“It’s just life.”

September 7, 2007 — 12 Comments

As is my nature to fill any free time with stress or paranoia, I have been killing myself the last week or so, agonizing over my decision. (Which I will do a big post on later, but for now, is unimportant) I thought I was on track until I hit requisite Resistance and started the slide. The flood of emotions, the details, the considerations, obligations and promises…

“It’s just life.”

Why am I killing myself over it? Breathe. It hit me as I pulled into the parking space and a wave of calm had washed over me by the time I’d turned off the ignition. Isn’t it made to be lived? Aren’t we supposed to make big calls? And aren’t some of them supposed to fail and others succeed? Either way, this is what I am supposed to do. That is, weigh the evidence, make a decision and trust that it will be OK. What if it’s not–well, it is surely not going to kill me. I know that success requires total commitment and I have never had a problem throwing myself into things. But let’s just say I–or you–make the wrong choice. So?

It’s ironic too that the younger you are, the more important, more urgent, these things seem to be. They take on an aura of seriousness that rivals life and death–”Hey, my whole future is at stake here.” Jesus Christ. I catch myself doing this all the time. Let’s say I live to 70, that’s a solid 50 years left. I can’t even fathom that long. There is so very, very little that you cannot undo in that time, that you can’t turn into an overall positive. Some investments take a long time to pay off. Just as many pay out instantly–beyond your comprehension. Sometimes, you carry a loss to lower the taxes on a gain. What does it matter? If youth is not the time for calculated risk and big plans, what time is? It would be impossible to think that you would never have to screw up, and greedy to think you deserve to insulate yourself from that process well after you’re ready to deal with it. This is not excuse for failure but a certain kind of freedom. It’s the basis behind the “Relax, it’s going to be fine,” and the “Just let it rides.” The point is this: The very worst that can happen is that you fuck up, have to start over a little, and ultimately learn from it. The rest is just logistics. The rest is just logistics. And is being obsessed with logistics anyway to live?

I can tell you with emphatic certainty–at 20–that it is not. It is miserable. It will drive you into depression and anger and fear. Each worry you cut from your life increases happiness. Simple as that. And the younger you are, the less you should worry about. Listen, learn, consider, execute, evaluate and start it over again. You, I, have even less of an excuse for self-importance and reluctance than those with families, and careers, and mortgages at stake.

Remember, it’s just life. As cliche as it sounds, it’s meant to be lived. It’s meant to be enjoyed and it is designed around taking chances. Stress, worry, obsession, second-guessing, these are just impediments and crutches that take from you. Excise them as you would a cancer or a bad friend and wake up each morning with a lighter load and less-heavy heart. I woke up that way today and I plan to do it tomorrow.

Ryan Holiday

I'm a strategist for bestselling authors and billion dollar brands like American Apparel, Tucker Max and Robert Greene. My work has been used as case studies by Twitter, YouTube and Google and has been written about in AdAge, the New York Times, Gawker and Fast Company.

12 responses to “It’s just life.”

  1. I think, when life provides you two substantially good options, both of which will bring you places… if you think in extremes (best/worst case scenarios for both options) and write them down, it helps dissolve the stress and helps you act on your decision rather than going into that vicious circular thinking. (Think Tim Ferris with his round the world trip).

    The worst that can happen from what I can tell in your case is simply a temporary setback. And can’t you go BACK to school and quit your job in a year/semester if it’s nothing like what you expected or ask for a part-time gig while going to school?

    If they really, really even out in pro’s and con’s… you can even flip a coin. lol.

  2. Hey Ryan,

    Sort of a critique, but I’m not trying to knock you or anything. I love your blog and keep coming back to see how you deal with your life, and it’s unbelievable to see someone so driven and goal-oriented at our age. As you say “it is my nature to fill any free time with stress or paranoia”, I feel like thats the only side we see of you on this blog. Maybe just because it’s what inspires the best writing material, but most of your posts are pretty serious and deal with handling life on the whole.

    But “It’s just life,” right? What kind of stuff do you do for fun besides activities to blow off stress like running? Any funny friends or stories you can write about? What do you actually do at your job? What did you do last night? That’s the kind of stuff I would like to see around here once in a while.

    It’s your blog, that’s just my take as a reader.

  3. Trust me, Ryan, you have much more figured out than most twenty-somethings. Take lots of risks. You’ll want to have stories when you’re 70. I, however, plan to live until I’m 100 ;)

  4. That was enlightening. For real.

  5. This is pretty comforting, since I just lost my job. Things will be fine.

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