“What should I do with my life?”
Whether you’re just starting your career, staring at the beautiful future like a blank canvas, or a little further along trying to figure it out, here are some ideas about what to do with your life.
Full disclosure, I’m 36. This is the life advice I WISH I’d known when I was 19. But at the same time, I’m not done yet. My ideas might evolve and grow. So, internet stranger, I hope these ideas are helpful to you… And good luck as you search for your path.
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1. Make the world better
It’s pretty damned cliche, but you could devote a part of your life to making the world a better place.
Now, I’m not talking about trips to foreign countries to build schools or volunteering at a soup kitchen once a year. I mean, those probably have their place. But I don’t think those are the best ways to make the world better.
You want to know how to make the world better?
Devote yourself to stuff that you care about? Maybe this means building stuff. Maybe it means working at a job and treating the customers like gold. Try to leave everything you touch a little better than you found it.
2. Start moving toward a career, but don’t let it put you in a box
Look, if you are sitting on the couch right now, or thumbing through a catalogue of college degrees, there’s a good chance you just need to start moving.
You’re never going to know what the end looks like. That’s the exciting part. So pick some career paths that are interesting to you, explore a few, and start moving towards one that seems right.
Chances are it won’t be EXACTLY right in the long run, but that’s okay. You can always change. Life isn’t over till it’s over.
There’s no limit to how many times you can reinvent yourself, or how many different roads you can take. I should know. I spent 15 years studying. 5 of those years I was studying to be a minister, and now I’m not. 6 of those I spent studying to be a professor, and I was never able to get a job as one.
And as far as my undergrad in history and English goes, it gave me the basis for a lot of what I do on this blog. But let’s be honest, I’m not exactly “using them.”
Sometimes you just got to pick a direction and start moving, knowing it’s the best one for the time being but that it might change in the long run.
I believe that I’ve discovered the secret for happiness.
It’s never-ending growth.
Shrinking the gap between who you are and who you could be, chasing your potential. Trust me on this, I have seen a lot of things that bring joy, but growth is one of the best. Find ways to increase what you can do, and focus on becoming the best in the world at something.
That’s where the joy is.
There was a study done a few years ago that showed that, when people bought things for themselves, they ended up back to being unhappy very quickly. When they use their money to buy experiences, it left them happier long-term.
And there’s no experience quite like travel. I’ve loved the ability to see different places, to live in different cultures and have my imagination sparked.
But let’s be honest, this comes from rich, Western privilege, with money to spare and a passport that gets me anywhere I want.
So if you can’t travel to another country, travel to the next city. Get on your bike and explore part of town you’ve never explored before. Don’t learn geography from a book.
5. Build systems to make you money
Everyone I knew growing up worked for somebody else. And I got the same wisdom handed down to me that a lot of people get.
Study hard, get a good job, enjoy your weekends, retire as early as you can.
This was the thinking that dominated my generation. My parents were blue collar, and they couldn’t imagine any other way to live.
Let me tell you the best secret for success I know. Spend part of your day, even if all you have is an hour, working on building a machine that will bring you money. If I work an hour for an employer, that hour is gone. If I spend an hour writing a blog post, millions of people might read it. Spend some of your time on your money machine, learn to invest, start a side hustle or business, create intellectual property or a patent, or start a YouTube channel.
Or, learn about real estate and invest in rental properties to have people pay your mortgage for you.
My goal in life is not to get the best job I can get with the highest salary. It’s to become so good at building a machine that brings me money that I never have to work again unless I want to. And that’s a goal that’s easy to get excited about.
Also, read The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris!
The average person is awake 15 hours a day.
If you are an employee, chances are you work 8 hours a day. And most people spend the extra hours of the day sitting on their ass, watching Netflix, or mindlessly scrolling their phone.
Now I don’t believe you need to be a workaholic, and I’m not saying you need to fill every single one of those hours with something productive. Rest, exercise, and time with the people we love is important.
But take some of that time and use it to learn. I personally love to learn things that help me grow the impact I want to have in this world.
I read books on business, finance, marketing, personal development, and more. I spent about an hour every day watching or listening to YouTube videos, but that time is not wasted. I don’t watch music videos for celebrity gossip, I watch videos that teach me.
We are living in the greatest time to be alive, when all you need is an idea and a little sweat equity and you can build a multi-million-dollar business. There is no shortage of information. But there is a shortage of people willing to learn and apply it.
Never stop learning.
One more thing. I haven’t been great at this one, but let me say that some people get a lot of joy out of learning for the sake of learning. They read military history, geography, and who knows what else. While I’m one of those annoying people who struggles to learn unless I can connect it to something useful, probably a holdover from spending fifteen years in useless education, I think this can have value too. Even if for nothing else than to feed your soul and keep your mind sharp.
This feels like a good time to tell you that I learn just about everything on Skillshare, including all the skills I use to run this blog. You can try it here.
7. Nourish your ideas
I was having a conversation with a friend of mine yesterday. He’s a new immigrant to Canada, and doesn’t speak English. So we were speaking French, which I do speak, but I struggle a bit.
He told me one of the most inspirational things I’ve ever heard, and I want to try to translate it for you.
He retrained, and he’s working hard at a job, but he’s an entrepreneur at heart.
Here’s what he said.
“People want capital to start businesses.
“But everyone has capital: their ideas and their two hands.
“All these people want money to start-up. They refuse to start things without money, and sit complaining that no-one will fund them.
They won’t use the capital they have, so why would they expect others to give them capital?”
“If you start with your ideas and your two hands, you can build anything.”
Your ideas are the most valuable things you have. So nourish them. Don’t be afraid to dream, and dream big.
For Elon Musk, this type of thinking has turned into multiple companies worth billions of dollars. And it all starts with an idea. What if cars were electric? What if we could go underground to avoid traffic?
Ideas are currency. Ideas are the foundation of civilization. Feed them, water them. And holy shit, write them down! Don’t forget them! They are more precious than gold. And learn how to implement one or two great ones to change your life.
8. Create relationships and value them
The income you are able to make will be in direct correlation with the strength of your network. I wish I had realized this earlier.
I don’t mean to use people, don’t hand out business cards to everyone you meet. Don’t be one of those people.
But do meet a lot of people. Treat relationships seriously, and treat people with respect. The famous saying is, people will forget what you say, but they will never forget how you made them feel. I believe this is true. Meet people intentionally, network as much as you can, and it will give you the based for a solid career.
9. Get addicted to exercise
I’m 36 now, which is not exactly dead, but I’m realizing that I’m not getting any younger either.
One of the best things you can do is start to create a daily exercise routine. This might be because you want to get in shape or have a nice ass, but in the long run, it’s because you need to keep your energy levels up as you get older to do the stuff you want to do.
Your physical energy will be the foundation of your success, so whether you like to lift weights, run, or rock climb, or play a team sport, make sure a solid portion of your week include exercise.
So you asked, “What should I do with my life?” There you have it. 9 pieces of advice from a random internet stranger. Good luck and get moving!