Note from Jeremy: This is a guest post from Brad Alexander. Brad writes about personal development for young men. He helps people with the murky transition between boyhood and manhood in the modern day. Brad covers issues such as insecurity, relationships, fitness and masculinity. Read more of his thoughts on BadassYoungMen.com
” The rarest find is a person that is successful in business AND their personal life at the same time over the long haul. It usually takes sacrifice in one to achieve success in the other. ” - Shane Cultra
No middle aged man will say that on reflection he thought it was a good idea that he neglected his family life as he chased wealth and business success. Yet many ambitious young men will pursue their careers and neglect their families regardless of the good advice they get.
When I went travelling through India I would read the Lonely Planet guide. I didn’t always follow what it said but I would give it a cursory glance nonetheless. I was tempted to take a Marco Polo approach and be a pioneer, pretending I was the first traveller to ever explore the country. But it would have been foolish not to take advantage of the advice provided by those who had experience.
We accept the fact that we need to be taught how to read, write, count, drive, write a CV, and tie a tie, but when it comes to learning about life, relationships, happiness and other intangibles young men are too quick to ignore good advice. It takes a certain wisdom to be able to learn from other people’s wisdom. Generation after generation of westerners do not realize this until they reach middle age.
Philosopher Daniel Quinn gives what I believe to be the best argument as to why this is. In tribal cultures, he says, the elders are respected because they pass on a way of life that works well for people and that has survived for hundreds of thousands of years. On the other hand each generation of modern children grow up subconsciously knowing that they are inheriting a way of life that doesn’t work well for people, and they resent their parents for passing this ‘faulty’ way of life on to them. In his book “Ishmael” Mr.Quinn creates this dialogue between two characters, Alan, the student and Ishmael, the teacher.
Alan: “Yes. And what we teach our children is how to make things. How to make more things and better things.”
Ishmael: “Why don’t you teach them what works well for people?”
Alan: “I’d say it’s because we don’t know what works well for people. Every generation has to come up with its own version of what works well for people. My parents had their version, which was pretty well useless, and their parents had their version, which was pretty well useless, and we’re currently working on our version, which will probably seem pretty well useless to our own children.”
-”Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn
Whether this is true or not, this dialogue highlights the need for timeless wisdom that should be adhered to if we are to lead happy fulfilling lives. As a young man, I know that I still have much to experience and understand, but here are 4 things I’ve learnt from my elders.
Extend Yourself But Know Your Limitations
“A man has got to know his limitations.” – Clint Eastwood as Detective Harry Callahan in Magnum Force
There are so many opportunities that the world provides but they must be reached for, they will not fall into your lap . It’s easy to listen to people telling you that the world is your oyster when you graduate college but harder to believe it five years later when you are suffocated by the cubicle.
Extend yourself and set some audacious goals. Then go and achieve them.
Don’t try and do everything all at once. Even if you commit to mastering just one skill at a time or committing to one passion at a time for a period of five years each there are many things you will be able to achieve in a lifetime. Better this approach than having so many goals but achieving none of them because you pull yourself in several different directions. In short, I recommend learning your limitations so that you can surpass them.
Focusing On The Human Wealth Is What Really Matters
We all know that he who dies with the most toys does not win. But that doesn’t mean you should not aim to make a comfortable living and lead a comfortable lifestyle.
Also know that the real wealth of this world is found in love, friendship, liberty and passion. Millions of people around the world live in squalid conditions but they still call themselves happy because they have ‘real’ wealth.
. Don’t let the quest for material wealth hinder your ability to enjoy human wealth.
Don’t Wait For Anything, Just Do It
Some of the best advice I have ever had is not to wait for money because you will be waiting forever and will never have enough money. It is easy to put off having the things we want when you make the excuse that you do not have enough money. Whether that be travel, getting married, having children, or any other life goal.
Personal development blogger Steve Pavlina says that if you want something make that a direct goal. Don’t say to yourself “I want X amount of money so I can do Y.” Just set the goal and you will find a way of making it happen.
There is a famous story about a man who approached a money making guru and asked him how to make a million dollars. The guru asked him why he wanted a million dollars, to which the man replied, “So I can go fishing.”
The guru simply said, “You don’t need a million dollars to go fishing.”
Consequently the man spent a lot more time fishing and never made a million dollars but he did make himself happy. The lesson I get from this is Don’t postpone living the life you want, live it now.
Take Care Of Your Health
As a young man I know it’s easy to work flat out, party hard, drink, smoke and eat anything without feeling serious ill effects. But poor health habits will catch up in time. I’ve tried to set the foundation of regular exercise and a healthy diet while I’m young and want to carry the habit with me into middle age and beyond. Big pharmaceutical companies make millions of dollars for the ‘cures’ to diseases that could have cheaper to prevent with diet and exercise.
Any young man hoping to live a long, fruitful life would do well to discover his own truths and pearls of wisdom. He need not begin by searching the internet, he can begin by talking to an older man who is willing to teach.