The Definitive Guide for Millennials and Fresh Graduates to Better Navigate the ‘Real World’

So no one told you life was going to be this way
Your job’s a joke, you’re broke; your love life’s DOA
It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear
When it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year…

– The Rembrandts, I’ll Be There For You

In the not-so-distant past, you graduated with an undergraduate degree and you now find yourself right in the middle of what everyone had always referred to as the real world. Various questions pop into your head.

“Am I doing this right?” “What is the right way to go about this?” “I don’t know how much longer I can keep doing this.” “Why is there so much pressure to get married?” “How is everyone around me getting married all of a sudden?” “I really don’t get paid enough. / My friends are making so much more than I am. / It sucks having to ask my folks for money now that I have a job.” “Why haven’t I still landed a job?” 

But the trickiest question of them all (and perhaps the most devious question ever invented) that you might find yourself wondering is, “What if?”

And when you really come down to it, the real world probably isn’t everything you had pictured it to be.

Chances are you have this love-hate relationship with it, and more often than not you probably love to hate and hate to love it. You sometimes find yourself wondering what happened, and how you ended up here.

In case you find yourself wondering all of these things, this post is for you. What it is, is a compilation of lessons learned through experience, so that you don’t have to go through the same mistakes over and over and over again, trying to figure out what they’re trying to teach you. But two things that are absolutely crucial to understand:

  1. You’re going to make mistakes. Be comfortable with them. Embrace them. Welcome them. In fact, cherish them. If to err is to be human then you are nothing without your mistakes. And no ‘mistake’ is ever wasted if you can contextualize it, reflect on it and understand how to avoid it in the future. Mistakes are simply one of life’s many ways to teach us something we need to learn.
  2. You should also look forward to making mistakes, because no matter how many people share their experiences with you, you’re never going to learn unless you’ve been there yourself. And you’re only ever truly going to be able to understand and reflect on your own mistakes. And as Aldous Huxley said:

    Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.

1. Pace Yourself!

This is perhaps the most essential lesson I’ve learned. And this applies in more areas than just one. But if I could just sum it up in one word, it would probably have to be: PRIORITIZE!

There is a very high chance, realistically speaking, that you might not be able to get everything you want, at any one given moment… even if you try and become Superman and work towards everything at the same time.

Given that you have a finite amount of time in each day, of which you ought to spend roughly six to eight hours sleeping (so that your brain, your body and your emotions can heal and repair themselves), it is highly unlikely that you will have either enough time or enough energy (or both) to achieve all that you’re after in a single day. Chances also are that if you are trying to do this despite knowing the limitations of reality, you continue to feel pressed for time and exhausted at the end of each day; you feel as if you’re not accomplishing all that much (or anything for that matter).

One of the reasons for this might be resorting to multi-tasking to achieve said goal, because it seems like an almost natural ‘progression.’ Well, you might want to reconsider:

A study by the University of London found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks, experienced an IQ score decline similar to those who have stayed up all night. Some of the multitasking men had their IQ drop 15 points, leaving them with the average IQ of an 8-year-old child.

So if you shouldn’t multitask, then that means you should attempt your tasks in a serial fashion, i.e. go about them one after the other rather than all at once. If you’re going to do that, there are some things you might benefit from knowing about how your brain and body work.

Tim Urban over at Wait But Why portrays this in a manner that really gives this some perspective: think of your day as 100 ten-minute blocks of time.

Most people sleep about seven or eight hours a night. That leaves 16 or 17 hours awake each day. Or about 1,000 minutes.

Let’s think about those 1,000 minutes as 100 10-minute blocks. That’s what you wake up with every day …

It’s always good to step back and think about how we’re using those 100 blocks we get each day. How many of them are put towards making your future better, and how many of them are just there to be enjoyed? How many of them are spent with other people, and how many are for time by yourself? How many are used to create something, and how many are used to consume something? How many of the blocks are focused on your body, how many on your mind, and how many on neither one in particular? Which are your favorite blocks of the day, and which are your least favorite?

