29 Life Lessons on My 29th Birthday

Today I turn 29 years old. Still relatively young in ultimate lifespan, but enough to think that I’ve learned some things.

Every year on my birthday, I do two things. First, I write down all of my goals for the next year, a New Year’s Resolution of sorts. How can I improve or build upon the last year? What novel things can I expose myself to? The second thing I do is deposit all of the loose change I have collected over the past year to hopefully get an extra $50 bucks or so. Buy me a nice little treat, ya know?

But this year, I want to start a new tradition. Reflection is an important aspect of learning and growing as a person. Looking back, I have consumed so much in the form of books, podcasts, and more. Sometimes it’s hard to actually take a beat and truly sift through all of the information I try to jam into my head.

This year, I planned to take a week to reflect on those things and share them with you on my blog. I want to pass on the lessons I’ve learned in the last 12 months or so from various books and podcasts.

Throughout my 29 years on this planet, I have tried to apply these bits and pieces of knowledge into my life every day. I don’t always adhere to the rules, mantras, or whatever you want to call them – but these are the ones that have a certain stickiness to them. These are the ones I keep coming back to most when I’m lost. I hope you can take at least a couple of these valuable lessons I’ve learned myself…

  1. 1)Any success takes one in a row. Do one thing well, then another. Matthew McConaughey’s book Greenlights was fantastic, and this was one of the many lines I read that couldn’t be more true. So much of our success in life is simply momentum. Putting one foot in front of the other and not relapsing into bad habits. Every day you start at zero. It takes discipline to keep continuing the streak. Waking up early and not hitting snooze. Doing it again the next day. And the next. Each day is just as hard as the last, but you do it once more. Then it’s one in a row again. 
  2. 2. There is no such thing as failure. Only failure to learn. Treat each failure as an opportunity to learn from it. This simple refrain can turn all travesty into opportunity. The famous Jocko Willink video ‘Good‘ explains this well. Didn’t get promoted? Good. More time to get better. Got beat? Good. We learned. It’s only a failure if tell yourself so.
  3. 3. The only thing that matters is what you think about yourself. Founder of Quest Nutrition, Tom Bilyeu, gave an amazing speech on self-talk. I saw a snippet on TikTok of all places. The quote was, “The game is not success. The game is not money. The only thing that matters in life is what you think about yourself when you are by yourself and have nothing but your own thoughts. Who you are, what you are becoming, what you are capable of, what you’re willing to do to make life better for yourself and others.” Everything I try to remind myself and to pass on to you stems from this idea. You literally are your thoughts. Make them good ones.
  4. 4. The best response to an insult is “You’re probably right.” Often they are… – Kevin Kelly
  5. 5. The universe is conspiring behind your back to make you happy. The sooner you embrace this paranoia, the easier life becomes. Why won’t it work out? What’s stopping you from becoming successful? What’s actually stopping you from doing the things you want to do? Nothing right? The universe wants you to succeed. So fucking embrace it already.
  6. 6. “I don’t like to write. I like to have written.” – Stephen King, On Writing. This quote can be applied to anything difficult in life. I don’t like to work out. I like to have worked out I don’t like to eat healthily… I like to have eaten healthily… You don’t have to like it. The reward is having done it. This ties in to rule #18.
  7. 7. The best cure for nervousness is immediate action. Is there ever an instance where this isn’t true? It’s so obvious. The presentation you’ve been stressing over and procrastinating? Breaking up with the person you’ve been dating but know you no you have no real future with? When you’re nervous about something, delaying the outcome you want will only compound your nervousness. Immediate action is the only remedy. I took this lesson from The Third Door, Alex Banayan’s excellent book that chronicles his amazing feats of action, where he went from a nobody college kid to scoring interviews with the world’s most successful people.
  8. 8. Your surroundings really do shape your perceptionsyour inspirations, and your implementations. Art feeds my soul. Great books battle-proof my hope. Rich conversations magnify my creativity. Wonderful music uplifts my heart. Beautiful sights fortify my spirit. – Robin Sharma, The 5 A.M. Club. Surround yourself with great people, great art, good books, and wonder. Look up at the stars, get inspired, do something novel. It will affect you for the better.
