24 Things I’ve Learnt About Life by my 24th Birthday

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Perhaps my favourite photo. Taken when I was in the south of Spain on a retreat.

I’m happy to have reached my 24th birthday today. Over the past year, whenever I’ve told people my age, they were, most of the time, quite surprised. Either the maturity they perceived I had or what I’ve done so far in my life made it seem as if I was a little older.

People often say to me that I’m still young. This is only true to an extent. I’m young in comparison to those who are much older than me. But, the way we view age has changed considerably over the past couple of centuries. A 24-year-old man was, not so long ago, not young, or, to put it slightly better, he was not treated the way we treat 24 year olds today. We’ve made kids of men and this has negative repercussions for society: if a 24-year-old man cannot function like an adult, how can he look after his family, how will he be able to work in a job effectively and how will he be able to make the world a better place?

Having reached 24, I’m fully aware that I have a long way to go; there are some quite basic things that I haven’t yet grasped and the more I learn, the more I realise how much I don’t know. With this in mind, I wanted to share 24 things that I’ve learnt to be true about life: these all seem to be inescapable realities. I’m convinced that the vast majority of the things that I’ve noted won’t be different in 20-30 years time if I was to make the same list again, but we shall see.

  1. Most people will let you down

If you haven’t experienced it so far, you will definitely experience it at some point in your life. From your best friends to your family, you can’t rely on anyone. But don’t become cynical – it’s the way of the world; we are all, to an extent, selfish, but there is normally at least one person in your life who won’t let you down.

2. It’s not about how hard you work it’s about how successful you are

I’ve realised this more than anywhere else in the work place. You can give 100%, work more hours than anyone will know, but if you aren’t producing the results your company wants,  it’s just not good enough. In a sense, you have to work smart, not necessarily hard. Concentrate on what will make you produce the results and try to pull off something big every now and again. Big successes get noticed more than lots of tiny successes.

3. Posh restaurants are a waste of money

In the first year of my marriage, I went to loads of posh and expensive restaurants with my wife. Well, after racking up huge bills, I can definitely say that they were not worth it. Go to nice restaurants with good food, but avoid high-end restaurants, they really aren’t all that. Save your money – you won’t regret it.

4. Losing a parent at a young age will shake you

I lost my father at age 20. I feel sorry for those who lose their parents any earlier than this. I’m not sure what type of person I would have turned into if my father had died when I was a teenager. Luckily, I was fairly grounded by age 20. Nevertheless, it still shook me to my core and has changed my outlook on life. Since my father died I have never experienced ‘boredom’, whereas before, this was a regular feeling. I now try to use every minute of my day as productively as possible.

5. Things always work out

It sounds cliche, but I’ve found it to be true. One thing fails, and another prospers. You think you’re losing, but you are actually winning. One door shuts, another opens. But that other door opens up and something even greater occurs than what you ever expected. Perhaps it’s because I have faith in God that I see things more optimistically and relate every good that happens to my faith, but, regardless of whether we are believers or not, we should all recognise the good that happens.

6. Islamophobia isn’t going anywhere 

We can’t expect people of faith in a time of nihilism, atheism and materialism to be loved and accepted. It’s just not going to happen. How can Muslims, who have strong religious convictions, be accepted and treated like everyone else? You can read more about this in my blog here

7. This world will defile you

Whether we like it or not, we will all, to an a greater or lesser extent, become corrupted, our minds will become polluted and we’ll suffer from insecurities and neuroses because of the nature of modern life. No matter how hard we try to lead a life of virtue, the residue of the evil we’ve consumed will always fester within us and surface occasionally.

8. Nothing in life is truly fulfilling

This, I suspect, may change. But, to date, I’ve found nothing to be truly satisfactory. You can experience happiness, joy, love and fun, but they are all fleeting moments and then, all of a sudden, you’re back to reality, having to live with yourself and facing the challenges of life and its discomforts.

