23 Things I Learned Over 23 Years
Note: Originally posted on Medium on 1/9/2016
Today I turned 23 years old. Time is going faster every year. I can still remember being 9 years old and in the car telling my mum how excited I was to turn double digits, that was 13 years ago now.
I lost my favourite thing in the world recently. I’ve never loved anything more. I could’ve lost everything except for her and I would’ve been fine. We were together for two years, and I realised when we were breaking up, how quickly that time went away. I realised how lucky I was to share such a beautiful experience. I also realised how quickly things can change.
It taught me to remember how precious time is and because of this, I’m slowly discovering how much I value every day. I’m getting better at realising happiness comes from within, it’s hard at times.
This year, I’ve been dedicating much more time to myself, to learn, to read, to share and to reflect. The points below could be considered a summary of this time.
1. The more bills attached to it, the less you want it
I bought a Jet Ski at the end of last year, it was expensive. The maintenance costs are expensive as well. Every time I pay for something relating to it, I don’t want it as much as I originally did. I could live without it, but, the experiences I’ve shared with others on it are far more valuable than the price.
2. The power of being present
Meditation has changed my life. I’m currently on a 98 day streak using headspace. Every time I feel anxiety towards the future or depressed about something in the past, I bring myself into the present moment and these issues go away. You don’t have to practice meditation to be present, it’s just what I find is most effective for me. Next time you’re worrying about something, concentrate on your breath and enjoy the present.
3. Doing less but better
I’ve applied this to so many situations over the past year, and it’s something I’m trying to master. After reading Gary McKeown’s Essentialism I’ve been actively thinking about what is most essential in my life, and in turn, doing less but better. I used to be obsessed with trying to do everything. You can try to do everything, but you will fail.
At the start of the year I was learning three languages, I’ve since reduced this two, and I might reduce it back to one. Do the things you enjoy often, but, choose a few essential things and do them better.
4. The benefits of automating your finances
Ramit Sethi preaches spending big on the things you enjoy and the power of automating your finances in his book I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Reading this book changed how I see money.
Automating your finances (e.g. setting up auto payments/automatic savings transfers) takes away the psychological burdens that money can create. Let technology do the work for you.
I have automated all of my bills, credit card statements and savings. Doing this, I don’t have to worry about missing a bill payment or whether or not I’m saving enough for that overseas trip at the end of year. Ramit’s book is worth far more than the cost.
5. Sleep more
Get 7–9 hours of sleep a night, every night. Turn off technology 30 minutes before bed.
Next time you’re tired, drained and feel like there’s something you should be doing, have a nap instead.
6. The effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is
I watch this YouTube video nearly every day. YouTube can be like cocaine if you watch the right video.
To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with. — Mark Twain
Knowing this, I make it a goal of mine each day to share an incredible experience with someone. I love having conversations with strangers, hearing about their lives and simply saying hello to passerby's. Making someone else smile is worth more than money to me.
7. The best diet in 7 words: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants
I graduated from University with a dual major in Nutrition and Food Science and these 7 words are the best advice regarding diet I’ve come across and likely will ever come across.
Michael Pollan has authored multiple books regarding food and offers more in-depth information about the 7 word diet in this article.
8. Write down the people who matter most to you, the opinions of the rest don’t matter
“Freedom discovers man the moment he loses concern over what impression he is making or about to make.” — Bruce Lee
I can think of roughly half a dozen people whose opinion matters the most to me. I disregard the opinions of anyone outside of that list. How has the opinion of someone not on your list affected your life?
9. You can do what ever you want
Don’t won’t to go to work today? Don’t. Want to ride on a stuffed animal through a shopping centre? Do it.
I always wanted to learn a language, so this year I began learning three. If there’s been something you’ve always wanted to do, why not do it?
There comes a point where ‘I’ll do it one day’ becomes a whole bunch of empty yesterdays.
10. Life is not linear
There’s no one purpose to life, apart from just to live and experience a joyful life, that’s it. There’s no right or wrong way.
