Birthdays are a time for celebration but I’ve always felt they’re a time for reflection, too. As I turn 25 today, I’ve thought about how much I’ve learned over these years, particularly the last seven.
I went from a jealous, spoiled, ignorant boy to an open-minded, humbled, and driven man. I’ve completely transformed as a person and wanted to share the truths I’ve learned along the way.
- Your ego hurts you more than it helps. Embrace that you’re not perfect (no one is). Take honest looks at yourself, evaluate where you need improvement, and change it. Being prideful and refusing to admit your weaknesses will stunt your personal growth. Your faults are only permanent if you allow them to be.
- You can be an adult and still have fun. Being grown up doesn’t mean you have to become Oscar the Grouch. Laugh often, smile more, be playful like a child, and let loose. Be responsible and mature when necessary, otherwise don’t take yourself too seriously. And never let people who are miserable try to take your happiness away.
- Successful people fail and get rejected often. In every field, the ones who “make it” have been defeated more than you know. Rarely does anyone just fall into success. Countless authors, inventors, athletes, and entrepreneurs have defied adversity because they refused to give up. Every failure is one step closer to winning.
- You can learn something from everyone. Don’t underestimate a person’s value before you’ve given them a fair shot. They may not be knowledgeable in a certain area but could teach you something profound in another. You’ll be surprised at what you can learn if you just listen without judgment.
- Don’t rush into or through relationships. Be social, find people you connect with, and discover what you’re looking for in a partner. Never jump into a relationship solely out of fear of being alone. Once you’re together, don’t hurry into attaining “the next level.” Just being with each other should be enough (especially in the beginning) so savor it.
- You are not entitled. Everything worth having takes incredible dedication and effort. Don’t expect handouts and don’t sit around waiting for good things to happen. Make the most out of every situation: work hard and you’ll reap the rewards. You’ll only get out of life what you put into it.
- It will come back to haunt you, so document everything. I believed you could settle every career dispute verbally and in a casual fashion. Unfortunately, when someone else’s job is on the line, they will throw you under the bus. You must have dated and written evidence (e.g. specific e-mails, signed documents) prepared to defend yourself effectively. You might only need it once, but it could save your butt…it has for me.
- You are smarter than you know. Trust in your abilities. That doesn’t mean you should blindly believe you’re better than everyone, but don’t let internal or external voices hold you back. Do not equate youth with stupidity – some of the most successful business leaders and entrepreneurs today are under 30.
- A relationship will not fix your problems. If you’re unhappy, don’t expect another person to change that. Often, you’ll only end up spilling those problems onto them. Make sure you’re content with who you are before trying repair it through someone else. The only one who can determine your happiness is you.
- Developing your social skills is critical. This is the foundation on which to build your personal, professional, and academic fulfillment. In the real world, it’s not always about what you know but who you know. You need to learn how to communicate and relate with others in all aspects of life. These skills can’t be put on the backburner, start practicing them every day.
- Expect resistance. There will be haters. There will be naysayers. There will be assholes. Accept it but don’t take it to heart. Many people are envious of what they can’t achieve or possess themselves. See: Crabs in the Bucket theory.
- Being late is no excuse. Expect the unexpected (Murphy’s Law) and always give yourself extra time. You’re only excused on the rare chance of an emergency (your car blew a tire, you severely injured yourself). Otherwise, you are at fault and it’s rude to other parties. Leaving 15 minutes earlier won’t kill you and will show that you value other people’s time.
- Anger is toxic. Holding grudges and harboring negativity is destructive to you and those around you. Your resentment is a result of your inability to channel emotions correctly and is a weakness of character. Siddhartha said, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” Release your anger and stop wasting your time on anything except forward motion.
- Stressing out is worthless. No matter what the situation, getting worked up and worrying will not solve anything. Whether you’re in the midst of a hectic week or dreading a looming deadline, always take the time to calm yourself. You’ll think more clearly and logically when things goes down. Be prepared for obstacles along the way and most importantly, don’t sweat the small stuff.
- Willpower is the key to weight loss. There is no big secret to staying healthy: it’s all about eating right and exercising regularly. The tricky part is forcing yourself to get up for a run in the morning and turning down that extra cookie. Accept responsibility for your body and put into action what you know is good for it – no excuses!
- Honest communication solves most relationship issues. When you have a problem with your partner, ask, “Have I talked to them about this?” and “Have I told them exactly how I feel?” Your significant other won’t know what’s wrong unless you speak your mind. Don’t get caught in the cycle of suppressing your feelings, getting frustrated, and eventually blowing up. It’s much healthier to face any conflict head-on.
- Writing well is a priceless asset. Regardless of your profession, being a proficient writer will always benefit you. Understanding and using language to your advantages will be vital to your resumes, professional e-mails, personal correspondence, and even online dating profiles. Learn how to be engaging and persuasive while giving value to the reader. The Elements of Style will give you the foundation of good writing.
- Time is the one thing you can never get back. Every day is precious, so why aren’t you doing what you love? Write down your goals, both big and small, and tackle them one by one. It won’t get any easier as you get older. Don’t let the experiences and life you desire pass you by.
- Some friendships aren’t meant to be. People change. The friends you had in high school may not be your friends later in life. Also, in the path of bettering yourself, remove negative influences from your world. Realize it early on and save yourself a lot of problems.
- Your word is your bond. You can be honest 99% of the time but that 1% will discredit everything you’ve worked for. Gaining back someone’s trust is extremely difficult – so don’t break it in the first place. Nietzsche brilliantly said, “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”
- Favors should have no strings attached. Give freely. Do stuff for people solely out of the kindness of your heart and for no other reason. If you’re doing favors begrudgingly or with ulterior motives (including getting people to like you / seeking their validation), you shouldn’t do them in the first place. You have no right to get upset if all people return is a smile and a “thank you”.
- You can’t change other people. You can only change yourself. This was a difficult one for me to learn. You may influence people but in the end, it’s them making the decisions to evolve. Your energy is better spent on fixing you rather than trying to play doctor or “save” everyone else (especially in a relationship).
- Almost everything is worth trying once. I used to be closed-minded for no reason at all. I hated and fought against change, primarily out of insecurity. We have preconceived notions of what we do or don’t like and you have to challenge them. When opportunities present themselves, seize them – you’ll leave the experience a stronger, wiser person.
- Living in fear of judgment leads to misery. People think a lot less about you than you believe they do. Stop caring about looking stupid or saying the wrong thing. If you constantly try to mold yourself to others, you will never be congruent to who you actually are. This is a never-ending cycle of unhappiness.
- The world needs more gratitude. Saying thanks takes one second and will make people’s day. You are a puzzle built from countless contributors throughout the years. You would not be the person you are without your fifth-grade teacher, your father, and your best friend from high school. Even the grocery bagger and bus driver support you, so be grateful to each person you encounter.
I feel like I’ve discovered so much and yet there are so many more years ahead of me. I can’t wait to see the truths I’ll be writing about when I’m 30.
What are the truths that changed you most?
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