At 21 I didn’t think I’d live to 37.
I mean, I had a messed up existence plagued by mental illness. Every year as a young adult felt like a gift. Soon alcohol or drugs would get me, surely.
But through some kind of miracle I got saved. Or perhaps I saved myself.
So here I am today on my 37th birthday to follow the same tradition I’ve kept for the last 9 years, and share what I’ve learned.
1. Chase energy
Many people chase money.
More enlightened people chase time. But I’ve learned to chase what creates energy. Without energy any free time I have is useless.
There are so many things in life that can give you energy. Writing is that for me. Being around good people is another energy enhancer.
Just stay the heck away from energy vampires.
It’s not how long you live but the intensity of the energy with which you live that counts.
2. The meaning of life is to experience nostalgia
This one of the greatest ideas I’ve ever come across on the internet. It came from a random tweet I found.
Nostalgia is the true prize in life.
When I look back on my banking career there’s so much nostalgia and the value of it is worth more than $10M to me. It taught me you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.
In the moment, I took it all for granted. Now I look back on those experiences and wish I could relive them.
It’s changed how I live life. I now make decisions based on whether they will produce this magical feeling of nostalgia. Having a kid is one of the outcomes of this realization.
I give up so many social events and business opportunities to watch my kid grow up because I know deep in my heart that I will one day experience deep nostalgia for these moments.
Nostalgia has become the meaning of my life. It’s a powerful drug.
3. “My life sucks” equals “got nothing to lose”
This realization changed everything for me.
If you’ve been oppressed, discriminated against, or unfairly treated it’s a hidden advantage. When everything sucks there’s nothing to lose. There’s no further downward trajectory if you’re already at rock bottom.
The only way is up, so lean into the freedom of rock bottom.
4. Experience true joy while you’re alive
Since my last birthday I now have a daughter.
She is the greatest joy of my life. It’s better than winning $20M or driving the streets in a Lambo. I’ve never felt joy like this before. When she smiles I become a different human being.
We have so much fun together. She has this beautiful temperament that is kind and inspirational. I got everything I hoped for in a kid and more.
Society trained me to think kids were annoying, expensive, and a bad idea.
My experience has been the opposite. In a way I wish everyone could have kids but I’ve also learned that’s not practical. And some can never conceive which is a reality I couldn’t imagine.
So have more s*x and make babies? I don’t know.
Maybe … hang around kids more and learn from them? Yes. That’s it.
5. Understand the circle of life
Study this picture. It’ll make you humble. You’ll stop chasing bullsh*t.
6. Growing old keeps you humble
If a new medicine allowed me to live forever, I’d piss time up against the wall. Getting old feels harsh and unfair.
But old age is great because it makes you humble and forces you to use time wisely. The finiteness of life is what makes it worth living.
It’s why I don’t understand people that stay stuck and follow the sheep off a cliff. You only get to live once so why not go all out and live like tomorrow is your last day?
7. Discomfort equals growth
We tend to move away from uncomfortable situations.
The news trains us to care about the weather and practice self-care. But it doesn’t matter what the weather is outside. You can make the best of any conditions. If it’s raining you can jump up and down in the puddles.
If the weather is hotter than the Sahara desert, you can go to the swimming pool or spray the hose on one another.
The worst situations in my life have led to the greatest opportunities. It’s only when everything falls apart can you put it all back together again in new and better ways.
8. There’s only one way to learn
In the age of AI information is everywhere.
Intellectual influencers have popped up everywhere trying to tell us to read more books. Books are great but they don’t compare to the actual experience.
Imagine being on the bus that day when Rosa Parks changed history. Or imagine being there on the last day of the Holocaust and being set free.
If you want to truly learn you have to do stuff. You have to leave the cocoon of your home and take risks. And travel to other countries to see how people live rather than being told by the news how they live.
A lot of problems in the world could be solved by people doing things instead of hearing about things secondhand.
Action produces wisdom.
9. The greatest mystery of life
Witnessing the birth of another human is a special moment. That first breath they take followed by the scream of life is pure magic.
The flipside is death. It’s so tragic because we don’t know what happens when a person dies.
Where do they go? What happens to their spirit? Do their physical remains blend into the soil and become part of another living thing? No one knows. In a way, it’s good that we don’t know.
Not knowing helps us survive.
If there was a life after death too many people would want to escape to that place too early and we may not have anyone left in this place we call earth.
10. You can get far by doing the exact opposite of society
Success is a topic we’re obsessed with.
My simple rule of thumb is to do the opposite of what 99% of people do because they’re mostly unhappy and barely surviving.
If you want a different life you have to go against the grain. Being different doesn’t take a higher IQ, money, or amazing contacts. It just takes courage to go “yep, 1+1=5 and you are right. All the best.”
11. One decision can change your life
It’s easy to see every decision as a risk.
“What if it doesn’t work out?” I like to use a simple reframe to make more empowering decisions. “What if this one decision changes my life?”
