“The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.” – Robert Frost
Tomorrow is January 29th, and once more I’ll be marking a birthday. To say that it is exciting to have made it this far would be an understatement – though a bit of a tired cliche as EVERYONE seems to think that they’ve “survived” the first 30 years of their lives. However, in all actuality, all things considered, the fact that I’m here now writing this, doing what I love for a living is a testament to some good luck, some good karma, and a whole lot of perseverance. In hindsight, after writing this, I should have broken it up into multiple posts. But I didn’t so you’ve got some reading ahead of you.
So why is it I think I have more right to the age-old adage that I’ve “survived this long” on the eve of my 3rd decade? Simple. I’ve put myself into plenty of situations that could have ended my brief existence on this earth. Sharks. Avalanche zones. Remote native tribes. Australia (everything there wants to kill you – especially the women). Close encounters with elephants and pissed off baboons. A year in combat in Iraq. A brief stint as a street racer. And of course, my chosen profession, I’m a helicopter pilot. Which is not exactly a safe job – it isn’t fraught with danger, or maybe it is…the point is – I’ve seen and done a lot in 3 decades.
Imagine my surprise when just a few weeks one of my American friends here in Kuwait said to me in her most serious tone “Nick, you’re an old soul.” The reason for my surprise, this was not the first time I’d heard those words from someone that had come to know me well. It’s been said a lot, in many places around the globe. From many different people. I’m starting to think that they might be onto something. I’m not even 30, yet, and I’m an old soul. I’ve come to like that. So sit back, youngsters, and respect this elder for a moment while I try and impart some of the knowledge I have onto you. (Disclaimer: This will work for any “youngster” no matter your age in numbers).
So, what are my secrets for a happy life? What are my goals this year (and why are goals important). What am I most proud of? Do I fear 30, am I where I wanted to be? Let’s tackle some deep stuff.
Secrets for a happy life? Hmm…how best to go about this…oh I know! A list.
- Do not take yourself or the world so seriously that you can’t enjoy things. You have to be able to laugh at yourself, you have to be able to laugh with others. So many people get caught up in the minutia of life, the uncontrollable elements of the world around them, that they stress themselves out – and lose focus. If it isn’t going to kill you (and most things aren’t going to kill you) than you really don’t need to stress about it. I’m fortunate to have a sense of humor to be proud of.
- Stress is a good thing. I know this is, almost entirely, contrary to what I just said in number one but bear with me. If you don’t stress about the important stuff than you’re doomed to be an unsuccessful couch dwelling flower-child for your whole life. Nobody really wants that, especially your parents/friends/roommates…whomever’s couch you’re living on – they really don’t want that. You should stress about what it is you want to do with your life, where you want to go, your health (doctors would suggest that stress is unhealthy…I’m not a doctor so, you can probably trust me more than them) your wealth, your education. If you aren’t improving, your AREN’T standing still – you’re moving backwards. I’ll talk about goals later, but they’re huge. Do goals. Trust me on this. The point I’m trying to make is: Don’t sweat the small stuff, only the big stuff. As an added bonus tip, your boyfriend/girlfriend is typically “small stuff” until you’re married IMO. I’ve known far too many people who have turned down epic opportunity because they didn’t want to leave a bf/gf…and then, when that door of opportunity was well closed, they still lost the bf/gf…leaving them without either. Great opportunity knocks often, but you must be prepared to receive it.
- Family is this single most important resource we’re given. Followed second by time. Time is an unstoppable force in the Universe, we’re all subject to it and we can’t control it (yet). Family, a group of misfit personalities thrust into existence with each other. You don’t really pick them, you kind of just get them. (Adoption parents – you kinda get a pass on that last sentence). I know too many of my friends that have stressed, strained, tired, or totally destroyed relationships with their families. There isn’t another person on this earth that will do more for you than a family member. If you’re one of those with a strained family relationship – fix it. Nurture it. Build it up.
- Family isn’t just who you’re born to/with. Your friends are your family, sometimes closer than blood relatives. The men I served with in the Army are my brothers. My family. As much as my sisters or my parents or my grandparents are. You must surround yourself with people that care about you, love you, and would sacrifice for you – as much as you would for them. Family is a two way street with whomever you choose to honor with the title.
