Adulting Harder

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One of my grandad’s best friends, Kovács János, was a talented chess player. They used to play chess together every week. János consistently beat my grandpa, but winning was not the focus of their play. It was a dedicated time to talk about life, women, and their shared admiration for Ferenc Puskás, a famous Hungarian football player.

Despite his high intellect, János was struggling to put his life together. He would often drink to excess and lose vast amounts of money to gambling. He struggled to hold down a job and had a hard time being accountable for his actions.

It all changed when his wife left him, taking away his two children. While he was always very persistent about how much he loved his wife, his actions told a different story. Frequently drunk, losing money, and flirting around with other married women in the town, he lost any remaining love his wife had for him. János hit rock bottom. He lost his wife, children, and most of his friends.

Despite his struggles, my grandad never gave up on János. He knew that there was a capable person beneath all of the gambling and irresponsibility. My grandpa gave János a stern but loving speech at one of their weekly chess sessions. “Look, János, I like you as a friend and respect you as a chess player, but you need to learn to be an adult. You need to be able to take responsibility.” His intellect was undeniable, but his habits were more akin to a teenager than a grown, responsible man.

My grandpa repeated the same message to János for years, but he was ready to change this time. He changed his life around almost overnight. He stopped drinking and gambling and separated himself from a group of friends who only supported him while living a reckless, irresponsible life.

My grandpa found a mechanical support position for him at the local military unit, where he slowly learned how to act and behave like a grownup. Several years later, János opened up a side business in his backyard where he was working as a car mechanic.

In his retirement, János was my chess teacher for a brief period, sharing stories about my late grandad and the lessons they learned during their life. János’s story is a reminder that no matter how hard life gets, it’s never too late to turn things around. With the right mindset, determination, and support, anyone can overcome their struggles and build a better life for themselves, their family, and their friends.

János, despite being an adult, was still a teenager in his late thirties. The lesson I learned from János was that real success requires us to adult harder. Take challenges head-on, build a system of accountability, forge strong friendships, and strongly believe in people and yourself despite any mistake in the past.

What can we learn from János about adulting harder?

Despite literally being the definition of adulthood, adulthood doesn’t start by turning 18 or 21. It begins by taking responsibility. Responsibility to hold down a stable job, provide for your family, and become a positive force for your community.

Adulting harder goes beyond just paying bills. It’s also about taking on challenges and making the most of the opportunities that come your way.