Tim Minchin is an Australian musician, comedian and actor. Last year he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Western Australia and asked to give some guidance to the students on things he had learnt travelling the world, being himself and his ideas on being a successful person.
For his speech he made a list of nine life lessons, to echo the nine lessons and carols of the traditional Christmas service. Some are simple and easy to achieve, some are harder and some will make you question your being and what you need to do to achieve a meaningful and successful life.
1. You don’t have to dream
If your dream is big enough to be a life-long effort it will give you something to do with your time, but by the time you reach it you’ll be almost dead so it won’t matter.
Rather be micro-ambitious. Put your head down and work with pride on whatever is in front of you… you never know where you might end up. Just be aware that the next worthy pursuit will probably appear in your periphery.
2. Don’t seek happiness
Happiness is like an orgasm, if you think about it too much it’ll go away. Keep busy and aim to make someone else happy, and you might find you get some as a side effect.
3. Remember, it’s all Luck
Whether you were born rich or poor, what you do with it will allow you to define it as luck.
Understanding that you can’t truly take credit for your successes, nor truly blame others for their failures will humble you and make you more compassionate.
Empathy is intuitive, but is also something you can work on, intellectually.
Play a sport, do yoga, pump iron, run… whatever… but take care of your body. You’re going to need it. Most of us are going to live to be nearly a hundred and even the poorest of us will achieve a level of wealth that most humans throughout history could not have dreamed of.
5. Be Hard on Your Opinion
.A famous bon mot asserts that opinions are like arse-holes, in that everyone has one but I would add that opinions differ significantly from arse-holes, in that yours should be constantly and thoroughly examined.
We must think critically, and not just about the ideas of others. Be hard on your beliefs. Take them out onto the verandah and beat them with a cricket bat. Be intellectually rigorous. Identify your biases, your prejudices, your privilege
6. Be a teacher
Please be a teacher. Teachers are the most admirable and important people in the world. Share your ideas. Don’t take for granted your education. Rejoice in what you learn, and spread it.
7. Define yourself by what you love
I see it all the time online, people whose idea of being part of a subculture is to hate Coldplay or football or feminists or the Liberal Party. Try to also express your passion for things you love.
8. Respect People With Less Power Than You
“I have, in the past, made important decisions about people I work with — agents and producers — based largely on how they treat wait staff in restaurants. I don’t care if you’re the most powerful cat in the room, I will judge you on how you treat the least powerful. So there.”
9. Don’t Rush
You don’t need to already know what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. Most people who were sure of their career path at 20 are having midlife crises now.
You will soon be dead. Life will sometimes seem long and tough and, god, it’s tiring. And you will sometimes be happy and sometimes sad. And then you’ll be old. And then you’ll be dead.
There is only one sensible thing to do with this empty existence, and that is: fill it. Not fillet. Fill. It.