A series of fortunate event, I have achieved everything on my bucket list. It was disorientating.
I looked up at an old list of ‘fun-to-do’ projects, not knowing how to choose what’s next. I was paralysed. Then bored. Then, agitated by my boredom.
Inspired by my friend, JR Hinds, I took a month off in Taiwan and went searching for my values. In hopes that it will be the compass for the next chapter of my life (and it did). It helped me get unstuck and excited for life.
First things first, definition are important as we are building the truth. And this is how I define values:
A set of ideas, rules and principles that I’ve looked at very carefully about myself and have deliberately chosen. This is a habit. This is a way of life. I’m going to stay this way forever. I’m not going to compromise on it. I don’t want to live life any other way. I don’t need to prove it to others. It shouldn’t change much over time. It shouldn’t be profitable or easy. If they were, then no one would write books on it.
I started by listing down all the values that I hold close to my heart. That’s the easy part. Next, I questioned each of them, then argued with myself to keep them.
Do dope shit
For many days following… I stared into the abyss trying to expand, explain and argue for these values.
- How do I define them?
- How do I apply them?
- Why do I want to sacrifice my limited time for these sets of things?
Here’s an example of one of them:
- Basically, I want to able to just be me.
- I never want to be in an environment or around people where I have to watch what I say.
- If I disconnect what I’m thinking from what I’m saying, that create multiple threads in my mind, that means that I’m no longer in the moment, and that means that I now have to be future-planning or past regretting every time I’m talking to somebody. Which means that I am wasting energy.
- Part of it just means I want to be free. Part of being free means that I can say what I think and think what I say.
- That way, I can be highly congruent and integrated. I want to live my life without contradiction.
- Richard Feynman famously said, “You should never, ever fool anybody and you are the easiest person to fool.”
- The moment you tell somebody else something that’s not honest, you’ve lied to yourself. Then you’ll start believing your own lie. Then that will disconnect you from reality and take you down the wrong road.
- I don’t mean go out of my way volunteering negative or nasty things. I would combine radical honesty with an old rule that Warren Buffet has, which is to praise specifically, criticise generally.
- If I have a criticism of someone, then don’t criticise the person, criticise the general approach or the class of activities. If I have to praise someone, then I always try and find the person who is the best example of what I’m praising and then that praise that person, specifically. That way people’s ego and identities, which we all have, don’t work against you, they work for you.
For those I can’t argue for, I let go of them. I gave up on authenticity, passion, balance, growth, power and hustle. I kept Integrity, freedom, open-mindedness, positivity, long term and fun.
Going through this exercise, I had a few learning:
- One can be perfectly happy without values. That’s what babies do. The fewer values I have, the easier it is to be happy. I can make decisions with a less mental load. Allowing me to be less in my mind and be more in the present.
- I picked up values (unconsciously) through my upbringing, experiences and the culture. Then I carry them around in my life without examination, rent-free.
- The invisible values that grip my life are the ones I don’t talk about – depression, sex and money.
- A lot of finding great relationships, great coworkers, great lovers, wives and husbands, is finding other people where your values line up, then the little things don’t matter.
Finally, I put it all together into a poem. It is an easy format to recite and remember these values.
The Life and Lessons of Bryan
(Long Mission Poem)
I live honestly without contradictions.
To fool no one, and myself.
To find the nuance
From an assumption, an aphorism, to a fact of life.
To see reality as it is
And always be a fool to the truth.
I redefine possibilities.
First for myself, then for the world.
Because I’m a little crazy.
Because “good enough” isn’t.
Because what I do says who I am.
I see the good.
From the person beside me,
to the things that happened to me.
In changing my perspective,
I give others a new story.
I play long-term games.
Because the best returns in life,
comes from compounded interest.
In love, in relationships, in wealth, in health.
I find courage,
to run from the cynics and the angst,
to admit my flaws and stand up for my truth,
to do the right things when no one is looking,
to do it all over again tomorrow.
To live my life with fun, ecstasy, brilliance, proactivity and above all, integrity.
And here I am, with a new compass for life.
Write down your values. Understand them. Fight for them. It may take you a week or even a month, but it could be the most important thing you do this year. Certainly, it was for me.
The photo was a lighthouse at the southernmost tip of Taiwan.