5 Things I Want You to Know Cover

5 Things I Want You to Know

Everyone you know is frustrated about some part of themselves the world doesn’t see. We all think our lives would be easier if only we could get a little more understanding from others. If only we could get them to see.

“I wish my boss knew how hard I’m trying,” you might think. Or, “I wish my dad could see that I respect him.” Or, the all-time classic, “I wish she knew how I felt about her.”

At the same time, we keep these feelings hidden. We take the parts of ourselves that we most wish others would understand and shove them into a closet deep inside. So as much as we desperately want to be understood, we also don’t want to be found out. We hold on to our secrets, afraid the transparency we crave might not bring the acceptance we hope for.

And so each day passes, every one a little faster than the last, until we realize we’ve reserved our best words for epitaphs and eulogies, when whoever needs to hear them the most can’t hear them anymore.

That’s the part we’re missing: At the end of the day, what we want the world to know about us isn’t really about us at all. It’s about our relationships with others. About how we feel about them. What they mean to us. How they’ve changed our lives — sometimes for the worse but hopefully for the better.

Therefore, being seen as who you really are isn’t a matter of sweeping declarations, being found out, or finding a certain set of special people. It’s about revealing it consistently, one person and part of yourself at a time.

If you want the world to see you as a caring person, start by telling one person you care about them. Then, follow through on that promise. That’s it.

I’m no better at this than you are. I have to remind myself constantly. To practice, again and again. So while you’re here, I’d like to take the chance and tell you five things I want you to know.

1. You’re not alone.

You’re never alone. Even when it really, really feels like it, there are always 7.7 billion others right here with you. Chances are, someone out there is going through the exact same thing you are in this very moment. And if not, one of the 100 billion who came before us definitely has.

Maybe, they were a public servant in ancient Rome, a peasant in 17th-century France, or a tribal hunter in 3,000 BC, but they had the same range of thoughts, feelings, and physical capabilities you and I have today.

Maybe, they used different words or no words at all but what they saw, heard, felt? That was universal, and you’re now following in the footsteps of their human experience. You’re not alone. You will never be alone. Take comfort in that.

2. You are amazing.

Someone brought you into this world. None of us decide to be. And yet, each of us is comprised of a vast number of mesmerizing parts, both physical and psychological, wondrously, synchronously working together in a sea of coincidence.

You take one breath, and millions of cells are activated. You think one thought, millions of synapses fire. All of this despite the chaos in which we’re floating, the hundreds of asteroids hitting earth each year, the great imbalances in nature and between humans, and the 400 trillion to one odds of you being born in the first place. You are amazing. Don’t take it for granted.

3. You are valuable.

You might not feel like it. But you are. You don’t need to be funny or charming or solve problems for millions of people. You just have to be here. Sit. Exist.

Of course, you’ll eventually want and choose to do good. To be useful. To help those around you and brighten their day. But those are consequences, not prerequisites.

As you are, you’re a complete, self-contained vessel of perspective, emotion, and capability. A unique bundle among nearly eight billion others, with a right to exercise that uniqueness however you see fit without hurting others’ ability to exercise theirs. You are valuable. Act like it.

4. You are wanted.

Desirable. Filled with potential. Someone out there wants that potential. Wants you. They want you to be everything you are and then some.

They want you lock, stock, and barrel. Crooked nose, tiny butt, messy hair and all. They might not always want you sexually or romantically. Sometimes, they just want you as a friend. A colleague. A stranger turned companion by listening that one time at the airport. But they want you.

Sometimes, they want you so much they get frustrated with you not wanting to be more of who you already are. Or not being able to. This too shall pass. Most of the time, however, they want you exactly as you are. You are wanted. Never forget it.

5. You are loved.

Even if it’s just me. I love you. But I hope there’s at least two of us. I hope every day you wake up, you choose to love yourself. Make an attempt if you can’t. Someday, you’ll get through to yourself. Until, eventually, there’ll be others.