  9. 9. Form the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to doThat is the common denominator of successful people. Why is Joe Rogan the biggest podcaster in the world? He sat and put in three-hour podcasts every single day while other people were doing maybe one episode a month. Compounding looks like nothing is happening until one day it does. As Lionel Messi says, “It took me 17 years, 114 days to become an overnight success.”
  10. 10. The way you do anything is the way you do everything. – Robert Iger, The Ride of a Lifetime
  11. 11. Would it help? In the movie Bridge of Spies, Tom Hanks plays a lawyer who tries to broker deals for hostages with the Soviet Union during the Cold War in the 1950’s. During one scene, Hank’s character James Donovan is defending a Russian spy by the name of Rudolf Abel. Each time it seems as though Abel is out of options, Donovan would ask, “Aren’t you worried?” And every single time Abel would offer the deadpan response, “Would it help?” Faced with difficult circumstances his cool demeanor made you like the character a little more each time he said this even though he was a Soviet spy. These were by far some of the best exchanges in the movie. Worrying is like praying for bad things. It never adds any value. As Florence Shinn said, “Hope looks forward. Faith knows it has already received and acts accordingly.
  12. 12. When you’re grateful, fear disappears. Investor Sir John Templeton once said, “To overcome fear, the best thing is to be overwhelmingly grateful.” And in his financial planning book, UnshakeableTony Robbins wrote, “I believe the ultimate path to enlightenment is the cultivation of gratitude. When you’re grateful, fear disappears. When you’re grateful, lack disappears. You feel a sense that life is uniquely blessed, but at the same time, you feel like you’re a part of everything that exists and you know that you are not the source of it. In that state, you show up differently for the people around you. Just walking around you vibrate.
  13. 13. Eliminate to add. Bruce Lee wisely said, “One does not accumulate, but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity.” And the great Naval Ravikant (@naval) says, “When it comes to medicine and nutrition, subtract before you add.” Often, simplicity is the answer. You don’t need a fancy diet. You don’t need to change your entire wardrobe. You don’t need to quit and start over. Look first to eliminate the things that do not serve your purpose.
  14. 14. “Breathe, motherfucker!” Wim Hof, a.k.a. “The Iceman,” holds multiple world records for his feats of endurance and exposure to cold. The benefits of The Wim Hof Method, now practiced by millions, have been validated by eight university research studies. I have been taking cold showers and using Wim Hof’s deep breathing practice every morning and it makes me feel like a million bucks. I can’t recommend the breathing method enough. It has transformed my energy levels and has made my baseline level of calm much more consistent.
  15. 15. “What we believe, we become.” Our beliefs are software with which we are programmed. This comes from Glennon Doyle’s excellent memoir and self-help book, Untamed. I wrote about this subject in my last piece, Perspective, because it struck a chord. In so many ways our subconscious beliefs (which we did not choose) run our lives. As Doyle writes, “They control our decisions, perspectives, feelings and interactions, so they determine our destiny.
  16. 16. “Read to collect the dots, write to connect them.” – @david_perell. Self-proclaimed “The Writing Guy,” Perell is a great Twitter follow. He constantly writes about the benefits of not only reading good books but also writing to help form your own thoughts about those things. One of my favorite tweets from him says, “Read to collect the dots, write to connect them.” In my experience, writing helps bring to light those thoughts sitting just underneath the surface level. It makes the unconscious conscious and leads to preventing missed opportunities. Read more. But also make sure to write more.
  17. 17. “The more you create, the more powerful you become. The more you consume, the more powerful others become.” – James Clear, Atomic Habits. So simple, yet so true. I know that when I’m consuming too much media in the form of movies, books, Tik Tok, Instagram, whatever – it’s time to change course. When I’m creating – writing, journaling, posting a blog or a newsletter – that’s when I feel the most powerful and what gives me the most energy.
