“What is the greatest lesson you have learned in your life, distilled into a single sentence?”
This was a question some guy asked on the 67 Steps facebook group.
I saw this, and I was like… wooaaahhhh… this is deeeeeeep! Two hours later, I’d written every single answer, all 160 of them, in my journal.
Now, I want to share them with you. It’s an incredibly reflective exercise.
Before you dive into the deep-end of thought and introspection, here’s a couple of points:
First, some will speak to you more than others. And when you find those, ask yourself why? Why do these speak to me? What is this telling me about myself?
Secondly… books are powerful because they’re often someone’s entire career distilled into a few hundred pages. Now, we’re talking about someone’s entire life distilled into a single sentence. If books are powerful, this is 100x that.
Tony Robbins, in Awaken The Giant Within, said there are three decisions that control every moment in our life.
- What we focus on.
- What things mean.
- What to do in spite of challenges that may appear to limit us.
Let’s talk about #2 – what things mean to us…
First, a story.
He was an alcoholic. He was a drug addict. And he was put in prison for trying to murder a shop clerk.
He had two sons. One became a successful businessman, who had an amazing family, who was loved by his community, had many friends, and made the world a better place.
The other became the carbon copy of his dad. He did drugs, he became an alcoholic, and he too was put in prison.
Both brothers were asked, unbeknown to the other, why did you turn out this way?
Both gave the exact same answer. How could I have become anything else, given who my dad was?
The story shows the massive power of meaning. Specifically, the meaning that we attach to the events in our lives. By attaching opposite meanings to an abusive dad, they led opposite lives.
Nowhere is the power of meaning more apparent than in the 160 sentences below. The greatest lessons in people’s lives show you exactly the meaning they’ve attached to the events in their lives.
For example, “That no matter how nice people are they all have problems that they will put off on you.”
This person has obviously been treated badly by people. And now, they’ve taken that, and translated that to everyone. What must this person’s life look like? If I thought everyone in my life has problems that they are going to put off on me, I imagine my life would suck. How could I have a romantic relationship with someone if I thought they were trying to put a problem off on me? How could I have amazing relationships with my friends, my parents, my sister if I thought, deep down, they all had problems they were trying to put off on me?
This is just one example. There are hundreds more.
One of the quotes Tony Robbins lives by is Life happens for us, not to us. I have no idea if that would be his greatest lesson in one sentence, but damn, is that infinitely more empowering than “Life’s a bitch, and everyone’s out for themselves.”
“Life happens for us, not to us.” vs “Life’s a bitch.”
I can tell you with 100% certainty who is living the kick-ass life that I want.
I invite you to use this as a reflective exercise. Ask yourself what these people’s lives must be like.. (It’s amazing how many polar opposites there are in the list below.) Think of your own limiting beliefs. Ask yourself exactly why those that speak out to you strike the chord that they do. What are they trying to tell you about yourself?
(Apologies for lack of speech marks. Spanish keyboard issues.) (Also, some are more than one sentence.. I guess they just got carried away.) (I’ve put in bold the ones that spoke to me the most at the time. Of course, I thought loads more were epic, but these were the ones that were most poignant at the time.)
P.S Bare in mind that these are from people who completed the 67 steps, so it’s not your average cross-section of people in society.
What is the greatest lesson you have learned in your life, distilled into a single sentence?
“Nothing is forever, for in a New York minute everything can change.”
“We get what we deserve.”
“Learn self-defense and PASE.”
“We have a lot more control than we think.”
“Do what it takes to stay present.”
“There is not one person you can’t learn from.”
“You cannot change who you are, without changing the source of your knowledge because your knowledge is the birthplace of who you are.”
“You are not your mind, and you are not your thoughts.”
“Provide more value than you take in payment.”
“Life gives to the giver and takes from the taker.”
“The darkest hour is just before the dawn.”
“Worst case scenario they say no.”
“Time is running out.”
“Keep on going.”
“You only fail when you stop trying.”
“Complaining without acting is for losers.”
“Time is your most valuable asset.”
“The world doesn’t owe me anything, and if I don’t do anything with the gifts I’ve been given, then I don’t deserve to advance.”
“Your mind is like a double-edged sword: it can either be your greatest asset or your greatest liability.”
“An open mind today will save you from missing out on life tomorrow.”
“Never fear failure.”
“To thy own self be true.”
“Execution over everything.”
“To have faith that God really does answer prayers.”
“You are cause over your own life.”
“Every action you take/make, there is always a consequence, whether good or bad, appearing right away or years to come, there is always one.”
“Stay guard at the door of your own mind.”
“Having children opens your mind to so many things.”
“Your mes will become your message and your tests your testimony.”
“It’s all my fault.”
“Rely only on yourself.”
“Be Happy Now!”
“If you don’t go for it, you don’t get it!”
“Don’t spit in the wind.”
“Stop listening to other people and go with what your gut says.”
“I was raised being told how hard life would be chasing my dreams, but they neglected to mention how hard life would be if I didn’t.”
“Failure often leads to success.”
“Why tiptoe through life to arrive safely at death?”
“Move before you are ready.”
“The truth does not give a fuck about your opinion.”
“Adversity is the best teacher.”
“Nothing real can be threatened and nothing unreal exists.”
“Money follows knowledge: the more you learn the more you earn.”
“Love people even those that clearly don’t like you.”
“Every mistake is a lesson well learned.”
“You control your life through the control of your emotions.”
“Don’t take anything personally.”
“It’s nice to be important but it’s important to be nice.”