Another important aspect of prioritizing, is to prioritize the various aspects of your life. What matters more to you? Family or work? Friends or work? Friends or family? Your own dream or your uncle’s cousin’s neighbour’s mother’s dream? Even though it’s tough to separate yourself from the voice all around you, telling you what you should or should not believe, or how you should structure your life, it’s vital for you to know what matters to you and how much. And once you figure it out, never let it go (this is not to say that you shouldn’t keep it open to revision, but whatever the revised version keeps becoming with time, make sure to hold it close and be accepting of it).

2. Accept Your Limitations

Perhaps just reading the three words above made you cringe a little. “Limitations?” you thought to yourself, “I don’t have limitations. I can do whatever I want to!”

Though it might be true that you have the capability or the ability or the temperament or the aptitude to do anything you want to, it does not mean the same as being able to do all of those things at the same time. And coming to terms with our limitations as human beings is probably the toughest thing to do, because it makes you feel like you’re not good enough, or that you should have been able to do more. Piece of advice? If you ever hear your brain saying things like that, make a conscious decision to stop listening to it, because if you start believing that, you’ll never feel enough. And that’s the problem.

As Mark Manson writes in his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck:

Everyone and their TV commercial wants you to believe that the key to a good life is a nicer job, or a more rugged car, or a prettier girlfriend, or a hot tub with an inflatable pool for the kids. The world is constantly telling you that the path to a better life is more, more, more … Why? My guess: because [it] is good for business.

And while there’s nothing wrong with good business, the problem is that [this behaviour] is bad for your mental health. It causes you to become overly attached to the superficial and fake, to dedicate your life to chasing a mirage of happiness and satisfaction. They key to a good life is not giving a f*ck about more; it’s giving a f*ck about less, giving a f*ck about only what is true and immediate and important.

To illustrate this, he gives an example of Charles Bukowski, the celebrate American author:

He never tried to be anything other than what he was. The genius in Bukowski’s work was not in overcoming unbelievable odds or developing himself into a shining literary light. It was the opposite. It was his simple ability to be completely, unflinchingly, honest with himself–especially the worst parts of himself–and to share his failings without hesitation or doubt.

Of course, the limitations don’t always have to be internal (for instance, if you actively have asthma it is highly unlikely that you can run an eight kilometre marathon and win). Sometimes, these limitations are also external, and it comes down again to what your priorities are. For some, a family member being gravely unwell will not be a limitation. For others, the very same incident can become so consuming that their work life and their social life are both deeply affected by it; they’re always preoccupied by the same issue and they can’t really focus on anything else.

Chances are, this has happened to you as well. Whether it’s helping your best friend out with his/her wedding, whether it’s a break up you’re going through, whether it’s a close loved one falling severely ill, these things can cripple you, if work is not your top-most priority and one true love. And that’s okay!

Now here’s the problem: Our society today, through the wonders of consumer culture and hey-look-my-life-is-cooler-than-yours social media, has bred a whole generation of people who believe that having these negative experiences–anxiety, fear, guilt, etc.–is totally not okay … Look, eight people got married this week! And some sixteen-year-old on TV got a Ferrari for her birthday. And another kid just made two billion dollars inventing an app that automatically delivers you more toilet paper when you run out.

Meanwhile, you’re stuck at home flossing your cat. And you can’t help but think your life sucks even more than you thought. 

[This] Feedback Loop from Hell has become a borderline epidemic, making many of us overly stressed, overly neurotic, and overly self-loathing. 

The flip side to this, however, is that you may find yourself becoming a workaholic. Though greatly appreciated in our society, it’s hazardous in the long run. Have you ever wondered why the particular title workaholic sounds a lot like alcoholic? It is because it’s a problem. It’s an addiction, usually resorted to so that one does not have to deal with the other problems in one’s life. Work becomes the excuse for missing social gatherings, and the justification for missing your kid’s birthdays later on, and one day, when you find yourself without this work, what are you going to turn to to distract yourself from the real issues in your life (because they’re still going to be there, unaddressed and amplified)?

The trick is not to try and achieve anything in spite of your limitations, but because of it. To embrace your limitations, to be okay with them, and to learn from them all the lessons that you potentially can. As Manson refers to Alan Watt’s ‘Backwards Law’:

The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience. 


3. Be Realistic

This, of course, ties straight in with accepting your limitations, and takes it one step further. What do you do with an awareness and understanding of your limitations? How do you make the most of this situation?

Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

The first rule has to be taking on only as much as you can handle. Understanding your limitations should give you an idea of how much work you can take upon yourself. The next step is what you do with this understanding.

As with everything in life, it is not a good idea to be completely rigid, in your beliefs, in your actions, with your words, or even in terms of knowing how much you can take and knowing when to stop. The mighty oak gets uprooted in a storm; it is the reeds that sway with the wind and remain once the gale is over.

Aesop’s Fable about the Oak and the Reeds

Sometimes we set too many ambitious targets, not realizing the sheer volume of the individual tasks we might have to perform to work towards each of those targets (See Making to-do lists). Making effective to-do lists can sometimes save us from this oversight, and allow us to be more informed in terms of our commitments and to pause, reflect, and know whether we can take on any more or not.

On a slightly macro level, it’s probably a good idea to keep realistic milestones. Hoping to become a millionaire within 30 days of starting your job is probably not so realistic. Hoping to save up a certain amount by the end of six months, or buying yourself a new pair of shoes after three months, perhaps, is a more realistic target (perhaps too realistic).

Simon Sinek, speaking about millennials in the workplace, addressed this very issue by talking about how deeply we’ve become used to instant gratification in our social media culture filled with likes and responses and snapchat streaks. In such a culture, when we don’t find that instant gratification from our jobs, we feel distressed and we think this isn’t it. But is that really the best way to go about it? Can understanding this be the start of making a great change?


4. Structure [Your Day]

I have good news, bad news and a fact.

Fact: A day (still) has (only) twenty four hours.
Good News: The eight-hour workday for intellectually challenging jobs is an obsolete concept (it was created as a result of the industrial revolution to lessen the number of hours each labourer worked in a day).
Bad News: You’re probably working an eight-hour workday regardless, because that’s how things are, you’re still bottom of the food-chain, and society thinks that the longer you spend sitting at your seat, the more work you’re doing (which is extremely inaccurate).

Considering this paradox exists, and understanding that you can’t change it or convince your employer to let you work only three hours each day (unless you have a part-time job), the only thing you can in fact do is to structure your day better.

A) Start Off With the Important Tasks

Here is what Ron Friedman Ph.D., a leading psychologist, has to say:

Well, in many cases, most of us start out day by checking our email, or listening to our voice mail. It’s kind of the default. And I think we do it for some really well intentioned reasons. We want to be responsive to our clients, we want to be responsive to our colleagues, but being responsive first thing in the morning is really cognitively expensive. And for one thing, it’s because it prevents us from leveraging our best hours.

Typically, we have a window of about three hours where we’re really, really focused. We’re able to have some strong contributions in terms of planning, in terms of thinking, in terms of speaking well. And if we end up squandering those first three hours reacting to other people’s priorities for us … that ends up using up our best hours and we’re not quite as effective as we could be.

There is another reason to start off your day right, and that is because your willpower is a finite resource (there is new research that seems to contradict this, but for now, this article will go for the more well-established/researched notion):

[W]illpower isn’t just some storybook concept; it’s a measurable form of mental energy that runs out as you use it, much like the gas in your car.

Roy Baumeister, a psychologist at Florida State University, calls this “ego depletion” …

So what does this all mean? Aside from changing the reflex to reach out and grab our smartphones first thing we wake up (only to ‘mindlessly’ scroll through a social media feed or to begin worrying about all the unread emails before you’re even out of bed), it shows us the need to structure the day to prioritize the more intellectually demanding tasks. For instance, starting off with the article you’re trying to write and leaving the meetings and the emails for the second half of the day is not necessarily a bad idea.

B) The Pomodoro Technique

I know this sounds like a tomato, but that’s only because it’s named after one. It’s a technique I discovered while writing papers in College, and I know this technique greatly helped me power through those long essays on topics that still don’t make sense.

The image gives the basic summary of the Pomodoro Technique. You can find out more about this here. There are other studies that suggest the ideal work:break ratio to be 90:20, and so on, but the important thing is to understand the concept: breaks are IMPORTANT. You can tailor this to better suit the task at hand, and can change it accordingly. But remember, in the 25 minutes, you get to have no distractions. No peeking. No replying. No seeing who’s messaged. And in the 5 minutes, you can’t do anything work related. Complete break. If nothing else, it surely helps build discipline!

