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Life Lessons I Wish I’d Known 20 Years Ago (They Saved My Life)

by | Aug 1, 2022 | Life

36 years old makes me feel like a grandpa sometimes.

It doesn’t help that I have a pair of hearing aids and my hair is starting to thin out with a few grey highlights for good measure.

What can ya do, right? Nothing.

Here are a few life lessons I wish I’d known 20 years ago. Too bad I was too closed-minded back then to understand them.

The stupidly simple way to speed up results in life

Questions shape life in weird ways. They act as pattern interrupts. One of the worst things I did was wait years to take action on a goal.

I’d write out these stupid plans that were more wishes or prayers to a god I didn’t worship. Computer programmer Simon Sarris asked this question:

If you have a ten year plan, what’s stopping you from doing it in two?

You can probably hit your goals faster if you force yourself to look for a new set of actions based on the scarcity of time.

Everyone is winging it

I wish I had known this at the start of my career.

I thought everyone knew what they were doing. The truth is they were just trying to sound smart. Fake it to ya make it.

Author of 4000 Weeks Oliver Burkenman says that if you’re ever going to do epic sh*t, you’ll have to get comfortable with unreadiness. When you’re not ready is the best time to start.

Problems can never be avoided — here’s how to reframe them

No one you look up to has a life that’s problem free.

I spent years trying to avoid problems. I’d say “why me” a lot when problems fell from the clouds. What you want are good problems.

  • Problems that make you come alive
  • Problems you can solve
  • Problems that are fun

Expect problems, just swing the pendulum in your direction a little so they’re the type you can fall in love with.

The best way to diffuse difficult topics

I’ve written online for the last 8 years.

Had I had this tool back then, I’d be in a completely different head space. Ahhh well. Writing online can be polarizing at times.

People can get triggered by what you say because it brings to the surface some dark truth they may not have faced yet.

That’s why I learned in the last few years to throw mud at myself to make my messages easier to digest. As Matt D’Avella says “When you laugh at yourself you disarm everyone around you.”

You don’t have to agree. But it’s valuable to understand.

My goal early in life was to brainwash people to agree with me.

Writing taught a different lesson. For example, not long ago, I wrote about a controversial topic: gun control. I hate guns, not gonna lie. Some of the responses I got back were wild.

I couldn’t imagine how anyone could think guns might solve problems. Then one reader changed my mind.

He explained that Americans want guns because it’s a second layer of protection (after the military) from potential invasion. While I still hate guns, I now understand more about the psychology of gun owners which is valuable.

Reject roles given to you in life

At the end of high school my career counselor wanted to assign me a role: plumber. That’s right, she thought I was worthless and wanted me to get into the cleaning out sh*t from pipes trade.

No disrespect to plumbers, but it wasn’t for me. I said no.

Author Robert Greene said this: “The world wants to assign you a role in life. And once you accept that role you are doomed.”

That’s why I reject labels other people place on my head. Roles are limiting. We live multiple lives and work multiple careers.

Rip off the labels and chuck ’em in the bin.

Photos ruin the best moments in life

Growing up in the camera phone generation taught me to take photos of everything. There’s a photo floating around somewhere that I took of a nightclub toilet covered in human feces and vomit. No joke.

Ankur Warikoo says “When we click pictures we are essentially telling our brain not to remember the moment.”

This reminds me of a viral Youtube rap from years back by Prince EA.

~No longer do I want to spoil a precious moment by recording it with a phone
~I’m just gonna keep them
~I don’t wanna take a picture of all my meals anymore — I’m just gonna eat them

Think about it. Who’s looking at all these meal photos? Who has time for that? When my daughter is born the temptation will be to photobomb the crap out of the moment. But how do I enjoy her entrance to the world if I do that?

Photos transplant our consciousness away from the present moment.

Instead of our memory recording the moment, it’s hijacked by our phone’s memory. I’d rather brain recordings than iPhone recordings. They’re more powerful and experiential. More high-fidelity than VR, HD, or 4K combined.

Photo by Sara Kurig on Unsplash

Seeing people as transactions is bad for you

Capitalism and consumerism run the world. No problemo.

The challenge is they teach us to be transactional rather than relational. We think we have to do stuff to receive the incentive or payment for it. I spent years living like this. It made me feel lifeless and soulless.

Don’t do it, it’s a trap. Do stuff for the joy, not the reward.

Living below your potential is a curse that can be broken

Most people have two lives: the lives we live and the lives we are capable of living — Steven Pressfield

I spent years playing small. Mental illness held me back. Then the mind virus faded and things got better. We’re capable of so much more when we lean into our curiosity and unleash our imagination.

Think like a child again — anything is possible.

Losing everything gives you whatever you can dream of

Multiple times I’ve lost everything. Each time hurt. I cried many unnecessary tears in the process.

Chuck Palahniuk wrote in his famous book Fight Club that “It’s not until we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”

That’s one of the most powerful lessons I’ve ever learned. Loss creates energy. Energy can become free motivation. Motivation can translate into a sort of relentless no amount of contacts or money from daddy can buy.

To lose is to acquire wisdom.

Sparking random conversations can change your life

Years ago I sparked a random conversation with a farmer. It led to the most bizarre career you could ever imagine.

I got to work in the heart of Silicon Valley because of that farmer. He taught me much of what I practice in business today. But in the corporate world they teach you to avoid small talk.

“Get to the point junior!”

Yet small talk and random conversations are when true relationships get built.

The game of life is simple when you embrace random conversations. Limitless opportunities will find their way into your life that those who seek permission slips will never find.

Time goes way too fast

This silly video on Youtube made me emotional.

See video here

Seeing a child grow up so fast in a 2-minute video is a huge reminder of how short our vacation is on earth.

When my daughter joins the world in November, I can only imagine how quickly she will grow up. A part of me wants her entire life to happen in slow motion so I don’t miss a single moment.

But I can’t. No human has that superpower. Thinking about time is a puzzle that the mind can’t solve. It can help you waste less time though.

Don’t miss watching important people in your life grow up.

The biggest paradox in life

I used to complain about what I wanted all the time.

Then I learned from Mark Manson that it’s not about what I want. It’s about what I’m willing to give up to get it.

So much of what I’m proud of at 36 years old didn’t come easy. I had to give up so much. I had to give everything I’ve got to get it.

Life is more about trade-offs than walking around with a shopping list and thinking the universe will gift it to you through luck or patience.

The wise words of a dead man who wanted a quiet send-off

Dave Kline’s father knew he was going to die.

He wanted a quiet send-off. When the day came 100s of strangers refused his wishes. The funeral became packed. One line kept getting passed around like a virus…

Choose your tomorrow but start today.

I wish I had known this 20 years ago. Hope you can use it to overcome whatever resistance you might face and start living your version of the good life.

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