At the start of my online writing journey I was afraid friends, family, or bosses might read my stuff. But I didn’t focus on the downsides. I focused on what writing could lead to.
And got more rewards than I could ever have hoped.
Decisions are inflection points, not risks. If a decision goes bad you can always change course or start again. 99% of decisions won’t ruin you.
12. The best life is created, not lived
You can live on auto-pilot and see what happens.
Chances are nothing happens. There’s another option. You can create your life the way you want it. Once the plan exists it might take a few years to execute it, but it’s better than living someone else’s version of a life.
It’s why I quit working 9-5 jobs.
Someone else designed my day and could hijack what I was doing for whatever reason they wanted. I couldn’t say no because it would threaten my food and shelter.
So I became a puppet on strings being controlled by a corporate puppet master who wanted to use any tiny charisma I might have for profit as a member of their sales team.
Design a life.
13. Character develops in darkness
I was chatting to a neighbor the other day about the Scouts (of all things).
It’s an organization that has existed for over 100 years. They help kids get an informal education through outdoor activities.
My neighbor hates the scouts. He thinks they teach kids to always be happy and never have a negative experience. So when the inevitable tragedy happens they can’t deal with it.
In some ways Scout’s culture has bled into society.
What I’ve learned is to lean into the darkness. The darkness is where your potential is found.
If I hadn’t lost a million dollars, had a near-miss with cancer, gone through many breakups, and lived through mental illness, I wouldn’t have ever found the light. If an experience bleeds it helps you succeed.
The darkness is a test and it builds character.
14. The cults you worship may consume you
Everything is a cult.
In the speech by David Foster Wallace titled “This is Water” he says “the things you worship may “eat you alive.”
The speech’s meaning is to be careful what you become addicted to.
I once dated a religious woman. All she could see was god. She blindly followed her belief towards ruin. She refused to accept there are other ways of living.
Now she hides away in a lonely part of the world away from friends, family, and her aging parents who need her. She never found what she was looking for because addiction blinded her.
Regularly question what you believe.
15. Choose hard
This is the unofficial motto of my life.
Everything worth achieving is hard by it’s very nature. Good. Hard is where joy, fulfillment, and meaning are found.
Being married is hard. Having a kid is hard. Saving up for my first house was hard. Seeing my crypto investments plummet was hard. Leaving the corporate world was hard. Running an online business is hard.
That same list tells you all the things I’m proud to have achieved.
Don’t run from hard. Find hard games you want to play and do them for 5+ years until mastery starts to happen. Then enjoy the ride.
16. Parents hold the keys to the parts of yourself you don’t understand
They were there to see you grow. They can see past generations inside your current self. They’re able to see the good AND the bad. Spend more time with your parents to get to know yourself better.
17. Choose one of these identities
There are problem creators, problem ignorers, and problem solvers.
Problem solvers get a disproportionate amount of the rewards in life. It looks like luck but it’s just mindset.
Learn to solve problems rather than complain and blame.
Shorter life lessons
18. It’s never too late to do anything.
19. Being impatient has an upside. It makes you act faster and refuse to take no for an answer.
20. Not all anxiety is bad. Anxiety can act as free motivation. So choose uncomfortable goals that produce imposter syndrome.
21. Add more spontaneity to life. Random encounters produce opportunities you could never have dreamt of.
22. Use small talk to build relationships with people you just met. Try to find one interesting insight, then ask them about it.
23. Read Paul Graham’s essays. They’re some of the best writing online.
24. Exercise is a spiritual experience. It’s just you against you. Do more.
25. Your heroes are flawed. Don’t be disappointed they f*cked up. Expect them to. And know you can be a hero to someone too.
26. Be quick to forgive. You don’t want to walk around with all that negative energy.
27. If you need earphones in everywhere you go, there’s something deeply wrong. Unplug from the matrix. Listen to the world as it is. You don’t always need to be consuming and learning. The brain needs a break from inputs in order to produce extraordinary outputs. Now you know why stupidity is on the rise.
28. Writing online is the single best decision you can make.
29. All of us are experts in something. Feeling like an expert is more a mental block than a qualification.
30. Be kind to others no matter what. It just feels better and it’s hard to explain why. Do it.
31. Everyone needs a hobby outside of their job. Hobbies are where creativity and imagination get to thrive. They then bleed into all areas of your life.
32. A lack of money forces you to live in a constant state of survival. Money becomes the sole focus and occupies too much mental space. Learn how to become wealthy, not to buy a Lambo, but to experience mental peace.
33. Don’t live life trying not to lose. You have to lose many times before you’ll eventually win.
34. Money is the worst form of retirement. Retire on memories.
35. It’s better to be seen as crazy than boring. Screw being normal.
36. Labels limit potential. Have as few as possible to defy the odds because every label is subjective anyway.
37. Mediocre realistic goals have the most amount of competition. Build something everyone says is impossible and it’ll be a license to print money.