Advice from a Friend

(…or, all of the best advice I’ve been given by friends and family.)

Hold onto your seats folks, this is going to be a long one.

Tonight, while I was making a new Twitter friend (thank you again #HavenFamily) we got to talking about school and how we feel like we made some bad decisions regarding our chosen studies. We both studied things that weren’t quite what we wanted to do but were realistic and safe. In the end though you just can’t escape your fate and even though we decided to pursue our dreams, we feel a little behind.

Wait. Seriously? At twenty-five. I’m behind the ball at twenty-five?!? Take a step back from that for a second. No one is behind in the game at my age. If you know what you want to do and aren’t afraid to do it at seventeen then you are one of the ridiculously, lucky few. Almost no one knows what they want at any given time. We are all stumbling blindly through this life together and sometimes we fall into the things we want and sometimes we don’t. The important thing to remember is that we aren’t in it alone.

I’ve been given a lot of good advice in my life. A lot. I have been incredibly fortunate to have a supportive and dedicated family/friend group and I would like to share what they’ve taught me with you. Let me preface this by saying that I, by no means, have it together. I have been on the verge of emotional breakdown at least three times in the last four days. It’s only by being in the mess that you can empathize with those who are in it with you. So, grab my hand and we will make it though this together.

The List

1. Never Compare Yourself to Others 

This is super important for anyone in or just getting out of school. Everyone does it and it’s a really hard habit to break. It’s so easy to look around you to see what everyone is doing and think “I really wish I was that good.” Never do that. There will always be someone who is better than you, smarter than you and quicker than you. They are by no means greater than you. Everyone is different and everyone has something to bring to the table. Judging yourself based on others accomplishments will kill your motivation and keep you down. See what they’re doing, appreciate it, emulate their passion and move on. Seriously. Let it go. You’re awesome too. (A special thanks to Cory Howard for always reminding me of this one when I need it.)

And, while we are on the subject:

2. Give Yourself a Break

Nothing kills creativity faster than depression. That deep hole of world suck that surrounds your soul and steals your motivation is just an endless loop of pain. If you’re feeling it then it’s only going to get worse unless you learn to let it go. Kick back for a day or two. Distract yourself with books, friends, media, whatever it takes. Slap on a smile and tell yourself that you can do it until you actually believe it too.

3. Experience New Things

This will also help when you’re trying to give yourself a break. Inspiration strikes the informed mind. Reading, going to museums, meeting new people with new and unique ideas will all help you to be a better person. Knowledge fuels creativity and productivity so if you’re feeling like you’ve hit a wall, it’s probably time that you got out and experienced something.

4. Love Things

For the love of all that is good in this world, please, love things. If you’re going to enjoy something, take the time to really enjoy it. Explore it, learn it and never be ashamed of how much you love it. When you love something, it inspires and motivates you. That’s the greatest power we have.

5. Don’t Let Anyone Tell You Not to Love Something

If you’re like me and you enjoy interacting with people who are fans of things that you love then I am sure you’ve seen your share of blinding-rage-balls-of-hate. It’s important to let other love things the way that they want to love them. You may not get it. You may not like it. But it makes them happy and that’s all that matters. Stop fighting over the stupid stuff and let everyone else enjoy whatever makes their heart happy. Hopefully, they’ll do the same.

That being said, there are also  people in this world who are so unhappy that they feel like everyone else should be just as unhappy as they are. They will do their best to tear into everything you love and rip it into tiny hate pieces. Ignore them. You’ll be happier and, in truth, it really pisses them off when you don’t feed into it. It’s a win-win situation. To touch on that and to revisit point #2:

6. Give Other People a Break

We are all going through life together. We are all trying to figure out what will make us the happiest. We are all the same. Deep down, we just want to be happy. However, none of our journeys are 100% the same. We were’t all given the same lots in life and some people are experiencing serious obstacles. Remember that and give them a break.

You have no idea what someone is going through or why they behave the way that they do. What you do know, is how you will handle your interactions with them. You have the power to lay off the car horn (those are for alerting people to your presence, not for expressing displeasure). You have the power to let someone cut you in line, let muttered insults go and to be short with you at work. Let that stuff go. You’ll be happier when you’ve stopped thinking about it and they’ll be happier when they’ve gotten past whatever put them in that mood.

I honestly can’t talk about this enough. It’s hard to do and you may have to trick your brain into it but I can tell you that it makes every interaction I have better when I assume that the person I’m interacting with might just be having a really bad day. Never assume the worst before assuming the best. Have some perspective and allow yourself to be happy.

