That is the question:

Does this make you seem younger or older?

As I get more comfortable in situations, I tend to shed some of the restraint that got me to that level of comfort in the first place. In some cases this is beneficial, I loosen up and am no longer plagued by nervousness. I become the real me. The only problem is that the real me also happens to be 19 years old. What’s funny to my friends, or even appropriate decorum tends to fall flat. Even worse, that sort of childish energy is self-perpetuating and I grow exponentially more and more out of touch with what I personally find to be reasonable.

So normally when I sense these things coming, I create some aphorism or question to pose to myself in regards to each action I take. For a while–when I first started interning at Rudius–it was “Tone it Down, Too Much Noise.” I realized that my job to be seen, not heard. Although I’m always ready to go at full speed, I had to accept that it was my duty to first prove that I was deserving of that responsibility. With this I always had an answer to the question: “Should I say or do this?” It was normally NO. But when it was YES, due to my policy of caution, it was definitely YES.

Today I got that same sense and instituted a new question: “Does this make you seem older or younger?” If it doesn’t project an image of maturity, then I don’t want to do it. I’m not going to let my own enthusiasm ruin the restraint I aim to cultivate.

Which is why I’ve mentioned so many times the messages I have taped above my computer. I’m a big believe in normative explanations. You become how you repeatedly act. And so when you envision how you want to be, the process of getting there is fairly simple. Envision. Act. Act. Are.

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.