Learning the Hard Way

“Do what you love + low overhead = a good life.  Do what you love + I deserve nice things = time bomb.” – Austin Kleon

Put another way, don’t live outside your means, for it will eventually catch up with you.  That’s a lesson I distinctly remember hearing when I was in high school, but it didn’t resonate.  It’s not until you get older with responsibilities heaped onto you and some bad financial decisions along the way, that you really learn this one.

The best way to learn is through the mistakes of others.  That’s what being a student of life will teach you if you’re paying attention.  Most people don’t pay attention.  We’re all human, and as humans we stumble along the way.  The key is how quickly you recover.  We’re all more resilient than we think we are, but lord life has a way of testing you.  The best decisions I’ve made in life – getting married again and becoming a father – come with a price.  Many people aren’t ready to pay that price.  My first wife wasn’t ready to pay that price.  My current wife was.

“Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.” – Unknown

Sometimes learning involves trusting the wrong people.  I’ve made the same mistake a few times over in jobs I’ve had over the years.  Join a company, look around and realize it isn’t at all as it was portrayed when you were interviewing, decide to tough it out and make the most of it.  Eventually part ways when it’s clear to both sides that this thing isn’t going to work.  Repeat.

The older I get, the more I realize that we’re all just trying to figure it out.  We all would have done many things differently along the way.  I’d have taken more risks early in my career.  Traveled more.  Lived in different countries.  Joined the Navy after college.  Written more.  Started a business instead of working for others.

That’s the curse of perspective.  Most of us learn the hard way.  I’m no exception.  I’m smart enough to learn from other’s bad examples in partying too much, burning bridges, buying expensive toys, running with the wrong crowd, being a negligent parent or a helicopter parent, etc. just as I’m smart enough to learn from other’s positive examples of consistent exercise, holding your tongue, surrounding yourself with people who raise you up, and being fully engaged with your children while giving them space to learn and grow.

“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” – Robertson Davies

“When the student is ready the teacher will appear.” – Buddhist Proverb

I’ve heard this Buddhist proverb for years and generally believe it to be true.  It can be applied to larger milestones in life, but on a granular level it applies to any moment.  When you stop the internal dialogue spinning in your own head long enough to pay attention to what’s in front of you, you’re ready to take in that information.  And that makes all the difference.