(Iain: I thought the word choice of “but” instead of “and” is fascinating. What does this say about the person’s values?)
“Don’t sleep on the power of reading.”
“That no matter how nice people are they all have problems that they will put off on you.”
“Control what you can and accept everything you can’t.”
“You can only change yourself.”
“We only get to be in our bodies for a limited time, why not celebrate the journey instead of merely riding it out until it’s over?”
“When you finally reach your goals… don’t be afraid to take a little break.”
“You’ll always regret the things you didn’t do more than the things you did.”
“Live with your decisions.”
“You first have to love and respect yourself before you can love and respect others.”
“God has a plan for each of us.”
“What you put out isn’t what you get back.”
“You attract what you are.”
“Consistency above all else is the key to success.”
“The Truth is always found in a paradox.”
(Me: The question is the answer. The meaning of life is living, because a man searching for the meaning of Life is not truly living etc..)
“Never stop growing and learning – applied knowledge can change everything.”
“Instead of thinking that achieving something or making things happen will make me happy, I’ve realised that when I’m happy, things will happen and I’ll achieve more.”
“Trying to stay humble.”
“Life is short, live it with passion.”
“Always be ready and willing to take responsibility for my actions.”
“Failure teaches a lot.”
“Stop comparing yourself with others. Compare yourself with who you were yesterday.”
“Detach yourself from the outcome. Whatever you do, do it because you want to. Apply this anywhere and everywhere: relationships, in business, while working out… It will change your life.”
“When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”
“Doing the opposite of what most people do.”
“Do not take anything for granted.”
“To read about inspiring people and treat them like a friend.”
“Today might be the last. Use it wisely.”
“Finish what you start.”
“You don’t have to answer every question you are asked.”
“Truth exists. However nobody knows it… So think for yourself.”
“Save money! Set an amount aside and use it for investing only, in a business.”
“Remember who you are.”
“I have opportunity and some people don’t so use it and be grateful.”
“You are your greatest obstacle for success.”
“Work and love.”
“Do good and don’t do evil.”
“Do unto others as you would like done onto you.”
“Cut the learning curve from 6 months to 6 days.”
“The person that is mighty is the one that has control over his mind.”
“Speak of what you want more of in life, not what you don’t want, because it’s true: thoughts become things.”
“Just here in my garage.”
“Believe in yourself and just don’t ever give up!”
“You are what you think! If you want to change or modify what you think change a few words to create a new thought.”
“There is no reason you are not enough.”
“God and family.”
“Engage brain before gear. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
“Life is tough: it’s even tougher if you’re stupid.”
“Live life, stop and smell the roses.”
“Hungry stomach, empty pocket and a broken heart teach you the best lessons in life….”
“Be and do what makes YOU happy; don’t get lost as a chameleon to other people’s desires for unsatisfying friendships, resulting in false relationships at the cost of your future success – especially in your late teens and early 20’s.”
“You can’t help everyone, but you can do your best.”
“I am worthy of what my hard work brings me in life.”
“That you only get what you deserve.”
“The race is not won by the slightest of foot, but bu he who endures it until the very end.”
“Do the right thing.”
“If the dream is big enough, the facts don’t matter.”
“Learn from past mistakes and move forward.”
“Life is what we make of it. It’s our choice how big or how small we go.”
“Be. Do. Have. In that order.”
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
“A tree falls the way it leans: be careful which way you learn.”
“Always ask a question!”
“Live your life and train it in such a way that no-one is coming to help you.”
“That I’m the only one who can change my life.”
“Believing is achieving.”
“Always be grateful for what you have.”
“Dream big and be grateful.”
“Focusing on only one thing.”
“My biggest lesson is every person in my life exists for a reason. Sadly most people are obligated with their opinion so they don’t want to listen to others.”
“The outcome of 99% of our interactions is based on attitude.”
“That you should allow everything in the universe to be what is, and allow yourself to be whoever you are.”
“Learning my own unlimited potential. Thoughts become things.”
“Time tells the truth: it is like a knife – it slices through falsehood.”
“If you have integrity and keep your word, everything you want will come to you – if you add all-out effort.”
“Some lessons are more expensive than others.”
“After my life experience, I know I can get through anything, the future can always be better than the present, you just have to keep moving forward.”
“Go all the way.”
“How to separate thoughts from awareness.”
“Don’t follow your passion.”
“Come from abundance.”
“Motivation is important, but what’s even more important is the discipline. If one lacks the discipline and works hard only when motivated, he’s not gonna develop his full potential.”
“Don’t listen to what people say, watch what they do.”
“Everyone has a plan to win the fight till they get punched in the face.”
“Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”
“Get out of your comfort zone.”
“Trust should be earned.”
“You cannot go wrong if you act from a place of love.”
“Let it go!”
“Take each and every experience of your life with open arms and an open mind.”
“Just do it.”
“It begins and ends with you.”
“You have two legs – get up and walk.”
“Don’t give a Fuck about other people’s opinions of you unless they’re living the life you want to live.”
“Be bold and do more than is expected of you.”
“You can’t teach pigs to fly.”
“If you pay peanuts you get monkeys.”
“Your greatest adversity if your greatest gift.”
“Stop waiting for a miracle.”
“You must allow time and the universe to catch up with your hustle and energy – be patient.”
“The answer is the question.”
One question and one question only…
What is the greatest lesson you have learned in your life, distilled into a single sentence?
photo credit: Neil. Moralee <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/62586117@N05/31207824122″>Hispanic.</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>