In January 2012, I woke up one morning and suddenly decided that I will say ‘yes’ today. I will say ‘yes’ today and every day for as long as I need to because at that point, I needed newness in my life. It hit me then that I am turning 30 soon, having already wasted the peak of my twenties feeling dead from the inside.
At first, the ‘yes’es were comfortable. After all, they came from deep within my comfort zone; those friends I’ve had for years, the things I was expected to enjoy, and the thoughts I’ve always had. Yes, I’ll go have coffee today. Yes, I’ll come shopping with you. Yes, I’ll have that extra drink.
But with every added ‘yes’ in 2012, I pushed the walls of my comfort zone further away.
Then one day almost a year later, I was reflecting on the amazing experiences I had and all the wonderful things I learned in 2012, and I was struck by the surrealism of it all. Last month, I galloped near the pyramids atop a horse I learned to ride in under five minutes, taught by an old Egyptian man who shrugged when I told him it was my first time. “It’s like driving a car,” he had said. “Move the rein right to go right, and move it to the left to go left. Pull it towards you when you want to stop. It’s easy.”
Yes, I said, and I grabbed the reins. Easy. Life is easy.
2012 was good to me, really good. And it all started with a decision to start saying ‘yes’.
Yet what really mattered in 2012 is that due to my game of yes, I discovered the secret to happiness: systems. Systemize your life, your thoughts, and your expectations. Once you have a framework — an algorithm, a system — to work with, you can spend every moment of your life taking your pleasure seriously.
Apply If/then statements to your life. Find joy.
Here are the things I learned in 2012:
1. If two contradictory things feel correct, check for a pretense, because one of them is wrong.
2. If you are feeling something uncharacteristically strongly, run a scan over all your feelings and emotions systematically. You’re bound to find that the cause of the uncharacteristic emotion is something much more basic.
3. You are much smaller than life, and thus your life doesn’t really mean anything.
4. Nothing beyond your now and your near tomorrow matters; we will all die. Live your life. There is nothing more satisfactory than thoughts of simple happiness and joy as you lay your head on your pillow every night: imagine what would matter on your deathbed.
5. Bubbles are beautiful. Nourish your bubble and grow it.
6. Happiness lies in two things: curiosity and amusement. Look at all moments in life no matter how prosaic with these two things and you shall live happily.
7. Love deeply. Love your job. Love your friends. Love the smell of the air. Love the places you frequent. Love your family. Love makes a difference.
8. Fail fast.
9. The best way to deal with nakad is to exterminate. Even if the cause is a person you love. Nakad is contagious. Exterminate all causes, instantly. (It’s hard to translate nakad for those of you who don’t speak Arabic, but it roughly means “gloom”).
10. Most things won’t matter a year from now, but you will be a year older, so don’t let things matter now either.
11. Just say yes. I know you don’t want to, but do it. Say yes.
12. The materialistic things you accumulate will depreciate with time. The only useful thing you will always keep with you is experiences. So, let yourself experience things, even if they seem crazy to you now. Look at every minute in your life as if you’re collecting powers in a video game. Collect the shit that counts for most points.
13. Think critically. Over 90% of what you’re told is bullshit.
14. Always ask “why?”.
15. Do what you feel like doing: occupy your present.
Happy New Year. I hope your 2013 will be as awesome as my 2012.
All the wonderful people in my life who made the year so beautiful: Mama, Hisham, Omar, Gus, Abed, 7abeh, Basem&Asil (and the baby), Yasmeen, Karma, Rosie, Maghi, Nour, Soori, Sara, Fufu, Amid, Shady, Shadi, Shereen, Bilo, Raphique, Mais, Peeka, Basma, Ibra, Elke, Ronald, Yogi, Jimi, Turtle Green, Negresco, and mafia.