Last year, noted Canadian psychologist and accused hatemonger Jordan B. Peterson released a book entitled “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos”. To make a long book short, it gives a list of rules to live by that will help you to get your life in order and help you overcome the chaos in your life. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. I took a lot of what it said to heart. I realized that I was committing a lot of sins in my life in the truest sense (the word sin originally means to miss the mark) and that I could be doing a better job. All of the rules are helpful, but one especially (tell the truth… or at least don’t lie) had serious staying power. I might not have gotten the rest of them down, but that one stuck. I found that, like most characters on nearly ever television show ever, most of the issues in my life were being caused by my untruthfulness, sometimes to others, but usually to myself.
But this isn’t about lying, or not lying, or telling the truth or not telling the truth. Do whatever you want. This, rather, is the idea that said book put into my brain. Rules for life, seemingly, were a good thing. I should, I thought, try to develop my own list.
Or at least figure out some sort of code to live by. That seemed like a good start. I wasn’t doing a whole lot of work at the time, so I had a lot of time to think through it.
It turns out I didn’t really need all that time. As I started to think more about this, a funny thing happened: it turns out that I actually already had a list of rules that I was living by. Well, sort of. They needed some refinement and a lot of them didn’t make a ton of sense, but there was something there. It’s not all good, and some of the language might offend you, but I’ll remind you about the big X in the corner on your screen if that happens to you. Besides, it can’t be any worse than the insane Lion King stans.
So, like Dr. Peterson, I’m going to publish my own rules for life. Some of them will probably work for you. Most of them won’t. It’s probably going to be a mixed bag. This first one though, bad title or not, should… even though it admittedly doesn’t make a ton of sense.
RULE ONE: DON’T GO HALFWAY TO THE GROCERY STORE
See, I told you it didn’t make sense. I’ll try to explain, but the titles on all of these aren’t always going to go from A straight to B. I had help throughout my life learning a lot of these lessons and a lot of the people that helped me figure them out aren’t necessarily straight-line people. But the message will be there. I’m telling the truth about that.
This particular rule has its genesis in 2007. I was a drunk, broke, out of shape, irresponsible college student who did more drinking and gambling than studying and note-taking. If you happened to know me then, I’m sure you’re both nodding your head and cringing simultaneously. If you didn’t, please don’t go look at my college Facebook photos, unless you want to feel what a simultaneous nod and cringe feels like. I partied, a lot, and I was pretty damn good at it.
But I wasn’t even the best partier in town. Or even in my own building. Not even close. The guys in the apartment across the hallway, save for one keg race, put me to shame. The wildest one of the bunch, possibly the craziest guy I’ve ever met, unironically called himself Seth Wishwingwishwer. He wore shorts every day of the year. He immediately lost his wallet after a 24 hour cross country road trip and laughed even more immediately when he figured it out. He took his clothes off at the beginning of a game of strip pong (to assert dominance). Those are the things I can mention here; the list is a lot longer and much more illegal. His nickname was the Perpetrator and he got that from NBC-15 in Madison. You don’t meet a lot of people who are truly larger than life. Seth is one of them. Anyone who knows him, hell, anyone who has met him once, would agree.
The first time we met was a whirlwind. I was amazed and scared but, mostly, I was curious. I’d never met anyone like him. He was so intense. I can imagine from the description above you’re picturing some kind of unhinged lunatic; that’s only partly true. When it was time for the perpetrator to give way, the professional always found his way out. While the rest of us slaved away in college, he was a rising star at Potbelly. When we started in Madison, there was one location. By the time we had left, there were three, and Seth pushed for and helped open all of them. He had no fashion sense and was totally unkempt, but women were still interested in him. Lots of women. Everybody loved him. And how could you not? He cheered louder than anyone, he was most excited for everything, he laughed the hardest at everyone’s jokes.
Needless to say this didn’t make a lot of sense to me. How did this guy who partied his ass off, didn’t go to school, and was seemingly insane manage this? Well, I did what college kid would’ve done; amid a cavalcade of ping pong balls (his clothes were on for this one) and High Life Lights, I awkwardly blurted the question out. Are you a real person? How do you do it?
