“In your twenties you’re becoming who you’re going to be and so you might as well not be an asshole.”
The thought of turning 21 this year scares me sometimes, because I always feel like I hadn’t done enough things in my life to be 20. Maybe it’s just the youthful restlessness running in my blood, I don’t know. Whatever it may be, I’d always return to the thought of the person I must fight to be, and the example I want to set for others.
I don’t smoke, I push myself in how much and how well I read every day, and I don’t waste my precious university life chasing chicks. These are some of the things I’ve been able to maintain fairly well in these years. And there are still plenty more I try to work on, and fail at, and try to improve on again.
A huge part in this process is, of course, choosing the right people to associate with.
There’s a Goethe quote where he said “Tell me with whom you consort and I will tell you who you are; if I know how you spend your time, then I know what might become of you”.
Jim Rohn went a little deeper by saying that “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”.
You get the point — The people you hang out with are a crucial factor in shaping who you are, and ultimately, how you’re going to end up.
I’m sure you’ve heard of that already, but have you ever stopped to really ask yourself, “Who are my friends? Have I become a better person by befriending them?”
Reflect on the habits and traits you want to have, and how your efforts in attaining them might have been stifled by the people you hang out with in some ways.
I won’t take the time to explain how a friend could influence the actions we take. That’s just how life works anyway.
If you want to work on praying five times a day, spend more time with people who do. If you want to have more positivity in your life, associate yourself with positive people, or those who are well-read.
If you decide that it’s costly for you to be around people who bring you down, leave them. Forget the drama for a moment. Part of becoming a better person is to say no and to be okay with letting a few tiny bad things happen in the present.
It would also help a lot to have a role model.
In one of his letters, the Stoic philosopher Seneca talked about “choosing yourself a Cato”, or “someone whose way of life as well as words, and whose very face as mirroring the character that lies behind it, have won your approval”.
He advised us to “be always pointing him out to yourself either as your guardian or as your model”.
There’s a need to have someone for us to benchmark ourselves against, and if we can, ask for advice from, because as Seneca wrote, “Without a ruler to do it against you won’t make the crooked straight”.
Today you can learn a lot from a person who is continents away, or whom you’ve never even met before, thanks to the Internet. Or you can even gain many valuable lessons from biographies of famous people in history. Take charge of this opportunity.
And of course, this applies just as much to having someone as a model of who you don’t want to be like.
Identify which traits you share with the person who troubles you, and take him or her as a cautionary example of why you shouldn’t be acting in the same ways.
That will be the best revenge.