I normally don’t care about birthdays, but I just turned 35 and this is kind of a big one. 35 is the age you need to be if you ever want to run for president, though that’s never going to happen. It’s also the age that the ancient Greeks thought you needed to be before you even started to acquire any wisdom about life the world and everything else.
So yeah, it’s pretty momentous. Generally I don’t care about age. But whatever, this is as good an age as any and good a time to give some advice I have learned in these 35 years, especially for the younger guys reading. It’s been a mostly useless 35 years, though I like to think I’ve done a few good things.
Don’t waste your 20s. I wasted my 20s, and have been spending my 30s playing catch-up instead of advancing. If there’s one thing I could go back and do again in life, it’s my 20s. Now, the late 20s were a little bit better, but for the most part my 20s were an extension of my teenage years. This is bad, especially for men. I would say that there is no bigger danger to masculinity in traditional notions of manhood, which are the building blocks of society, then perpetual adolescence. Useless stuff, like sports, video games, pop culture, chasing girls, and other forms of consumption designed to keep us childish and docile. I should’ve had a producer mindset. I should’ve been starting a business.
Play to your strengths. I didn’t do this to the extent that I should have in life, mainly because I haven’t had an honest assessment of my strengths. In general, I am a good communicator and better at the conceptual, big-picture stuff than I am about rules and details. Naturally, I gravitated towards the arts, which are just another form of communication, but what did I end up doig career-wise? I went the traditional college route and ended up in law school. Even though I was a music major for a brief time–something I should have stuck with–I didn’t recognize that even doing what I was drawn to required hard work.
Don’t be lazy, and don’t develop bad habits. I spent most of my 30s trying very hard, sometimes in vain, to undo the bad habits that I developed in my 20s. Here’s my problem: It’s going to sound arrogant, but I’m pretty smart. School, not even college and grad school, was ever really difficult to me, just boring. The challenge was getting motivated to do stuff I didn’t really care about. I was rarely challenged academically, and in general had a low opinion of most of my teachers (my dad was my best teacher, quite honestly). Foreign languages, history, English, music, I took to it all really well. I got close to straight A’s without even really trying, save it for a few math classes. This might sound great, and you might be jealous. Well don’t be, because I learned that I really only had to practice or improve myself just enough because I did not have two worry about failure. And when I finally did meet failure, I turtled. I did not know how to handle adversity until much later in my life.
Everything requires hard work. Everything. It’s the whole “align your habits with your vision” mentality (h/t Mike Cernovich). I thought this was just New Age garbage and figured my raw talents would someday be recognized by the world. Newsflash: The world doesn’t care about you, and it never will. And even stuff that you love, in my case music, requires far more hard work and dedication that society like to tell you. We send such mixed messages to our kids, and I got them too: “You need to work hard at everything in life, but don’t do that because that’s too hard and you’ll be miserable.” What a bunch of bullshit. No wonder guys are so messed up these days.
Comfort + security = weakness.
Women. Do not get married until your finances are in order. I repeat: DO NOT GET MARRIED UNTIL YOUR FINANCES ARE IN ORDER. Nothing will build resentment like a woman making more than her husband. I know this is not the kind of thing one should say in polite society, and that traditional gender roles no longer apply, and that a woman can do it all, and then a woman doesn’t really need a man anymore; she just chooses to be with him, blah blah blah. This should scare the hell out of you. Trust me: If a woman does not need a man, if the man does not make more than her, she will be resentful and leave. It’s that simple. So called “traditional gender roles” became traditional in the first place because they by-and-large worked. Reject society’s message that you need to be more “feminine.” But don’t be a jerk (it’s simple, really).
Break rules. Yup, break rules. Especially those things I call cultural traps, or conventional wisdom. No offense to our parents, but what worked in their generation does not work anymore. Unfortunately, I got stuck in that in-between generation where the old ways weren’t working, but most of us didn’t realize it yet. The “go to college, get a job, get married, put in your 35 years, retire at 65, live off your pension and Social Security” paradigm is gone. Over. Finished. Kaput. And it’s probably never coming back. Thank God that with the new technology there are ways around the education debt and wage slavery trap.
Entertainment is a drug. I love music. But you know what? Instead of just listening to it, I should’ve spent more time practicing it. Writing it. Playing it. Learning the business of it. If you want to be in something, you can’t just consume it. You need to produce it. This is why many famous artists, whether they’re musicians, writers, or what have you, tend not to be on knowledgeable about what everybody else is doing because they’re the ones starting the trends. In fact, some fans probably know more about a particular artistic sphere than the actual creators do.
And one of the biggest entertainment drugs out there is video games. I only recently (last 2-3 years) have cut them out of my life, though I have a soft spot for old Nintendo and PC games. You should treat things like this as incredibly high calorie, high fat desserts. They’re alright in small doses, but if they become your life you will become, in this case, intellectually obese, if you catch my drift. I’m going to catch some flak for this because a lot of you like videogames, and I understand! They are a great destressor and there is nothing wrong with things that fire the imagination. But treat them like alcohol or any other kind of addictive substance. You’ll thank me when you’re in your 30s.
Is this wisdom? Am I just reinventing the wheel? Will anybody listen to my mistakes and avoid them? It’s the question older people have been dealing with since the dawn of time.
I sincerely hope some of this helps, and if not, well, you can’t fault a guy for trying. See you in another 35 years!
And check out my Instagram here.