  18. 18. Discipline = Freedom. Originally from Jocko Willink, this quote may be one of the most positive indicators of my wellbeing I’ve come to know. The more disciplined I am in working out, writing, completing my to-do lists, etc – the more time and freedom I have to relax and be stress-free. In his book The Psychology of Money Morgan Housel writes a similar sentiment, saying, “Having a strong sense of controlling one’s life is a more dependable predictor of positive feelings of wellbeing than any of the objective conditions of life we have considered.
  19. 19. “The most difficult thing to learn is something you think you know already.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti
  20. 20. “Spend each day trying to be a little wiser than you were when you woke up.” One of my favorite Charlie Munger quotes describes the traits of the most successful people he knows. “I constantly see people rise in life who are not the smartest, sometimes not even the most diligent, but they are learning machines. They go to bed every night a little wiser than they were when they got up and boy does that help, particularly when you have a long run ahead of you. Spend each day trying to be a little wiser than you were when you woke up. Discharge your duties faithfully and well. Step by step you get ahead, but not necessarily in fast spurts. But you build discipline by preparing for fast spurts. Slug it out one inch at a time, day by day. At the end of the day – if you live long enough – most people get what they deserve.
  21. 21. Give more than you take. Being authentic is always better in the long run, even if it’s hard to do at the moment. The world operates on this weird law where the best things happen to you when you’re not trying hard to do anything other than just expressing yourself truthfully. One of the best books my dad ever gave me was called The Go-Giver about the law of reciprocity. I read it every year to remind myself that giving is always the answer.
  22. 22. When in doubt, sleep. The solution to most problems starts with 8 hours of sleep. Sleep like you’re on vacation. Lebron James, Roger Federer, Tom Brady. The secret to their longevity? Sleep. Lots and lots of it.
  23. 23. Work on the things you know you should. “Can you imagine yourself in 10 years if, instead of avoiding the things you know you should do, you actually did them every single day? That’s powerful.” – Jordan Peterson. I know I should write every day. That said, there are days where I don’t think I need to. But I know I should. That’s a sign that working on it and maintaining the discipline to do it every day will make me powerful.
  24. 24. Love your enemies. Treat your enemies as people who are in their own strange way bringing you gifts. Any other attitude – hatred toward them or fear of them – is emotional suicide. “Community is based on common humanity; tribalism on a common foe. Tribalism is always erecting boundaries and creating friend/enemy distinctions.” – David Brooks, The Second Mountain
  25. 25. See the beauty in everything. Anybody who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old. My wife Lauren taught me this. Her ability to see the beauty in everything astounds me. Any time we’re on our way to go somewhere and all I’m thinking about are getting there on time, Lauren will just stop and admire the birds in the sky, or the weeds on the side of the road. I have to laugh because I would never think to do something like that. But it’s a reminder to take a moment to notice the beauty around you. As Ferris Bueller famously said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
  26. 26. Once in a while, take the scenic route. This pandemic taught us how easy it is to get caught in the daily rat race of life. Now I make sure to take the time to go a different route. Instead of taking the subway to the office because it’s the quickest way, every once in a while I’ll take the ferry. Sure, it adds an extra 20 minutes to my commute, but it’s worth it for the change in monotony. Add a little variety when you feel like you’re in a rut.
  27. 27. It’s only embarrissing if you’re embarrassed. If you’re going to be weird, be confident about it. When I was younger I thought it was lame to dance at Sweet 16s or weddings. Once I realized it was more fun to dance unapologetically, I started having way more fun. Your dance moves might not be the best, but I promise to make a fool of yourself is more fun than sitting on the bench alone.
  1. 28. Being enthusiastic is worth 25 IQ points. 
  2. 29. To be interesting, be interested. Once you start focusing your attention on others instead of thinking about the next story you’re going to tell, the more interesting they find you. In conversation, shine the light on others. If you find a way to make people smile, they’ll remember you for that over anything else. Ask questions. Be genuine. Be interested in what they have to say. Maybe you’ll learn something…

‘Til next year

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KB

Books Mentioned in this Article

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