- Have a plan. Seriously, that’s it. Pick something – anything. Any one thing, and work out the plan to get you there – and then work that plan. This comes back to goals and stress and opportunity and I know I already mentioned those things, but it’s so important. If you don’t plan how you’re going to live your life, your life will live without you in control. The Universe is far too volatile a thing to be allowed control of your life. Seriously – have you heard of the Big Bang? I’ve always wanted to be a helicopter pilot, live internationally, and travel the world. I took some detours along the way, but ultimately that plan never changed.
- Know who you are, or at the very least – who you want to be. I’m not talking about only the broad, big details of you like – I want to be a Doctor, that’s too vague all encompassing. I’m talking about the little details. Know who you want to be to the smallest detail. For instance I know that I want to be charitable, but not blindly so – I want to continue helping Veterans and Dogs. I know that I want to live childfree, and have taken steps to assure that outcome. I know that I want to always have been to more countries than I am years old. I know that I want to be fit, strong, and healthy. I know that I want to be educated. I know that I love tacos and pizza…and sometimes taco pizza.
- Trust that you are remarkable. You really are, there isn’t a single person on earth like you. You’re one in 8 billion or so people on the planet. Sure they say each of us has a twin out there, a look-a-like, but at your core, in your heart, there isn’t a single person like you. You have to trust that, because if you start to doubt yourself, your worth, everything else stops mattering. If you don’t believe in yourself your goals, plans, stresses, ideas, they all fade away to the fog of negativity and ambiguity. It’s hard sometimes, especially when you’re down and getting kicked to think that you are this remarkable worthwhile being – but you are! And you’re going to get back up, and you’ve got a plan, get back to it!
- Pride is immensely important. It bothers me so much when people shout and accuse, and insult someone for being too prideful. They’re wrong – there is no such thing as too prideful. If you’ve achieved something you must celebrate it, celebrate everything you achieve. Pride can serve as a means to motivate you to do more, go farther, climb higher. The more pride you take in yourself, your accomplishments, the more you’ll value the reward of your hard work. Take pride in your closest relations accomplishments too – build them up the way you would build yourself up. They will return the favor and the boost you get from the glow and praise from those closest to you is un-matched. Temper this with humility however, boast, without being boastful. Pride is a tool of good – not evil, but can be twisted.
- Be smart. Keep educating yourself. Learn a language, learn a skill, go to school. You’re never too old, and if you’re “too busy” make some time. Smart people are sexy, it’s plain and simple. Our society will have you believe otherwise in favor of product sales and commercialization, but the truth is an educated mind is more sexy an attribute than any other. Read books, on paper or on an e-reader, just read them. Listen to them if you’re feeling lazy. Expand your mind and keep expanding it.
- Personal Finances and Accounting is the single most important thing you can learn, achieve, study, focus on in the pursuit of financial independence and freedom. Budget your spending, know your account balances, only borrow if you really really need to. Don’t indulge too much, but don’t NOT indulge from time to time. It’s important to enjoy life, but you want to enjoy life as long as you’re living it. So long as you’re smart with your money you’ll have that opportunity.
- Make lists. Lists are the bomb. Sometimes even, people read them and they like them as much as you do. But seriously, they help you organize your life, and they give you outlines to follow to achieve EVERYTHING above.
So there you have it. 11 secrets to living a happy life. I think I’ve done a pretty good job getting this far. I’m not saying I’ve never been mad, sad, frustrated, beaten, angry, annoyed, sick, tired, sick and tired. I’m just, overwhelmingly not those things most of the time. Stick to the important things and you’ll be fine.