An unexpected friend. Maybe the guy from the corner store. Maybe one with four legs. Whoever it is, they’ll show you not just what it’s like to be loved, but which parts of yourself you love the most that you didn’t even know you had.

Somewhere out there, in a tiny, distant corner of the universe, there is a book with your name on it. And for every book, there is someone who can’t stop reading it. Whether it’s an army of followers or just the person you see when you look in the mirror, each next section deserves to be read. Each new chapter could make it a page-turner. You are loved. Make the most of it.

There’s that old, Stoic saying by Publilius Syrus: If you want to have a great empire, then rule over yourself.

I think the same goes for having an impact and how the world will see and remember you: If you want to change many, let them know how they’ve changed you.

Pick one person today. Tell them what you want them to know. Tell them why they make you feel happy, good, balanced, content, or simply like someone who deserves any or all of these things. I can’t tell you what will happen, but I know you won’t regret it.

The 3 Kinds of Overthinking Cover

The 3 Kinds of Overthinking

Overthinking comes in two flavors: ruminating on the past and worrying about the future. Both offer endless avenues to create a downward spiral of negative thoughts, but, at the end of the day, they resemble two simple fears we all have: a fear of regret and a fear of uncertainty.

Of course, it’s impossible to completely avoid regret and uncertainty in our lives. Therefore, the overthinking outbreaks that result from us being afraid of them are, generally, our most unproductive.

We can’t change what we could have, would have, should have done better, slower, faster, not at all, or not quite the way we did it. We can’t assess the flaws, success, or even likelihood of countless scenarios and eventualities that will never come to pass.

All thoughts in either direction are a waste of mental and physical energy. As soon as reality knocks on our senses or we snap out of our thought bubble and return to it, they go up in flames, having cost us dearly, but gained us little.

There is, however, a third kind of overthinking: Obsessing over solutions to present-day problems.

We source these problems from our recent past or immediate future, then frantically assess options to combat them. If you find yourself musing about 17 different strategies to mellow your explosive temper after lashing out at someone or flicking through book after book to find the best business model for the startup you want to launch, that’s present-day overthinking.

This type of compulsive thinking can often be productive, which is why it’s the hardest to get rid of, to diagnose, and to accept as a problem in the first place.

In fact, as a society, we often celebrate people for performing mental ultra-marathons. We call them successful entrepreneurs. We shower them with money and status and tell them to never stop.

Ask the world’s richest man what his worst fear is, and he’ll say he doesn’t want his brain to stop working. That’s how embedded overthinking is in our culture. But it’s still overthinking, still eating away at our peace of mind and happiness.

To some extent, our problem-solving nature is just that — nature. Our brains are wired for survival and, for the better part of 200,000 years, surviving meant being creative.

Not just in the literal sense of procreating and producing food and shelter from our surroundings, but also in being crafty in planning our next move. How can we cross this field without being exposed? What’s the best way to avoid being seen by the tiger? Those are creative problems. They require immediate thought, strategy selection, and subsequent action.

For better or for worse, however, the world no longer presents us with a single, constant survival problem, framed in a great variety of differing challenges. For the most part, we’ve got that covered.

Instead, we’re now tasked with moderating an entity that’s much harder to maintain than the human body and that we know next to nothing about despite decades of research: the human mind.

Rather than run down the simple 3-item checklist of “food, sleep, exercise,” we now face vast, open-ended questions, like “How do I find meaning?”, “What makes me happy?”, and “How can I best manage my emotions and attention?”

These aren’t simple problems. There are no clear-cut answers. They’re lifetime projects, and we slowly craft their outcomes through the habits and behaviors we choose every day. That’s the thing. We choose. We get to. There’s no pressure to think-pick-act. Only freedom in near-limitless quantities.

