9 Truths I Learned at 29

In August 2018 (last year), I turned 29. Thank you I’ve reached life this far.

As I’ve done in the past, I’d like to share some of the truths I realized over the last year. You can read my 2017’s post here.

Note: This post was long overdue. Should be posted last Dec 2018, but life has its own way to keep me busy with other things. Since it’s not like my other short posts, it took me much longer time to contemplate, distill, and finally publish.

9 Truths Learned at 29

Anyway, here it is. I hope you can find lessons in it as I have:

1. Most people know what they shouldn’t do, but they do it anyway.

We know that vices are bad for our well-being, but we indulge in them. We know that spending our whole life chasing money is stressful and unrewarding, yet we keep doing it.

And we know that wasting money is detrimental, and wasting our time & energy on social media, gossip, TV, and many nonsense isn’t beneficial, yet we do them repeatedly.

It’s funny how we trick ourselves. We keep repeating our mistakes.

We know that those things aren’t good and they don’t make us better individuals, yet we do it. Who cares about consequences anyway? We never think of them until they creep beneath our beds.

Life isn’t about the things we know — it’s about practicing them. If we know and understand the consequences of materialism and vices and wasting money, time, and energy, then it’s our job to avoid the wasters at all costs.

Sure, we get tempted at times. I am not perfect. I indulge and waste time sometimes (maybe most of the time).

That’s why self-awareness is important. When we are aware of what is good and bad for us, we are more driven to stay away from the bad stuff and embrace the good stuff.

It’s best to develop good habits and surround ourselves with like-minded individuals.

We are responsible for having a good or miserable life.

2. People, in a way, are prone to self-destruction.

Like I’ve said in #1, we are the ones responsible for having a good life. The vices, materialism, wasting time, and many self-destructing behaviors are destroying us. Yes we know it, but we don’t do something about it. What the hell is wrong with us?

Here’s the bitter truth: Most pain and suffering are self-inflicted.

If we’re struggling with finances, it could be our poor financial management. If we’re struggling with addiction, it could be our lack of self-discipline or our environment.

There could be hundreds of external factors — family, environment, culture, and so on. Who knows. But I couldn’t deny the fact that we ourselves — our behaviors and the way we think — play a huge role.

We are what we do.

If we’re living a miserable life… it’s probably because of us.

3. Every person experiences different kinds of shit.

Some are experiencing happy moments with their family, whereas others are living horribly. That’s how life works.

It’s important that we strive to be constantly aware that everyone is experiencing life in different ways. 

Let me repeat that for emphasis: Everyone is experiencing life in different ways.

I am not the center of the universe. And ‘you’ reading this is not either. So be kind to others — all the time. Try to understand why they do what they do. See their point of view. Empathize.

Once we realize that everyone struggles and is trying to survive, everything then makes sense. There’s no need to berate others for their mistakes. There’s no need to judge. Because what’s the point? Nobody’s perfect. 

I learned this the hard way (and I’m still learning it).

4. Most advice is just good in theory.

Over the years, I’ve shared many lessons here, hoping they may help people in some way. And as the years passed, I found myself providing a lot of advice to my friends and some strangers.

It’s funny because I don’t believe that I deserve to be an advisor or whatever. I’m just writing my point of view and sharing it: “This is what I’d do if I were in your situation…”

What I’ve found out recently is that most advice only sounds easy in theory.

For example, I can easily advise someone to chase his/her dream no matter what because we only live once, so start chasing that dream now! 

Of course, it’s easy for me to say that. I don’t have a kid. I don’t have a sick loved one to look after. And I’m not living in a war-torn country.

Does it mean it’s impossible for them to achieve their dreams? No. It just means it would be a lot harder for them because of their current situation. 

There are consequences. But nobody talks about it.

Don’t follow a piece of advice without considering the possible consequences. And don’t give any advice if you haven’t looked at different angles.

There are no one-size-fits-all solutions.

5. We can’t change people.

No matter what we say to them, no matter how much we pay them, and no matter what gimmick we do, we can’t change people.

It’s one of the truths that really hit me hard.

When I started reinventing myself, I realized I shouldn’t keep all the things that I’ve learned — everyone should know about these, too. A part of me wanted to help people change for good just like what I did. I wanted them to change so they can live a meaningful life.

And guess what, it didn’t turn out as planned. It started with me preaching about it to my friends and some family members. I told them to change and become better people by doing this and doing that.

At first, I hesitated. But in some situations, I got carried away. I looked like a condescending asshole. It’s embarrassing. But hey, I’m a human being too.

What I realized in hindsight is that I don’t have the power to change people. I can only influence them.

6. People are always afraid… of what?

You might disagree, fine. But let me ask you why you’re working your ass off for your family?

