It happened. I recently turned 30. And you know what? It feels great.
(It feels mostly the same, really.)
These lists are cliché but I couldn’t help myself. Here are 30 things I’ve learned from 30 years in this world.
1. Most (if not all) conflict stems from miscommunication. Generally speaking, misunderstandings, not malice, create conflict. Don’t underestimate the power of effective communication.
2. Mistakes are a good thing. I’ve become less concerned about making mistakes and more concerned about making nothing. Mistakes mean you’re doing something… creating, growing, etc. Making mistakes is a sign you’re on the right path.
3. Learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Growth is never comfortable. Accept this and continue pushing your boundaries, because nothing great happens inside your comfort zone.
4. Invest in yourself. Your number one asset in life is yourself. Invest time and money in your growth. Ensure you have the skills and tools necessary to be self-sufficient. This world is volatile and, in the end, the only person you can depend on is yourself.
5. Don’t worry so much. Most of the things we have spent our past worrying about either A) worked out just fine, or B) were resolved in time. Worrying does not change the outcome of a situation; it only alters our enjoyment of it.
6. We must be selfish in order to be selfless. Fulfilling our own needs allows us to fully nurture others.
7. Everyone has a lesson to teach us, even if that lesson is how not to be. Kahlil Gibran wrote: “I have learned silence from the talkative, tolerance from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strange, I am ungrateful to these teachers.” Be open to everyone who crosses your path because they all coming bearing lessons.
8. Be like water. Water is adaptable – it finds what needs filling and fills it, changing shape effortlessly. Water doesn’t wait; it’s always in movement, flowing where it needs to go.
9. Cultivate and Nurture Your Relationships. I first shared this advice in a previous blog post: 5 Lessons From The Man Who Understood It All. Shortly before my father passed away, he wrote the following in an email: “You have some really special relationships with the close friends you met… Cultivate them and nurture them, and they will be with you the rest of your life, which is a good thing.” These words remain the most impactful piece of advice I’ve received. Relationships give life meaning; don’t neglect them.
10. Be open and be honest… Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and always be honest. At the same time, it has taken me a long time to learn the importance of knowing when and where to share myself so openly. Which leads me to #11.
11. Be aware of others’ intentions of you, particularly at work. Friendly people aren’t necessarily your friends and may not care about your best interests. Learn where their priorities are before giving them your full trust.
12. Develop your “soft skills.” I could write a book on the importance of “soft skills,” which really should be called “essential skills.” Emotional intelligence, empathy, intuition… develop them the best that you can. They are important and will serve you well as the world continues to change.
13. Forgive, already. I used to hold grudges quite a bit, particularly when people wronged me unnecessarily. Most people are doing the best they can. And even if they aren’t, they probably did not intentionally hurt you; it just happens. That’s life. Let it go and forgive them.
14. Be sensitive, but learn what to be sensitive about. Sensitivity when dealing with others is essential. But being overly sensitive in regard to your own emotions? Not so much.
15. Ideas are only ideas. (And therefore meaningless unless put into action.)
16. People have vastly different needs. As a society, we have very tangible and distinct variations in how we view the world and our place in it. Don’t fault people for not understanding why you make the choices you do, and vice versa.
17. Feed your body with healthy food. Don’t rely solely on institutions or medication to tell you what’s good for your body or fix you when things go awry. Take self-responsibility seriously and eat nurturing foods.
18. Feed your mind with healthy thoughts. Similarly, thoughts are incredibly powerful. Feed your mind with inspirational and positive thoughts. The mind is a muscle and can be strengthened just like any other part of your body – it just takes
a little a lot of practice.
19. Love is not enough. That famous Beatles line, “ Love is all you need,” is only partially true. You also need respect, trust, and honesty. And actions that match. If you care about someone but your actions don’t show it, what benefit does it bring them?
20. We don’t thrive when we’re out of our element. Everyone is a genius in his or her own way. I truly believe this. If you’re not thriving, you’re probably focusing on the wrong things.
21. This: “If, in your course, you don’t meet your equal, your better, then continue your course, firmly, alone. There’s no fellowship with fools.” (Dhammapada) Who we surround ourself with matters.
22. Don’t take anything personally. Whatever it is almost certainly has nothing to do with you.
23. Minimize stuff. Material items clutter your life and could potentially put you in debt. Get rid of what you don’t need and start buying experiences instead.
24. Sometimes you will feel “blorft.” Fight through it. I laugh every time I read this quote by Tina Fey, which describes a well-known emotion in the life of a too-busy adult. In her words: ‘I was a little excited but mostly blorft. “Blorft” is an adjective I just made up that means ‘Completely overwhelmed but proceeding as if everything is fine and reacting to the stress with the torpor of a possum.’
25. Keep perspective. Usually when we feel overwhelmed, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. We have to continually remind ourselves of the big picture.
26. Life picks up speed the older you get. Here’s a my theory on why: with each new year, “one year” becomes a smaller percentage of your life. But, theories aside, life moves quickly. Make time to do the things that are important to you.
27. Your struggles are lessons in disguise. Nobody likes pain or hardship but these experiences are life’s biggest teachers. When we lose something or someone we love, we inevitably gain something else. Have the wisdom to absorb the lessons otherwise the suffering is in vain.
28. Stay balanced in every way possible. In 2010 before I moved to DC to begin a career in analysis, I took a vacation to Thailand where a fellow traveler gave me this unorthodox piece of advice regarding work. He said: “Make sure you spend your evenings doing right-brained activities or you will become imbalanced.” What he meant was because the bulk of my day would be spent cultivating my left brain (analysis), I’d need to make time for music, writing, or another creative activity of my choosing to keep equilibrium. He turned out to be right. Balance and growth are holistic (not linear) and come in many forms: intellectual, emotional, physical… stay balanced.
29. Save money. Start early, when your financial obligations are limited. With security comes freedom.
30. This quote: “In the West we have a tendency to be profit-oriented, where everything is measured according to the results and we get caught up in being more and more active to generate results. In the East… I find that people are more content to just be, to just sit around under a banyan tree for half a day chatting to each other. We Westerners would probably call that wasting time. But there is value to it. Being with someone, listening without a clock and without anticipation of results, teaches us about love. The success of love is in the loving– it is not in the result of loving.
What piece of advice would you give a younger you?