As a result, our problem-seeking, survivalistic simulation machine turns on itself. In lack of real, pressing issues to tackle, it finds some where none exist or crafts one from its own imagination. That’s overthinking type I and II. The dwelling on regrets and anxiety about the future.

Or — and this is the brain’s ultimate self-deception — it latches on to a tangible, relatable, available challenge and goes into brainstorm overdrive.

How can I go from zero running experience to completing a marathon in nine months? What podcast are people dying to listen to that doesn’t exist? Is there a way to improve or replace the umbrella? Questions like these make our synapses light up, but whether they find graspable answers or not, it’s easy for them to become self-perpetuating.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting meaningful work and finding happiness through self-improvement, but when these endeavors and the productive thoughts that go into them become ends instead of tools, we quickly drift into self-loathing and misery. So how can we stop at the right moment?

There is no shortage of tactics from science to help us address our past- and future-oriented overclocking. Most of them involve replacing the negative thought with a more positive one, for example by looking at different angles of a situation to make the bad scenario less believable or reframing problems as challenges.

Instead of blaming your soggy shoes on bad luck, you could look to the rainy weather or inattentive driver who splashed you as he went by. Similarly, you could focus on wanting to feel fitter rather than lamenting that you’re out of shape.

There’s also the idea of simply writing down your thoughts for a sense of relief, distracting yourself, and learning to stay present so you can focus on whatever’s right in front of you.

From personal experience, I can say that last one is particularly powerful. Meditation helps me stay aware throughout my day, not just of the negative consequences of overthinking, but of individual thoughts themselves and whether I want to further pursue them or not.

None of us can turn off our inner monologue for extended periods of time. It runs right through each of the 16 or so hours we’re awake each day. But we can decide which thoughts deserve to be chased and which ones don’t. We can learn to let go and return to whatever we we’re doing.

But what do we do when our positive and well-intended thoughts spiral? How do we deal with our entrepreneurial, creative energy when it runs wild?

That, I think, requires one more step: Knowing you are valuable even when you don’t do anything. When I meditate, I constantly remind myself that, “I don’t have to think about this right now.” Lately, I even tell myself: “You don’t have to think at all.”

For me, this realization gets to the heart of the problem: Even when you don’t think, you’re still a valuable, lovable human being.

In a world that guarantees the survival of many but provides existential guidance to none, doing, thinking, solving problems, it all matters little in comparison to us being here in the first place. Right here, right now. It’s a wonderful, rare thing to have been born and be alive today. Enough to be grateful and more than that to be enough.

Type III overthinkers define themselves by how much they think. How many problems they solve, how useful and busy they are, and how many of their own faults they can erase. But even when you don’t think — can’t think, as nature sometimes reminds all of us — you’re still a valuable person.

You might be afraid that people will laugh at you, isolate you, throw you out into the cold. That won’t happen and it’s something you should take comfort in again and again.

Mindfulness is an excellent tool to combat all kinds of overthinking. What allows you to exercise it in the first place, however, is remembering we’ll still love you, even if your mind doesn’t always run like a perfect, well-oiled machine.

Aristotle on Friendship: 3 Kinds, 1 Lasts a Lifetime

Aristotle on Friendship: Only 1 of 3 Kinds Will Last a Lifetime

When was the last time you hung out with your best friend from grade school? The one you told all your secrets to, had inside jokes with, even did a blood oath with? It’s probably been a while. Maybe a couple decades. Despite all the #rideordie hashtags and our massive collections of Facebook “friends,” most of the friendships that we form throughout our lives will dissolve. It’s inevitable, but why? To answer that question, I looked to a 2,000-year-old text.

The writings of Aristotle have shaped the course of history, influencing everything from political theory to economic systems to Western aesthetics. But the Greek philosopher also had profound thoughts on matters of everyday life, like our friendships. In Book VIII of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle described “three kinds of friendship” that people form under different conditions, and why some bonds are stronger than others. Here, he laid out the first two: utility and pleasure.

