In this article I emphasize what I regard as 30 wisdoms of life – whether these are based on sound knowledge or own experiences, both endeavors and shortcomings – and in conjunction with this I do also make some suggestions on how to optimize one’s disposable extra income and leisure time. Overall it has a male perspective as its point of departure, but many of these things are also applicable for females.
1. Think of life as a poker game
As has been established as a fact, poker is not gambling but a game of skill. However, it does definitely include some degree of chance and luck too.
Hence, poker is the perfect metaphor for life because it is both about to master the skill of when to be offensive and when to be defensive (push/pull), and to understand when one has made a mistake or been the victim of particular – whether lucky or unlucky – circumstances. Moreover, it is about to grow and to fortify self-confidence, and to not tilt too much when one experiences a setback; perhaps to take a break and then continue to play with a (partially) new and hopefully more succesful strategy. Furthermore, one can also mention the importance of to avoid hubris, stay foucused, and to always maintain some degree of self-critical introspection.
2. Think of life as a curvilinear process
Life is a linear process in the sense that people are born and eventually dies, but it is never a linear process with regard to achievements and wellbeing since one’s life goes up and down – for some much more uphill than downhill. However, it is seldom perfect for anyone; one should not think that it should be either.
3. Do have a balanced approach to many things in life
Classic Greek philosophers such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle have discussed the importance of balance with regard to many dimensions of human existence, such as power, money, happiness, food etcetera.
This is often quite logic and obvious, but even so many people drag themselves into various extremes, such as overeating and -drinking. One can use water as an example: it is completely essential for human existence, but if a person drinks too much within a too narrow timeframe it is detrimental and even lethal. The same way of thinking and acting can and should be applied to a lot of other things in life.
4. Learn the essence of karma
Karma has several meanings, of which some are religious and moral and related to beliefs within Buddhism and Hinduism and the idea that one can be born to something better or worse in next life, and that one’s actions will lead to consequences (the sum of all actions).
However, a third meaning is non-religious and -moral, namely the karmic law about cause and effect – to understand how things are causally interrelated. For example: if one eats too many calories then one will inevitably add (fat)weight and vice versa. It is not a moral question but a scientific question, yet still many want to make into a moral, like the oft-repeated assumption that a person ‘deserves’ to eat junk food because they somehow think that they do. Part of a constructive process in order to become more free as an individual human being, is to stop making scientific topics into moral matters.
5. Do not put other people on a pedestal
It is important to not idolize people, whether those in one’s own environment or distant celebrities, because it is based on illusions about reality – people are seldom as good as one might think that they are. Additionally, it makes oneself subordinated and is thus counterproductive.
A quite striking example is when I visited Hollywood in 2006 and went to a film gala premier. I was not particularly fascinated by all the prominent celebrities, unlike all the fans who stood outside, screaming and adoring their idols, and as ironic as it may seem, some guards asked me if I wanted to come inside when I passed by the entrance, while not a single one of the pathetic fans were let in. The reason is, of course, that they appeared to not be able to handle themselves in that sort of situation and environment. They chose to make themselves subordinated losers.
6. Find role models, not idols
To worship other people is not constructive, and in the best case it is harmless. However, to have role models are important.
Notice the pluralis – one should have several, in different phases and contexts of life, rather than one particular role model. This is partly due to that as a person one does often engage in different activities and occupations througout life.
7. Let yourself be influenced and inspired by other people but do not imitate them
To mimic other individuals is not constructive and often deemed to fail, but to be influnced and inspired by different people and phenomena – which then are mixed with one’s particular personality, conditions and preferences – can indeed be positive and constructive, and be related to many different areas such as behavior, fashion, training and writing style.
8. Obtain a positive habituation
People feel well, looked upon in a longer timeframe and on average, when they have certain positive habituations, such as to eat, sleep, train and study at particular times of the day. Of course one can do partial deviations from one’s schedule, for instance when one travels or party, but to stick to the good habituations is what generally is constructive and the proper way to live.
9. Learn from your experiences but do not get stuck in the past
As the German philologist and philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) has emphasized in The Use and Abuse of History, it is important to not get stuck in the past, whether positive or negative experiences. It is relevant to consider both one’s good and bad sides and experiences, and everything that happens in one’s life hinges on the past which we ought to learn from. But it is still the present and the future that should be the main focus, and this is partly related to the idea that one should not live on old merits for too long, whether for oneself or in a social context, but instead strive for continuous development. Essentially one should not ruminate about the past.
10. Do not categorize yourself or other people
Since the upper-secondary school time onwards, my bodyweight has shifted between 63-79 kilograms. Hence, it has not really been any extremes in this regard but still a relatively wide spectrum. When I was 16 I was slim and weighed about 63 kilograms and felt that I could eat almost anything without gaining (fat)weight.
