Toward the end of last year, a co-worker on her birthday was asking people for life advice. She caught me off-guard, and all I could think of at the moment was “put money into your 401(k).”
But the question stuck with me, and I eventually gave her these bits:
We’re constantly being exposed to other people’s public personas. They share their victories on Facebook. They do talks at conferences explaining their successes. They are loud and visible when they are feeling good.
But we know all about our own internal feelings, all the time, the good and the bad. It’s really easy to think that our world is full of bad feelings, and other people’s worlds are not. But that’s because we compare the full spectrum of our experience to the carefully curated presentation of others.
Don’t do that. Everyone has feelings of insecurity, and failures, and bad feelings. They just don’t show them to you. Don’t compare your insides to their outsides.
...and keep that separate from other people’s ideas that they will try to project onto you. Society has ideas about what people should do, or how they should behave. Your career, or your family, or your personal life: people will try to fit all of these things into some comfortable preconception. Don’t let them. You decide.
This sounds kind of business-y, but just means: tend your reputation well. Your actions have an effect on people. People will get to know you, and form opinions about you. It would be nice if they didn’t, but they do, so be aware of that process, and be mindful in your interactions. You will leave opinion-footprints everywhere you go. You want them to be good opinions. Decide what you want people to think of when they think of you, and aim for that.
OK, this was my original glib answer, but it’s true: if you have a way to save for retirement, especially if someone will match your money, do it. You may feel now like you can’t afford it, but that feeling won’t go away in the future. Start now.
This wasn’t my advice, but I liked it, on both a literal and metaphorical level.
Have a happy and mindful 2019!