Humans are social creatures. We enjoy the feeling of belonging to a community. One way we find meaning in our lives is to help others.
Over the years, we try things. We make mistakes. We learn from the mistakes. And we try not to repeat the mistakes. Life is a progression of doing things and learning.
It is natural that we want to help others avoid the mistakes we made. Especially when the others are our friends and loved ones. But the truth is, there are no shortcuts in life.We might help another avoid certain specific mistakes
We might help another avoid certain specific mistakes: “Never touch the third rail.” “Don’t try to catch a falling knife.” “Look both ways before crossing a street.” But even if all the warnings are heeded, new unforeseen mistakes will inevitably come up. Everybody will face mistakes, consequences, and hardships in their lives, no matter how many warnings are heeded.
If only there were unbreakable formulas for success in life. We would all flock to the old wise gurus on their mountaintops. We would discover Life’s Big Shortcut. We would learn from the mistakes of all the wise women and men of the past. We would avoid all of the mistakes. We would all take the Shortcut and live a meaningful, prosperous life.
But there are no shortcuts in life.
Things are always changing with the dynamics of time. No self-help guru or book can give you an unbreakable formula for success in life. Sure, they can inspire you or point you in a direction, but they can’t give you the answer. That would be cheating. You can’t cheat things as big as Nature, Fate, or the Universe.
One very smart person I follow is James Altucher. He always talks about how people should not go to college, should not own a home, and should not get caught up in a 9-5 cubicle job working for some shadowy, powerful “Boss.” But the truth is, James did go to college, did own a home, and did work a 9-5 cubicle job. He went through those experiences, made the mistakes, and decided that they were not worthwhile. And another truth is, if James did not have those experiences, he would not have been as successful or happy as he is today. Without going to college, he likely would not have gotten his 9-5 cubicle job. Without the 9-5 cubicle job, he probably wouldn’t have bought a house. Things would be much different. Nobody knows what would have been. Maybe better or maybe worse.
Another very smart person, my late father-in-law, helped get me started in stock market investing. He was a retired former vice-president of a large Fortune 500 company. He wished he started investing when he was much younger, because he might not have had to work so hard for money. But I would contend that all of the experiences he had in working hard at a large company made him into the great, well-respected person he became in his later years. Taking the shortcut might have ruined him. Again, nobody knows if his life would have been better or worse if he could go back in time and advise his younger self, but it would have been much different.
As for me, I read self-help books, listen to smart people, and try to improve myself every day. I’ve avoided many big mistakes with all the things I’ve learned. But I also realize that there are no shortcuts. I will always make mistakes. I will always encounter unforeseen hardships. I will always find new things to learn. It is a fact of life. You have to live life with both joy and hardships. They come together as a package that can’t be separated out. You either accept that, or you die.