21 November 2015

Food For Thought // #16


By Mark Manson - 10 Life Lessons to Excel in your 30s

In the previous round-up, I mentioned one of Mark Manson's articles about what he learned in his 20s, which is useful for all ages of course, but made me want to know what I would advise my 30 year-old self as I'm preparing to reach that age.

As it turns out, Mark Manson has written an article about this too: he asked his older readers to tell him what they would tell their 30 year-old self, and compiled the most recurring answers into an article.

This is a brilliant idea. As Daniel Gilbert points out in his book Stumbling upon Happiness, our brains are rather bad at imagining how we will feel in the future. However, asking how other people, who face your future situation now, are feeling, is an extremely accurate way to determine our future feelings. But our brains have a hard time believing someone else's experience is useful to predict our own, because we want to believe we are different from other people.

Bottom line is: you want to know what you will advise your 30 year-old self in 10 years? Ask a bunch of 40 year-olds. And that's what the author did in this article.

While going through the emails what surprised me the most was just how consistent some of the advice was. The same 5-6 pieces of advice came up over and over and over again in different forms across literally 100s of emails.

In the end, he picked the 10 most recurring pieces of advice, with quotes and examples from the readers who answered his question. I'll let you read these, but they made me think. A lot. Especially this one:

“Biggest regrets I have are almost exclusively things I did *not* do.” (Sam, 47)

Ironic anecdote: as I was reading that passage of the article, Deezer (the French Spotify) was blasting Yael Naim's song "Coward". "How did I become a coward?" she asks.

This advice was right in the feels for me. It's stupid to think that because you're no longer a 20 year-old making a choice of major at school or first employer for your internship, you can no longer change the course of your life.

Do any of these pieces of advice resonate with you? For those of you who are older, what advice would you give to your 30 year-old self?

On TED - Alain de Botton : A kinder, gentler philosophy of success

There are many interesting ideas in this TED talk - in which the philosopher Alain de Botton examines why so many of us express career anxiety at some point, and what success really is about.

First, he examines how social status is a way to get love and attention from other people - we have career anxiety because in today's world, we are often defined as a person through how well we do in our career. But social status isn't only about career, and he points out how owning certain objects is more about getting people's attention, approval and love, than it is about the object itself. In other words, we aren't really materialistic per se, we just live in a society where success and social status are expressed through material items.

You know, we're often told that we live in very materialistic times, that we're all greedy people. I don't think we are particularly materialistic. I think we live in a society which has simply pegged certain emotional rewards to the acquisition of material goods. It's not the material goods we want; it's the rewards we want. It's a new way of looking at luxury goods.

There are many more interesting points in this talk, about how our equality focused society generates envy, or depression as we feel responsible for our own failures (rather than fate, or some religious figure), and the flipside of meritocracy. But I'll leave you with this very interesting piece to ponder, hoping my mini-explanation makes you want to watch the video itself.

So what I want to argue for is not that we should give up on our ideas of success, but we should make sure that they are our own. We should focus in on our ideas, and make sure that we own them; that we are truly the authors of our own ambitions. Because it's bad enough not getting what you want, but it's even worse to have an idea of what it is you want, and find out, at the end of the journey, that it isn't, in fact, what you wanted all along.

On Elle - Essena O'Neill quitting Social Media

I'll have to be honest, I didn't know Essena O'Neill before, and I stumbled upon this article weeks after its publication, so I'm not exactly up to date here. I wanted to finish this Food For Thought post on that though, for two reasons.

First, I think the "dark side" of social media she is denouncing is real. I have never lived it myself, as my following is small and I never tried to grow it. But I can see what she means, and I read an article in French recently about why "millenials" are less happy than their parents. It turns out constant comparison of our behind the scenes with everyone else's social media highlight reel was a big cause of unhappiness.

On the Epicurean Simplicity post, I mentioned that we tend to forget to be thankful and appreciative of the little gifts of life because we are saturated by images of perfection and luxury. I think social media has a big part to play in this as well. This doesn't mean we should never share beautiful images on social media, but stepping back and being aware that this isn't real is important, and that's what Essena O'Neill is trying to do with her Let's be the Game Changers initiative.

The second reason I wanted to share this article with you, is that I am fascinated by her sudden and complete change, it is an awakening, one might think. I'm assuming she is truthful here, of course.

I have lived such change on a smaller scale these past five years, first when I realized my external image didn't correspond with who I thought I was, then when I realized I could very well be a writer after all, while having a day job, if only I kept writing.

I will write a post about this specifically, but these changes have led to my being more curious about life and other people's initiatives (I discovered TED then), more environment conscious, more in tune with my body and attentive to my health, more connected to others, and, ultimately, more willing to make a difference in this world.

And when I read Essena O'Neill's blog, it feels like she has lived such transformation as well: she does mention TED, she wants to help people see and spread the news about game changing actions. It's not only about closing her social media accounts, it is about become aware of certain things, learning, spreading the word, making a difference.

Why, I wonder? What made her change so drastically, and how come her change comes with the same type of awareness and questioning that I, and many others, have?

Anyway, just wanted to leave that here, I'll probably foment a blog post or two based on these thoughts. If you are interested, you can check out her website: Let's be the Game Changers.


  1. Thank you for these resources! I already knew the Alain de Botton talk and loved it, it inspired me to follow one of his international school of life classes. The article of Mark Manson was lovely as it mentioned almost all of the priorities I have set myself this year (when I turned 30) so I'm feeling pretty good about myself now :). Just have to get my exercise routine back on track...
    I had completely missed the Essena thing but am glad you pointed me to her website. It's pretty exciting to see such a young, beautiful (by society's standards) and energetic girl turning towards 'real' causes. I think I'll start following her website to see if she can really add value as she wishes to - I hope so because relatable stories of other people changing their lives to align more with their values is so motivating for me to keep changing as well.
    Now time to turn off the ipad and go for a walk :).

    1. Yes, I heard about Alain de Botton's school of life, I wrote somewhere in my to-do to check the Paris one :)
      I'm happy to hear that your resolutions match with Mark Manson's article, you seem to be on a very positive path, that's great!
      I agree that it is very motivating to see someone like Essena get positively engaged in lsuch life changing questions, and like you, I hope she keeps going on in that good direction to motivate and inspire people thanks to her popularity. It is inspiring to hear stories of people who try to change the world at their own level, makes it more doable and gives some hope :)