Words to Live By: The Power of Manifestos

A random conversation with a stranger that changes the course of your life. The lyrics of a song that transports you back to that endless summer. Kind words from mum at just the right time. A single phrase—“I have a dream”—that changed the world and defined the civil rights movement. Language is powerful. It changes lives. It helps us see the world through another person’s eyes. And when pen, paper, and emotion come together, we create words to live by.

Some of my favourite life advice is found in manifestos. Manifestos are big, bold, actionable declarations. They inspire change. They help us define core values, beliefs, intentions, opinions, motives, and so on. They can define us. Change the world. And start movements.

In this post, I’ll share some of my favourite manifestos. They all have practical advice that many of us can relate to. And use to live a better life. Let's take a look.

Advice, Like Youth, Probably Just Wasted on the Young

If you grew up in the nineties, you probably heard this manifesto packaged as the song Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen). It was actually an essay written by Mary Schmich, a Chicago Tribune columnist. It was first published in 1997. The essay is packed full of life lessons written as a hypothetical commencement speech. I’ve listened to it many times when life got heavy. You can listen to the music video or read the original essay below.

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ‘97:

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Sing.

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.

Stretch.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

The Holstee Manifesto

This is one of the most recognisable manifestos on the web. It’s also got a great back story. Created by brothers Dave and Mike Radparvar after they quit their jobs during the 2009 recession to follow their passion. They had no business plan. No experience in fashion. But they had a vision.

The brothers wanted to create a company that reflected their personal values and allowed them to have a positive impact on the world around them. One of the first things they did was write those values down. And so, the Holstee Manifesto was born and took on a life of its own.

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Lululemon Manifesto

The Lululemon Manifesto was the first corporate manifesto I read that didn’t sound like one big advertisement. It’s an evolving collection of bold thoughts on the culture Lululemon promotes. It's packed full of simple advice on living a healthy and happy life.

Apple’s Think Different Campaign

Think Different was an advertising campaign created for Apple in 1997. It was a huge success and helped put the then-struggling Apple back on the map. Despite being an advertising campaign, it contains good advice on thinking big and following your own path. Here's the video campaign and manifesto.

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently.

They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo.

You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.

Because they change things.

They push the human race forward.

While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.

Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Optimised Fitness Manifesto

Finally, there’s the Optimised Fitness Manifesto. Written by yours truly. I wrote this to remind myself and others that living a fit and healthy life doesn’t need to be complicated. It’s the antithesis of magic bullets and quick fixes. It’s about focusing on the basics that are essential for health and happiness; eat real foods, move regularly, and find your purpose.

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How to Use Manifestos

We’re bombarded by feel good statements telling us that we just need to think positively to have our heart’s desire. Or if we follow our passion we’ll live fairy tale lives. And while I think that positive thinking and finding your purpose are important, they’re useless without action. So, the point of this post is not to give you inspirational words that make you feel good for a few minutes out of your day. If these manifestos resonate with you, take the parts that you like and put them into practice. Here’s how you can use them:

  • Take one piece of advice at a time and try it out for two weeks. It could be “stop over analysing” or “sweat once a day” or “don't worry about the future.” You get the point, just test something out that you don’t currently do.
  • Print them out and look at them regularly. Especially when life gets tough.
  • Use them as inspiration to write your own manifesto. It can be for your eyes only or for the world to see. Take a stab at putting what’s important to you into words. Considering how well we think we know ourselves. It can be hard articulating the values and beliefs that we live by.

Do Something—Anything!

Don’t just consume information. If you’ve read this far, I’m assuming you find this post useful. You’ve now got two choices: 1) close the screen and think ‘that’s nice’ and move on with your day. Or 2) follow the strategy for putting manifestos into practice. Start with one test at a time. Make it so small you can’t fail. And as Nike says, just do it! Decision creates action. Action creates results.

I Need Your Help

I’ve also got a huge favour to ask of you. No, I don’t want your money. But will happily accept it! I’m trying to get this blog off the ground and I can’t do it without your help. Simply sharing this post on social media (you're so close to the share buttons—look down below) or emailing it to a friend makes a HUGE difference in my life. In return, I promise we can be best mates and you can reach out anytime. Seriously. If you need help with any health, fitness, or Jedi Knight goals you can contact me here.

You can also share some love by adding a comment below. Let me know what your favourite manifesto is. Or share some words of advice that have helped you in the past.

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