Berry posted her Monday Meme and I’ve been meaning to respond to it all week. It’s not often that it’s particularly suitable for me to answer, but this one seemed to be appropriate, so I’m giving it my best shot.
The first question she asks is “Regardless of your current number, how old do you actually feel?” This is a really hard one for me to answer. My actual age is 34. In some ways I’m the kid who never grew up, while in others I grew up too fast. I started my first company when I was fifteen and it did reasonably well, and as a result lots of the problems that people struggle with in young adulthood I never had to deal with. As a result I had to stand on my own two feet at quite a young age, but it wasn’t ever that difficult. The streak continued, and I find myself largely able to do what I want, when I want to, and that tends keeps you young at heart if not in actual years.
Berry’s second question is “Which is worse, failing or never trying?”. That one is easy: never trying. The important caveat to that however, is that if you’re going to fail, then make sure fail fast. To do that you have to set up yourself up for failure – and I don’t mean that in a bad way. I mean you need to test the limits of whatever you’re trying to do early, so you don’t waste your time going down a rathole.
Her next question was “If the average human life span was 40 years, how would you live your life differently?” That is a massive, massive subject. The temptation is to say that you have no regrets and you’re the sum of your experiences yada, yada, yada. I think that’s a trite answer though. Are there things I’d do differently? Yes. Undoubtedly. However I am happy with who I am, and it’s impossible to say how I might be different should the things I’d change be different too.
“Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things?” In conjunction with the second question, I’m not sure these are mutually exclusive. My current job is a good example of that. I could be making – and have made – a lot more elsewhere, but I think I’m helping to make a difference in people’s lives for a while to come, so I’m happy foregoing that paycheque for the satisfaction of knowing I’m doing my part for the world. In general I always try to do the right thing, and I try to do it right too. I’d like to think my success to failure ratio is pretty good, but you know that as long as you’re trying to do the right thing, it doesn’t matter too much.
The next question Berry asks is “Would you rather be a worried genius or a joyful simpleton?” While I’m far from a genius, I’m quite reflective – I suppose that is what Berry means by “worried”, however I take joy in little things; talking with friends, a cool drink on a summer’s day, a smile from a pretty girl. I think it’s important to reflect on things and try to understand the world around you, and how it might impact your life. To ignore that is to place yourself in peril, but you can’t let it rule your life or make you constantly glum.
Answering “Have you been the kind of friend you want as a friend?“ should be easy. I have many acquaintances but very few friends, and the friends I have are extremely deep and close relationships. When someone crosses the boundary between being an acquaintance and being friend it means that there is no length I’d go to in order to help them. I’ve flown across oceans at a moment’s notice to live up to this personal commitment before, and I’d do so again with no expectation of it being reciprocated. So to answer the question… I hope so. I really hope so.
“Do you remember that time 5 years ago when you were extremely upset? Does it really matter now?” Yes, and yes. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
“At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive?” There are so many ways I could answer this… dropping in to a line skiing, falling in love, stepping onto a plane, singing at the top of my voice to a song I love, or a cool breeze on a fall day. I love life, and I try to enjoy it to the full. I have down days, sure, but if today was my last day on this Earth, I couldn’t say that I’d wasted it.
I love the job I’m doing right now – the novelty might wear off before too long, but right now “if you just won a million dollars” I’d definitely not quit my job. I might plan on taking another winter off to ski though.
“If you knew that everyone you know was going to die tomorrow, who would you visit today?” I’d make more than a few phone calls, but there are only seven or eight people that I’d visit. One of those people would be my brother, and his son who I’ve not seen since he was newborn.
“What do you feel is the difference between being alive and truly living?” As I said above, I really try and truly live. Pushing yourself every now and again – ideally not to the point of destruction. Saying yes to questions you might instinctively say no to. As my friend Julien says in Flinch, put yourself in uncomfortable situations; “lean into it.”
I’m not sure I am that afraid of making a mistake so when Berry asks “If we learn from our mistakes, why are we always so afraid to make a mistake?” I’m not sure I can honestly answer. I try to do things right, but if I don’t I know I’ve done my best. Perhaps the thing I’m most afraid of is making a mistake because of a fundamental flaw in myself; something that can’t be corrected.
“What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you?” Dance a little harder, a little sooner, perhaps? There isn’t much. This sounds quite awful, but we’re being honest here, so I’ll say it… I generally only care what people think of me when I need them to care. Sales meetings, or investors, etc. Otherwise I’m mostly just happy being me.
“If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be?” Urgle gurgle bleh gurglebleh. What you don’t understand that? Sorry about your luck, you need to be a newborn to understand it.