In this post, clicking the bold word Life will replace it with the bold word Blokus.
Life is simple. It gets more complex over time, but nothing insurmountable. In the beginning, your path is pretty much laid out. You have some control over what directions you go, and these are important decisions. They’ll shape your future. They’ll change what opportunities you have down the road. But as important as they are, there are relatively few wrong decisions. Sure, you can screw up at any point, including early on. And sometimes the damage is irreparable. As my dad always says, “avoid the big mistakes.” Aim high, and lay a foundation for yourself to grow. Act with a focus on making your situation the best it can be, always with an eye toward the future. It’s the most important thing you can focus on with so much still ahead of you, with so much still unseen.
Life is all about people. It’s about interactions. It’s important to realize this, that what you decide to make of a situation has a wide impact, bigger than yourself. When you change the world, you change it for everyone. And when you think to yourself, “what should I do now?” you also have to think about how others will respond. How will things be different down the road? How will things be different just a few minutes from now? The person sitting across from you: she has her own mind, her own motives. Your intentions and hers- sometimes they align nicely, fitting together perfectly and making both of you better off. But often they don’t mesh and they get in each other’s way. One must always be wary of this.
It’s interesting that children don’t understand this at first. People don’t develop a theory of mind until the age of three or four. Until then, they don’t grasp that people have different experiences, different thoughts, and different aspirations. Some people with autism spectrum disorders experience a deficit in their theory of mind that lasts beyond childhood, making life supremely difficult. It’s very unfortunate. It takes time before children begin grasp the complexities of life, and at first they cannot puzzle out how others think and how others will behave. Over time, one develops a more analytic mind and the puzzles of behavior become simultaneously more understood and more mysterious.
Take any individual piece of life and you’ll find it mostly transparent. It’s a beautiful, colorful thing, completely understandable, devoid of mystery and yet full of wonder. With thoughtful reasoning, you can pretty much figure out how it fits into the bigger picture. Yet the bigger picture itself, like a stained glass window, is so full of intricacies that even with a remarkable attention to detail it seems there is always more to explore. There is always, it seems, another possibility to consider.
When the pieces of life stack up against each other, the transparency fades. It becomes hard to distinguish one thing from another. Important decisions are more difficult to make, yet remain even more consequential than any before. Sometimes you may look out and see something that really excites you: a thought so fun and so novel it drives you to action; you get the idea that everything fits together so nicely. But there’s always something missing. That one piece of the puzzle that you can’t find, and nothing will fill this void. With everything looking so good, like everything was where it was meant to be, the only way to go from here is down. Your choices are no longer clear, and you can’t tell one from another. What to do? What to do?
There are tough decisions with trade-offs and you simply cannot please everyone. Know what situation you’re in, your strengths and your weaknesses. Lay out your possible decisions clearly in front of you. Organize. Evaluate. You mustn’t rush into big decisions.
When you’re in a tough spot, as you surely will be, do not despair. You may be tempted to look back on your past with regret. Hindsight is 20/20. You couldn’t have known about that poor decision, that wasted opportunity. It’s a sunk expenditure and you must make the best of your current situation. Sometimes you’ll feel like you don’t fit in, and that’s just part of life.
As life progresses, you will have more decisions to make with higher impact. You take on more responsibility with your actions and you have more meaningful interactions with other people. Setting goals, and having them mesh with the goals of others is important. My dad and I agreed to each do 180 days of push-ups and sit-ups this year. Whether or not this sort of goal will lead to success in life is questionable, but having an objective like this is useful. Goals must not be unrealistic, and you should be aware that sometimes it may feel like the world is conspiring against you, and perhaps it is. But often it’s not, and when things don’t go as planned there is no one to blame but yourself. I’ve set out to become a better storyteller this year. Stories, to me, have a lot of value, and they certainly make life more interesting.
It is often said a goal should be objective and measurable. For a goal such as storytelling, though, that seems absurd. Progress here can only be measured by a good tale.
Life, we all know, eventually comes to an end. And as it does so, think about what you want to leave behind. Where do you want your possessions to go? You can’t take them with you. So be charitable, and get rid of as much as you can afford. As much as the world is ready for. Think of those who will follow you, and ask yourself how will they feel about your end. Did you leave them in a good situation? Perhaps you set them up to finish soon, just as you did.
Think of everything. It’s all about strategy. Life is a game.
Sorry, have I been writing life? I meant Blokus.
Here’s the gist. You can click the bold words to go between Blokus and Life.