The Freedom to Live Life on Your Own Terms
As I shared last month, one of my high school teachers, Mr. Eslick, invited me to return to my hometown to speak to current Montague High School students about my career and journey to today. Preparing for and delivering the talk was deeply therapeutic for me and, I hope, fun and informative for the students. I got some wonderful feedback from them and thank you’s from administrators, teachers and parents.
In the wake of my visit, I feel lighter, rejuvenated, and prepared for the next phase of my journey. The universe has a beautiful way of bringing our lives’ chapters to a close, doesn’t it? If we’re quiet enough, still enough, reflective enough…we can see significant value in all of our years of experience.
This is an ideal time of year to quiet down and look back on where we’ve been. The fall season is the perfect opportunity to gaze inward as the leaves fall, the weather cools, life slows, and animals start their hibernation. When we are not so pressed at work, we can make time to give thanks for all that we have and all we’ve learned. From that perspective, we can then think about how we’ve been living our lives each day—the rules we are following, either consciously or unconsciously.
When I talked with the students last month, I shared some of the rules I use to guide my choices. As you read these over, think about your own. Imagine life’s choices as a giant a la carte menu. I encourage you to order only what you really, truly want.
My 13 Rules for Life
- Throw Away Your TV. Your most memorable experiences happen when you are interacting with other humans. Think about the year 2017, for example. What do you remember about it? Probably the time one of your friends made you go to an improv class or your cousin fell out of kayak. You don’t remember watching TV or scrolling social media. Society is so addicted to screens, yet meaningful relationships and the best memories are born out of being present with others. Invite the opportunity.
- Find Peace in Change. I’ve been a landscaper and a golfer. I’ve ran hotels, gotten a MBA, worked corporate, then transitioned into a small business owner, author, podcast host, and executive coach. Life is evolution, and there will be so many versions of you. Find the good in all of them and be open to what you ascend to next.
- Respect All Humans. There is no right or wrong way to view a situation, just as there is no absolute right or wrong way to lead a life. Each journey is unique and meant to be honored. Humans have a tendency to blame another person’s character for their choices, yet when we look at ourselves, we blame the environment. All souls are doing the best they can, and when we remind ourselves of that frequently, it’s easier to meet everyone with compassion.
- Don’t Save For Retirement. It’s almost impossible to overstate how much our lives have changed compared to those of our grandparents. Previous generations were raised in a period of human history where corporations or the government provided for people cradle to grave. This will not be the case in the future. Humans are living and working longer; yet our future isn’t guaranteed by those institutions. Thus, we must enjoy experiences now. The idea of “retirement” is going extinct—so, to me, the notion of saving for something we can only hope occurs makes little sense.
- It’s Okay to Be Smart. Our world doesn’t need more “successful” people. It needs high IQ/EQ people, yet so many of us fail to nourish this part ourselves. We forget how truly remarkable our own brains happen to be. For example, in high school, I did everything I could to fit in. Now I wish I would’ve stood out. Follow the thread of your own curiosity and uniqueness. It’s never been easier to download information and new ideas right into your brain—and once you make doing so a habit, you never know what value you’ll be able to generate for others.
- Learn Experientially. We learn from own mistakes, not hearing about others’ mistakes. By purposely taking new actions each week, month, and year, you’ll offer your subconscious new patterns, new emotions, and new ways of thinking.
- Travel Internationally. Visiting China, Singapore, Costa Rica, Germany, Croatia, England, and more taught me humans are far more similar than the media leads us to believe. When you go beyond our borders on a routine basis, all prejudice gets broken down. For a little extra inspiration to travel and connect, check out The Kindness Diaries on Netflix.
- Be Grateful for “Who” Luck. Be grateful for the universe gifting you the valuable friends you have and seek out new ones as well. The strongest drug that exists for a human is another human. The support of our loved ones makes taking risks far more acceptable and gives us the energy to persevere through. Never forget, it’s not what or when, it’s all about the “who.”
- Take (Calculated) Risks. Don’t live the same year 75 years in a row and call it a life. Instead, take action in alignment with your mission. Be okay with trying new things. Reflect on your choices, learn, and share. Your story matters and others need to hear it to feel motivated.
- Get Tattoos. I have two, and I will get more. My step daughter Aleah has taught me so much about authenticity and self-expression, and my tattoos honor our relationship. She reminds me to enjoy life’s little moments, and every time I see my ink, I think of her and her wisdom. Humans have used body art for millennia to display rites of passage, character traits, familial bonds, and other meaningful aspects of who humans are. If tattoos aren’t your thing, find another way to express yourself. We are all powerful creators, and I find we are happiest when we remember it.
- Meditate. Reflect. The world is gnarly right now as culture shifts from a “me” to a “we” society. Thus, we need to get quiet as often as possible to reconnect with nature, with the universe, with our highest selves. If we fail to do so, our anxiety lurks, ready to overwhelm and paralyze us. Build your connection to your own soul by regularly—daily—getting quiet and listening.
- Trust Your Intuition. If I get a repeated message from the universe, I know it’s time to make a change. From 2015-2018, I invested most of my time 1-to-1 coaching. Then I began to get a lot of nudges it was time to elevate my work. So, in 2019, I devoted more time to speaking, social media posts and offering workshops, online courses, and a podcast. The years ahead will see me writing books and building software. Had I not trusted my intuition, I wouldn’t have moved forward.
- Choose Not to Believe. When I was in high school, I believed I’d take over my family’s business. In my early 20s, I chose not to believe that. Instead, I chose to believe something better was coming. I moved to Arizona, and lo and behold, all these better things arrived in my life. As hard as it is, it is okay to say no to one tribe to say yes to another; it’s okay to value yourself as different than others. If you’re struggling with what to believe, I encourage you to watch Casey Gerald.
If one theme emerges from my rulebook, it’s probably this: it’s okay to be unique. It’s better than okay—it’s the only way to be. I am a fish out of water in my West Michigan hometown, but I found my people in a variety of different environments. In fact, I find them everywhere. When you take the time to clearly define who you are, what you believe (and do not believe), and the set of rules you choose to follow, you’ll effortlessly be introduced to what you’re looking for.
You might be living through some unwelcomed experiences at the moment. Fortunately, growth occurs when you purposely encounter challenges and learn from them…and then teach others the lessons you learned. Each of us is going to be confronted with life, so developing our own rules, mission, core values, and a legacy is crucial for creating something beautiful out of the collision.
Consider taking a bit of time to check in with yourself: Are you living your life on your own terms? Are you free?
I sure hope so.