Feeling like an old man on the verge of death, I am feeling something new: a deep appreciation and loving care for people younger than me.
By that, I don’t mean going gaga over little children and their adorable smiles and cute attitudes—no. Rather, when I see 9th graders, I see their potential.
When I see a group of them (or you!) hanging out I think, I used to be like that… maybe they’ll be friends for life, or Yup, JoJo and JonJon might argue frequently but they’re really similar. People have said my writing sounds like their grandpa, and now my thinking is turning like that too I guess.
Along with this feeling I also have a strong calling to advise you (or them!). I do not want the same mistakes to be repeated or the same regrets to form. New people should make new mistakes as they avoiding old errors and reach greater heights. The key to this spending time with wiser people—and wisdom is from experience.
“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”1
Reflecting on other’s experience can prevent us from learning from our own bitter experiences. Wiser people are just waiting for a chance to hand out the benefits they gained by through their life—to not take advantage shows a lack of wisdom.
Out of a feeling to serve, I want to give younger people one piece of advice that can take one far.
By that, I don’t mean college, a job, or anything people usually mean by “success” in life. This is one short piece of advice that transforms you in every moment of every situation of every day. General enough to be benefitial in every situation, but specific enough to actually be useful. An idea so simple that it applies to everything, but so broad that every other piece of advice returns to to it. It’s something I realize more and more everyday:
Take the initiative
To take the initiative is not just starting something. It is to first accept that you are in control. Each and every breath signals a fresh start, unbinding you from anything in the past and freeing you to proceed fresh in the coming time. If everyday of your life you have never greeted your neighbour when you see him in the morning, but then one morning you feel like you should—do it! Don’t ruin the present moment by being trapped by what you did or did not do in the past. You are in control, so live like that!
After accepting that we are in control of our lives, we need to think about what do using that. Oh, how rarely do we do this—it is so much easier to live on autopilot, just letting things happen and ‘going with the flow.’ It is our duty to reflect on what to do with the lives we are in charge of. Actively consider things that you consider routine and do out of habit, consider their merits and harm. Do not blindly follow what others do or say.
It is too easy to be a passenger in life, where we just go along with work as it comes and to never consider the greater, overarching, existential questions. Imagine someone driving a car: steering carefully on the road, obeying traffic signs, regularly stopping for gas, buying pretty things from the store. All well and good. But if you asked him, where are you going?, he would have no answer. It would be absurd for someone to spend all his time driving and doing all things around that, without knowing where he is going or why. But that’s how we live our lives.
If it helps, imagine your life as a video game where you are the main character. How can you ‘level up’ yourself today, what skills can you improve? How can you quickly finish the small, spam quests so that you can work towards the main mission—the goal of your life?
That is the final part of taking the initiative, to act. Without control, there is reason to think. Without action, thinking is pointless. Thinking is the bridge, but one must be wary of over thinking. We are to be considerate and caring, but too often we err on the side of safe but sorry — not acting when we should so as to not take a risk. Know that the most threat of awkwardwardness is much offset by the glory of following your heart.
If you are sincere in your intention and something feels like the right thing to do, just do it. Even if you did the wrong thing, your sincerity will shine through and brighten up your actions, making sure you are never misunderstood.
To take the initiative is to make the most of what you have and do what you feel you should do (based on what you have of ideas, information, ability, resources). It is an empowering idea that is the driver for continual self-improvement, and a key to being more than a mindless animal staring at light bulbs for many hours a day, taking breaks only to answer nature’s calls.
There is much said above—but it’s all explained by the one word below: