14 Lessons I’ve Learned In 30 Years

I was 29 in this picture. *sniff sniff*

I was 29 in this picture. *sniff sniff*

I just turned 30. Here’s what I’ve learned.

14. The future is unpredictable, and that’s okay.

  • I thought I’d be a successful stock market guru or working in finance. I thought I’d use my degree. Instead I ended up being an author, and I love it.
  • I figured I’d be married by 25 or be devastated. I’m still not married at 30, but I’m not devastated either. I feel very fortunate to have had this time to grow into my identity. Yeah, I get lonely, but the upside has been much greater than expected.
  • I never thought I’d live in Seattle, WA. I never thought I’d move 3 times in one year either.
  • Every August since 1991, I thought the Detroit Lions would win the Super Bowl. Maybe next year?

Nobody knows what will happen. Life is about doing your best with whatever happens. What you want initially isn’t always what’s best for you.

13. Don’t follow anyone unless you have a good reason to do so. 

We are all unique people, but the more we follow others, the less ourselves we become. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that my ideas may be better or worse than the next person’s, but I think it’s usually better to fail at something you decide than to succeed with someone else’s plan.

12. Be lighthearted.

Being lighthearted turns you into a light bulb, and your presence shines positively on those you come into contact with. I know that my day has been made by a single smile received. We can be the ones giving out those smiles!

When you’re lighthearted, everyone wins.

11. Appreciate your past and live in the present to create a better future.

It’s important not to dwell in the past, but isn’t it also important to think of what you’re thankful for? The past holds pain and joy, and by thinking about the joy, you frame your life in the best way possible, which boosts morale nearly as much as extra rum rations. 

The present moment is for living. That’s where we are now, and it’s all we’ll ever have to work with. If a person can master living in the present moment and squeezing the life drops out of every second, they’ll do alright.

Building for the future means to consider what actions today will bring you the best tomorrow. Instead of worrying about the future, why not do your best to create the right one?

10. Everyone will always have problems.

Every person realizes at some point that they’ll never reach perfection (some may only admit it on their deathbed). There will be fleeting moments of euphoria, but life will never be without flaw. The sooner we realize this, the sooner we can learn to enjoy flaws as part of the beauty of life.

“When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.”

~ Barbara Bloom

9. Humility never goes out of style.

In a human life of peaks and troughs, only one way of interacting with people will consistently bring admiration and respect from others. Humility. I’m not (ironically) claiming to be good at this, I only recognize its truth. 

The humble person understands that they are one of billions. They are but a speckle of life in a vast universe of mystery. And the sun doesn’t even revolve around the earth, let alone any of it’s inhabitants! The flip side of humility is pride, and it’s no good.

8. Invest in yourself. You will never regret it!

For my birthday, I didn’t smoke a cigar or throw a party. I did have some wine, but the main gift I gave myself was an investment. I purchased a varidesk from Amazon which will enable me to stand up for a good portion of the workday. I’ve written before about the perils of sitting down all day. This is an investment in my back and my future health!

In the past, I’ve invested in braces and lasik eye surgery, both of which have been wonderful. I’ve traveled a decent amount as well, and traveling is a self-investment because it stretches you, challenges you, brings you the best experiences, and broadens your mind to different cultures. I’ve bought and read a lot of books that have really helped me in numerous ways.

Those examples are not to say I do a good job of investing in myself. They’re to show that I’ve never regretted doing it and that’s not a coincidence. Think back to the times you’ve invested in yourself and I’m sure you’ll feel the same way. I often regret material purchases, but never self-investments!

7. Every person has a story.

When we look the full course of our lives, we understand what we do now and why we do it. To an outsider that doesn’t know our story, it’s easier to misinterpret actions and motives… and to judge. 

Not judging others is an important skill to have because nobody is so simple that a single label can adequately describe them. When you judge someone, it’s usually with a severely limited perspective. We’re all unique and nuanced people with deep backstories that shape who we are and what we do (for better and worse). I’ve gotten better at relating to others and judging them less by understanding that they too have a story and that I don’t know everything about them.

6. Rejection can lead to a better path.

I didn’t get a job out of college for a full year. No companies saw enough potential in me to give me a chance. Ouch, guys. Now I make more money than I would have at those jobs and I make it doing something I love, something that means a lot to me. 

When you’re rejected, it’s an opportunity to reach higher. There’s no limit on the number of attempts you are allowed take to succeed in your pursuit. Let’s take advantage of that. Those who try the most have the best statistical odds of success.

5. There are no rules, only the appearance of them.

I’ve moved 3 times in the last year, and I’m actually considering another move. I’m not sure if I will, I have more thinking to do and might wait until this lease is over. But it’s crazy. I know it’s crazy. Who does this? Who breaks so many leases so quickly?

In each case, I’ve felt pressured to stay with my lease, as if there is some kind of rule that says I must. (I know leases are contractual, but they can usually be broken for a fee.) Maybe I’m delusional, but if something is doable and you know it’s the right move, why delay the decision? That’s kind of like delaying life. Each move I’ve made has been an upgrade in some way, whether it was less expensive or more desirable. 

From my moving spree, I’ve quickly discovered what I want in a home and what I don’t need:

  • I used to think that I must live by the beach. I don’t. That’s what planes are for.
  • I then thought I at least needed to be near the coast. I don’t. Planes.
  • I’ve realized that it’s important for me to have convenient access to healthy food.
  • It’s important for me to have a gym, with a basketball court.
  • I’ve tried living without a car for about a year now, and while it’s saved me a lot of money and has been interesting and fun, I think I need to go back to having a car. 
  • I think I want to live in a less expensive area (Seattle is ridiculous!). The lower my rent, the freer I’ll feel to travel. It feels awkward to travel when you pay so much to live somewhere. I want to live in a place I can leave for 3 months at a time and not think twice about it.

When you know what you want, break the rules to get it (but please keep it legal for the best results).

4. Action is better than indecision.

In concert with the previous point, it is better to act than to waddle in indecisiveness. I’m 30 now, and some of you might be older (it’s possible). I think we can all agree that life is a temporary venture. That means our luxury is not in having a lot of time, it’s in the opportunity to try many different things. In other words, we have limited time, but a practically unlimited number of attempts to get things right.

I don’t necessarily recommend leaping before you look. I’m talking about the kinds of things you can’t and won’t know until you leap. Sometimes, looking won’t get you anywhere. I could have speculated for years about what it’d be like to move from the East coast of the USA (where I had lived my whole life) to the West coast, but none of my guesses would have been correct! I had to get out here to experience it and I’m better for it.

Like most people, when I look back on my life, I mostly regret the things I didn’t do

3. There’s no safe path. The one that looks safe is probably boring.

If sitting in a chair for too long is deadly, then we really have no place to hide. No path is safe, and since complete safety is off the table, let’s take smart risks!

The boring path looks safest, but it’s only the surest way to die without smiling very much. Don’t be afraid to shake things up.

2. Don’t be ashamed or afraid to start small.

I used to think that setting a small goal was the same as giving up. I thought if I were only going to aim for one pull-up, then I might as well give up because that’s not good enough. Today, I have a dramatically different view of small goals, because these “worthless” aims have transformed my life.

This is, of course, a nod to my Mini Habits book and the strategy within it. I owe my strong reading, writing, and exercise habits to this strategy that taught me that small goals are not a hindrance, they’re sparks that can ignite. The more sparks that fly, the greater your chance of ignition, and small goals enable you to create many sparks consistently!

  • Mini habits are a slow-building fire that begins with tinder and ends up as an inferno. They build and build into something much greater than what they started as. 
  • Big goals are a brilliant and exciting flash of light and energy, but their motivational flame dies just as abruptly as it arrived. After the flash, you realize you’re no further along than when you started and you’re still the same person.

Be the person with small goals and impressive results rather than the person with impressive goals and small results.

1. You’re responsible for your life, your story, and your future.

Whether I do or don’t break my current lease, the one thing I know is that it’s up to me and the consequences are mine. I own them. This means I can’t make the decision based on what others might think of me moving around as if I’m a felon on the run (I didn’t do it!).

I bet you have some big decisions coming up, too. Don’t let anyone else make them for you. They won’t have to deal with the consequences like you will.

The biggest lesson in my 30 years is how powerful my choices are. I must be bold with the direction I choose to go. I must be intentional.

The thing about being bold is that sometimes you will make the wrong choice, but if you’re a bold person, you’ll get out of it the exact same way you got into it—making another bold move. Bold people get to their destination eventually. (Fortune does favor the bold!)

My Biggest Life Decision in 30 Years was on April 4th, 2011

Believe it or not, I’m an international bestselling author. Mini Habits has been the #1 selling self-help book in three countries—the USA, Canada, and South Korea. When I look back at my path, it traces back to one bold decision I made in 2011 when I quit my job on day one. I had never done anything like that before. I wasn’t supposed to do it. But I did it.

The beauty of blogs is that this bold, important moment in my life is frozen in time. I wrote this post about the decision on April 5th. I wrote it before I had any success with this blog or publishing. 

Timid, scared, society-driven people will find themselves stuck in places they don’t want to be. They won’t experience what they really want to experience. They won’t unlock exciting paths they never knew existed. They’re puppets of society, or another person, or their fears. They’re in the passenger seat of their own life. This was me up until I made that bold move which served as a precedent for future bold moves.

Growing up, there’s no real manual for taking the wheel of your life. I don’t think it happens automatically and I don’t think it happens to everyone. But the moment you decide to really take control of your life direction, it’s exhilarating. It’s scary and uncertain, sure, but it’s better.

Be bold, be willing to make mistakes, and take the path that looks more interesting to you (especially if it’s scarier). In my 20s, especially my late 20s, I got markedly better at this. In my 30s, I hope to master it.

The picture is from a 4 day Mexico cruise I took in October. The links in this post are Amazon affiliate links. 

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