Err on the side of action: Five Lessons at 33

I turn 33 today. Same age Jesus was when he died (well, depending on whose information you believe). Here are five lessons, like the five stories of the pagoda on Haguro, for you I’ve learned over the years:

1. The world is unfair, *live* with it

Everyone has their struggles. Everyone, without doubt. Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans (thanks John Lennon!). But I find we often forget that we have choices about how we react to life when it happens. We can wallow in the mire, or we can take action to get out of it.

This has been reiterated for me with Yamabushi training, and now when something bad happens, I think I am quicker able to accept it, and move on. I guess practice makes perfect.

This reminds me of one good lesson I got from Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational. Dan Ariely suffered horrendous burns over much of his body. But he is a living example of the amount of damage us humans can take and still come to terms with (read the book for a better explanation).

Shit happens. Let it. But don’t let it get to you. You have to sort of ignore it, and move on to stuff you actually like doing. That’s what it means to ‘live’ with it.

2. Err on the side of action

For me, being alive is reason enough to live well. I get afraid of potential regret, and so I tend to err on the side of action. It’s better to regret something you did, than something you didn’t do (I think it’s Flea who sings this line, might be Dave Navarro on One Hot Minute).

We are faced with choices every minute. Some of them predictable, some of them not. In recent years I tend to go for the unpredictable for the sake of that unpredictability. I like to see where the rabbit hole takes me, and I like to test my limitations to see where they truly are. That’s what excites me, and I think it’s a honorable goal to have. I must say though this idea is not mine, this idea is articulated best by Gary Vaynerchuk.

Do shit. Just do it for the sake of it. That’s the only reason you need. Do it knowing that you need to take responsibility for it, for that’s the price of opportunity. But do it.

Almost all the time I procrastinate and avoid doing things I know I should because they look hard, I find out they aren’t actually that hard to do. Do it and find out how hard it is. It isn’t hard.

3. You have to make an effort to ward off the evil

The evil in this case being the struggle. If you’re proactive about it, making sure to get regular exercise, meditation in whatever form that is for you (taking walks quietly is all it takes), removing the oversocialization and overstimulation that comes with modern smartphones and devices by setting boundaries for yourself like my 6 to 6 rule, you can go some way towards controlling the damage. Or at least not exasperating it.

Then, you get to really enjoy the sunshine. You get to really enjoy the company of others. You get to really enjoy the simple things. And that for me is what it’s all about. The simple joy.

3.1 Smartphone overuse really is the worst

Since implementing my 6 to 6 rule, I’ve had a few insights I didn’t expect. I don’t like gaming because I feel it is a waste of time that could be better used reading or writing. In small doses it’s fine, but I just don’t like it that much.

For the 6 to 6 rule, I added an exception for weekends. But surprisingly I find that when I turn on the iPad at night like I used to, it feels like gaming feels to me. It get a niggling feeling that says I should be doing something else, like using the iPad at that time is unnatural.

This has also meant a reduction in the amount of time I spend watching Netflix and Amazon Prime and the like as well. So much so that I question their value. This has been a weird insight for me, but I think it’s a good one.

3.2 Mornings are the best

Does this need an explanation? Get up for the sunrise. It’s amazing. Even at 4am in the middle of summer. Especially at 4am in the middle of summer.

4. Start something

I really don’t want to use this term because it’s the title of an album by a band I used to like until I heard the singer was an absolute arsehole. Haven’t listened to them since. But the message stays the same. You have to be creating something every single day. A blog is a good one, there’s no need to publish it, but it’s a good practice to have. Likewise, video or photos are really good too. If you have the ability to code, make a website or some animation or something. Whatever it is, work on it every day. This is something I wish to tell (force upon?) my younger self for sure.

5. Look after yourself

Sometimes we find meaning in helping others, well, most of the time. But helping yourself means you are better able to help others, so which is really helping them? As long as it’s not just one-way. Look after yourself.

The five lessons

There you have it. In any case, these are some of the lessons I have learned recently. You’ll be fine. Just ‘live’ with the struggle, err on the side of action, ward off the evil, stop using your phone too much (!), start something, and look after yourself!

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Sakata City, Yamagata, Japan 

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