7. Be Happy

That’s it. Happiness is a state of being. If you’re not happy it’s because you’re not letting yourself be happy. No person or thing can do that for you. Having more money, less debt, more friends, less work, won’t change how you feel for more than a few days. This is the hardest thing to accept for most people. You have to start every day thinking about being happy. Not all days are going to be great but we have one life and spending most of it appreciating what we have is a really great way to live it. And before you start arguing with me I will tell you that happiness is 100% a choice. It’s about your perspective and if you’re unhappy every day then you either need to change your perspective or change your situation.

8. Stop Being Afraid

This has been my mantra for the last year. I let fear dictate a lot of things in my life and it’s only when I stopped being afraid that I started feeling driven. Fear just isn’t worth it. Note: I am not talking about logical fear, like being afraid of wild bears. Darwinism is very real, even though it may not always seem like it. Stop being afraid to strive for the things you want. The obstacles are what make you better and prepare you for the reward. Enjoy the obstacles and stop letting your fear dictate your life.

9. Money Isn’t an Excuse for Avoidance

We all have money trouble. The world is changing, the job market is bad and student loan debt just keeps on a’climbin’. Staring at the bills and mulling over the quickest way to pay or how much you’ll have to save for this thing or that thing will tear you up. I am by no means saying that you shouldn’t think about these things. I’m saying that you can’t let them control you. When you are on your death bed are you going to be regretting buying that DVD when funds were low when you were thirty or will you be remembering those five great movie nights you had with your friends? Don’t be stupid but don’t beat yourself up either. You only every regret the things you didn’t do and the trips you didn’t take.

10. Find People Who Are Doing What You’re Doing

Feeling unmotivated? Are you in a rut or an endless cycle of ‘I should be but I’m not’? Find people who are doing what you want to be doing and hang out with them. I’m serious. Be near them. Bask in their productiveness. Watch what they’re doing and let it inspire you too. Humans need other humans to motivate them. Creativity is crowd-funded and without a crowd your power cells deplete. We have access to the internet, use it. Find blogs that you love and submit content or rent a studio in an artist community and go to as many events as possible.

This is a huge part of why I decided to move to Los Angeles. It’s a giant collection of people who love things and have a passion for creative collaboration. Find what you’re passionate about and seek out others who are the same. You can’t help but to be motivated when you’re constantly being inspired by others. Communities can get you through anything.

11. Learn to Accept People for Who They Are

I’ve had a mantra since high school about how people should treat friendship. There are a lot of people in this world and not the everyone is going to be your best friend. That doesn’t mean that they have to offer isn’t valuable. You have to learn not to hold your friends up to your preconceived standards. One friend might be someone hang out with every day and one might be someone you only see every couple of years. That does’t mean that they are less of a friend. They are just a different kind of friend. Holding them to the same standards as your best friend isn’t fair to them or to you. It’s ok to have different kinds of friends and to accept them for who they are and for what you inspire in each other.

12. Make Friends, Not Networks

Since I’ve moved and been looking for work, networking has been brought up to me a lot. What I hate about it is that feeling that someone might think you only want to know them because of what they can do for you. Networking is great. If someone (mostly old students of mine or new alumni) writes to me or calls me and wants to ask for advice about careers or school I am more than willing to talk with them about it. Sharing our experiences is all a part of being human. Like I said, we are all in this together.

What I don’t like is having people believe that I only care about them personally because of what they can do for me professionally. Everyone on this earth has a special gift or talent that is worth learning about. You can find something to relate to with everyone you meet. The fun part is finding whatever that thing may be. Being able to relate to someone makes it ten times easier to learn from them.

It’s great to have mentors and people to talk to about professional things. LinkedIn and Twitter are great for building a network of people with similar interests that you can connect with if you need work or information. The thing is, all of these people, are human beings. If I’m going to reach out to someone, I am going to treat them with the same respect that I treat the rest of my friends. They should be getting something out of the conversation too even if kindness is all that you have to offer.

Conclusion

Well, that’s the bulk of some of the best advice I’ve gotten up ’til now. I know it’s a lot and if you’ve made it this far then I applaud you. I hope this advice will help to inspire and motivate you as much as it has for me. I wanted to write it down so that I could also refer back to it. Life is a learning process and taking notes is never a bad idea. Actually, that’s another piece of advice. Take a hell of a lot of notes.

I think the most important piece of advice is something I haven’t mentioned yet and something that I’d like to leave you with:

Never be afraid to ask for help. Whether it be from friends, family members, mentors or strangers. If you don’t know something or if you just need someone to lean on, never be afraid to ask them for help. Having help is what makes the struggle to get through this life a little bit less daunting.

If you’re having a tough time or just need someone to talk to, please feel free to contact me by email, through this site or through Twitter (@alyssahoman). I always have time for you.

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