Today is my 33rd birthday.
Every year, I try to spend some time reflecting on what I've learned along the way.
Historically, this list of life learnings was just for me—a private accounting of my own journey, growth, failures, and missteps.
But this year, I'd like to share it with all of you. My hope is that one of my learnings connects with you and positively impacts your life.
Here are 33 life learnings from my 33 years of life...
1. Life is hard, but fortunately, you get to choose your hard.
It's hard to build deep, meaningful relationships. It's also hard to live on the surface with everyone. It's hard to build the body you want. It's also hard to see your body atrophy from lack of use. It's hard to build a life of purpose. It's also hard to live without one. Choose your hard.
2. You don't owe it to anybody else, you owe it to yourself.
You get one chance at this. One body, one mind, one life. Take advantage of it. Test the limits of your capability. Do the thing that scares the hell out of you. Get after this life.
3. No one has it all figured out.
No one knows what they want to be when they grow up. It’s comforting as a young person to know that you aren’t really supposed to “figure it out” when it comes to your future. Just focus on pointing your compass in the right direction, embracing curiosity, and getting around great people. If you do that, good things will happen.
4. Life is more fragile than you think (even when you account for that statement).
You never know when it will be the last time you get to hug that friend, tuck your kid in for bed, kiss your wife, take a walk with your parents, or see that crazy family member. Hug your people with everything you have. Always make them let go first.
5. Someone is either holding you back or powering you forward, there is no in between.
Your environment creates your entire reality. Surround yourself with people who are constantly talking about the past, you'll be stuck in it. Surround yourself with people thinking big about the future, you'll build a beautiful one. Build a tribe that encourages you to think bigger. Get rid of the boat anchors holding you back and watch your entire life change in a year.
6. The word "yet" will completely change your life.
"I'm not good enough" becomes "I'm not good enough...yet." "I don't know how to do it" becomes "I don't know how to do it...yet." "I'm not capable of that" becomes "I'm not capable of that...yet." "Yet" is your one word reminder that you can achieve anything that you set your mind to. You are dynamic and capable of so much more than you realize. Embrace the "yet" and change your life.
7. Life has seasons (and each must be embraced for the good and bad).
Most of the pain and struggle we encounter comes from wasting energy complaining about the prior season or worrying about some future season. When we embrace the current season for its imperfections and opportunities, we find a way to thrive.
8. Identity is the real thing we're all searching for.
Everyone thinks they're looking for money, fame, or success, but what they're really looking for is identity. Embrace it in the present, diversify to lower your risk, and seek out new perspectives to challenge yourself along the way.
9. No plan has ever survived first contact with the enemy.
Mike Tyson famously said, "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." He was right. Plans are fine, but just know they're going to get thrown out the window. Learn to embrace chaos. Man Plans, and God Laughs.
10. Success always follows interest.
Most people focus too much on being interesting and not enough on being interested. Being interested is how you become interesting. When you pursue your genuine interests, you are prone to deep focus, which cultivates a depth that is impossible to fake. That depth is a necessary ingredient of success.
11. Insecurity is a natural human condition.
When I was younger, I used to think that achieving some external rewards would rid me of my insecurity—that getting promoted, making more money, or winning some awards would suddenly make me feel perfectly comfortable. But I've come to realize that the feeling is natural. Opening up about these insecurities, rather than trying to mask them with bravado, is the key to managing their influence on our lives.
12. You really have no idea what you're capable of.
The only way to find out is to push yourself out of your comfort zone. To take that risk. To embrace that pain. Sometimes you'll crash and burn. But sometimes you'll find that you were capable of much more than you ever thought possible.
13. Fall in love with the ordinary.
An amazing life is built through tiny, ordinary, boring things. Get comfortable growing slowly and you'll build the life of your dreams.
14. Most people overestimate what they can do in a day and underestimate what they can do in a year.
Your entire life can change in one year. Not ten, not five, not three. One. One year of focused daily effort. Start today.