However, in the middle of the upper-secondary school period I started to gain some fat weight – almost 10 kilos – before I realized that one simply cannot eat junk food for several days of the week without unwanted consequences. Since I started with fitness when I was about 20, I have had periods of both bulk and diet, mostly due to strategic reasons but to some extent also because of bad habits, and the shape has shifted accordingly.
These patterns symbolize that one should seldom categorize and essentialize people, whether oneself or other individuals. Sometimes we tend to use simplified etiquettes such as ‘thin’, ‘fit’, ‘normal’, ‘fat’, ‘smart’, ‘ugly’ etcetera in order to describe our environments and the people that dwell in them. But nothing lasts forever and few if any things are completely static and unchangeable – and that is true for all. Hence, do not underestimate your own or other people’s ability to change, and just because you feel that you have had a setback or peak in life you should not think that it will last. Panta rhei.
11. Metrosexual rather than machismo
This is somethings that is unhesitatingly linked to the current era of manhood, but some of these things may also be more ‘timeless’. It is a vast topic to investigate, but one can at lewast briefly conclude that when it comes to the false, dichotomous choice between being a soft beta male or a macho man one should chose to be metrosexual instead. This is what most people will earn from, and to let everyone be ‘winners’ is what creates a better and more equal society (even though competition between males will still persist).
Hence, take care of your looks, clothes, hygiene, and way of being, and make it into a habit and lifestyle. It does not have to be particularly expensive and time-consuming and just a few simple changes in these respects might be just it. One can find inspiration and influences from a vast amount of people and contexts, for instance here.
12. Strive for a balanced narcissism
Narcissism, to love oneself too much, is within the frames of differential psychology not a question of either/or but one of degree and how it expresses itself among different individuals. In current times narcissism is generally speaking acceptable, even encouraged, as long as it does not get too excessive, and the cliche that one should love oneself is in fact largely true. Thus, strive for a balanced narcissism without extremes.
Such negative extremes include to think that one is (much) better than one actually is, and to have too long periods of self-absorption. If one is too self-absorbed and introvert then may lose social skills (or interpersonal ability) and completely ignore external validation, and if one is too self-centered and extrovert then one might be too dependable on external validation and in worse case even unbearable to socialize with.
13. Do not ‘be yourself’ but the best version of yourself
Virtually all personality traits are 40-60% inherited. This is indeed a very complex topic, and I have no intent of trying to examine it here, but it can still be concretized and simplified through the platitude that one should always ‘be oneself’ (just be yourself).
I consider this cliche to be partly misleading, and instead think that one should strive for to be the best version of oneself. To reiterate myself – no one is perfect and one cannot affect everything. But one can change quite a lot by good decision-making. Hence, do not blame your supposedly static personality but instead strive for to optimize your personality, alongside behavior and looks. People will appreciate you more, although some might be jealous if/when you are too good.
14. To give does not imply to get
As has been pointed out in relationship to karma, it does not exist any immanent justice in the world – at least it does appear so for most individuals. However, many people – because of an overall sound inner moral compass – have not yet come to understand this and expect that what one gives is what one gets in return, whether from friends, family or exmployers.
Things do not work that way, generally speaking, though. Of course one will in many cases get good things in return and vice versa, but quite often the almost complete opposite is the case. The most striking example is celebrities who publish a trivial photo and consequently get hundreds of thousand, even millions, of ‘likes’ in return by their numerous Instagram followers, while some common people will put efforts, year after year, but not get anything or very little in return.
15. It can always become even worse
Within the frames of various media channels one can learn that person X has lost Y amount of pounds or kilograms. But why did person X gain that much weight in the first instance? This ubiqitous phenomenon is related to many things in life: it can actually become even worse. Sometimes the wind will turn almost naturally, from something good or bad to its respective opposite, but the living nightmare can also become more frightening, which then makes it even more difficult to cope with the difficulties in question.
Therefore one should not walk around with the false conviction that things will resolve themsleves – even in a welfare country like Sweden – but instead cope with the problems, sooner rather than later.
16. Drink alcohol selectively
If one really has to chose between to drink and to not drink alcohol, then one should chose not to. But if one looks upon the Western sphere’s most popular drug in a little more balanced way, a more fruitful strategy would be to it selectively. That is, to do it at special occasions, such as during a overseas stay or in conjunction with a particular party. With few acceptions: save your money and health until the right time for festivity comes.
17. Travel when the opportunity comes
To travel is to widen one’s inner horizon and to enrich one’s own life (and sometimes other people’s lives too). Despite all negative things that may linked to these activities, it is something that one ought to do when the economic and temporal conditions make it possible. Nothing new under the sun but still true.
