It isn’t about you

The following is what I say to a younger version of myself, who had no idea how to live his life, but was desperately looking for an answer.

1. Everybody wants to give advice on how to live

And I mean, literally, every, single, one. Just ask anybody that you are confused, you don’t know what to do, and want to hear his or her opinion.  You will be listening to stories which might last for hours, and you will be thinking hard on how to end the conversation without upsetting the air. Now you clearly know what to do.

2. They are not talking about you.

What the advice-givers truly want to say is not how you should live your life; it is how they wanted to live their lives. It is them who needed to vent out unresolved issues to someone. By asking for advice, you did help out one person’s soul—except that it’s not yours.

3. But you can still do it.

Yet you may still listen to their advices. Be patient and be careful. Their advice might sound smart but might not be applicable to you, because, after all they aren’t you and they are talking about what would have worked for them. Two many uncertainties here, right? But I think it is okay for you to keep listening, focused, because…doesn’t it feel damn good?

4. Because you feel good, and there is a reason.

As addictive as this advice game is (despite not offering immediate solution), I hope you realize the true reason for why it is fine to engage in it. You feel so good, and you know why? It is because someone is giving you serious attention. And you are equally reciprocating the attention back to them. You are having a genuine connection with other human being, both sides talking and thinking about fundamentally different topics (no two lives are the same), but nevertheless feeling something real.

5. Then get back to yourself.

After the conversation, do NOT start following up on their advice. Hold the temptation and remember the true reason why you felt so high, so excited, so warm during the talk: the connection. THAT is what you have to follow up. You will then realize that whatever agenda you had when you asked for an advice (school, girl, work, money) wasn’t what you were missing, or the true agenda. What really got cured was your loss of connection: to reality, to others, and to yourself.

6. Follow up.

…But do not get sucked into a mental black hole: religious groups, hard-working companies, self-help seminars. The world is rife with leaders and communities who will use you, because they know you are willing to be manipulated. Don’t let them do that. (But being me, I know you will get sucked in. Don’t worry, you will “wake up” sooner or later.)

Now, with a clear head (and after crawling out of a mental quicksand), you may start the real follow-up: Connection. How? Very simple. Remember what you (not them) did during that magical advice session: Listen. That’s it. Do it for other people and for yourself, both.

7. This whole story isn’t about you.

Remember my earlier comment “They aren’t talking about you”? Same here. I have just been telling you what I should be doing ideally. Thanks for listening dude, you will see me later. Don’t worry, your life will just get better. I know.

And if you are still worried how to live your life, here is an inspiration from a dying guy. Also, it is the best usage of “It isn’t about you.” You’ll understand if you watch the video to the end.

  • http://psychanaut.wordpress.com/ Nick H

    I found out about Randy and saw his talk back when he was still alive. He was friends with one of my college thesis advisors. Damn fine talk and man.

    The other day I was stopped by a guy petitioning in front of the supermarket, trying to collect votes to put a measure on the ballot–it doesn’t even matter what it was–but he gave his pitch, and tried to stop me, like everyone who walked by. I listened age then told him, “actually I don’t have a problem with that issue that you are trying to halt.”
    I waited for some kind of reply, rebuttal, argument that would sway me..
    Nothing. He just stood there, dumbfounded, and said, “oh, ok.” And I went off to buy my groceries.

    • http://isaokato.com/ Isao

      I believe he was relieved hugely—either he gets an agreeing nod or a hate look or a complete ignorance, and he must be feeling out of balance. Whatever attention he receives is extreme, and otherwise his world disappears. Your reply put his world in the “it’s okay” mode, which should be the norm, but unfortunately isn’t today.