15. Avoid compound mistakes and you'll always find a way to win.
A compound mistake is when you follow one mistake with another one. We can't always control the first mistake, but we are in control of how we let it impact us going forward. If we avoid compound mistakes, we win.
16. Freedom is the real goal.
The ability to do what you want, with who you want, when you want is what everyone prizes above all else. Conflating money and freedom is the mistake that people seem to make. Money is a tool that can be used to gain freedom, but more often, it becomes a tool that keeps us running for more.
17. People will call you weird—and that's a good thing.
When you start living differently and transforming your life, some people won't like it. They'll call you crazy, lame, and different. Well, being normal is vastly overrated. The world doesn't need more normal people. Be abnormal.
18. You should always cringe at your former self.
If you look back at yourself from a year ago and you don't cringe at your output, habits, behaviors, or actions, you should be worried. That "cringe" sensation is a sign of your growth. It should always exist.
19. Optimism is not about ignoring obstacles, it's about viewing every obstacle as an opportunity rather than a permanent roadblock.
In life, you get rewarded for the number of obstacles that you successfully navigate around. You get rewarded even more if the solution is creative and scalable. Remember: Pessimists sound smart, optimists get rich.
20. Unproductive walks are the most productive activity.
Hot take: No one has ever changed their life listening to a podcast on 2x speed. I've generated more life-changing ideas on silent walks without my phone than I have in all of my desk time, podcast listening time, and "productive time" combined.
21. There is no such thing as the "right moment" for a big decision.
Having a kid, taking that professional risk, moving to a new place—these are all big, scary decisions. The best you can hope for is to do the work to make the leap of faith as comfortable as possible. But after that, you just need to open the door, jump out of the plane, and trust that you packed the parachute tight.
22. Find someone who you love doing nothing with.
Life isn't the glamorous Instagram-worthy moments. Life is mostly just sitting around doing nothing. When you find the person you love doing nothing with, you've found your life person.
23. When something isn't working, fight the urge to add and ask what you can subtract instead.
Whenever we're in a tough spot, our tendency is to add something new to the system (a new workout, a new supplement, a new project, a new person, etc.). Usually, the solution is found in removing something that is holding us back, not adding something new.
24. "Less, but better" is a mantra that applies to everything.
From work to health to relationships: We don't need to do more, we don't need to have more. We need less, but better.
25. Stop trying to change people who don't want to change.
People don't change because we want them to—they change because they want to. If someone has consistently shown an unwillingness to change, stop trying to change them. Save your energy and move on.
26. Every single person you see is fighting a battle you'll never know anything about.
Think about that before you judge anyone on the basis of some tiny sliver of information. It will help you live a more positive, empathetic life.
27. Everyone needs a few Foreign Prison Friends.
One of the main goals of life is to have a few friends who you could reliably count on to break you out of a foreign prison if it came down to it. At a minimum, you need a friend who would figure out how to call the relevant high-ranking authorities to make it happen.
28. Someone believing in you may promote consistency, but someone betting against you will always spark intensity.
When someone is authentic, they become a magnet for the highest quality people. It's hard to explain, but in a world of fake, we're all attracted to what is real.
30. Focus on actions, not words.
What you say doesn't matter. You may impress people with your words in the short run, but all that matters are your actions in the long run. Be a man or woman of action.
31. Never bet against the person who just keeps getting back up.
The world belongs to the people who get punched in the face and have the courage and grit to get back up.
32. We all get more embarrassing with age (or we're just mature enough to embrace it).
When I was growing up, I used to wonder why parents were so embarrassing. I assumed that our parents just had more embarrassing personalities. I was wrong. We get more embarrassing with age—or, more likely, we just grow up enough to get comfortable with being ourselves.
33. Cherish your Front Row People.
Close your eyes, you're dead (sorry!). Imagine you're at your own funeral. People are walking in, crying, hugging each other. Everyone sits down. Who's in the front row? Those are the people that really matter. What are you doing today to cherish them?