As I mature into my thirties, they’re two things that I’ll always regret.

    1. Not starting stand up comedy earlier, because I was embarrassed of eating shit in front of my friends.  I thought I would bomb and they would tell me to quit, even though we know now that NOBODY does well at the start and you have to keep pushing at it.  Eventually, I did try it about 10 times without telling a soul and failed nine out of those ten times.  By then, I was a bit older with fewer college friends around and a smaller support system of jobless buddies you have when you’re younger.  I was 26, nervous, voice shaking and in envy of a 21-year-old that commanded the stage who started when he was 18.  He had the balls to take risks earlier and get a three-year head start whereas I was still trying to figure out how I would hide my open mic attendance on Facebook so my friends wouldn’t come.  Don’t get me wrong – I had a job and financial responsibilities so I didn’t have the luxury to jump into art or a startup type field right away – but looking back I know I could have done both.  I was honestly just scared of being judged, embarrassed and failing at something. The thought of awkwardly making conversation with my friends after I tanked on stage was actually scarier than going on stage itself.
    2. Being nervous to ask girls out by simply saying “Hey, do you want to go out?” I always knew something was off here, I mean…this is 51% of the population.  Why does literally “every other person on planet earth” feel more intimidating than an interview with Elon Musk?  Why do we have to grab their attention through social media likes and glances at parties instead of just saying “Hi.”  It was surprising, even after joining the comedy world, where I was doing shows for 20, 200 or 2000 people –  I was still nervous to ask a girl out for coffee, often times my insecurities about rejection being my own worst enemy.  So when I finally decided to risk putting myself out there I was shocked that girls actually said yes.  And then I kept trying that – and realized wow, this was all in my head.  Damn you Hollywood and Bollywood and pop culture for confusing the fu*k out of me.  Everybody is scared to admit that they’re looking for something that everybody is looking for.  Online dating was something you’d get made fun of for when you were younger (as opposed to seeking the approval of a stranger whom you met at a noisy bar by chance) and now it’s the norm.  I’m happy where I am and not saying I wished a had a girlfriend earlier, but I could have saved a lot of time and mindless braincells trying to ask a girl out directly instead of shoving my groin at her while drunk at some bar.  (Shut up, you know you’ve done it once).
Engineering Talk

This was a fun TedX Talk

Do you see the similarities here? So much of life is dictated by what others will think of us. In fact, we spend more time wondering what people will think rather than trying to accomplish things that will get them thinking about us in the first place.  And that’s a massive problem.  It’s analysis paralysis.  Pandoras box.  Moore’s law in engineering says (roughly) that the cost of computing will go down as performance goes up (e.g. your iPhone will get smaller/cheaper while speed increases).  Well similarly in life, your number of friends will get smaller and your regrets/failures will increase as you think about that circle of people you were so worried about pleasing, many of whom are now just random blips on your newsfeed.  You don’t want to try that startup, ask that person out, switch that career, attempt that certification, pursue that hobby or ask for that raise…because you don’t want people to react by your bold new moves.  And if you don’t try and take risks and make attempts to accomplish whatever it is you’re looking for – well…they’ll probably never react at all.

There is a quote I tried googling for (please comment if you know the real one and I’ll update it) that went along the lines of:

When I was in my twenties, I cared about what the world thought of me.
When I was in my thirties, I didn’t care about what the world thought of me.
When I was in my forties, I realized the world never thought about me at all.

 

I often get teased by my friends about the stuff I do online, especially the missteps.

“Dude, what the hell was that last YouTube video about?? It was so lame.” OR “Dude, your snapchats are all of your dogs or donuts. I don’t care.”   And you know what, sure, I’m happy to take criticism and I appreciate those comments.  It’s a bit sneaky but in entrepreneurship, that’s what friends are for sometimes…A free focus group so you can improve on things.  Thanks guys for letting me use you 🙂  Feedback is important, and if you launch a product or service and everybody hates it, sure…you should probably care what people are thinking and saying.  That sort of thinking, I’m on board with.

Selfie Self Conscious

Trust me – this was embarrassing.

However, on the flip side (you knew I was going to try to prove my own point) they’re a bunch of people who will make comments like these because they’re projecting their own insecurities.  They crop/filter/hide every single Facebook or Instagram photo.  They monitor every status, every comment, every perception of themselves both online and offline.  When you’re in the moment and take a good snap, all they care about is how they looked and then you end up being an Executive Director having to take 5 different takes of the same group photo, until their shot is right.  And honestly…why?  You’ve seen the uncle at the beach with his paunch hanging out that’s the life of the party, and you’ve seen the self concious guy/gals hiding in the corner acting like they’re enjoying reading their books while checking their 100 likes on Instagram, while not enjoying the moment.  Which one, at the end of the day, would you really enjoy being? Ideally – maybe try and be both?  It’s ok to care what people think.  But don’t get scared at what people might think.  See the difference?  Real life is #noFilter.

The reason we're insecure

To be clear, I’m not saying live your life with an “I don’t give a shit” attitude.  You should take advice and criticism openly – because it only makes you better.  But hindsight is 20/20, and the same people who might tell you that’s a bad idea or you’re not good enough are the same ones who will pat you on the back when you do succeed.  Welcome to life, this is how it actually works.  Your friends are not evil, but them not wanting you to risk failure is a failure in itself.  

 

Sanjay is a stand up comic, writer, video maker and always switching between skinny and fat.  Say hi on twitter: @SMANAK