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34 Things I Have Learned In 34 Years

Last Friday was my birthday. 34 feels pretty nice to me. I had some great life experiences. I met amazing people. I laughed a lot. I met my soul mate and I married her. I moved to another country. I left my 9-to-5 job and started working for myself.  I got desperate and then back on my feet more times than I can count. Sometimes life feels like a roller-coster. I hope it continues like that…

Here are 34 life lessons, opinions and observations I have learned on the way. They all work for me. Will they work for you?

1) You learn more by experimenting than by studying.

2) Listening is an art.

3) You can laugh at everything, particularly at yourself.

4) Be persistant, not stubborn.

5) If you want to get flexible, stretch all the time. I still have to work A LOT on this one. (It’s also valid as a metaphor).

6) Sleep at least 7-8 hours every night and get a power nap of 10-20 minutes everyday. I tried to sleep 6 hours or less to have more “work” time. In the end, yes I got more awake time but I wasn’t productive at all.

7) Don’t trust your brain, get a to-do list app with reminders to get stuff done. Follow it religiously.

8) Sweat (a lot) everyday.

9) Life is like doing the dishes. If you wait too long, it takes forever to scrub the pan.

10) Your gut is always right (even if it’s not always the easiest path). Trust your intuition.

11) Meditate 5 minutes or more everyday. You don’t need to make this complicated. Just sit, close your eyes and observe what happens like a scientist observes their experiment. Don’t judge. (Alternately, use my meditation app 😉 )

12) Try the shittiest job you can do. Once upon a time I worked throwing bags of mail in trucks from midnight to 6 in the morning. It sucked. Every time I think of it I’m grateful for all the other jobs I had after that. (Actually, a good friend of mine worked as a janitor in a liposuction surgery clinic. I just wanted to throw up when he was telling me about his work day. He should get a shitty job award).

13) Question everything. Most of what you think is probably wrong or will be proved wrong sooner than you think. Read books you don’t agree with, try to understand political ideas that you are against, etc…

14) If you get criticized or if people judge you, you’re doing something that matters.

15) Connect with nature. This one goes along with meditation.

16) You don’t have too much to do, you just need to make a decision.

17) Make mistakes, this is how you get wise.

18) I learned the most from projects I thought I would never be able to accomplish.

19) All religions are beautiful and have the same teaching: LOVE. Don’t listen to those who try to manipulate them.

20) When someone says TGIF, I hear “I spend 5 days out of 7 doing something I hate”. (I used to know the feeling)

21) Karma works. Everything is connected and what happens to you is 100% a consequence of your actions. Nothing is random.

22) Learn how to code. Start with html, then learn a bit of PHP, some javascript and even some C if you feel like it. It’s really not that complicated once you know one language. Of course it’s easy for me to say since I studied to be a software engineer (actually I learned to code before that). But think of it this way: technology is shaping the world we live in. You might not like or you might deny it but it’s happening. You can choose to be part of it or be passive.

23) Everybody has a bullshit detector and most of them work perfectly.

24) There is no diet that fits all. Paleo, vegan, raw… They all have pros and cons. Find what makes you feel good, learn what the food you eat is made of and observe how it makes you feel. Also you will be more aware of what you’re eating if you learn to cook (not just pasta).

25) Breathing correctly is essential. Yogis believe your life is determined by the number of breaths you take. Basically, breathe deeper and slower, live longer. Plus breathing has a direct impact on your digestive, circulatory and nervous systems. Breathing correctly helps regulating all of them.

26) If you can’t find the product that you need, it means you have a business idea. Build it.

27) Try to understand art. Especially when you think it sucks. You’re probably missing the point.

28) Discipline creates freedom.

29) If you can, put “freedom money” on the side, (I’m sure you can, just a little). Use it as an investment in yourself. I put a little more than one year of salary when I was working at my previous 9-to-5 job (it took a while). Thanks to this freedom money I was able to quit my job and start working for myself. My freedom money went down during the first year, now it’s going up again. If I’m fed up with doing what I do and want to start over again, I know I can.

30) Surround yourself with people who inspire you. (Bonus point if they are weird.)

31) If you are scared, you’re on the right path.

32) It’s not about what you get, it’s about what you give.

33) The biggest quest of your life is discovering who you are.

34) We live in an amazing world. There are so many reasons to be thankful. Learn to say thank you and mean it. Like this: thank you for taking time to read this, it really matters to me! 🙂

 

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How to be smart

I’m usually disappointed by smart people. At first,  I meet them, I think they are awesome, I want to be friend with them. And then I realize it was just a show (or plain bullshit) and it takes a lot to actually be smart. That’s when I’m disappointed.

I used to think that knowledge was this thing that make you a smart guy. It’s not. Knowledge is the show. Knowledge was important before, not anymore. Because knowledge is free, thanks to google, wikipedia and your public library. You want to know something: use google, wikipedia or your public library. You can just gather knowledge from there when you want. Right now if you are reading this and you wonder how to change the belt in your dryer, you can google it. You may not be as quick or as a repair guy to figure out how to do it. But if you do it for you, for your neighbour and for your aunt, chances are you’ll be as smart as the repair guy in terms of dryer belts. And then you’ll be known as dryer belt smart.

For instance: I’m good with computer. It’s following me everywhere. I don’t even have to advertise it, it’s like people already know. They ask me where to buy their new laptop, if I can have a look at their printers, change the time on their bluray player, transfer music on their ipod, install or worse: “boost” their old Windows Millenium computer … Yesterday I was sitting in a mall doing absolutely nothing. I was just waiting. I was not trying to give any hint. An old man came to ask me how he could connect his laptop to the free wifi! I’m telling you, it must be written “I’m a fucking computer engineer. Ask me anything” on my forehead. So yes, I’m computer smart. That’s one thing.

