Here are my Top 25 Harsh Realities of Life that Apply to Everyone, rich, poor, famous, unknown, doesn’t matter, we all face these realities of life.
- The world doesn’t owe you anything. You’re not owed anything, entitled to anything and don’t deserve anything you haven’t earned. This is a difficult pill to swallow for some people, however, we come into this world with nothing and we leave with nothing, everything in between birth and death depends on our effort, hard work, perseverance, and situations/opportunities we build ourselves. It’s like the old saying that has been around forever, “What you put in is what you will get out!”
2. You don’t lack time to do anything, you lack prioritization. I spend some time on this topic in my book, reflecting on my own situation of finding time to write a nearly 500 page book, while working 10 hours a day. It is quite simple, we all have the same amount of time in every day as the great icons and successes in the world, what we lack is the ability to schedule our lives and make time for the things that are important. Add up the amount of time each day you spend watching tv, perusing social media, playing games/apps on smart devices, etc. and you will easily find that time which eludes you.
3. You cannot please everyone all the time. There are over 7 billion people on this planet, the odds of pleasing every one of them on any topic, situation or idea are astronomical, if not infinitely beyond the possibility of reality, so why try? The harsh reality, which will make your life happier and more positive, is the only person you should strive to please is you! Those who have not discovered love of oneself and happiness within themselves will never excel beyond their own limitations of discontent.
4. Opinions of others are none of your business. This statement has been around forever. If you come to grips with Item 3, above, and seek only to do what pleases you, then this reality will not even matter in your life. We all have opinions, what is missing in life is the ability to keep them to ourselves, not impose them on others, and not care of other’s opinions. Inner happiness, doing what you love regardless of the opinions of others, that is the reality you should seek.
5. Happiness is a state of mind, not who has the most material things. If you’ve read my book, or any of my online articles, you’ll be familiar with my take on this. I’m a pragmatist, i.e., I do believe you can do a lot of things with money that can make a person happier, however, money/material things do not correlate to true happiness. It is why millionaires, celebrities, and famous icons are still suicidal, despite apparently “having everything they could ever want”. Good mental health and inner happiness does not exist merely by owning things.
6. You and only you are in charge of your happiness. As stated in Harsh Reality #5 above, happiness is a mindset, i.e., it is dependent on your thoughts, your awareness of the positivity in life, and your mental attitude and fortitude. How you perceive situations, people, events, etc. is all within your control, not somebody else. We are bound by the choices we make in life, choices which are our decision to make. You can choose to dwell on a negative event and be bitter, or choose to acknowledge it is in the past, learn from it and move forward with positivity instead of bitterness.
7. You may live your entire life without discovering your true passion. In my book I discuss methods you can execute to discover your passion and how it can change with time, i.e., you may not be bound to one passion in your lifetime. However, discovering your true passion can be a lifelong journey, and in the end, you may never honestly be able to say, “I found it!” Only a fool would say unequivocally that any method will 100% enable you to discover your true passion, your raison d’etre in life. Nonetheless, utilizing my methods of self-discovery and purpose, even if you don’t find it, you will have a full and eventful life trying to discover it.
8. Perfection cannot be attained. Too many chase this unattainable nirvana in all aspects of their lives, trying to be the perfect mother, father, son, daughter, employee, boss, athlete, speaker, etc. Think of the absolute of perfection from a mathematical perspective, assuming you are perfect at any one thing would mean that you could not improve on that particular thing by any percentage point, not even 0.0000001%. We all know that’s not true, no matter how fast you are, how strong you are, how good you speak, how well you parent, etc., there is ALWAYS room for improvement, no matter how low the percentage improvement may be, it exists. Instead, identify goals to attain, plateaus to reach, and then look for the next one, for it always exists in every facet of life we experience.
9. Failure is a part of life and everyone fails. If you believe in perfection, then you definitely have a huge issue with failure. Failure enters our life from the moment we are born. Think of it, you couldn’t life your head as an infant, then after numerous attempts and failures, finally your neck muscles allowed you to hold your head up, the same can be said for crawling, walking, etc. We failed miserably at all these things over and over but in the end, we got it right! Why is it so difficult to see that the failures of learning the basics in life apply to everything we do in life, i.e., we fail, we try again, we fail, we try again, until SUCCESS! Failure is a learning mechanism, we don’t fail, we learn and persevere, that is what every successful icon has mastered, the art of never giving up!
10. Everybody is fighting their own personal battle(s). This is a reality we often ignore, as we focus on our own opinions, needs, wants and situations. It is so easy to judge, to think “Why is she so grumpy?”, “Who does he think he is talking to me that way?”, etc. What we often fail to realize is all the personal battles that consume our minds exist in other’s minds/lives as well. At any given moment in time people are consumed with personal situations, difficulties, and weights of their own worlds, resting heavily on their shoulders. Keeping this reality at the forefront of our thought processes enable us to deal more efficiently with difficult people and situations, without pre-judging and assumptions.