C) Don’t Take Work Home

Disconnecting yourself from work becomes vital after a certain point, say 5pm (except in cases of emergency, etc.), to preserve your sanity. This of course ties in with knowing your limitations and knowing how/when to set boundaries. The moment your work violates and crosses over the fine line between your work life and your personal life, you begin to lose your personal life, and you find yourself turning into a workaholic simply to cope.

Either of these situations is potentially harmful for your mental health, as well as your physical health. But, of course, means giving your work full and complete attention during your work hours and being honest with your work.

Countries such as France, realizing the need for everyone to cut-off from work and pay attention to their personal lives, have actually passed laws barring emails after-hours, referring to it as the Right to Disconnect. Just thought I’d put that out there.

D) Make More Effective To-Do Lists

One way to figure out if what you have on your plate is, in fact, attainable, is to make STRETCH goals that incorporate SMART goals (it almost feels like going back to Management 101 doesn’t it?).

Stretch goals refer to the more ambitious versions of the goal — the ‘end game’ so to speak. SMART goals are based on the acronym ‘SMART’:


I came across this concept in Charles Duhigg’s Smarter, Faster, Better, and so here’s an infographic involving Duhigg explaining this concept:

Another really interesting way to make To-Do lists that I recently came across is The Burner List. Effectively, you divide your list up the same way you would divide up your kitchen space while cooking. You focus on the front burner, you discard things in the kitchen sink, you keep an eye on the back burner and you use space on the kitchen counter to help you with your culinary masterpiece.

The main purpose of spending a little time to make these to-do lists at the start of the day and identifying your tasks clearly, is to help you approach them in a more directed fashion, rather than having to scurry about your mental resources figuring what you had to do and by when. It also helps you plan out your day, prioritize tasks based on deadlines, and gives you room to know when to say no.

E) Incorporate Some Down-Time

Much gets said about waking up early in the mornings and hitting the gym or getting some other form of exercise in, but very little gets said about the other end of the day.

One of my most prized discoveries on the interweb was coming across an article in the New York Times titled, Obama After Dark: The Precious Hours Alone. In this article, Michael Shear describes the former President’s routine after-hours. And reading it, I remember continuously thinking to myself, “How?”

Here is the man with the most rigorous job in the entire world. It’s the most stressful job, and everyone’s eyes are always locked in on you and what you do and what you say and how you do it. And yet, somehow, Obama managed to leave office in “excellent health” and also managed to quit smoking while holding office as POTUS.

So what was it that Obama did that set him apart?



President Obama in March 2009 reading letters from Americans in his private study late at night. Credit: Callie Shell/Aurora Photos

Mr. Obama calls himself a “night guy,” and as president, he has come to consider the long, solitary hours after dark as essential as his time in the Oval Office. Almost every night that he is in the White House, Mr. Obama has dinner at 6:30 with his wife and daughters and then withdraws to the Treaty Room, his private office down the hall from his bedroom on the second floor of the White House residence …

Michelle Obama occasionally pops in, but she goes to bed before the president, who is up so late he barely gets five hours of sleep a night. For Mr. Obama, the time alone has become more important.

“Everybody carves out their time to get their thoughts together. There is no doubt that window is his window,” said Rahm Emanuel, Mr. Obama’s first chief of staff. “You can’t block out a half-hour and try to do it during the day. It’s too much incoming. That’s the place where it can all be put aside and you can focus.” … 

To stay awake, the president does not turn to caffeine. He rarely drinks coffee or tea, and more often has a bottle of water next to him than a soda. His friends say his only snack at night is seven lightly salted almonds …

“I’ll probably read briefing papers or do paperwork or write stuff until about 11:30 p.m., and then I usually have about a half-hour to read before I go to bed, about midnight, 12:30 a.m., sometimes a little later,” Mr. Obama told Jon Meacham, the editor in chief of Newsweek, in 2009 …

Not everything that goes on in the Treaty Room is work.

