11 Modest Lessons In Living From 2013

Today is the first contribution to the blog from my dear brother Stephen. Steve helped co-write the Get The Guy book (which went on to become a New York Times Bestseller in its very first week!), and is a wealth of knowledge on dating and relationships.

It’s our mission to deliver as much value as we possibly can to you in 2014. I couldn’t be more excited to have him on board writing articles here for you.

Be sure to give him all your love and a big warm welcome. I can’t wait to hear what you think in the comments!

Enter Steve

I wish I had kept more of a diary last year. Just as I wish I had every year before.

These were the first regrets that struck me when I thumbed through the two notebooks that comprised my hand-written output from 2013.

In the absence though of a chronicle of my hilarious life stories, I did manage to record many of my new favourite life lessons as I learnt them throughout the year. At the risk of dispensing half-baked aphorisms and pompous generalisations, I’ve listed the best ones here.

I really enjoyed this exercise and got a lot out of it. I urge you try it now, while you can still chart the events of 2013 clearly in your mind.

Scan your memory of the last year and dig out about 5-10 of the best lessons you learnt. Look at the successes, and more importantly, the mistakes.

You’ll be surprised with what you produce. No doubt the results will be highly subjective and specific to you – but that’s the point. Think of it as a modest exercise in self-understanding rather than the discovery of universal laws.

What’s more, it will be tapped from that ever-abundant source of hard won experience:

“Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.” – C.S. Lewis

Many of my favourite lessons are highly personal, and may seem trivial to those who have ingrained them already. Others may strike you as the brilliant revelations they were to me.

Some lessons I think I knew on an intellectual level, but never internalised them because I hadn’t had the sting of experience to slap the moral deep into my precious face. Some aren’t even gleaned from my own experiences, but the experiences of people close to me.

Whomever the source, I assure you, like the best lessons, they were all learnt the hard way…

1. The measure of progress in life and love isn’t the absence of problems, but the presence of better quality problems

Just because things still feel difficult, doesn’t mean you haven’t come a long way. You might just have better quality problems now, e.g. One problem – I don’t know how to talk to people I’m attracted to. A better quality problem – I get lots of dates but he/she never calls back. An even better problem – I have good relationships but I want an extraordinary one.

If you have problems, ask yourself: Are these better quality problems than last year? If the answer is yes – relax, that’s progress.

2. Praise wears off quickly, so does criticism

Both are false motivators. Excessive seeking after praise leads us to do the wrong things in the hope of gaining approval, and excessive avoidance of criticism makes us play it safe to quell the opinions of those who don’t matter anyway.

3. If in doubt when it comes to old friends, be the one who re-initiates contact

Pride is overrated and life is short. Forget who last called whom and be the person to make contact. A quick catch up with an old friend who’s in town can be all it needs to maintain the relationship.

4. Networking is overrated; providing value is underrated

The oldest cliché about success is “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” – this leads to a belief that networking will cover up for a lack of value. It doesn’t. The best networking you can do is hard work on making yourself an irreplaceable commodity to others.

This also applies to our love lives. Although meeting lots of new people is an absolute must, it’s also not enough. Meeting people and networking will only yield results if we invest just as much time into increasing the value we bring to a relationship.

5. Handing in your homework on time is still the best lesson school ever taught me (or tried to teach me)

People need things done and they need them on time. You can get far in life just by delivering what’s required on schedule.

6. A question to reflect on for any friendship/family/relationship: How hard is it for me to get my needs met with this person?

Is it easy or excessively difficult? If it’s difficult, you can either (a) withdraw from that person, or (b) change your expectations of them. Both solutions are called for at different times.

7. Somebody else’s version of ‘good’ won’t be right for you

Conform to your own standards. Don’t become overly attached to a situation just because everyone tells you it’s a ‘good thing’, or because it’s something you ‘should’ want.

8. Your energy in any given day is finite; guard it like a precious jewel

(Credit to Matt and his many brotherly pep talks for this one).

9. Learning to cut out unnecessary drains on time is easier and more fulfilling than trying to cram more productivity in

Why try to do everything if it just makes you miserable doing it? It’s much more enjoyable to cut out those activities that don’t really fulfill you and spend more time on things that do.

10. Only do things to improve your love life that you would want to do anyway. Otherwise, you’ll resent doing them

This is one I learnt more from watching others. Whether it’s online dating, going to singles events, or even working out – only engage in improvement activities that you enjoy for their own sake, or else the resentment you feel for having to do them will make it impossible to keep up the habit.

11. One source of my procrastination = an excess of pride

Wrapping too much ego in the finished product, or not being humble enough to accept that the result might not be right the first time – both of these things make starting a task difficult. Reduce the ego, reduce the delay in starting.

Bonus lesson: No-one cares about your dreams (and that’s a good thing!)

Doing anything for approval, because you want to be envied, because you want to be noticed, or hoping that someone will constantly cheer on your dreams is a recipe for chronic dissatisfaction. YOU ARE THE ONLY PERSON WHO CARES ABOUT YOUR DREAMS.

That doesn’t mean that people won’t support you, or that anyone can make it alone, it just means that ultimately, people aren’t spending much time thinking about your quest for accomplishment.

Do it because you love it or don’t bother at all – everyone else is too busy thinking about their own lives to notice whether you make it or not. I find this extremely encouraging.

That’s all for today.

Happy January Everyone!

Here’s to the many mistakes others make, so we don’t have to.


Question Of The Day:

What are the three most important lessons you learnt last year? Good, bad and ridiculous, leave your best ones below.

*Photo Credit: Fabrizio Sciami

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