11. Forget luck, only hard work and effort produce results. Let’s say you wanted to mass produce a new bicycle, a revolutionary design that would forever change the cycling world. Sitting back and waiting for someone to magically give you money to pursue this dream or buying lottery tickets to win the lottery to finance this dream would not enable you to achieve this vision. Putting in countless hours of talking to investors, perfecting your design, marketing your brand, and mass producing and distribution, that would make you successful. Steve Jobs did not make Apple successful by luck, he put in countless hours of hard work, over many years. Muhammad Ali did not become what many claim to be the greatest boxer of all time by carrying around lucky charms, rather countless hours and dedication in the gym, endless amounts of sweat and pain, that is what made him successful. Hard work produces hard tangible results!
12. There are many things you cannot control, stop devoting energy to them. Stress, fear and anxiety are exacerbated by devoting energy to things beyond our control. Many things we stress over or fear are created by our mind’s ability to dream up the worse case scenario, often creating worries over things that are not only beyond our control but in 99% of the cases, never occur. Imagine yourself planning an outdoor hike and then spending the full day and night before worrying about the weather being bad. Clearly, weather is beyond our control, so why make our full 24 hours before the hike miserable, stressful, and gloomy? Analyze your life, your worries, your concerns, your fears and ask, “Can I control this?” If the answer is “no”, stop dwelling on it, as you have no impact on the outcome.
13. Rich, poor, famous, or unknown we all die eventually. Now that may sound morbid, however, the reality is we have a very short window on this planet and we need to make the best impression we can, to live a life worth living, because we all end up in the same lifeless form in the end. Ignoring that fact doesn’t change our mortality, so live the best life you can while you can, as so many never get the opportunity. Whether you’re rich, poor, famous or unknown, we leave this world the same way we came in, with nothing.
14. Time waits for nobody. We all tend to think we have countless days and weeks to achieve what’s really important to us, but the harsh truth is time waits for nobody, and nobody knows how much we have left at any given moment. I’ve often said today’s excuse is tomorrow’s remorse. There is no time like immediately to begin something you have been putting off, for you may be stagnant but time never is.
15. You cannot change the past. No matter how much you dwell on the past, it is called the past for a reason, i.e., it is, simply put, past! There are no mulligans in life, there are only learnings we can carry forward based on past experiences. The past may have shaped you, but it is within your own realm, your mindset how it defines you, the choice is yours to make.
16. You cannot predict the future. Just as you can never change the past, you can never predict the future. If this was the case we’d all be buying lottery tickets and winning millions! That is not to say you shouldn’t plan for the future and use prudence in your present-day life, as it obviously impacts the future. However, dwelling on what “may be” isn’t as important as “what is”, i.e., the present moment.
17. You cannot make someone love you. So many people believe they can buy love, or by doing enough “nice’ things for a person they will eventually love them. To love someone, truly love them, is a personal choice. That is not to say that acts of kindness, open affection, and divine care for a person doesn’t influence the feeling of love between individuals. However, you cannot “make” someone love you, that is their choice alone to make, i.e., it is not your decision to make, no matter how much you may love them.
18. You cannot live fully and avoid risk. If we avoided risk we would never learn to crawl, to walk, to run, to hop, skip and jump, to name just a few simple things in our lives we took risks to accomplish. There’s always a risk of harm, of failure, of disappointment, of something possibly not living up to our expectations, however, we will never fully know unless we actually risk something to experience what would have never been. The key is to take calculated risks, have mitigation plans to alleviate the risk, and to accept failure as learning, not the end.
19. The greatest problems are in your head. If you’ve read my book, you’ll recall me saying that our minds are the most powerful mechanism we have, able to contrive an infinite number of worlds, fantasies, and things that may never exist. This amazing power also has its shortcomings, as we can dream up the very worse scenarios, things that may never transpire, making us our own worse enemy. I can be walking down the street and dream up a million, different, scary and tragic scenarios that all lead to my demise, but the truth is they exist only in my head and it is just as easy to dream up a million positive scenarios, that also may never occur, but make me feel happy and positive, not stressed and fearful.
20. Nothing lasts forever, time is a healer. This is a tough reality pill to swallow when you are at your weakest, in the middle of a tragic situation, or have lost somebody you love. However, think back to tragedy, loss, and sadness in your life, it was never as bad as that exact moment it occurred. That’s not to say the pain, the sorrow or the memory will ever fade, nor should it, for it shaped your present reality, however, things get better with time.