In addition to playing Words With Friends, a Scrabble-like online game, on his iPad, Mr. Obama turns up the sound on the television for big sports games

The president also uses the time to catch up on the news, skimming The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal on his iPad or watching cable. Mr. Love recalls getting an email after 1 a.m. after Mr. Obama saw a television report about students whose “bucket list” included meeting the president. Why had he not met them, the president asked Mr. Love.

“‘Someone decided it wasn’t a good idea,’ I said,” Mr. Love recalled. “He said, ‘Well, I’m the president and I think it’s a good idea.’”

You can see his priorities. Granted, his job was not your typical 9-5 one. It was more a 24/7/365 one. But even then, he carved out time to have dinner with his family, to read for half an hour before bed, to unwind with his iPad or by watching sports games on the television.

It is this time, this me-time that is so crucial and so important to allow one to keep going through the rigorous routines that we end up creating for ourselves and/or falling prey to. This is the time where we have complete control over what we do and how we do it — do you really want to waste it on Facebook or sending perishable selfies on Snapchat?

Make sure to take out some time each day to do what matters to YOU. Read. Watch TV. Play a console game (a study in 2015 actually showed that video games greatly help reduce stress!). Meet friends. Clean your room. Write a journal (the act of ‘journaling’ has also been linked to lower stress and managing anxiety). There’s so much you can do!


5. Sleep

In our chase to our ‘dreams’ or our ‘goals’ or meeting any deadline a superior has set for us, the first thing we think of sacrificing is our sleep, because it feels like an unnecessary block that’s taking up precious time that we have. I can’t begin to tell you how untrue that is.

The benefits of sleep include mood regulation, increasing your attention span, boosting creativity, aiding your body’s natural healing process, repairing your immune system, and so on and so forth. You can read more on this here.

Arianna Huffington, in her book Thrive, talks extensively about the benefits of sleep, based on her own experience of going with the tide of this fast-paced world, and eventually finding herself “lying on the floor of [her] home office in a pool of blood.”

I had collapsed from exhaustion and lack of sleep … 

[A]fter my fall, I had to ask myself, was this what success looked like? Was this the life I wanted? I was working eighteen hours a day, seven days a week, trying to build a business, expand our coverage, and bring in investors. But my life, I realized, was out of control. In terms of the traditional measures of success, which focus on money and power, I was very successful. But I was not living a successful life by any sane definition of success. I knew something had to radically change. I could not go on that way … 

Over time our society’s notion of success has been reduced to money and power. In fact, at this point, success, money, and power have practically become synonymous in the minds of many. 

This idea of success can work–or at least appear to work–in the short term. But over the long term, money and power by themselves are like a two-legged stool–you can balance on them for a while, but eventually you’re going to topple over. And more and more people–very successful people–are toppling over … 

The Western workplace culture–exported to many other parts of the world–is practically fueled by stress, sleep deprivation and burnout … Even as stress undermines our health, the sleep deprivation so many of us experience in striving to get ahead at work is profoundly–and negatively–affecting our creativity, our productivity, and our decision making.


So perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate the importance of getting a good night’s rest? Try it. It might just work wonders!

6. Pursue Your Passion (But Smartly)

Left, right, centre. All you can hear being thrown at your from all sides is this one-size-fits-all advice: Follow Your Heart! Pursue Your Passion!

You don’t really know what to do with this advice. You’re not really sure how to incorporate it, or whether you can afford to. But it appeals to you. It resonates with you. It’s something you really want to do. That’s why you went to a good college for nearly half a decade. You want fulfillment. You want to find your ‘purpose.’

Except, you don’t know how to go about finding your purpose or your passion. And so you start knocking on doors, asking others how you can find your passion. Not recognizing the paradox in that very act.

Conversely, you do know what you want to do. Except. It doesn’t pay. There is no market for it. What do you do? Your job offers you financial security. But if you leave it, what will you do? How will you survive? Interestingly, leaving your existing job is not the only way to start following your passion. It’s a misconception that has been ingrained into us through social media and watching the people who’ve made it.

The real challenge is to make the most of the time you have. To really give it your everything. To make sure you use your time, the time after your job ends and you clock out (physically, mentally, emotionally) of your job, and you start to focus on what YOU want to do! It’s about that extra work and that effort, and as Gary Vaynerchuck puts it — the Hustle. Are you one of those people who want the actualization of their passions without having to make sacrifices?

