I believe life has a way of turning out the way it is supposed to. “What is” is what’s supposed to be, otherwise it wouldn’t be.
I never put myself in a state of anguish wondering what might have been, could have been, should have been. Rather, I think about the lessons I’ve learned that have shaped me and placed me exactly where I’m supposed to be, doing the exact work I’m supposed to be doing.
But if I could go back and tell myself the lessons that will define the shape of my life and identity, that would be incredible. Not to mention incredibly comforting during the most trying of times.
In celebration of this year’s Fast 15, I offer up 15 two-word lessons I’d go back and share with my 20-something self.
1. Be weird. Find out who you are and do it on purpose. And then let your weird light shine bright so the other weirdos know where to find you.
2. Life’s unfair. Spoiler alert — life is unfair. And the sooner you make peace with that notion, the sooner life will open up for you in completely unexpected ways.
3. Believe harder. Society works really hard at making you believe you are continually coming up short. That is a lie. No one can make you feel (insert negative word) without your consent. Don’t give away your personal power.
4. Embrace fears. You have to make peace with your fears. Walk toward what scares you and embrace it. If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.
5. Be curious. People see things differently, and they see different things. And you will too once you learn to replace judgment with curiosity.
6. Step back. The problem is not the problem. The way you see the problem is the problem. And once you’re reframed it, the impossible suddenly becomes possible.
7. Yes, and. Positivity beats negativity hands down. It’s also contagious, collaborative and curious. The “and” part takes positivity to the highest level. It’s a foundational principle of improvisation, and it’s a foundational principle of a happy life.
8. Stay connected. Hang on to everyone’s phone number. You’ll likely need them one day. The universe operates on the power of human connection.
9. Be kind. There is a certain amount of civility that makes the world go round. Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.
10. Favor simplicity. Not everything is rocket science. Plain, simple, elegant — that’s what works.
11. Say no. “No” can be a complete sentence. Really. You can only say yes to the right stuff by saying no to the wrong stuff. Say it. Mean it. Own it.
12. Move forward. When bad things happen in your life, you can either let them destroy you, define you or develop you. Development is the only choice that moves you forward.
13. Stop worrying. There are things you can control. There are things you can influence. But the rest — give it to the universe. Karma is real.
14. Lighten up. When the punitive arbitrary rules you’ve created for your life no longer serve you well, change the rules. Being serious and structured will serve you well. So will being spontaneous and playing hooky. Life is push and pull, so push and pull on life.
15. Never done. Stop trying to get it all done. There is no place called “done.”
Congratulations to the newest inductees into the Fast 15. I wish you much continued success. Ancora Imparo … (Still, I am learning).
Editor’s note: Stacey Mason is the owner of Mason On Leadership, a leadership consultancy in Bentonville that focuses on behavioral assessments and executive coaching. The opinions expressed are those of the author.