35 Lessons in 35 Years

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After turning 35 this year, I revisited the life lessons I wrote after turning 30. I was surprised at how well they have stood the test of time, not sure I could come up with better ones today. So instead of writing a new set of lessons, I’ve added five more at the end. I do recommend you read them all.

Here are the life lessons I have learned after 35 years on this weird planet:

  1. Be nice to peopleIt’s cheaper, healthier, and more effective.
  2. Your complete and undivided attention is one of the greatest gifts you can give. And it’s free, so give it more often.
  3. You can become anything, but not everythingSo make a choice.
  4. You will regret the things you didn’t do more than the things you did.
  5. Discipline is a myth. It can only bring you so far. If you want long-term results, you need to learn to love what you’re doing.
  6. Happiness = Reality – Expectations. Also, happiness is not a goal/destination. It’s a journey and it’s constantly changing.
  7. Money can buy happiness, but only up to a point.
  8. Follow your passion” is terrible advice. There’s science behind finding the right job.
  9. Grit is more important than intelligence. (Don’t believe me? Read this)
  10. Deep work yields exponential results.
  11. Improving yourself is the best project you can work on.
  12. You can learn something from anyone you meet. Just listen.
  13. Try, fail. Try again, fail better. This is the only way to get better.
  14. To improve you need to leave your comfort zone.
  15. Work to acquire skills, not certificates.
  16. Showing up every day and doing the work as good as you can will put you in the top 50%. Grab the initiative and you’re in the top 10%.
  17. Don’t attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity (Hanlon’s razor). Far more people are stupid and/or incompetent than mischievous.
  18. Always share information. You don’t have the nuclear codes, so stop worrying.
  19. Competition is stupid. Focus on being better than you were yesterday.
  20. Don’t strive for perfection. In most cases good enough (about 80% perfect) will do just fine.
  21. Physical fitness is important. It affects your intellect, mood, and relationship to others. You only get one body, so don’t neglect it.
  22. Nothing ever lasts. Everything evolves, decays, or transforms. People also change. So do their priorities, dreams, and ideals.
  23. Consistency beats inspiration in the long run.
  24. It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission. Also, when you have screwed up, first admit it. Then you can ponder how and why it happened.
  25. Removing obstacles beats offering rewards. Avoiding pain trumps getting pleasure. Also, a loss is felt more powerful than a gain. (Read Kahneman’s book for more on this)
  26. To change a system you first have to understand its rules and learn to play the game to perfection.
  27. People can rationalize anything.
  28. Knowledge without execution is worthless.
  29. Stop askingWhat is the meaning of life?”. Instead, ask “What can I do to make life better?”.
  30. Go to bed early. Wake up early. And don’t make important decisions late at night.
  31. Suffering isn’t optional, it’s an integral part of life. Embracing the suck will make things suck less.
  32. Kindness is a superpower. It’s not the opposite of strength, it’s complementary. And being kind to yourself is a lot harder than you think.
  33. Flexibility beats determination and optimization (i.e. timing flexibility, execution flexibility, psychological flexibility).
  34. Setbacks are part of the process. Stop seeing them as failures.
  35. Your thoughts are mere suggestions. They keep coming and going. It is your job to decide if you engage a thought or discard it. 

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