21. Life isn`t fair. Life is not a fairy tale, laid out in a beautifully written storyline where in the end the prince and princess live happily ever after in a perfect life. It never has been and never will be, accept it, for it is full of pitfalls, failures, tragedies and ups and downs. If life was fair people would never contract cancer, go hungry or lose loved ones. It may sound harsh, but life isn’t fair, and it applies to everyone.
22. The grass is seldom greener on the other side. As human beings, we are so skilled at seeing the negative in our own lives and recognizing the positive in other’s lives. We are then equally skilled at being envious of what we see in other’s lives. What many never rationalize is every person has positives and negatives in their lives, situations, etc., they just choose to see it as being perfect, something they themselves do not have. I always say, “If the grass appears greener on the other side, remember, weeds are green in appearance too!”
23. Only you are responsible for your actions. Many people are quick to blame others for their actions, “If she hadn’t shouted at me I wouldn’t have shouted back!”, “He cut in front of me and took my parking spot, that’s why I screamed and cursed at him!”, etc. The reality is, you, and only you, are responsible for your words, behaviours and actions! Nobody “makes” you do anything, you’re an adult, you have a mind of your own and your reaction to other’s words, behaviours and actions are directly controlled by you, you choose always, no matter how you react. Take sole responsibility for your words, behaviours and actions, anything less is a reflection of directional blame, when all you have to do to seek blame is look inward.
24. You can always do the right thing, put in the hard work, and things will still go sideways. This ties back to Harsh reality #21, i.e., you can do everything right and still fail, be disappointed, or unfairly treated in your opinion. Nothing’s guaranteed in life! Hard work, doing the right thing, and great effort produce great results, most of the time. The nature of life and the reality of living, is sometimes things go sideways, great ideas are not viewed as great by others, and effort may not produce the exact result you want. The key is to not give up, to learn, persevere and keep moving forward.
25. What you think or say doesn’t matter, what you do matters the most. This is no different than the old adage that actions speak louder than words (and thoughts I might add). Telling somebody you love them daily and then treating them despicably will not truly be reflective of actual love for that person. Telling employees to be on time everyday and then you, as a Leader, consistently coming in late and leaving early does not resonate authenticity or respect. Doing the right thing starts with thinking and saying the right thing, but without a union of thoughts and words with actions, it is all meaningless.
Those are my 25 Harsh Realities of Life. There are many more, of course, and you can probably dream up many more of your own, based on your own lives and experiences, for there are countless realities we all must face in our own journeys. As a bonus, here are three additional ones I wanted to add, but alas I did call it the “25” Harsh Realities of Life.
- Beauty isn’t everything. This is one of the harsh realities we have difficulty accepting when we are young and naïve, but as we get older, mature, and gain life experience and wisdom, we accept and embrace. Beauty is not everything, nor is it the only thing for there are countless qualities (personality, attitude, charisma, and authenticity, to name only a few) that supersede beauty (which is subjective anyhow) and go beyond skin-deep beauty.
2. Your feelings are irrelevant. Let me start by saying this doesn’t mean they aren’t relevant to you, your loved ones, or people who care and love you. However, in the big harsh world we live in, most people you will interact with do not care one iota about your feelings or how you feel on an issue, concern, or situation, I may not agree that’s fair, but it is reality. This ties back to Harsh Reality #3 and #4 (reread those). The harsh reality is people will offend you, people will do, say and behave in manners that will upset you, and additionally, they will not care if you are hurt or offended. That doesn’t mean we have to be around those people, work for them or bend over backwards to please them, we all have choices. Reality is, your feelings will be hurt, numerous times in life, and by people who do not care how you feel. Learn to deflect the negativity, to accentuate the positive, and to be aware and control your feelings, for life is harsh, reality can be harsher if you don’t accept it.
3. The majority of what you fear will never happen. If you reread Harsh Reality #19 you’ll make the connection that all fear is a preconceived picture of what our mind perceives as the worse case scenario for a future event. Our mind is so quick to dream up the most ominous thing that can occur, we become oblivious of the harsh reality that these fears almost never come to fruition. It is why I spend a lot of time in my book teaching people how to live in the present moment, to be always aware of the present, for that is the key to controlling fears.
Kerry is a Leadership Specialist, a Professional Engineer, Coach, Mentor, Speaker, Author, and Martial Artist. He has amalgamated his corporate leadership knowledge with his martial arts training, to produce his own style of Warrior Leadership, where Development of Mind, Body, and Spirit are amalgamated and transcended. His book, “Warrior Leadership – A Transformation of Mind, Body & Spirit for Everyday Life and the Workplace” is available worldwide on Amazon. He is available for speaking engagements, seminars and personal coaching/training!
Be sure to follow him on Twitter @KerryKBrown for tweets on Warrior Leadership.