If you’re honest with yourself, it’s because you don’t want to end up homeless. You don’t want to starve your family. You don’t want to fail them. In other words, you’re afraid of the worst scenarios and the uncertain. Fair enough. And that’s normal, right?

The things we’re afraid of are what give us worries. And these worries keep us awake at night. Can we avoid them? I’ve read that there are different ways to pull ourselves out of the vortex of worries. One of these is mindfulness meditation. It works for me. I don’t know about others.

Do your research. Find what works for you. Start here.

7. We think we’re always right.

I’m sure I’ve read about this a few years ago, but not until recently have I witnessed it in real life.

A lot of people think they are right about everything — their beliefs, their jobs, their point of views, and so on. Yes we always think we’re right. I’m guilty I act like that sometimes, too.

And even worse, we think others are downright wrong. Go check Facebook and read some comments about a social issue (just don’t participate please). Or if that’s not convincing enough, talk to a religious elitist. Good luck.

Two of my favorite writers, Maria Popova and Paul Jun introduced me to the idea of “Seek to Understand”. Rather than trying to be right all the time, it’s more rewarding to understand. To empathize.

The problem here is that we become too confident with our beliefs, ideas, or plans that we forget life is unpredictable

Pure certainty can be dangerous.

“The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” by Mark Manson is truly life-changing. Here’s an excerpt where he talks about the dangers of pure certainty:

“Many people have an unshakable certainty in their ability at their job or in the amount of salary they should be making. But that certainty makes them feel worse, not better. They see others getting promoted over them, and they feel slighted. They feel unappreciated and underacknowledged.”

The solution? Carry a healthy dose of uncertainty or skepticism wherever you are. Read here.

8. People will fail you.

They don’t pay you on time. They don’t fulfill their promises. They don’t care about your life. What else? I know how it feels to be mistreated, but I also know the feeling when we react every time a person fails us. Neither is desirable.

The solution is to remind ourselves that there are things we can control and things we can’t control.

Obviously, we can’t control others’ behaviors — and will never be. But even though we can’t control it, we do have control over our reactions. And that’s liberating to know.

Yes it’s easier said than done. But trust me, it’s way better to just ignore and move on than react and condemn people for what they’ve done.

The famous stoic Epictetus said:

“Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not. It is only after you have faced up to this fundamental rule and learned to distinguish between what you can and can’t control that inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible.”

What are the things you can control? Focus on them.

9. We lack an understanding of human nature

One reason our world is messed up is because we don’t fully understand the way our mind works. We don’t fully understand our actions. We don’t fully understand the human nature.

Broken relationships, financial problems, unfulfilled dreams, failed businesses… all of these are not just the result of the things we can’t control, also of the things we repeatedly do but haven’t yet realized how bad they are.

Over the year, I’ve spent a quite amount of time learning more about the psychology of human nature. Why we do certain things? What triggers our behaviors? What makes us… humans?

It wasn’t easy as I thought. But I had a lot of aha moments researching, reading, and talking with people. Still, I have a long way to go.

What do you know about human nature? I’m itching to read Robert Greene’s phenomenal book, “The Laws of Human Nature.”

I’ll share everything I’ve learned once I finished reading it. Wish me luck! 😉

Bonus: Forgive

I used to believe that not everyone deserves to be forgiven. Maybe that’s true for some people.

But here’s the thing: Not forgiving is a double-edged sword. It doesn’t only hurt the people asking for forgiveness, also the person who refuses to forgive.

In other words, if we don’t forgive someone, we are hurting ourselves. Even if we think we’re fine, deep inside, the grudge is slowly killing us.

Should we forgive all those people who have wronged us? I know it’s easier said than done. But if we refuse to do it, we’re the ones who will suffer. That’s the sad truth.

It’s also crucial to understand that forgiving isn’t about befriending that person again or getting back together as lovers or whatever. It’s about realizing that the person who has caused us trouble is imperfect, and also, accepting what happened and moving on so we can live peacefully.

There are many ways to do it. But what I do is remember the Zen story “The Empty Boat,” which I also use for anger management. Here’s an excerpt:

“The boat is always empty. Even when there’s another person causing the stimulus, that person isn’t trying to do anything to us. They are doing their own thing, motivated by whatever they’re going through, and so we shouldn’t take it so personally.

If you want to learn more about forgiving, read “Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve” by Lewis B. Smedes. (Did you know that there are 4 stages of forgiving?)

I’m not done with the book (and I already gave it to someone). But I have a copy of the summary, which is great. There are videos about it as well, including this video from author Scott Peck.

And I can confidently say that their tips work for me.

Yes, I’ve forgiven you. 

Have you forgiven those people?