He laughed. Hard, but not hard enough to hurt your feelings. I actually, strangely, felt good for asking and eliciting that response. That happens when someone you like acts genuinely. He gulped his beer, smiled, looked me square in the eyes and said “I never go halfway to the grocery store”.
And that was it. No further explanation. No discussion. We went back to our game and I was left to let that thought marinate in the swill masquerading as beer that I’d been putting down hours before it was reasonable to start doing so. Somehow, the more drunk I got, the more it made sense. Why would you just start driving to the grocery store and then turn around? Thirty cans in, that was crystal clear.
Which might be why it makes less sense now. So why don’t you go rip a few shots or shotgun a white claw and get back to me.
Done? Good. This next part should be absolutely sterling then.
You see, that answer wasn’t complicated at all. The answer was Seth. He never did anything halfway. He was always all in. And, he was GENUINE about it. He couldn’t have simply said “Jared, I never go into something to which I don’t intend on giving my best effort”. No. He had to make it whimsical nonsense. Because that’s who he has and, even in metaphor, he never went halfway to the grocery store.
Don’t start something you don’t intend to finish. Read that again. This rule is not, never give up and follow through. John Cena has that corner covered. The rule here is that you should not start something or involve yourself in something you don’t intend to truly commit to and follow through on.
Discretion is the better part of valor. And that’s important here. Because Don’t even leave to go the grocery store unless you’re sure you need to go. It’s very important to be careful about the choices you make and the things you commit to, because if you don’t, you’ll be drudging your way through aisle six with a frown on your face, and that’s even worse than turning around when you’re almost there. You’re probably going to be miserable and, if your trip involves other people, they’re probably going to be miserable too. There’s a good chance they may not like you. You definitely won’t like them.
Seth wasn’t a doormat. He didn’t just plod through on anything he got involved in. He was very careful about the things to which he was committed and he made sure that if he was going to do something, it’d be something he could follow through on. He knew when he needed to go to the store. When it was time to go he ran there as fast as he could. He didn’t pretend to be excited about the movies he didn’t want to see. He didn’t laugh at your joke if it wasn’t funny. He didn’t pretend to care about sports he didn’t want to watch and somehow that ended with the rest of us watching soccer and NASCAR. And liking it.
That’s important too. Tell the truth. Don’t lie to yourself about how devoted you are to doing something or it’s going to start feeling like an obligation rather than something to be enjoyed.
Think about the things you choose to do and be truthful to yourself in how interested you truly are in doing them. Don’t just dive into everything and drudge your way through it. You want a hobby? Find something you like and do the hell out of it. Don’t be the guy that buys a guitar and lets it collect dust in the corner. You want to start eating healthy? Figure out foods you actually like to eat, develop a plan that makes sense, and go for it. Don’t recycle the same five bags of freezer burned vegetables to lie to yourself that you’ll start soon. You find yourself interested in someone? Be sure about what you want, and when you are sure, be the best damn significant other you can. Don’t be the person out on a date lamenting about how terrible the entire process of meeting people is.
Sometimes you’re going to make mistakes, that’s okay. Sometimes you’re going to need to quit on things, that’s okay too. You’re not a robot, nobody is perfect, everybody has tapped out at some point in their life. We’ll cover that later. Sometimes you need to power through and sometimes you won’t like it. Sometimes you’ll need to choose to push through. But if I find that if you’re very careful about when you choose to commit to something, it’s going to be a lot easier to not quit. If you’re really interested in playing the guitar, for example, you’ll be more inclined to pick it up when you don’t want to if you gave it the thought it deserved before you started.
You’re going to be much happier when you’re on the way to the store. And in the store. And after. You’re probably going to be much happier all the time.
Does that make a little more sense now? I thought so. It’s not the best metaphor, but I committed to it, followed through, and in the end I’m happy with how this turned out. Good things happen when you don’t go halfway to the grocery store.