18. Do not romantize things in life
Johann Wolfgang von Goethes world-famous epistolary novel Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (1774) – as well as much that have been written about so called game in much more recent years – teach males to be less of romantic idealists and more of crass realists. To romantize love, women, relationships and life overall may offer more meaning (or rather, a pretense of meaning) but may also lead a person on paths that are to no one’s good.
Of course, one may be romantic during certain phases and at particular situations of life, but to be guided by a false shimmer of beautiful illusions (pretty lies) should definitely be avoided. As parodoxical as it may seem, a more realstic and cynical approach in this respect may in fact lead to more romanances.
19. Learn to be alone but do not get stuck in loneliness
In a sequence of the phenomenal film Donnie Darko (2001), Jake Gyllenhaal’s character Donnie says that all creatures will eventually die alone. It is a little bit misguiding but still correct in one way of looking at it, and it is true about life too. Loneliness will seldom enable the individual to gain strength – rather the opposite – but to spend some time alone and be pleased with it is important in order to develop as a person and sometimes also completely necessary.
When I visited Mt. Fuji in Japan in 2009, I did not speak to anyone for two whole days and this rather brief period of time lead to that I started to talk to myself and laugh at my own jokes that I made up in my head. Hence, it appears to be favorable to return to social settings after some time of enriching loneliness. As is explained in the brilliant film Into the wild (2007) it is important to net get stuck in loneliness, whether phsysically or mentally.
20. Appreciate your friends and family
Friends come and go but it is important that some relationships persist. Because if they don’t, then one gets stuck in loneliness.
21. Do (almost) never be arrogant to other people
Far from all people deserve one’s descency, and it is not one’s responsibility to give everyone positive attention. If someone is arrogant one may also respond with similar measures. However, to generally speaking be arrogant is negative, often counterproductive, and a sign of one’s own weakness; a kind of defence mechanism.
22. Do never take someone or something for granted
This is a cliche that is true, a real wisdom. Of course, one can and should predict various scenarios and sequence of events that will most likely happen, and many people’s behavior tend to be quite predictable. But to not distinguish the probabalistic from the deterministic may lead to desillusions or cognitive dissonance with regard to both people and events.
23. Cowardice limits one’s life while courage enlarges it
A large share of people, especially in more developed countries such as Sweden, have never ever before had better preconditions for to experience and accomplish interesting and important things. Still many let themselves be held back by cowardice. It is when one is at least a little bit brave that good things will happen. As philosophers such as Plato asserted for almost 2500 years ago it is of course of chief significance to avoid recklessness (always remember the dynamics of push/pull), but without some degree of proper courage not much will happen. And this is the case with for instance relationships, traveling, work, education and many other things.
24. Visions are not reality
Another platitude, especially among companies but also within the domains of politics, education and among people in general, is the idea that one ought to have visions. Of course, it really is important, and as an individual it is constructive to visualize one’s ideas and goals. It is in fact hard not to.
But even the visions that become real are in every case only approximate depictions of one’s earlier, inner sensations. For instance, The United States is not as fantastic as one may think if one has various popular culture as points of reference; not even Miami Beach or Manhattan.
25. Read many books
Like to travel – even if one does not actually move spatially when one heads into the world’s of literature – literature is about expand the inner existential room and to enrich one’s own life. Another good thing with literature is that it is more or less free of charge, abd available for almost everone. Here are a few tips of what to read.
26. Hide your weaknesses and compromising sides
To be open-hearted and honest can be liberating and advantageous in several ways, but honesty can often be turned against oneself, sometimes even by so called friends. One should not lie but to stress out loud what one has experienced and thinks about this and that is seldom a fruitful strategy. And if one really has to express something of the potentially compromising sort, save it until very special occasions.
27. What feels right is not always what is right
The cliche says that one ought to trust one’s own gut feeling. But how substantial is this oft-repeated phrase? People are guided by both instincts, experiences and knowledge, and in many cases that of which feels right is also what is right. But at the same time, there are oceans of examples that point in the opposite direction. For instance, cowardly people do trust their own gut feelings, don’t they? Courage, will, common sense, consideration and knowledge are often better loadstars than various gut feelings.
28. Refine your talents
As a person one may wish for to develop many different potential aspects of oneself throughout life, whether theoretical or practical, but there are also certain skills and/or that one may try to refine as much as possible. To try to accomplish this is to give life meaning, to create goals, and may under certain circumstances lead to fantastic results and experiences.
29. Be patient
The proper outlook on the relationship between short-term and long-term perspectives is neither simple nor obvious. Because on one hand one may die tomorrow and should thus focus on the present, but on the other hand a certain degree of long-term thinking and planning is required in order to aim for more important goals. That is indeed the case with for instance intellectual, physical and career development, as well as to save money for traveling.
30. Father time is always breathing down your neck
As has been said just above, one ought to be patient but at the same time always remember that time is constantly and inexorably breathing down one’s neck. If one wants to experience things one should start to work on that now.