Every year, around my birthday, I look back and write lessons I learned (or re-learned) throughout the year. This little practice is mainly just for me, but I thought you might find them helpful too.
It’s a complex time in our world and history, but I still feel so lucky to be here. Thanks for remaining part of my life and work. Even though I don’t know all of you, I’m grateful for you.
34 Lessons From Being 34
1. Anything flies with energy and commitment. Anything.
2. Include your friends in seemingly mundane decisions. Discuss your finances. Talk about health checkups. Discuss your career path. Talking about those things regularly makes them easier to approach.
3. If you’re starting a business with your friend, ask a coach/advisor to join you. You *will* disagree on things and it’s good to have a third-party “coach” before that moment surfaces.
4. If you don’t plan to have kids, start a savings account for your friends’ kids. Put a small amount of money in that account every month, enough to have $1,000 or so by the time they graduate. Then around that time, take each person out to dinner and tell them they can take a trip anywhere in the world — you’ll cover airfare. It will be wildly special to share this moment you’ve thought about for years.
5. Get good at asking for what you need.
6. College is broken on nearly every level — costs, admissions, outcomes, etc. But I believe in linking arms with these institutions to be a part of their evolution. Find the people who are really working to change things for the better at your university and join their efforts.
7. It’s ok to be a nice person. The world needs more of us. But “nice” does not mean you can’t be bold, disciplined, fight for what’s right, and hold people to their word.
8. Find a few older friends, people who’ve lived a good life. Befriend them. Care for them. Ask them questions. They will be some of the most special people you know.
9. The world is not your oyster, it’s our planet.
10. Do your very best. That’s all you can do.
11. It’s time to pick a side and point of view regarding equity and justice for Black people. That doesn’t mean your views won’t shift or grow, but you can no longer sit on the sidelines and watch Netflix until this is over.
12. Kids don’t need heroes, they need people who keep showing up and know how to say I’m sorry.
13. If you’re in a position to get a credit card, be smart about how you set it up. Take time to find the ones with the best sign-on bonuses and cash back and use them for things you were going to pay for anyway. It really is worth a few hours of research.
14. Set a process for how you store files on your digital devices. Especially your laptop. Clean your desktop at least once/month. Close all of the tabs on your browser regularly. Shut down all tech a few times a month for at least a day. It’ll improve your workflow and make you less stressed.
15. Whenever possible, use basic organizational functions to make life easier. Organize your spices alphabetically. Organize your fridge by size of items. Organize your closet by color and item. The idea is to reduce strain on your brain for the easy things so you can focus more on the hard things.
16. Infuse your home with textures. Wood, brick, stone, paper, plants. Do what you can to remember that the glass and metal in your hand is just a fraction of what exists in the world.
17. Everyone is making it up. Even the person you most admire. The only difference between them and you is they kept trying.
18. You don’t have to be especially charismatic to make someone feel welcomed or cared for. And that’s all anyone really wants when they’re around you.
19. If you’re going to be late, let them know. But generally, be early.
20. Take 20 minutes to write down on a sheet of paper what “winning” means to you. Sit with it for a week and make adjustments as they come to mind. Then give the list to one of your best friends. When you feel lost or defeated, call them to remind you of what you wrote.
21. Decide what a healthy day looks like for you. (ie: exercise, shower, breakfast, meditate, write, make things, emails, make more things, dinner, unwind, sleep). Sometimes that gets tossed to the side because life happens. Pause, reset, and get back to it.
22. Give credit as much as possible. The people who helped you get here are part of your family. Treat them as such.
23. Obsess about your customers’ needs.
24. I never thought I’d say this, but it’s ok to keep white Christmas lights up beyond the holidays. Especially to brighten your home during shelter-in-place.
25. Your results are directly tied to your commitments. If you are always trying to “save” your partner, you are committed to being in a bad relationship. If you eat unhealthy, you are committed to being unhealthy. If you don’t take the time to meditate or journal, you are committed to being anxious. The only person who can change those commitments is you.
26. When planning an adventure trip, start with the hardest part of the adventure. Then end with something you can indulge in. And make sure it’s long enough to feel rested before going back into normal life.
27. Never paint a wall in your home a stark white. Stick to 10% gray. It’ll still look clean, but hide just enough of the daily wear.
28. Don’t pay someone to take care of your plants or garden. There is nothing better than coming face-to-face with an object whose entire life and beauty needs nothing more than a bit of slow care and attention.
29. If a friend asks you to officiate their wedding, say yes. Watching your friends walk down the aisle from the vantage point of an officiant is an unforgettable moment.
30. Travel with your parents. Watching their faces light up in new places will be some of the best experiences of your life.
31. Launching a new product is 10-15x harder than you think it will be. Kickstarter is a great way to see if you’re actually serious enough about bringing an idea to life. Whatever you do, just remember that a product is not ready until it’s been in front of your customers multiple times.
32. Doing things out of obligation leads to resentment. Feeling resentment leads to entitlement. And living in entitlement makes you a shitty person. Instead, do things out of CHOICE. That will lead to gratitude, and gratitude leads to generosity. And generous people are the best.
33. Even the most productive people take naps.
34. If your birthday plans get cancelled because of COVID, ask your friends to just send you a story of their favorite memory with you. Tell them to write it as if they’re sipping on their favorite beverage or smoking a pipe. Don’t open any of the stories until you’re in one of your favorite places, maybe on a rooftop you’ve visited a thousand times. Read the stories slowly. Laugh. Cry. And soak up all of that good energy for the next lap around the sun.