“There are therefore three kinds of friendship, equal in number to the things that are lovable. Now those who love each other for their utility do not love each other for themselves but in virtue of some good which they get from each other. So too with those who love for the sake of pleasure; it is not for their character that men love ready-witted people, but because they find them pleasant.”

Friendships of utility and pleasure are similar — and they’re both fleeting. Aristotle observed that friendships of pleasure are most common among the young. Today, we can see that these friendships often form as a byproduct of shared phases — high school, college, or the first job search. As the next life chapter arrives, these friendships come to an end.

Friendships of utility often form between people who are more established, those who have learned that life consists of many tradeoffs, those who accept relationships that are more transactional in nature. A couple with small children might form a friendship with another young family in their neighborhood, and trade babysitting duties, for instance. Or a first-time founder might rely on a seasoned expert in his field. These relationships are also short-lived in nature because as soon as the benefit disappears, so do we. Aristotle writes:

“And thus these friendships are only incidental; for it is not as being the man he is that the loved person is loved, but as providing some good or pleasure. Such friendships, then, are easily dissolved, if the parties do not remain like themselves; for if the one party is no longer pleasant or useful, the other ceases to love him.”

I’m in my late twenties, and can already feel my relationships becoming more utilitarian. People are busy, or they don’t want to overstep their boundaries, and it takes much more effort just to go grab a beer. People think: There better be a good reason for this.

There is nothing wrong with these kinds of friendships. But if they’re all we ever experience, two things will happen: 1) All of our relationships will eventually fade because our wants, needs, desires, and wishes keep changing until the day we die. 2) We’ll always crave something more — a deeper, more honest, more meaningful connection.

This deeper connection is the third kind of friendship that Aristotle described. He called it “perfect friendship:”

“Perfect friendship is the friendship of men who are good and alike in virtue; for these wish well alike to each other qua good, and they are good themselves. Now those who wish well to their friends for their sake are most truly friends; for they do this by reason of own nature and not incidentally; therefore their friendship lasts as long as they are good-and goodness is an enduring thing.”

Writer Zat Rana penned a great piece about this type of relationship, which eloquently sums it up: “In this kind of friendship, the people themselves and the qualities they represent provide the incentive for the two parties to be in each other’s lives.”

These special kinds of friendships aren’t based on what someone can do for you or how they make you feel — they simply exist because you value who they are. Maybe you love your friend’s dedication to hard work. Or perhaps you deeply respect their courage to step up during conflict. Whatever pleasure and utility you get out of the relationship are merely a side effect of that love.

“Perfect friendship” is rare — even Aristotle believed this to be true. So how does this kind of friendship form? With time.

Writes Aristotle:

“Further, such friendship requires time and familiarity; as the proverb says, men cannot know each other till they have ‘eaten salt together;’ nor can they admit each other to friendship or be friends till each has been found lovable and been trusted by each.”

There is no hack or shortcut to accelerate the formation of true friendships. Think about it: Your closest friends are likely the people with whom you’ve shared the most intense phases of your life. All-night study sessions in college. A cross-country road trip. New jobs. The loss of loved ones. Bouts of depression. Moments of joy. If you’ve shared a series of experiences like that someone, and stayed friends throughout ups and downs, you’re on your way to perfect friendship. Only with time do we learn to appreciate people as they are. Aristotle writes:

“Those who quickly show the marks of friendship to each other wish to be friends, but are not friends unless they both are lovable and know the fact; for a wish for friendship may arise quickly, but friendship does not.”

If we never venture beyond utility and pleasure, we’ll miss the relationships that give us real meaning and happiness. The only way to build these rare friendships — the perfect friendship — is to spend time together, traverse our ups and downs, and learn to value each other as human beings along the way. It won’t always be easy and it won’t always work out, but if we commit to valuing virtue over comfort and pleasure, we’ll look back at the end of our lives and see the faces of a few people we’ll call true friends.