

Following an occupation just because of materialistic reasons is the fastest way into the next severe depression.

Yes, money is important to handle life.

Yes, you can’t live without it.

But I believe that it makes little to no sense to make huge life decisions based on materialistic values.

You can’t choose your job based on the salary.

And if you do and this is your only criteria, you’ll soon come up with new ones. Because you’ll learn pretty fast that there is more to it than that.

Suddenly the work environment is important. Your co-workers. The tasks you do on a daily basis. The general direction your company is going (if they are even going somewhere). The mission they might try to accomplish.

More important stuff.

Once you make your career decisions based on higher level thinking.

You always ascend yourself.

Now your work (your own contribution) becomes important as well.

25) Your beliefs are a filter for your reality

And changing these filters can alter your worldview in a second. If you believe the world is a mean place, it will. If you trust in the good in people, you eventually get proof for that as well.

Of course bad things happen in the world. They always do.

But if you mainly focus on these RARE events and you neglect all the good stuff that is going on, you are driving yourself crazy.

I try my best to ONLY let four types of thoughts arise within my mind:

  • Fun
  • Educational
  • Enlightening
  • Moving towards my goals

I’ve truly come to believe that ANY thought you’re having that doesn’t fall into these categories is making your life more miserable than it needs to be.

Do I ONLY have these type of thoughts?

“Hell, no!”

But when I am conscious and try my best to focus on these things, my life tends to be WAY MORE enjoyable than if I don’t. 

So I make a great effort and try my best to remind myself and stay alert.

It’s hard.

Sometimes even impossible.

But it’s always worth a try.

26) Gratitude is key

If you hit rock bottom, sitting down and expressing extreme gratitude for whatever you have left helps you to get back up on your feet.

Yesterday I felt like shit.

Today I called my mother and told her how much I love her.

Now I feel better.

Always be grateful for the things you DO have going on in your life.

There tend to be more things than you can imagine.

“What is one thing you could be ENDLESSLY grateful for?”

Be grateful for that one thing right now…

  • corona

    When I was young I always thought that all of these “learnings” that other people tried to tell were cliches. “Be yourself”, “Dont run after money”, “you can do anything” etc. I thought that these are the things that they’re supposed to tell us, or they are telling this because they have ulterior motives, these aren’t necessarily true. That’s why I didn’t pay any attention to them, instead I took others’ opinion as my benchmark causing me to have a pessimistic attitude in life. Sometimes I too wish to go back in time and slap some sense into the naive me. But now I realize that these are the universal truths. Some people are lucky to have learnt them through someone’s guidance while some like me learn them through tons of failure and experience. Thanks for writing this piece. PS: that weeks chart is very scary.

  • Thomas Mondel

    Both ways eventually get you there though. Learning from others is just way faster! Thanks for reaching out!