How did I become computer smart? Google, wikipedia and public library… I also studied computer science during 5 years in college but what I learned was: be good at finding information, that’s what I did. That’s it. I have a nice paper saying that I studied 5 years for that. If you can figure how to use google, wikipedia or the public library before going to college, you’ll save 5 years of your life. When I have a computer problem, I google it. That’s it. When I ask people I help if they tried to google it, they say no.

I was talking with some friends the other day. We were wondering how many people live on Prince Edward Island. We all had smartphones. But I was the only one to google it. The reaction was “Wow, it’s wonderful what we can do with technology now!” Are you kidding me? Everybody has access to internet almost 24/7. It’s not even new, it has been years. You pay 60$ per month to have access to the whole internet in your pocket, what is your excuse for not using it? Candy crush saga? You’re “too old”? I feel literally blessed to live in a world where information is free. We should all be so glad for it… It’s insanely awesome, how can we not enjoy it?

Now a lot of people are smart because they went to college and they memorized a lot of stuff. I know people who can literally recite some equations. They can give you the exact definition of “fuzzy logic” or “computer-aided manufacturing”. The guys were always first at my engineering school. They used to piss me off… But these are the same people who asked me if I can help them set up their new computer. See what I mean? They were trying to be wikipedia but no one needs another wikipedia or another google. If you can recite a super complicated programming algorithm but you’re not able to install the computer it’s going to run on, you have a problem.

Knowledge is just the surface of things, it has nothing to do with how things work. Worse, knowledge is constantly changing, it’s changing fast. Memorizing stuff like a monkey only makes you good in the past. Too bad, you are not living in the past.

What really matters is your capacity to adapt and figure out a solution to a problem. Basically being smart is trying that at least…

If you can’t find the answer on google, wikipedia or at the public library, it doesn’t mean there’s no answer. It means it’s your turn to figure it out. It means you are on the right path.

This is where you can really make a difference.

Who do you want to please?

We don’t really realize it but most of the things we do, we do them to please other people. Our friends, our parents, our family, our teachers, our government, our religions, our neighbours, our pets, our computers, our bankers, our TVs and even this Greenpeace guy who knocks at your door every 3 months and to whom you tell that you should think about it when you just want to say no… The thing is we cannot really please everybody or perhaps we can but I don’t think it’s the right thing to do. So if you want to please everybody, this post is not for you. I don’t think you are wrong or stupid, I’m really happy that you think for yourself and you have all my respect.

Now, if you are still here, I would like to start with something that people usually don’t agree with. It took me some time to accept it but it’s a good example of how we unconsciously try to please others. It’s about the way you dress. You might answer me: “Well, I dress the way I want to”. Perhaps it’s true, but perhaps you don’t even really know why you wear a tie to go to work, why you wear a funny t-shirt or why you spend so much time choosing your clothes. Do you really dress like you want or are you trying to pass a message? For example how do you choose your sneakers? Do you want them to be pretty, do you want them to help you perform, or perhaps you want them to be as neutral as possible so people don’t notice them. It’s important because sportswear is expensive but Nike doesn’t really make you run faster, Reebok doesn’t really make you jump higher and Lululemon doesn’t really make you better at yoga. Another thing that will convince (I hope) you a little more. Why do you dress the way you dress when you go outside but wear an old oversized t-shirt when you stay at home on Saturday morning? (and I’m not talking about all those people who blog in their underwear).

This thing of trying to appear as people want you to (or at least how you think they want you to) is the big issue here. Did it happen to you to go to some friend’s party thinking “I just do it because I don’t want him to be mad at me“. Come on… I know you did. Everybody did. When I was 18~19 all my friends were playing video games: Doom, Unreal tournament, Counter Strike and stuff like that. I never really liked this kind of games. Of course sometimes I like to play with some game for a week but that’s it. I’m not the kind of hardcore gamer who stays up all night eating pizzas to shoot other people online. There is nothing wrong about it (if you feel that you are really accomplishing something), it’s just not my thing. I tried it and in the end I was just not for me. But since I was and I am still a “computer guy” I often got invitations to these kind of parties. I learned how to say no. I lost some “friends”. But in the end I’m really okay with it. Same scenario happened with other kind of friends and activities. The thing is to be able to identify why you are doing something: because you really enjoy it , because you really want to share time with your friend or because you don’t want to disappoint people? Since I have lived in Canada I see my French friends only a couple of times per year (and often on skype) and everything is fine. Of course I have lost some of them but I even grew a better friendship with other ones because we don’t have a beer party or a poker night. We just get on skype and talk about stuff that matters.

The way we try to please people is often wrong. We assume somebody want something from us when actually most people want you to express yourself to your full potential and be a little weird.

In my previous job I had a manager position and I tried to please people who were working for me. I did everything to make them feel good about working with me. But really what I was trying to do was to secure my job position by having people liking me. In the end I was trying to please my friends and family and show them how I had “succeeded“. When I gave my resignation I naturally started to not care as much. I was more me and I was consciously working on being  just myself. I started wearing shorts and sneakers at work instead of my Gap khakis. I was just doing the work that really mattered and I was not trying to please anybody. Strangely my ex-coworkers told me that was the time that they felt the most at ease with me. And this was actually a pretty good time for the whole company too. All because I did not care as much to please people and just doing what mattered while being as authentic as I could.

It’s hard to find who you try to please and why you try to please them in any given situation. It’s so hard-coded in our behaviours that to get to it could be quite painful. And what I observe now is that everybody is the same. We are all trying to conform to what is expected from us. I don’t know who you are trying to please but I’m sure you know if you try to question yourself. Once you know why you are doing what you do, things become much more clearer.

Just be true.