Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: “I’m a 20 y-o boy who’s eager to be a man. What’s the most important things I could learn to be a better person/man?” Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.
I will be turning 25 soon.
Five years ago I made a decision that I will surpass the bad condition I was in back then and that I will work hard to improve myself and my mindset as much as possible.
I believe maturity is a subjective thing and it’s based on the emotions and challenges you go through life. I’ve met 40-year-olds who were acting like 18-year-olds and 18-year-olds who enrolled in the army and at 22 developed such great self-discipline that others can only dream of.
Based on these thoughts, what you need to focus on the most is internal growth. Don’t go adding unnecessary things around you, instead develop inner toughness.
Some of the helpful lesson I learned in my journey towards growth are:
1. Stop complaining. Seriously! It’s such a big waste of your daily energy, which is limited by the way. Why use it all up on complaining how much the situation in which you are sucks. Whether you don’t like your degree, your city, your job, your boss or any other condition you are in, complaining will do exactly zero in improving your current state. Life doesn’t owe you anything and we should never feel entitled to take it for granted. Furthermore if you complain out loud the people around you are going to get sick of it. You are gonna become the guy that bums everyone out and they will start avoiding you. Start doing something about the things that bother you. And if you are afraid of change, embrace it. Change is the only constant we have in this world. Either you lead the change or you get left behind. Follow Tim Ferriss’s 21-Day No-Complaint Experiment and you will see that practicing this habit consistently will help you see life differently.
2. The girl that is sitting alone at the bar for 20 minutes, she probably wants to talk to you. Even if she hasn’t made eye contact with you. She is out alone on a Friday night because she hopes to meet an interesting guy. I feel that today there is a trend among young men that is wrong. In a social media driven world, guys believe that in order to be more successful with women they need to be an overly metro-sexual man who cares more about his looks than his personality. Take care of your grooming but don’t obsess about your looks. Go out there, talk to people. Smile and say hello to a cute girl in a supermarket. Start random conversations. No girls fantasize about meeting the dream guy in a club while half drunk. Maybe he just sparks a conversation with her in the metro on a random Wednesday. Be an interesting guy, stop caring about looking manly. Act, develop inner confidence and charisma. It will be scary, but that’s the point.
3. Work out. I cannot stress enough how important this is for several reasons.
- It teaches you discipline. I had moments when I set goals for myself but always failed in being consistent because I didn’t see the results. Then when I started running marathons and later doing power-lifting I learned that I will not see results very soon. You have to fall in love with the process itself and detach from the outcome. I used to say that people who practice sports are just mindless pieces of muscle, but once you start practicing psychical activities you learn how much hard work is behind it and you gain so much respect for people who are active. They are actually some of the smartest people I know.
- It becomes a point of reference. Every time I was going through hard times, I would practice mental strength the same way I would practice psychical strength. Muscles grow by basically hurting them. See every challenge as an opportunity to grow and learn no matter how difficult it is. You are not what happens to you but you are how you react to it.
- Endorphins. The natural way of relieving stress and surviving days when you feel a bit under the weather.
4. THINK. Sounds obvious, right? You would be surprised how many people don’t practice this actively. Most people tend to react more to their surroundings. They get lost in the nitty-gritty and don’t actual control what they should focus on. A lot of people will tell you that in your 20’s you need to do everything. Experiment with this and that. In a ADD (attention deficit disorder) dominated world where we are hit constantly with notifications and impulses everywhere, this can lead you in a spiral that amounts to nothing in the end. I suggest putting value on THINKING first, then DOING. The people that tell you to do stuff are the people that want to take advantage of your skills, so they can do the thinking instead and you can do the work for them. 400.000 years ago none of this existed. It was created by someone’s mind gradually. Practice writing 10 ideas per day and go for long walks in the park every Sunday. Become present. Grab control. Take perspective on it all.
5. Manage your Input/Output ratio. I used to hate reading. I think I only read one proper book by the time I turned 20. During school I would always read the online short versions or watch the movies of the books I was supposed to read in literature class. The books in the program just didn’t click with me. Then after finishing school I still had a huge thirst for knowledge so I started researching topics that I liked and read the most recommended books. And this is how I fell in love with reading and it’s something I strive to do daily for at least one hour. Now I always carry my small Kindle with me. Every time I have 10 minutes I take it out and read another page. At this point I’ve lost count at around 200 books and my only worry is that I don’t have enough time to read everything. But there’s a catch. Reading is input. In order to actually grow as an individual you also have to create a set of actions as output. Don’t just read and feel excited that you are becoming so smart. For that you need to put in practice what you read: share your “aha” moment from the book with a friend, write a review, start a project. Don’t move on to the next read until you put in practice one lesson from your current one.
You can’t create great stuff without learning, but also learning without creating stuff is redundant.
These are just some of the lessons I was lucky enough to experiment so far. I only hope the next 5 years will be even more challenging.