Unsolicited middle age advice
I’m turning 40. Given the current life expectancy, statistically it’s about half of my life. A proper moment to reflect on what I’ve done, what I could have done, and what I would still like to do.
The dominating emotion is gratitude: for all that I have experienced, it has been amazing. Grateful to my parents, family, teachers, mentors: my origins. Grateful to my wife, my friends, my colleagues: my companions. Grateful to my children and students: my legacy.
So, it is a favorable moment to throw out some unsolicited advice. I’m not saying anything new, so perhaps it is just a reminder list to myself, of what I think is important in life (because I keep on forgetting):
- Don’t worry. We’re all gonna die sooner than later. Everything changes, so all that you cherish and and that you despise will vanish. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t strive, it means that worrying about doing or not doing is not useful for achieving. Just do it.
- It is OK to be mistaken. Well, if you learn from it. It is part of natural selection: most attempts are crap, but you need to go through them to reach the best. If you want to learn how to skate, you will have to fall. A lot. Get up and carry on. (Fall again, fall better).
- You can always learn from mistakes, but there are some mistakes which are not worth the learning. Don’t drift. 1 and 2 might suggest that everything will be OK, so we can relax. It won’t, so don't. Avoid problems as much as you can. Learn only from those that you cannot avoid. Well, it is about maximizing benefits.
- Enjoy the moment. Carpe diem. Today will never repeat. Don’t let it go to waste. Don’t think about what happened or about what could happen, be here and now.
- Plan ahead. The future will come for sure, be prepared, for winter or summer. Schedule to do things at their best possible moment.
- Strive for balance. The previous advices might seem contradictory. They aren’t, just don’t go to extremes. If you get too relaxed, entropy will take you. If you are too stiff, you won’t be able to adapt. You need a bit of both: balance. How much? The situation will tell. Adapt.
- Know what you want. It is difficult to reach a goal if you do not know what the goal is. Sometimes we don’t know what we want. It is difficult to enjoy just drifting in life. The way of knowing is just trying. Again, no problem if an attempt fails, it will take you closer to knowledge.
- Do what you want. Some say “don’t do what you love, love what you do”, meaning that one should find enough willpower to do what you must to reach your goals. But if your goals are clear, precisely things which take you closer to them will be fulfilling. It is difficult to enjoy life if your actions aren’t taking you towards your goals. So rush for them.