Now, onto goals. If you’ve known me for any number of years, and I do mean YEARS because this is an annual tangent of mine, you will know how strongly I feel about goal writing as a means of mastering your destiny. I’ve been an avid goal writer since around 2009 and every year (normally on NYE) I release my next years goals to the public at large. But never is it just my 1 year goals, it’s 5 year goals, 10 year goals, and 20 year goals. I write them on paper, with a pen and ink. I do this so that I physically have to spell out the letters to form the words to create the sentences that ARE. MY. GOALS. This simply physical act engages my physiology in the act of creating the goals, they become part of my muscles and bones and psyche. I carry a copy of my goals on my everywhere, and honestly – rarely look at it until a year later. Do you know what I’ve found? On average I achieve 70% of the 1-year goals I wrote down the year prior. I write a lot of big goals down, and even if I only achieve 70% of, say 10, goals – that’s seven big goals! That’s huge. Most people barely make 1 goal, and at that point you’ve reduced your odds to 50/50. I’m not huge on coin flipping for my life.
My Goals for 2016…and beyond
One Year Goals:
- Earn my ATP rating.
- Learn conversational Arabic
- Run a marathon
- Complete an obstacle type race
- Make PIC with my current company
- Achieve 100% debt free status
- Complete 50% of my remaining B.A. courses
- Visit 6 new countries (preferably including Antarctica, Russia and China)
- Compete in Night of Champions
- Catch up on the travel blogs (Egypt, Amsterdam, and Mexico all need blogs)
- Read ‘Money – Master the Game’ and at least 2 other new books in the same class
Five Year Goals:
- Purchase a piece of land in North Idaho for future building.
- Double, at the least, my income earnings
- At the appropriate point in the market dip, invest heavily before the rebound
- Learn conversational French
- Build a home in ID, USA
- Buy a new Harley
- Graduate from AMU with my undergraduate degree
- Travel to all seven continents, no less than 20 new countries
- Move into a management role
- Compete regularly in NOC and similar
- Complete Mastery University, including business mastery
Ten Year Goals:
- Move into an executive role
- Buy a Dodge Challenger
- Double, at the least, again, my income earnings
- Travel to no less than 30 new countries
- Complete an Iron Man
- Complete a masters degree program
- Publish a book (which will be mostly this sort of life mastery stuff)
Twenty Year Goals:
- Begin an early, financially secure, retirement
- Consult with business start ups, and mastery training/coaching programs
- Spend one year “roaming” abroad
- Publish a second book
- Serve in Congress
- Be elected President of the United States
There you have it – my goals for the next 20 years, and some for beyond. As you can tell they range from the lofty (President of the United States for instance) to the somewhat minutia of life (buy a Harley). But that is the point, and if you haven’t done this, sit down and do this RIGHT NOW. Write your goals on a piece of paper. Then put them somewhere you’ll see them! The more you see them, the more you’ll gravitate towards them. The more you think about them, the more they’ll come to you. The sooner they will materialize in your life.
Ok, so quickly now. What am I most proud of? My family. Easy question. My parents are doing fantastic, my sisters are rock stars. My older sister and by brother-in-law gave me two awesome nephews, and my youngest sister is a super cool spy or something like that. Both are doing fantastic and are on the paths they wanted. So are my parents. They’re traveling more, having fun, visiting kids and grandkids, raising three beagles….they’re just awesome. All in our family is doing great, and I love that.
Next, do I fear 30? No. I don’t. I’ve had an awesome 30 years getting here, and I know more now than I ever have before. If I was able to make it here, knowing less, than the next 30 years are going to be phenomenal. You’re going to want to see this. Am I where I thought I’d be at 30? Honestly…I think so. I believe so. I’ve always felt like I would be hitting a stride of success and stability at this point and my current position and environment couldn’t afford me that more readily. I love where I am at now, and though I’d tweak some things here and there if I had the means to go back in time, ultimately the path here was worth every step.
I don’t know why there is such a negative stigma that surrounds 30. It isn’t phasing me, and I’m ready for it. This is my life, I’ve got a long way to go, but from where I’m standing now, I can see I’ve come a very long ways. There are too many people to thank and acknowledge here, but the last thing I want to say, in closing, is that I’ve been privileged and blessed to have so many wonderful, influential, course-correcting people enter my life. Some have left, most have stayed. I love you, I thank you. And…I suppose – now that it’s almost officially the 29th here…HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Wait…oh yeah it’s my birthday huh? Well then, that seemed oddly self serving didn’t it?
In closing, don’t ever get old. Age with grace, and with intention. Live young, happy, and forever by being the best version of you possible.