By Scott Westerman
Scott’s Maxim: A fulling life is really a pretty simple proposition. Focus on a dream. Add value. And don’t stop working it until it comes true.
During my years in academia, I gave an annual “Last Lecture” to graduating seniors. It was a distillation of a lifetime of learning about success and happiness into 30 minutes.
Six Facts of Life seemed to be common denominators. Here they are, along with some 30 day action plans to more deeply internalize them.
- We become what we think about.
- We become the people we associate with.
- Take care of your body and you get to keep it longer.
- Our rewards in life will always be in direct proportion to our contributions.
- Live on half your income
- Life is too short not to pursue purposeful passion.
- You deserve happiness
We become what we think about
It turns out that this is the most fundamental contributor to happiness.. or suffering. Study after study shows that we vector in the direction of our thoughts. To paraphrase Henry Ford, “If you think you can, you can. If you think, you can’t, you won’t.” Our subconscious can’t tell the difference between what is real and what is vividly and repeatedly imagined. There’s an anonymous poem that crystallizes this idea.
I have a little Robot that goes around with me;
I tell it what I’m thinking – I tell it what I see.
I tell my little robot all my hopes and fears;
It listens and remembers everything it hears.
At first my little robot followed my command,
But after many years of training, it’s gotten out of hand.
It doesn’t care what’s right or wrong – or what is false or true
It doesn’t matter what I ‘try;’ NOW it tells me what to do.
For the next 30 days: let’s re-program our internal robots. Face the unpleasant realities of life head on. Deal with them. But consciously feed your robot hopeful, productive, positive thoughts. When it comes to self-talk, watch your language.
We become the people we associate with
Why do junkies and jailbirds usually end up back in the darkness? Because when they get out of rehab they tend to gravitate to the same relationships that got them into trouble in the first place. We are judged by the company we keep. These are the outside forces that can contribute to programing our internal robot.. for bad or good. Choose them carefully.
For the next 30 days: carefully study your relationship portfolio. Ditch the negative, unproductive energy suckers. Prioritize people who care. Model the behaviors you expect and seek out those who respect and celebrate them.
Take care of your body and you get to keep it longer
Life is about quality and quantity. How you treat your marvelous machine will determine how much of each you’ll enjoy. The human body wants to be exercised, even though our minds may resist it. And if you expect high performance, use high performance fuel.
For the next 30 days: keep a log of your exercise activities. Check with your doctor to make sure you are healthy enough for exercise (that’s my disclaimer.. don’t sue me.) Try to schedule an hour of exercise time at least three times a week. There is new research which indicates that a vigorous walk may be just as beneficial as running, so if you’re not currently in a program, that might be a good place to start. And watch what you eat. Ferrari’s run on racing fuel, not regular. Try injecting more fiber, more green and more water into your daily routine. Ditch sodas and empty calories.
Our rewards in life will always be in direct proportion to our contributions
The law of cause and effect is always in play. We reap what we sow. Add value and you will earn a return in kind. It may not happen instantly, the best crops take time to grow and bear fruit. Patient persistence ultimately pays off.
For the next 30 days, consider your current contributions at work, in the community and towards those relationships most important to you. Put yourself in the shoes of your boss, your soul mate or your best friend. Would you consider yourself a contributor or are you spinning your wheels, burning time and energy without forward progress? Each day, think of one small thing you can do to improve how you add value to the world. Write it down and do it. In a month you’ll have a cookbook for happiness that will bake some delicious things.
Live on half your income
This sounds scary, but it’s a goal that is more achievable than you may realize. It’s possible to create a great lifestyle and still save a ton of money. Delay gratification. Don’t just depend on your 401K. Put as much as possible of what you earn into an investment instrument and don’t touch it. The Financial Independence (FI) guys like Vanguard’s S&P fund. Live frugally. Focus on experiences and not things. Avoid debt like the plague!
For the next 30 days, track what you spend to the penny. Research the FI movement and study the habits of the truly wealthy. Seek out ways to minimize outgo while maximizing how you spend quality time. If you already have debt, create a game plan to minimize and eliminate it. Simplify your lifestyle, even as you increase your income. Build the next egg you’ll need tomorrow today. Hope for the best but plan for the worst. You’ll never go hungry and you’ll be able to thrive in any economic situation.
Life is too short not to pursue purposeful passion
Of the things you can do to make the world a better place, what fires your passion? Time is the only commodity we all get equally. We can spend it in pursuit of happiness, or waste it waiting for a winning lotto ticket.
For the next 30 days, examine where you are in your chosen profession. Is it taking you in the direction of your joy? If not, implement Scott’s 10% Rule. Spend 10% of every day doing the things that will take you in the direction of your passion. Get smarter. Talk with people who already do what you want to do. Invest energy in things that are goal achieving, not tension relieving. Refer back to Maxim #1: Act now like the person you want to become and you will program your robot to take you in the direction of becoming that person.
You deserve happiness
Everyone has an unworthiness gene. We’re pretty certain we don’t deserve the things we have, let alone what we might achieve. The truth is, you do deserve health, happiness and sucess. You will run into obstacles along the way. Fear will be the biggest one. Pleasure and pain come equally to both productive lives and unproductive lives. People who conquer fear and create healthy self esteem just handle the ups and downs better. The first step to channeling them in the direction of happiness is to believe in yourself.
For the next 30 days (and the rest of your life), work to banish fear and believe in your own self worth. Make fear irrelevant to your life’s choices. Ask yourself what it is you fear? Deconstruct it. You may find that it is what Seth Godin calls “Resistance”, the workings of your reptile mind that want to force you to maintain the status quo. And here’s another fact: We’re all screwed up. Some just hide it better. Everyone needs a shrink. Find yours. You don’t have to do this alone.
I conclude my Last lecture with this thought: Life is one long story problem, with a twist. In the end, it’s not about the ultimate solution. It’s all about the adventures you have in it’s pursuit.