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Prompt 036: Learning From the Past
36. In order to create a better future, we need to learn from the past. What lessons from your past will help you in the future? And why are these lessons so important?
Things I've learned, on which I would like to focus, would be:
1. You have power.
2. There are no guarantees.
3. Talk it out.
There's a big caveat at the end of this, because I'm salty.
YOU HAVE POWER
There's been a lot in my life that I shied away from, though upon reflection I consider it a lost opportunity. Whether it's talking to a woman or asking her out or whatever, to something like making and acting on grander plans like attending a game-designer's conference with my game designs, enrolling in grad school, becoming married at so young an age, and so on... There are a lot of situations I avoided primarily because "I didn't want to fail." Perhaps rather it's the risk that I was going to fail that was the most intimidating. I would have faced an uncertain future if I encountered a setback, so I decided at those times that I would simply avoid the pursuit altogether so I could avoid the setbacks.
What I failed to realize though, at those times, is that there is strength hidden within. A major epiphany for me on this front was when I completed the solo bicycle ride to the shore. Everything leading up to that moment, and everything I experienced because of that trip, was due to me taking action. I don't mean to insinuate that I didn't have help (for example, some of my original equipment was gifts to me, and the first time I did the trip I stayed at a beach house for free). But had I simply stayed home, no one would have noticed. I would have just spent another September doing nothing in particular, and maybe always wondered, "What would that kind of trip be like?"
Beyond that, the experience itself drastically broadened my horizons and helped me regain confidence at a shaky period in my life (at least, for the first trip). It kick-started me into some fundraisers, bringing other people along for the ride as de facto leader of the trip, and gave me something excellent to share with clients at my day job.
It seems better to me to act upon my curiosity. Later, I find that actually doing the thing about which I was curious helps me fall asleep easier at night. I prevent restlessly wondering.
James Clear states in his book, -Atomic Habits- that: "The greatest threat to success is not failure, but boredom." I'd rather not be bored. And I think I have the fortitude enough to stand back up after being beaten down by a failure. People are capable of much more than they acknowledge. By striving for something I never tried before, I learned that I possess fortitude and ability when put to the test. Without testing myself, I would have never known.
THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES
The notion that "life isn't fair" is meaningless. The notion that "the universe owes me" something is ridiculous. The notion that, "I deserve it," is a lie. No one deserves anything in this life. If we pursue it or not, this makes no difference to the universe. I fail to be convinced that there's a superior being or even something akin to a guardian angel watching over individuals, guiding or nudging them towards opportunity or sprinkling them with good fortune or whatever. I think karma is a happy idea, but nothing more. At best, it's coincidence. I see no reason the believe otherwise.
People are fallible. They can be deluded, either by others or by themselves. The imagination is a powerful thing planting in people's heads the ideas of possible futures. There's nothing wrong with this. Buying into one of these imagined outcomes beyond reality, however, is a mistake.
Do what you can to make things turn out the way you want them to. Do your best, at every opportunity. That way, you can face the outcome - good or bad, anticipated or completely surprising - with a clear conscience.
TALK IT OUT
I have missed out on -so many- opportunities primarily because I clammed up and didn't speak my mind, or didn't ask the question, or didn't open up to discussion. Face-to-face, not through text messages or whatever.
It also bears mentioning that building social skills is a necessary requirement to being able to do this. Knowing how to navigate a conversation so there are no awkward silences, or perhaps to affect a graceful exit, can be practiced and honed just like any other practical ability. It takes courage and - again - a willingness to always do your best. Being able to step up in the face of adversity and either begin the discussion or speak your mind or ask the -why- or -how- of something... Not everyone can do that. But knowing how to say things in a way that are non-confrontational and welcoming and able to avoid an accusatory tone or nature is valuable.
This is the "But..."
I have the sense that I am coming off a bit preachy or superior with these. However I do harbor a pessimistic nature when it comes to other people, and when it comes to the future of humanity. Generally, I don't expect people to be able to meet these expectations, follow these guidelines, or have done the introspection or self-reflection that lets these kinds of lessons sink in. I spend a lot of time either alone, or in the company of people I choose.
I find people who have their smartphones always at hand are some of the most boring, self-absorbed humans I've ever met. There, I said it. If ever I was judgmental, it's on this point. Y'all can go suck an egg. You're boring, vapid, and irresponsible children. And I'm stuck sharing air with you. So it goes.