Every year around my birthday, I reflect on the lessons I’ve learned while building a life, team, and company. This is one of my favorite personal practices. Maybe you’ll find them helpful too. Here’s this year’s list:
1) Let go of your past stories, and you’ll be free to love more deeply and openly.
2) Letting go is simpler than you think.
3) If you break something that doesn’t belong to you, tell the person, and oversee the process of getting it fixed.
4) Faster is rarely better.
5) Notice the edges of things — the corners, the cracks, the small spaces, how your body feels throughout the day. This awareness will serve you in every area of your life.
6) You need four pairs of shoes: 1) Open for beach/summer. 2) Casual for daily wear. 3) Dressy for important occasions. 4) Boots for winter/work/etc. Everything else is extra.
7) The most important thing you can do for better sleep is to wind down. Don’t eat, exercise, or work for at least 2 hours before you go to sleep. Then, keep your room cool, dark, and quiet.
8) Identity is complex. I’m Egyptian, American, a Chicagoan, and 1,000 other things. That’s amazing. And that complexity is what makes every person amazing.
9) You will make bad investments. That’s ok. Just don’t create a pattern of selling or walking away every time things get hard. You’ll never see the return.
10)Take yourself less seriously and you’ll probably still get to where you’re going. And you’ll have more fun along the way.
11) The most special parts of community are rhythms — things you do together weekly/monthly/yearly. Create those moments and your life will be richer for it.
12) Generosity and contentment are acts of subverting the system. The less greedy you are, the less you need to look outside of yourself for the things you really want, and the more you inspire others to do the same.
13) Help your parents or older figures in your life travel more often. Watching them experience new things in old age isn’t just good for you now, it’s a reminder to your future self that great days are ahead.
14) Get a good electric toothbrush. It’s worth it.
15) If you’re in a relationship, find a couple’s counselor. Even if you don’t think you have any issues, meet regularly for checkups. It will be one of the best investments in your relationship. This applies to your closest work relationships too.
16) When you make progress, celebrate! Celebrations of all sizes make life and work more joyful.
17) One of society’s great missteps is believing that the future is the most important thing you can think about.
18) If something isn’t quite “perfect,” learn to love it, or let it go. Constantly feeling dissatisfied doesn’t serve you or anyone else.
19) If you’re thinking of making a purchase, google the item and add “Reddit” afterwards.
20) When you begin to judge someone, you’re simply noticing something you don’t like about yourself. Be compassionate.
21) If you’re attracted to something or someone, you’re simply noticing a quality that you want more of in yourself. (And you probably won’t achieve it by getting that thing/person.)
22) When considering purchasing a new article of clothing, piece of furniture, etc, ask yourself: “Is there something similar I should sell or give away?” Chances are yes.
23) The size of your company doesn’t matter. It’s the people who fill it.
24) Try replacing the word “but” with “and.” Then ask yourself if the statement is still true. Most things in life are “ands” not “buts.”
25) If your primary motivation to coach or help others grow is to become “a somebody” — your work will reek. If it’s truly to help others, it will be beautiful.
26) Pauses are underrated in nearly every area of life and work.
27) Learn to express your emotions sooner. And make them bigger, not smaller (in the safest way possible). Otherwise, they’ll build up in your body and eventually leak or explode onto the people you love.
28) If someone tells you they’re going to do something for you, and they don’t get to it, don’t take it personally — people have full lives.
29) If someone does follow through, take it personally — they took time out of their busy lives to do something for you. Be thankful and pass it on.
30) Adam Grant writes about Takers, Matchers, and Givers. I think there’s another category: Makers. People who make aren’t just interested in what currently exists, they aim to create more of what everyone needs so there’s more to go around. I want to be a mix of a Giver & a Maker.
31) There are moments to save, and moments to spend. No one can tell you which is which, but generally: spend on experiences, relationships, well-made things, and things that will save you time.
32) Uncertainty and Play are two sides of the same coin.
33) When passing by a stranger, wonder about their home or nightly routine. Nothing builds more connection than imagining how someone does the exact same thing you do.
34) If you’re in an argument for 30 minutes, pause, breathe, and ask the other person, “What would help us land this conversation for now?” Then take a break. Nothing good happens after 30 minutes of arguing.
35) School is changing. Not just K-12 or higher ed — I mean the idea that being enrolled in “school” ends in your twenties. There needs to be a new type of learning that fosters community and growth throughout life, career, and in the workplace.
36) Start with your health. The rest will come.
Thanks for reading and to those of you who sparked many of these lessons. I’m excited to share another year with all of you. And special thanks to Nic, Katie N., Sara, Erin, and Katie C. for helping with the edits.
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