And yet, despite hustling and thinking you’re giving it your everything, you might still fail to have a great career. You might still fall short of your ‘dreams’ and your ‘passions’ and where you thought you wanted them to take you. Don’t take my word for it, but do listen to Larry Smith:

Whatever you choose to do, make informed decisions. Don’t make rash decisions, don’t jump into decisions when you’re feeling an extreme of any emotion (happiness, sadness, anger, anything). Make sure you practice the pause (later in this article) and you reflect, and then you see which decision is better (one way of doing this is looking at the short-term and the long-term implications of your decision).

7. Don’t Be Hard on Yourself

Being your harshest critic is going to do you no good: everyone else is already doing it for you, and there is no reason for you to replicate their efforts, and micro-manage that aspect of your life as well.

It’s the easiest thing in the world to go out and find someone to ridicule you. To be kind to yourself (this ties in with knowing your limitations, and understanding that no one else can really understand those), that is the harder task, and that is the task you must take upon your own self.

See. People loosely treat you based on the way you treat yourself. Your treatment of your own self often serves as the benchmark for other people to understand how it’s okay (or not okay) to treat you. Which means if you keep beating yourself up all the time, and you keep relying on self-depreciating humour, others are going to question your self-worth and, subsequently, treat you accordingly.

If there is one thing I really hope you take out time to watch, it is this:

8. Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

There is nothing I can say that Steve Jobs did not say in his 2005 Commencement Address at Stanford. Except to lead you to him, so that you, too, might find inspiration in his words and his way of thinking.

But if I could extract some relevant quotes from his legendary speech and put them in front of you, they would have to be:

It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on.

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

9. Empathize

Have you ever found yourself wondering what the use of your education is? You feel you’re learning everything you need to know on the job and you question what you’ve ever been taught or what you’ve ever learned. Don’t.

Education, or any knowledge that you acquire, or anything you learn, is invaluable and priceless. Because it is only through doing so that we can truly understand what empathy is and learn to practice it in our daily lives. Allow David Foster Wallace to add perspective to what each day could potentially look like (if they were to incorporate empathy, mindfulness, awareness and presence), from his famous Commencement Address at Kenyon College, titled This is Water:

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”

10. Practice the Pause

This isn’t something you haven’t come across already in this post. But it’s something I wanted to leave you with: practice the pause.

This is your down-time. This is the time you spend for yourself.

This is the silent reflection.

This is remembering to breathe.

This is remembering your self-worth. This is remembering you have value.

This is remembering it’s okay to not be okay.

This is empathizing. This is responding and not reacting.

This is the self-care that you’ve put aside for too long.

This is slowing things down and choosing to not play the fast paced game life tries to force you into.

It’s summed up perfectly by Matt Haig in Reasons to Stay Alive:

The world is increasingly designed to depress us. Happiness isn’t very good for the economy. If we were happy with what we had, why would we need more? …

To be calm becomes a kind of revolutionary act. To be happy with your own non-upgraded existence. To be comfortable with our messy, human selves, would not be good for business. 

Yet we have no other world to live in. And actually, when we really look closely, the world of stuff and advertising is not really life. Life is the other stuff. Life is what is left when you take all that crap away, or at least ignore it for a while. 

Life is the people who love you. No one will ever choose to stay alive for an iPhone. It’s the people we reach via the iPhone that matter. 

And once we begin to recover, and to live again, we do so with new eyes. Things become clearer, and we are aware of things we weren’t aware of before. 

And how do you achieve that calm? What does that ‘calm’ entail? Why is it so important? To this end, I’ll leave you with the following excerpt from Haemin Sunim’s The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down:

We know the world only through the window of our mind.
When our mind is noisy, the world is as well.
And when our mind is peaceful, the world is, too.
Knowing our minds is just as important as trying to change the world.


No matter what happens: 

Believe in yourself.

You get one shot at living your life.

Go and make the most of it!


Credits for Featured Image:



  1. Hey, Abeer. Thank you for writing this. This is so beautiful! I always look up to your stuff and whatever that is what you have to share.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s