9. Never presuppose someone understands what you want 

Say things clearly and unambiguously. You can’t expect people to read your mind or understand the nuances of your language, especially if it’s by email or Whatsapp. Don’t give people the ability to misconstrue what you’re saying. Although, people are bound to do this anyway, as we all bring to life different experiences and the way they interpret your perfectly clear sentiments will often by tinged by their own experiences.

10. We’re all the same

We’re often shocked when religious people do terrible things, as if their religion is supposed to prevent them from any types of vice. This is an immature view of life. Religious people suffer from the same insecurities as anyone else. Yes, religion can transform souls, but it doesn’t always. Indeed, if misunderstood, religion can be a cause for real harm.

11. Life is unfair, so get used to it

Pretty self-explanatory. Tragedy will follow tragedy.

12. Keep a diary

Get a diary and make use of it. Also, check it every night before you sleep to check what your plans are for tomorrow.

13. Don’t argue with people

If someone is arguing with you, don’t expect them to change their minds – that’s the reason they’re arguing, they want to change your mind! Engage with well-meaning, sincere people.

14. You can learn more about life in two weeks than two years

One major life event or an encounter with someone or something can throw up more lessons than you can imagine.

15. Boys and girls, most of the time, can’t be best friends

Don’t delude yourself.

16. We all suffer from confirmation bias

We all have deeply fixed opinions about things which are hard to change, some suffer from this much more badly than others. You can show someone every evidence that they are wrong, but if they’re stubborn, you may find them unwilling to change.

17. Everything is in a state of change

Your friends will change. Your interests will change. Your beliefs will change. Your enemy may even become your best friend. Don’t be afraid of change, it’s a good thing. It’s how we evolve and grow.

18. The modern secular state has gone horribly wrong

Yes, there are many benefits, comforts and luxuries to modern secularism, but we have to admit that we’ve created a somewhat uncontrollable monster, one without direction, real purpose and core values.

19. Most Muslims have a romantic attachment to their faith

I speak only on behalf of my faith as I don’t have the expertise or experience to speak about another. But most Muslims roll off all these platitudes that “Islam is the solution”, “The Quran is the greatest book on earth” and the “Prophet is the best of human beings.” Okay, but how much do you know about Islam, the Quran and the Prophet aside from the odd things you’ve heard in Mosques and a few Youtube talks? Most Muslims have never taken the time to study their faith, and we wonder why we’re in such a mess.

20. Our lives are constantly on a thread

People are dying all around us. We may have all come close to death on a couple of occasions. But we still take our lives for granted – I suppose it’s a kind of mechanism to stop us becoming too morbid about life.

21. The world is a bad place, accept it

There’s not much we can do. We can only try to improve ourselves and those close to us. But even then, there’s no guarantee you’ll have much success with that either. But don’t become cynical. Do your best to help others but enjoy your life, you can’t spend your whole life worrying!

22. The world is a good place, accept it

Without bad, there would be no good. So we must experience darkness to see light. The sun rises everyday, trees are constantly blossoming, millions of loving mothers are suckling their babies right now and most people are still good. I find it hard to imagine that there is more bad than good in the world, it’s just that the bad catches our attention more easily.

23. Most people are money motivated

Don’t think you can get away without paying someone, or think that by paying them a small amount, they will provide the same service as someone who you pay full whack to. If you want a job done properly, be prepared to pay well (of course, don’t get ripped off). Unless you’re lucky, there are no shortcuts to excellence. (That last sentence sounds like a whole new point, doesn’t it?)

24. Don’t be fooled by appearance 

I’ve happened to work with quite a few large organisations and influential individuals to realise that there is a lot that happens behind the scenes that, if people were made privy to, would cause a lot of panic and disillusionment. So don’t base your judgement of a thing by it’s smooth, slick exterior, it may be rotten inside.

One Comment

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  1. “We can’t expect people of faith in a time of nihilism, atheism and materialism to be loved and accepted”
    And do ‘people of faith’ love and accept all others? Sure they do!

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