I’ve made a lot of mistakes; I suppose everyone has. Looking back, though, I’ve thought a lot about the path I’m on and the way I behave. I think of my nephew and how quickly he’s growing up.
More importantly, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a role model and if I ever truly had one growing up.
I think there is a question all men must, at some point, must ask themselves: Would my 14-year-old self look up to me now, as a man?
Below are five things I knew when I was younger, which would have saved me a great deal of trouble today:
1. You do not owe anyone an explanation
God, I wish I knew this a long time ago. You do not owe anyone an explanation for your behavior, your likes or your dislikes. You do not owe anyone an explanation for the clothes you wear, for your hopes, your dreams or your fears. You don't owe anyone any explanations.
I spent so much time worrying about what others thought of me, instead of focusing on what I wanted for myself.
Nowadays, when I ask people what they want, most answers I get add up to what they don’t want. Go ahead. Try it. Ask people what they truly want and then see how many of them will have the courage to unequivocally state exactly what they wanted from life.
Making excuses for what you want is, in my opinion, the saddest waste of a life imaginable. Unfortunately, it is a direct result of worrying too much about what other people think.
Part of being a man is having the courage to reach for what you want, to stand up for what you believe and to make a dent in history. You can try and fail, but to not even try? If you haven't had a life, what do you have?
2. Try, try, try, try, try
I was always kind of timid; I behaved quite conservatively and was never really a big risk-taker. As a result, I didn't experience many things until much later in my life. Basically, I’ve been playing catchup for years all because I did not give myself permission to try.
Giving yourself permission is self-acceptance in its highest form. You see, confidence is often misunderstood; the high school bully who makes others feel like crap is not confident, as confidence is not about having to prove anything to anyone.
It’s about recognizing your flaws and acting, anyway. I wish someone told me that a long time ago. I wish my self-talk back then was what it is now. I wish that instead of telling myself that I couldn't, I told myself to try.
Give yourself permission. It’s okay to make a fool of yourself. It’s okay to be the weird one for a bit. It’s okay to have people laugh at you. Most importantly, it’s okay to laugh at yourself.
3. What you do today is an indication of what your future life will look like
Gentlemen, this one is huge. Ever heard of the crazy fitness program, Insanity? I started it for the first time four years ago... and I quit within a week. I picked it up again a few months after that. That time, I quit within three weeks.
I started it and quit many times over the next few years, and I finished it for the first time about three months ago. If I completed it the first time, I would have been in the best shape of my life for the past four years.
Put down the burger. Stop drinking 21 shots for your birthday so that your friends think you’re cool because you know you'll be useless tomorrow. Stop playing video games and start thinking about business ideas. Design your life around the way you want it to look in the future!
Every second you spend is a second you will never get back. You can make a dollar or lose a dollar, but you can only lose time. Time is your most valuable currency, so stop wasting it.
Start now. Turn off the damn TV and go for a run. Not later, now! You always speak about going on a diet, so throw out the junk food in your fridge and buy a ton of fruits and veggies. You keep posting pictures of luxury cars on Facebook, but what will you do to get one? There is no better time than now, gentlemen.
4. Accept your lack of control
If there’s one hard lesson I’ve learned in life, it’s that I have never truly been in control. That’s a terrifying thought for a man to accept. We believe that as we grow, we will become stronger and stronger, have more control over our environments and bad things won’t happen to us anymore. Wrong!
The thing is, the only thing over which I ever truly had control was my own behavior. At first, that was even difficult to accept. It’s not easy to swallow, and yet, it’s a reality.
The sooner you accept this, the simpler your life will become. You will realize that if you want to change things, you must begin by changing yourself.
Bad things will happen, and you will be taken by surprise. You will hit all-time lows, but you will have developed the security of knowing that ultimately, you are in charge of your own life.
Remember that above all else, every second you spend worrying about things you can’t change is a second you steal from your own happiness. It's time you will never get back. Rest assured; it will be okay.
5. Let go and forgive
I used to think that forgiveness was a weakness of sorts, like I had to carry anger and resentment for people who wronged me in life.
The simple, practical reason for letting go is that clinging to resentment is useless because it does not lead to peace. Isn't that what we all ultimately want? To live a happy, peaceful and purposeful life? Holding on to anger and resentment will not lead you there, so why bother clinging to it?
Forgiving is not a weakness; it’s a strength. I spent so much time being angry, hating and resenting — time I will never get back. I’ve noticed that angry people can’t let go of their anger because they base their entire identities on being perpetual victims.
They need to feel like the butt of every joke, like everyone is out to get them. That’s not how you will lead a happy life. Forgiveness is strength. Letting go is strength.
Photo Courtesy: Warner Bros./Goodfellas