Rules 002 & 003:
Say yes. Strange food, games you’ve never played, dinner with your coworker you never talk to, dancing in public… YES! Life is short and a lot of the things that make it great are probably outside of your immediate comfort zone.
Say no. Don’t obsess about missing out just because people you know are doing it. If it doesn’t sound fun, or if there’s something you would rather do — even if that something is “sit at home and play Zelda” — just bow out. Trust your gut, it’s really smart.
Rule 001: Be candid. Honesty is more attractive than any attempt to be attractive. Tell people what you like about them. Tell people when they hurt your feelings. Tell people you want to kiss their face, or that you love them, or that they make you feel like a crazy person. Speak directly and simply. Argue when it matters. Don’t try to be or play it cool. Start by telling everyone about your manifesto and don’t bother with a long disclaimer. Your honesty will inspire others to do the same and put everyone’s intentions and feelings on the table, all the time. Ask for what you want instead of taking what you get. The answer might be ‘yes,’ and if it isn’t you’re better off knowing now. Get used to talking without trying to make people laugh. Don’t leave anything out with the people that matter and don’t bother with people who don’t. Establish honesty as a given when you make new friends. Admit your mistakes and request that others apologize for theirs. Don’t confuse honesty with being self-effacing or embarrassing yourself — honesty includes all of the good things as well as the bad ones. Maintain dignity! Don’t confuse gossip with honesty, either. Telling your own secrets is okay; telling other people’s isn’t. Honesty isn’t negativity, cruelty, or narcissism. Listening can be just as honest as talking. Don’t confuse simple, reasonable honesty with radical silliness. There is no reason to try to articulate blurry feelings or over-explain every detail The point is to be honest instead of internalizing, not to try to extract juicy confessionals out of everyday life. And remember: saying something out loud can sometimes make it true, rather than the other way around. Proceed cautiously, but let. it. out.
Rule 010: The past is internal. There are certainly events in your past that have had an affect on the now, but chances are you remember some of them wrong. In any case, you never have all the information, since your own perspective is the only one you have. So I suggest looking ahead. The embarrassing thing you did once that you assume everyone thinks about all the time? You’re the only one who’s thinking about it, and it may not have even happened the way you think it did. The person who you’re staying awake thinking about, wondering what their two-line text message last week really meant? If they have feelings for you, you’ll figure that out eventually. And… it’s harsh, but if you have to wonder so much about it they probably don’t. Yes, the past informs the present, and there are lessons to be learned. But that usually comes pretty naturally. Don’t make yourself crazy worrying about decisions that have already been made instead of thinking about decisions you have yet to make. The latter are the only ones that really matter now.
Rule 015: An informal study called my life shows that these are the things that people talk about at parties and bars:
- TV — either dissecting the new and “edgy”, or reminiscing about old shows everyone watched as a a child.
- Other people’s love lives.
- Their coworkers/boss/customers suck and are mean.
- The internet.
- How drunk, messed-up, tired, or wired they are.
My suggestion is that you force yourself every so often to talk about something else. Talk about your favorite birds, talk about interesting places you’ve seen and what made them different from here, talk about the worst haircut you’ve ever had, talk about death, talk about coffee, talk about sex, make original jokes, or even try something other than talking: drawing, dancing, or playing a game.
Obviously the topics mentioned come up so often for a reason -– they’re a big part of life, and they are easy things to discuss in a diverse range of people -– and they’re never going to go away completely, but I’m starting to get déjà vu. All the time.
I started writing a manifesto last year with the intention of self-publishing it anonymously and distributing it all over town with the aim to inspire others to think about what their personal manifestos might entail. The idea is not that I have any original wisdom to impart, nor that I am always a shining example of my own tenets. It’s more of a set of detailed personal goals than anything else, but the implicit rule that guides all the others is the idea that people can actually change and, in fact, should. Since I don’t know when if ever I will actually finish writing it, I’ve decided to start publishing selected (and disordered and barely edited, just for the record) pieces of it here. Parts of this were previously published on my now-defunct boingyboingy blog.
Rule 012: Don’t rely on the internet (read: face/space) to get to know people. This often leads to making the High Fidelity mistake and assuming that what people like is more important than what they’re like. Sure, it’s fun to notice that a boy you like shares the same taste in movies as you, but in reality it’s next to meaningless. Everyone hears, reads, sees, and likes things differently and for different reasons – and those reasons, which are impossible to summarize on a website, are what make people unique and amazing. There are thousands if not millions of people in the world who have the exact same favorite book as you. What makes you interesting is the why. It’s much more signifying to play a song for someone and see if they care to pay attention and if they have anything interesting to say about it than it is to simply note that they like the ‘right’ songs. It’s also fun to learn new things about people as you spend time with their actual faces. It’s a lot less fun to already know everything they might be excited to tell you about. Lastly, and I say this as a very enthusiastic and overt lover of lists and surveys: keep in mind that people are infinitely more complicated than any set of questions and answers. Studying someone’s facebook profile obsessively not only takes a lot of the fun surprises out of getting to know them, it can also lead to an unfortunate faux-familiarity that can lead you to be disappointed by what should be their actually much more exciting authentic self.