“We’re flawed because we want so much more. We’re ruined because we get these things, and wish for what we had.”
-Don Draper | Mad Men
In AMC’s Mad Men, Don Draper works in the advertising business during the 1960’s in New York City. He has a beautiful wife, kids, a great job, and what looks like the perfect life.
Except he’s lying, cheating, and oh yeah, it turns out he’s a con man, too.
The first three seasons of the show are dedicated to his family falling apart. As his secrets come screaming into the light, his wife leaves him, his kids start hating him, and the company he works for falls apart, too.
The quote above is something he writes in season four, looking back on the mistakes he’s made and wishing for what he had.
It’s a very nostalgic show, and I think it proves the point I’m about to make in this article.
Maturity is understanding how lucky we are. It’s understanding what we already have is a miracle.
Let me talk about maturity for a second and what it does to our brain.
What Maturity Actually Is
The definition of maturity goes like this…
“The ability to respond to the environment in an appropriate manner.”
Let’s not talk about all the ways different countries define “appropriate” for now. Let’s just focus on general rules of thumb seen in many cultures like expressing gratitude for services, taking care of your parents when you get older, and looking out for your own safety.
Maturity also means developing a clear understanding of life’s purpose, directedness, and intentionality. This, in turn, makes us feel like life is meaningful.
Maturity Is Going From Selfishness to Unselfishness
Based off these definitions it seems to me that immaturity and selfishness go hand in hand. As a child we’re the most selfish version of ourselves. This selfishness is why children do NOT know how to react to their environment.
Crying for 20 minutes because our parents declined our request for McDonald’s is not a great way to respond to our environment.
Children also give little thought to safety, other human beings, and they don’t always understand that their actions have consequences.
It’s like looking at the world through a keyhole. We’re taking in maybe 1% of what the world has to offer because our brains aren’t developed yet.
Then as we age we learn, take on responsibility, and understand there’s a world bigger than ourselves out there.
We stop saying whatever we want to our parents because we know some words could hurt them. We volunteer. We develop friendships and do things out of love for them, not selfishness.
In one of my favorite movies — *ahem* — The Mask Of Zorro —old Zorro Anthony Hopkins trains the new Zorro played by Antonio Banderas.
At one point they stand in a big training circle with three different-sized spheres, and Anthony tells Antonio that as his skills improve, the “spheres” of his world will contract bringing him that much closer to his adversary — the man who killed his brother.
Think of maturity like that, except it’s in reverse. We start out in a small sphere as children, and as we mature that sphere quadruples in size as we start understanding everything else that’s out there.
Maturity Helps Us Understand How Insignificant We Are
Based off my own take on maturity, it seems as though maturity is a never-ending game — and it is!
We are constantly learning new things, which means our spheres are always expanding. Now take this to the biggest physical extreme you can.
Think of the room you’re in. Good, now think of the street you’re on, then the city you reside in, then the country, then the planet, then the solar system, and galaxy after that.
Now think of the entire universe. A collection of 10 billion galaxies (that we can see, at least) spreading to what seems like infinity.
Now look around the room you’re in again.
Your body was just flying across the cosmos. You saw vast nebulas, suns, solar systems, planets, and black holes (okay, maybe you didn’t actually see those).
Our solar system is just one of many in our own galaxy — and there’s 10 billion other galaxies out there!
“Our world hangs like a magnificent jewel in the vastness of space. Every one of us is a part of that jewel. A facet of that jewel. And in the perspective of infinity, our differences are infinitesimal.”
This is mind-bending stuff, no? It lends a different perspective, which most times leads to new beliefs and realizations. Some of these realizations can be life-changing.
Maturity Is Knowing How Lucky You Truly Are
In May last year I booked a one-way ticket to a province in the Philippines. When I arrived, I was shocked at what I saw.
The huts people were living in, the countless stray dogs, the physical shape of the locals. It all shocked me very much.
Over the course of 4 weeks, my world expanded more than it had the past 4 years combined. I saw with my own eyes what these people were struggling with, and this vast expansion in perspective tossed, flipped, and torqued my brain around like it was in a washing machine.
By the end I was a new person. I was saying new things in my videos and blog posts. I got grateful.. I got really, really grateful for what I had in America.
Now I live here full-time. I love it here and I may never live in America again.
The definition of maturity is responding to your environment in an appropriate manner…
Well, how do you respond to life itself? The fact that you’re breathing? The fact that we’re on a spaceship in the middle of the cosmos that can perfectly support life?
The breakfast you just ate. The coffee that’s steaming as you’re reading this. The smell of freshly cut grass outside and the birds singing a song you just started noticing.
What about how you can give your neighbor a smile and a few words and their day will be positively affected in a small, yet tangible way?
This does not just apply to the privileged out there — it applies to everybody.
Gary Vee likes to remind people that their chances of being born a human being are 1 in 400 trillion. You’re probably more likely to throw a stone across the Pacific Ocean successfully than be born a human.
I don’t know, I was just making that up.
I’ve recently realized that it doesn’t matter how shy I feel about meeting new people — I can impact their day by smiling at them, and now I do it much more often.
And it makes me feel damn good.
As human beings mature they go from selfish little children to less unselfish adults. Our horizons expand, our circles grow bigger, and we understand how much our Mother sacrificed to feed us and get us into a good college.
We understand the bowl of cereal in front of us is a miracle. Some people are starving. We realize that the world is a big place, and that people have far less than we do.
But most of all, we just realize one thing…
That life is a miracle, and we’re damn lucky to even be here.
To me, that’s the definition of reacting to your environment “appropriately.”