Yesterday (October 23) was my 30th birthday. The big three-oh. To celebrate, here’s another 30 life lessons to accompany Joshua’s 30 Life Lessons. Oh, and please, whatever you do, don’t get me any birthday gifts.
1. It’s not about how people feel about you, but how you make them feel. From grade school through my freshman year in high school, I was chubby, I was crooked-toothed, and I had low self-esteem. I was very concerned with how I looked, and I was even more concerned with how people saw me. Unfortunately, looks were everything for me; plus, I was constantly worried about hanging out with the cool kids. In fact, looking back on my friend choices, I remember blowing off some great people because they weren’t what I considered “cool.” Growing older has shown me the cool kids aren’t always the happy kids. I realized what people think about you isn’t nearly as important as how you make them feel.
2. Consider all advice. “Oh, if I knew then what I know now.” I can’t tell you how many times I heard that from my parents and grandparents growing up. Now, at age 30, I completely understand what they meant. It’s amazing how much smarter our parents appear as we we get older. In many instances, if I had listened to my parents’ and grandparents’ advice, I could have avoided learning lessons the hard way. When I realized this, I told myself that even if I didn’t agree with what someone was telling me, I would at least consider their advice. Thankfully, this has forced me to look into the mirror to consider what I must change.
3. Happiness comes from within. As we have written in our essays, letting our possessions define who we were quickly led to an empty feeling inside. We realized that happiness comes from within, not from the things we own.
4. You’ll never be happy with more until you’re happy with what you have currently. It’s as simple as that. In most cases, I discovered I usually don’t get rewarded in life with more until I appreciate what I have currently.
5. Forgiveness is incredibly important. I did a really good job holding grudges and keeping count of who wronged me. There is a profound saying in the bible: “Freely forgive others as you forgive yourself.” When I learned how to let things go and easily forgive others, I was a much happier person. In fact, I found the bigger the wrong I forgave, the better I felt.
6. You can count your closest friends on one hand. This is also something I remember my parents and grandparents saying while I was growing up. They were right. As you grow older you find out who is actually your friend and who isn’t.
7. Being honest is always the right thing. This is something I learned on accident when admitting to my grandmother that I snuck into her liquor cabinet. I was eighteen at the time, and I was living with her. She told me if I lied to her when she asked me if it was true or not, she was going to ask me to leave her house because she wouldn’t be able to trust me. Even when I have royally screwed up in life, I have found honesty punishes me less and gains trust more.
8. If you lie, you will get caught. This is very true for my life. Plus, if you lie, you will probably have to tell more lies to cover up the original lie. It’s a vicious cycle.
9. Although honesty is important, I don’t have to be completely transparent. I’ve always had this tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve and be very blunt with my comments. I’ve learned that just because something is true, I don’t have to say it—I needn’t spew forth every thought that enters my head.
10. People are inherently good. I have been lied to, picked on, and treated badly many times, which has caused me to be a bit cynical and expect the worst out of people. This year I finally realized that even the people who’ve treated me poorly are still good at some level. None of us are perfect. This has helped me be less cynical.
11. Slow down. This is something I continue to work on improving: we all need to slow down, breathe, and pace ourselves when we get overwhelmed.
12. Friendly people at work aren’t necessarily your friends. This is another lesson learned the hard way. Be careful whom you open up to at work.
13. Stay true to yourself. If it doesn’t feel right, if it doesn’t feel good, if it doesn’t feel like you—then don’t do it. I’m much happier when I follow this advice.
14. Every decision matters. This is something I attempt to instill in my brothers and sisters who are still in high school. Every decision we make affects our future: there is no such thing as a zero-sum decision.
15. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Every decision we make costs us something: be it time, emotion, money, etc.
16. “Act as if…” This is a line from the movie Boiler Room. It has stuck with me since I watched that movie over a decade ago. This could also be interpreted as: “Be the change in the world you want to be.” Either way, this line has helped me throughout my life.
17. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” —Eleanor Roosevelt. You needn’t care what people think or say about you. What they say or think is only true if you believe it’s true. Don’t let anyone get the best of you.
18. Some of life’s most profound advice is found in platitudes. “You can be anything you want to be,” “Life’s too short,” “Time heals all wounds,” “Good things come to all those that wait,” etc. Don’t dismiss it just because it’s a platitude.
19. Don’t sweat the small stuff. This is something I have really appreciated with getting older. It’s easier for me to avoid jealousy, it’s easier for me to forgive, and it’s easier for me to overlook the negative things in life.
20. It’s all small stuff. Until you have a few life-changing experiences, this isn’t clear. I have had a few close calls with myself, friends, and family which have shown me how small my problems are.
21. If you don’t take care of your health, it will fade fast. I don’t think I need to articulate this one any more. If you’re over 30, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
22. Relationships are important. This lesson brings up all kinds of cliched thoughts. First, it’s all about who you know—who you know can get you far. Second, relationships require work—this became especially apparent after reflecting upon my relationships with past girlfriends. Knowing this has helped me tremendously with my current girlfriend: I have more patience. Third, don’t burn a bridge with another person if you can avoid it: you never know who will decide your fate.
23. Live life with passion. If I didn’t have passion in my life, I would be bored to death. If you’re bored, focus on your passions. If you don’t have time for your passions, make time.
24. If you’re not growing, you’re dying. If you’re not growing in life, you are simply living out your days.
25. Contribute. Contributing to someone else, or to a community, will make you feel good. Contribution is what makes me feel the most alive. Contributing to others keeps me going, gets me up in the mornings, and continues to inspire me.
26. In twenty years you will regret the things you didn’t do more than the things you did do. This is something I continually remind myself. Let’s take my bachelor’s degree, for example: when I was 25 and without a degree, I asked myself if I wanted to have my degree by the time I was 30, or did I want to be 30 wishing I had my degree. I don’t necessarily need it right now, but I’m glad I started on it when I was 25 and not 30.
27. Life is happening now! I let this slip. When I came home from work, I forgot. When I stayed up late working tirelessly for my bosses, I forgot. When I commuted over an hour to work, I forgot. Don’t forget to live life in the moment.
28. Learn to let go. This was a hard lesson for me, but it serves true. Sometimes it’s just better to let things go. I could go on and on about how my employer wronged me, or how that guy cut me off, or how I wanted to be a CEO in ten years, but in reality none of that matters.
29. Everything changes. Things don’t look different day-to-day, but when you look back ten years it’s all different. There is one thing that’s certain: change is an absolute, and we should plan accordingly. Don’t fool yourself.
30. Procrastination is useless. This is a big one for me. I realized that no matter how long I put something off, it’s still there the next day. Imagine that.
Subscribe to The Minimalists via email.