The first half of 2012 has yielded many profound lessons for me. Some have been minor, like “don’t tell your boss that you hate the way he hits on his secretary” because it doesn’t bode well for your employment. And some tips have been major, like when visiting a sick relative, drop all your shit and just go see them. I could list an entire almanac on this year’s lessons but instead I’ll talk about six: one for every month thus far.
1. Learn to not give a damn so much. There are critics who bathe in your failure, employers who are quick to judge, and exes wishing you the worst. The most effective response you can give them? Fuck off.
No, seriously. Chronic stress does not help you. It inhibits your performance and makes you weak in front of rivals and less reliable as a leader. Dismiss destructive thoughts and wipe fear of failure away like rain off a windshield wiper. Ignore the haters because they certainly don’t enrich your life. If you make a mistake, admit it, and continue to stand tall. In the long haul, patience and positive reinforcement have more staying power than negative feedback.
I’m not encouraging absolute complacency, no. Nor am I telling you to forget about other people’s problems. I’m endorsing the Zen-esque mantra of letting some trials figure themselves out instead of being a neurotic control-freak who holds onto autonomy like a security blanket. Listen: there are just some things you can’t control. He may leave you without a reason. She probably hates your best friends. Checking your mailbox more frequently will not make your packages arrive sooner. And the Knicks probably aren’t going to win a championship anytime soon so keep Linsanity at a tempered setting.
Relax. Stop stressing out so much. Drink a Kool-Aid and have faith that some flowers bloom on their own time.
2. My wise friend Julian once told me, “master your minutes.” Rightly so. Our time here is finite. The more responsibilities you burden, the more imperative it is that you really master time management skills. Spouses, jobs, hobbies, family, friends—all of these, whether you realize it or not, demand precious hours from your schedule. One preoccupation overshadows the chance for another and every moment you spend on leisure is a moment you lose in raw productivity. You may not realize the value of time now but you will eventually, esp. when a full time job, a lover, a family, or a passion comes into the picture. Your life is a studio apartment with sporadically shifting walls, so understand which priorities to tackle first and which Youtube videos you can save for later.
Put simply: prioritize your activities. Allocate time to your craft. Set markers to gauge progress and have a strong drink when you need to. Work hard, rest smart, and visit loved ones as often as your schedule will allow. And for the love of God, eliminate potential distractions.
3. Focus on your goals. Focus goes beyond the winded adage of tunnel vision. Focus means borderline obsessive dedication, the kind that has you rejecting party invites to study for an exam or saying no to your parents when they try to tell you that your unconventional pursuits in life are insane. Focus means having an ever-present awareness of what you want, enough to make you pray for it at night and work thoroughly for its fruition throughout the day.
You probably know this mantra already. Maybe you don’t. What’s guaranteed however is that very few people will understand your obsessions to photography, work, performance, or Star Wars. The vast majority of outsiders will criticize you for “wasting your time.” Again, as mentioned in point one, most of these people don’t matter. Or they shouldn’t. When your life is a mess, its revitalization should be governed by two key factors: 1) people who support you and 2) your own persistence.
Don’t worry if your dreams sound insane. Dreams are a sort of self-fulfilling delusion, like “true love”—its fruition is only as real as you expect it to be. Censor the voice that tells you getting what you want is difficult or even impossible. If you must lose a friend because of professional or personal pursuits, so be it. This is the gritty reality of success: sometimes you have to let go of everything holding you back. This includes: non-relevant hobbies, sleep, good manners, and even fear itself.
4. Know that you are not alone. There are a lot of people out there struggling financially. Student loans are tearing wallets up like the Hulk attempting Origami. The fiscal resurgence economists ramble on about benefits only the employed 91.9% population of the US. But not really because 30% of them work 50+ hours weeks to simply survive. Dumped? Happens to all of us, partner. Feeling depressed, like, all the time? That makes you and thirty million other Americans. Don’t ever think you’re alone because you’re really not.
It’s easy to feel isolated when you view your problems as self-exclusive. They’re not. You’d be surprised how people can empathize with the various plights in your life, whether they be rugged self-esteem issues, broken families, abusive fathers or meager finances. The world is unforgiving sometimes but its inhabitants are much kinder.
Don’t be afraid to let people in. Ask for help. Talk about your problems if you need to and be receptive when someone is spilling their own. Because when it’s time to vent, you’re gonna need someone there for you, too.
5. Talk to strangers. I can’t tell you how many strangers I’ve befriended this year out of sheer curiosity. My willingness to drive twenty miles out of way to make a new friend or photograph a new model has been its own unique reward. People say I’m brave; I’m really just a student of new-age psychology.
(And I get bored easily.)
You’ll never know what kind of opportunities and friendships lie dormant within a stranger if you never speak up. In a crowded NY subway, there are 200,000 stories floating around and the only flood gate holding them back is shyness.
I don’t care if you’re a guy or a girl, rich or poor, angry or sad, straight or gay, black or brown—if you look interesting enough to talk to, I’m going to approach you and strike up a conversation. That talk will most likely make you uncomfortable at first BUT after ten minutes, I will leave you yearning for more. I don’t have a gift for good first impressions but I know mine are lasting ones.
So start making people uncomfortable. You could be the next greatest accident in someone’s life.
6. People are beautiful messes. No one’s perfect, that is to say, for every redeeming quality you find in a person, there’s an equally dark secret lurking behind closed doors. No one is as spectacular as they seem (but if they are, marry them). Contrary to the reality stars we see on TV, not many people are as crazy as Hitler.
Perfection of character is nonexistent. We’re all amazing for different reasons and it’s imperative to understand this when meet new people and forgiving old enemies. There are very few people who are genuinely assholes. Neurosis is a funny by-product of bad genetics and childhood trauma. The meanest people you know are probably spoiled douchebags or inheritants of lingering child abuse.
When dealing with difficult people (especially loved ones), patience and communication are paramount. There are a staggering number of people who suffer from life-debilitating issues like low-self esteem, passive aggressive tendencies, and phobias that make daily chores look like a gauntlet run. There are no quick-fix tricks to snap people out of negative habits. Just a kind ear, firm reassurance, and open dialogue. My friends have given me this patience and I’m a happier person because of it.
…so yeah, don’t tell your boss to stop hitting on his secretary.
Crisanto J. Jorda is a witty adventurer who likes his own statuses on Facebook. When he isn’t running around New York City, he is a freelance video editor / photographer and active member of the artistic-branding collective ThinkBlot Media. Check out his personal photography blog, too!