20 list
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20 things I’ve learned as a creative person in my 20’s

by Will Deutsch

1. If you want somebody to read something, make it into a list. You guys frigging love lists. About anything. If it is in list form you will read it. Seriously, most of my Facebook feed is just links to lists. Case in point, you’re reading this.

2. The 20’s goes in three phases: Phase One (early 20’s): Nothing turned out how I thought it would. Phase Two (mid 20’s): Nothing turned out how I thought it would and I am angry/stressed/scared. Phase Three (late 20’s): Oh I get it! NOTHING IS REALLY EVER GOING TO TURN OUT HOW I THOUGHT IT WOULD BECAUSE I DON’T HAVE CONTROL OVER EVERYTHING/ANYTHING. So I should learn to relax.

3. Build a backbone, not a wishbone.

4. John Lennon was right: karma is instant. That’s not to say that every jerk you come across is going to get punched in the face, but rather that having been a jerk myself, it doesn’t feel good the moment that it is happening. I’ve never been intentionally mean when I was feeling really great about life and my place in it. That is to say, when you see the jackass: pity him/her as their attitude is their punishment.

5. Don’t be a jackass (yes, it took well into my 20’s to learn this).

6. Friends are like teeth: if you ignore them, they go away.

7. If there is such a thing as universal truth, it exists in cliches. These are ideas that are held to be so true, that they’ve become mundane in their repetition. So pay attention to bumper stickers.

8. Go to the dentist. Go to the doctor. Floss. Eat a salad. Skip dessert. It’s a long life. As Mickey Mantle once said ‘If I’d known how long I was going to live I would have taken better care of myself.’

9. If you work as an artist of any kind, people (usually much older people) will occasionally give you a look of deep concern and pity when you tell them what you do. Do not be offended by these people. It is envy disguised as sympathy. Everybody wants to tell you what you can’t do because they couldn’t do it.

10. To that point, you can be an artist and still eat three meals a day, have health insurance and contribute the maximum amount to your Roth IRA. But you have to be smart/work hard. There’s a difference between a day job and a fallback plan. The former allows you to do what you want, the latter prevents you from it. It’s okay to tell people what your day job is. I guarantee you that almost every writer/actor/director you meet in this town has/had one. And if they’re not a total douche, they’ll respect you for it.

11.The best way to have what you want is to want for very little. And frankly, you don’t need much.

12. When you are stalking somebody else late at night on Facebook, gazing at their pictures, try to understand that somebody has done the exact same thing to you.

13. Dance (though technically I learned this one in my teens).

14. When you feel like a depressed human being completely incapable of experiencing happiness and think that you’re messed up, realize that you have the capability to be happy as well. And when you are, you will have earned it. And there are few things in life more admirable than somebody with an earned happiness.

15. It’s not for nothing. What I mean by that is that all of your hard work, dedication and follow through to doing what you want to do has both merit and value. And I don’t mean that in a ‘slap it on a bumper sticker kind of way.’ I mean that logically there are only two options when you follow your dreams: either you will succeed or you will fail. Simple as that. Now, if you succeed…. great! But what if you fail? What if you spend your lifeblood attempting to achieve your heart’s deepest desires and you fall flat on your face? Where is the god damn value in that? And having fallen flat on my face many many times, I would say this: When you do so, you have two choices, you can keep going or you can quit. Now… if you keep going… more power to you… you will be left again with two possibilities: success or failure. But what about when you quit? When you say, To hell with it! I’m done!! I’ve done everything I can/am willing to do and I can do no more! I am finished! And here is my argument: If you truly follow your intuition/dreams/passion and you fail and fail and fail and fail until you can no longer go on… you will have finally made peace with it. You can finally go on living the rest of your life no longer wondering what might have been, and moreover you can fully inhabit the life you choose precisely because you chose it. Having a dialogue with your dreams is not always about success… sometimes the nature of that dialogue is failure, but the point is that you were honest/authentic/brave enough to have that conversation. And you will have something much richer than happiness. You will have contentment. Because that thing/that voice that wouldn’t shut up, that caused you to go down this path in the first place, will finally have quieted.

16. There will be people on your Facebook that you literally don’t remember who they are, but you randomly friended them one day. Inevitably, these people will wish you a Happy Birthday.

17. You’re going to die. So nothing in your life matters. But you’re going to die. So everything in your life matters. Who you become is how you delineate what matters and what doesn’t.

18. Things don’t get better. You do. And sometimes things actually get better!

19. Guys, nobody needs to smell that much cologne on you.

20. I’ve been wrong about many things, I could be wrong about most of these.

Will Deutsch

About Will Deutsch

Will Deutsch is an Oscar nominated actor and seasoned illustrator who graduated with a degree in neuroscience from Yale University. He is also an occasional bold faced liar. To see which one of those things is true, visit Notes From The Tribe. Follow him on Twitter @willdeutsch