The best advice does one simple thing. It reminds you of something you knew, but forgot.
There’s no big secret truth that solves all of our problems — just lots of little ones. They’re like loose change that gets stuck in the couch. Every now and then, you have to pull off the cushions and dig. That’s when you find a penny that makes the world add up to a dollar again.
I’ve gone back through about three years of my blog posts — hundreds of articles. Themes came up. So I broke them down into my own pile of change, with 24 truths that apply to just about everyone. They cover everything from creativity to emotional intelligence.
Here you go:
1. You have a chorus of emotions
You’re allowed to be happy and sad at the same time. You can miss someone and be angry at them. You can laugh when you’re terrified. You can forget how you were feeling five minutes ago. Emotions often sing together. They contradict each other. Sometimes you don’t know how you’re feeling, because you think you should feel one way. But we almost never feel one way. We tend to feel two or three ways.
2. Don’t tinker things to death
Every work of art has its own apex of perfection. This idea applies to every kind of art, even marketing. Some works of art look nice, and others look beautiful. You can’t tinker something nice into beauty. It doesn’t work like that. You have to start fresh, with new clay.
3. Negative emotions are a resource, not an obstacle
Don’t judge yourself for how you feel. Anger. Envy. Jealousy. Guilt. Regret. These are natural. They provide information. They tell you when something’s not all right. The trick isn’t sweeping your emotions under a smiley face. It’s dealing with them, without embarrassing yourself. You don’t want to be the person everyone tries to avoid.
4. One of the best things you can do is change your mind
There’s no such thing as losing an argument. If someone persuades you to live better, or see the world differently, you haven’t lost anything. You’ve won. You’ve gained a perspective. Lots of people know a lot more than you do — about lots of things. Changing your mind is usually a good move. If anything, you should let it happen more often.
5. Rest, but don’t ignore inspiration
Everything is relative when it comes to any kind of creative work. Nobody can really tell you how many hours to work a day. Sit down and get started. See what happens. If you struggle for hours with no progress, take a break. If you get excited about an idea, don’t let rules about “recovery” stop you from doing more work than you planned on.
6. Help isn’t always a good thing
One of the scariest phrases in the English language is, “Let me help you.” Not everyone is qualified to give you help. Too often, help comes with unwanted advice — and an extra person to manage. You’re allowed to turn down help from someone you think will just give you a headache.
7. You don’t have to love your family
You don’t owe your parents love just because they didn’t leave you in a dumpster right after your birth. You can be nice to your parents without loving them. You can also feel a range of emotions other than love — like gratitude and respect.
8. Stop trying to be original
The word original just means you haven’t seen it in a while. Things can feel new and unique, but they’re always a spin on things we’ve seen or heard before. We have templates and archetypes for a reason. If you want to create great work, stop obsessing over originality. Just create. If you’re worried about imitation, add one little spin — make it yours.
9. Don’t feel guilty about your sexuality
There’s a long line of people waiting to judge you for just about everything. Don’t internalize the noise. Don’t even pay attention to it. Internalized shame is worse than any fetish out there. If you’re into something, and it doesn’t hurt anyone, enjoy yourself.
10. Morning routines are slightly overrated
Wake up. Do what needs doing. Make some coffee. If you want to throw in some yoga, and maybe a shower, that’s your choice. A morning routine by itself has never made anyone rich, famous, or happy.
11. You have to throw yourself out there
Jim Carrey wrote a check to himself for five million bucks before he became famous. Every self-help writer has cited this little factoid. But that’s not what made him successful. Look at Jim Carrey’s sketches from In Living Color. Fire Marshal Bill. Vera de Milo. He threw himself out there. If you want to succeed like Jim Carrey, you have to do the same thing.
12. You don’t have to do everything culture tells you
The beauty of having your own mind is that you don’t have to do what’s expected. You can do the opposite. You can be exceptional in your own way, even if it never makes you incredibly rich. The most important thing in the world is living according to your own principles, and finding a balance between your desires and those of others.
13. You have to care about someone
It’s not enough to pursue your own wealth and success. You have to do it for someone else. Nobody gets what they truly want until they start thinking about other people. That’s why some of the richest and most powerful people still wind up miserable. They just don’t know it.
14. Sometimes you have to fix things that aren’t your fault
It’s easy to point a finger at someone for messing up your life. You might even be right. But you can waste a lot of time trying to hold everyone accountable for their mistakes. Just fix the problem.
15. You need someone to prove wrong
Proving someone wrong is a great motivator. Encouragement is great, but you can also harness discouragement. When someone doubts your ability to do something, they’re challenging you.
16. What you love isn’t always fun or exciting
Passion isn’t a 24/7 thing. Every profession has moments of tedium and monotony, along with plenty of things you’d rather not be doing. If you expect a job to excite you all the time, you’ll never be satisfied.
17. It’s okay to be boring
There are people out there who want you to constantly entertain them. It’s the price of their friendship. You don’t have room for these people. Be boring. A quiet life is healthy, and free of stress and drama.
18. The best revenge is no revenge
Sometimes you start out wanting to lose weight or get a better job because someone dumped you, or you got passed up for a promotion. But when you actually lose the weight, or get the better job — the revenge loses its sheen. Fulfillment eliminates the need for payback. If you still want revenge, you’re not done working on yourself yet.
19. Quitting isn’t permanent, or even bad for you
It takes a long time to give up on something. You have to decide not to do it every single day, for the rest of your life. Quitting doesn’t have to last forever. Lots of professionals take a break from their craft. They do something else for a while, then come back with experience points. Quitting isn’t a dirty word. Quitting can be a bridge to something new.
20. Curiosity trumps passion (and motivation)
Nobody really knows what passion or motivation look like, or how to instill it — or if they’re even important. But we know what curiosity looks like. It’s simple, and built in. You just have to water it.
21. You need to get over yourself
Luxuries and privileges can turn into expectations and entitlements pretty fast. Don’t let them. Entitlement is a slide to misery.
22. You will always grapple with unfairness
Everyone thinks they’re treated unfairly. Sometimes they’re right. There’s systemic unfairness that targets entire groups. And there’s your own personal brand. The first is worth protesting. The second is your ego.
23. Not everything deserves your 110%
Someone will always be happy to exploit you. Don’t let them. Give your everything to things that matter most to you, not someone else. For everything else, do just enough.
24. Being likable is easier than you think
You don’t have to be charismatic. You don’t have to be a genius at conversation. You just have to listen. You have to be interested in other people. You have to avoid making everything about you. If you can show interest in others, they’ll like you. Not all of them — but some.
Part of us usually knows the answer we’re looking for. We’re just not sure. We need someone else to say it. We need someone else to cut through our noise for a minute. We need the missing penny.