How to Live Like You Mean It
Today, the meaning of life.
Wait, what’s this?
A copywriting e-letter dishing on the meaning of life and how to live like you “get it?” Yes, dear Reader, ’tis true. And all because I happen to be in a reflective mood today. Also, because I happen to have related tabs open on my browser.
So let’s get to it, shall we?
We’ll start with this classic and well-contemplated bit of Big Think: “Wear sunscreen.” Or so it’s said that Kurt Vonnegut once told an MIT graduating class. Only it wasn’t Kurt but Chicago Tribune writer Mary Schmich who said it, in a 1997 column.
She also told us:
“Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded…”
“Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum…”
And, these bits…
“Do one thing every day that scares you. Sing. Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.”
All smart words, yes?
Over at that bastion of digital wisdom, the philosophers at cracked.com add, “The hippies were wrong,” and “The world only wants what it can get from you” and “Your job IS all you are.”
Personally, I think that’s a little cynical.
But the point is well taken.
What they go on to say, in language I couldn’t squeak past the censors, is that there’s no getting around it: In life, the people around us have needs they can’t ignore. And because they can’t ignore them, they have reason to hope that you won’t ignore those needs either.
Put another way, they will — by nature — measure your worth by how you can help them. Even if they don’t know that’s what they’re doing at the time.
Put yet another way, being nice or smart or good looking in life isn’t enough because… well, because your life will be a lot better all around if you can figure out how to benefit others.
That’s blunt reality. And true in friendships, true in families, true in jobs. Even true when you’re just chatting with strangers on a street corner.
And then this, from a piece shared by the Huffington Post, on life lessons worth UNlearning, which says first off, go ahead and UNlearn the notion that “Problems are bad.”
Why? Because problems not only show you what’s not working — at the very least, a live lived by the process of elimination — but also because, to put a metaphor on it, it’s only in the manure of a big mistake or catastrophe that you can sow the seeds of a new solution. “Finding the solution to each problem is what gives life its gusto,” says the article.
Says the piece, in another truth worth UNlearning (“Success is the opposite of failure”), “We succeed to the degree we try, fail, and learn. Studies show that people who worry about mistakes shut down, but those who are relaxed about doing badly soon learn to do well. Success is built on failure.”
Wiser words still.
As Steve Jobs put it in an interview, years and years… and years… back, “You’ve got to act… if you’re afraid of failing, you won’t get very far” and this, from the same interview, “This thing we call life was made up by people no smarter than you… and you can change it, influence it, build it, mold it. The minute you understand that you can shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and that you’re just going to live in it… you’ll want to change life and make it better… once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”
And last, this, because I’ve probably already said enough — at least without using the word “copywriting” in sentence — and this, from a copywriting friend and colleague of mine, Joe Ratliff, from his forthcoming book “The Slow Manifesto” (which I think is a great idea).
“We need to slow down, as a societyŠ not just as individuals. We need to slow down our use of technology, the advances in technology, our daily lives, our consumption of various natural resources (which ARE limited), and we need to slow down and think more critically in our communication…”
Here’s how Joe clarifies what “slow” means…
* Not checking email or texts first thing in the morning, and instead enjoying a cup of coffee, preferably with a loved one.
* Not eating in 15 minutes or less, instead savoring each biteŠ and enjoying your meal.
* Focusing on quality instead of quantity. We live in a “mass-produced for the masses” society, we need to slow down, and get back to a local, handcrafted society.
* Pacing yourself through life, of which you only get oneŠ and right now, we aren’t doing such a good job as a society.
* Slowing our work down, enjoying “mini-retirements” along the way, and sending a BIG middle finger at huge corporations who focus on 70 hour weeks and barely two-weeks of vacation.
* Developing the ability to critically think. That means slowing down enough to look at both sides of an issue, and having an open mind when it comes to hearing the “other” side you might not agree with.
* Reading past page 18 on averageŠ seriously? I was shocked when I found out most people haven’t read a book since high school. This is depressing.
* Slow is about taking care of you and your health, because without those, the rest of this doesn’t mean anything.
* Slow is about finding balance in your life, and being willing to find it in the face of seeming “weird” to people who haven’t figured it out yet.
Hear, hear Joe. Well said.
This article originally appeared in John’s Copywriter’s Roundtable newsletter, which includes this particularly elegant permission statement:
BY THE WAY, if you ever want to reproduce one of these CR articles in a blog, in an email, in a book, on a milk carton… or on one of those banners they hang on the back of airplanes at the beach… GO AHEAD!
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