11. You need a lot less than you think you do
I can’t seem to give away enough clothes. I don’t know how I wound up with so many. James Altucher owns 15 things. Imagine the freedoms that this brings.
If you don’t own or live in a home you never have to worry about it being clean.
Think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, what else is there? Everything other than this is a want.
12. Be first
Being first is seen as such an important thing in the business world. Being first to invent that new piece of tech, being first to buy that hot stock at a low price.
I enjoy taking it to a much smaller scale. I like being the first to smile when I look at someone. I like being first to say hello when I walk into someone.
Doing this guarantees at least some level of interaction between me and another person, something I value highly.
13. Do what scares you
How often have we had opportunities that have been and gone because of fear. Doing what scares you leaves no opportunity unturned. Scared to talk to that girl? Do it! Scared to ask for a raise at work? Do it! What’s the worst that could happen?
On the other side of fear is a better you.
14. If it’s not a HELL YEAH, it’s a no
I took this from the zen master Derek Sivers. Too often I’ve said yes to many things I would’ve preferred to say no to. Every time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else.
Asked to go to a party you don’t really want to go to? Say no. Want to stay home and read a book rather than going out for drinks with friends? Say no.
If your response isn’t a HELL YEAH, say no.
15. Everyone smiles in the same language
It’s true, a smile is contagious. It’s hard not to smile when someone else smiles at you. Brighten someones day, show some teeth.
16. Swapping expectations for appreciation changes your perspective of the world
Gratitude is powerful. Rather than always expecting more from life, reflecting and appreciating what you have/had will change the way you see the world.
Give gratitude towards one small thing per day. Even if it’s as small as being able to look up at the sun and feeling the rays on your face. Remember, being able to feel anything at all is a blessing in itself.
17. If you’re doing something different to anyone else, you will fail at some point
If you’re doing anything outside of the status quo, eventually you will fail. Surround yourself with people who will dust you off and pick you back up when you fall. The phoenix rises from the ashes.
When you succeed you party, when you fail you ponder, and all greatness comes out of pondering. — Tony Robbins
Enjoy the failures. Take time to ponder, create greatness.
18. If it bores you, avoid it
There are some boring things that are compulsory, like taxes. For everything else, avoid it. Try something new instead.
19. Accept what you can’t control, take advantage of what you can
Live life like the Stoics. Realising that you can’t control the majority of things in life is liberating. Something you can control is the amount of effort you put into life, so take advantage of that.
20. Books are powerful
What if you could have Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr and Mother Teresa in one room? Want to have a famous figure from history as a mentor? Well you can. Any good library will have a number of books on these and many other influential figures.
A single book has the power to encapsulate one person's life’s work into the space of 300 pages. If knowledge is power, books are very powerful.
I never used to read books. This year I’ve read 20 books so far. It’s changed my life. For a list of them, check here.
21. Default to honesty
After reading the book lying by Sam Harris I’ve stopped lying. The social and psychological implications of lying are not worth it. When you lie, no matter how small, at a bare minimum you have to remember what the lie was. If you always tell the truth, the world is your story.
On a social level, lying to someone means that you’re assuming that you’re the person who knows what is right for them to hear.
22. Experiences are more valuable than goods
To me, sharing experiences with others is more valuable than any material goods. Experiences are what last. I don’t remember most of the gifts I’ve ever gotten from close friends and family, but I do remember the adventures and memories I’ve created with them.
I’ve started to value experiences far more than material goods over the last year. I am more than happy to invest my time and money into new experiences rather than new material objects.
23. Don’t tie happiness to desires
Once you tie your happiness to your desires, you’re actively saying to yourself that you won’t be happy until you achieve what you desire.
The origin of suffering is attachment. The attachment to the desire to have (craving) and the desire not to have (aversion). — Buddha
To be rid of desire is to be rid of suffering.
24. Don’t believe everything you read/see/hear
This point explains itself. The title of this post is a lie, refer to 21.
25. Everything is temporary
Realising this also changes your perspective on life. One day everything you know and touch will no longer be. This can be disheartening at first, but it can also be an incredible motivator.