29 lessons from 29 years of life

In a few hours, I’ll have made 29 rotations around the sun on mothership Earth. So today, on the eve of my ascension into the final year of my 20s, I’ve decided to put together a list of lessons for each year of life. In no particular order, here’s my list:

  1. Learn to ride a bicycle: riding a bicycle is one of the few things I learned from my father and it is a gift that keeps giving. Few sensations are as pleasing as going through the world at 50 km/h and knowing you’re being powered by your own strength — it feels like absolute freedom!
  2. Always wear a helmet: going at 50 km/h feels amazing but landing on your head at that speed is not so amazing. The thing with life is that you only get to die once, so do your best to delay that for as long as possible.
  3. Learn to budget: you can’t build wealth by saving money alone, but you can’t build wealth if you spend all the money you make. Wealth is the money you don’t spend. Learn to make a financial and stick to it!
  4. Don’t get a credit card: if you are struggling to make ends meet a credit is only going to provide temporary space, then it’s going to compound your issues and you’ll find yourself in a much deeper hole. The first step to financial health is living within your means. If you’re in a position where you could replace the used amount on your credit monthly, then you’re in a good position to get one. Else, don’t do it.
  5. Invest in growth: for most, early-career salaries are laughable. Use this as an opportunity to pursue growth in your career. Before living expenses add up and lifestyle inflation comes for you, take that lower-paying job at a startup, make that career switch, apply for that internship. Pursue growth at all costs.
  6. Reinvest growth into earning: now that you’ve spent all these years growing, it’s time to apply it. Make your career capital pay off by putting yourself in positions that utilise your skills fully and get you into rooms reserved for but a few — it’s time to earn and grow!
  7. Pick a hobby and stick with it: for as much as you want to diversify your investment portfolio, diversify your sources of growth and self-worth. All too often people become defined by their career to the point where if you were to ask, “what would you do if money wasn’t a concern?”, they have no answer. Answer this question today and turn it into a hobby.
  8. Don’t finish books: as a smart person once said, “Most books should be blog posts and most blog posts should be quotes.” Not every book is worth reading all the way through. Learn to start many books but finish fewer, you’ll be left richer in both time and content.
  9. Get married young: I’m very biased on this point. There’s nothing as amazing as having a built-in best friend that has nothing but the utmost love and support for you. Someone who’s as dedicated to you as you are to them. As soon as you find this person, marry them!
  10. Eat healthy 90% of the time: you’re young, don’t deprive yourself of amazing food. Do your best to eat well most of the time and you won’t be seeing the Dr all too often.
  11. Don’t keep candy in the house: if you wind up in a cycle of eating badly and want to stop, don’t lie to yourself and believe that you can do that while cohabiting with that very same food. Throw the candy out.
  12. Figure out your sleep: knowing how much sleep you function best on is essential. It’s not 4 hours and 9 hours is a bit overkill. Find a number that works for you and make sure you’re getting that amount in on average. You’re only as lucid as you’re rested.
  13. Psychology is cheaper than retail therapy: at the height of a depression in University I owned 9 pairs of Vans. They only provided temporary spikes in dopamine.  I would have been better off getting 9 sessions of therapy instead.
  14. Fill your home with plants: as a kid I overheard my brother complain about having to water my mom's plants, so I developed a bias against plants. This bias listed till my wife filled our home with plants and I must stay, all the green does wonders for your mental health.
  15. Try not to work on weekends: there’s a point when working through weekends helps you level up rapidly in whatever you’re doing. I did this often early in my career and I have no ill-will towards it. However, this shouldn’t be your modus operandi unless if you want to build a life plagued with burnout.
  16. Don’t be a hoarder: not everyone wants to be a minimalist but the benefits of a life free of clutter are undeniable. Avoid aimless excess. Especially when it comes to finances.
  17. Listen better: for a long time when people presented me with their troubles I would rush to offer solutions — don’t be that guy. It’s belittling and dismissive to assume you know how to resolve people’s problems better than them. Wait for people to ask for advice before volunteering it. If you’re unsure as to what to say, you can ask, “Are we listening or solutioning?”
  18. Get a nice pair of headphones: this one speaks for itself. You haven’t listened to music till you’ve heard it boom from all the directions — the soundstage unravelling before you. It’s magical.
  19. Jazz music is dope: stop dissing Jazz. It’s dope! It birthed almost all the music you listen to now.
  20. Learn to play an instrument: I keep failing at this, but I’ll never stop trying. Playing an instrument is not only good for your brain — increased and sustained brain plasticity — it also helps you deepen your appreciation for the music you already listen to.
  21. Learn to appreciate art: understanding art isn’t pretentious — it's another vantage for taking in the world. Art is to the soul what water is to the body.
  22. Live in the city: where else can you walk for 1km and encounter a world-class restaurant, art galleries, coffee shops, Japanese tea retailers, a 4th generation barbershop and a store dedicated to only selling vinyl? Do yourself and live in a good city at least once in your life.
  23. Find a barber you can trust: a good barber can be almost as important as a therapist. That barber chair is a space for confession and renewal and you get to journey there regularly.
  24. Tell your story: don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and open, the best relationships are formed that way. You’d be surprised to learn how many people can see themselves in your truth and how much lighter and resilient you’ll feel from telling it.
  25. Forgive: resentment holds us hostage and prevents us from moving forward. Forgiveness is a gift you award to yourself, so give early and often.
  26. Make things with your friends: this one is best illustrated as a parable; “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
  27. Be mindful and intentional: find a practice that roots you in the present and helps you make decisions that are informed by your full self and watch how life begins to fill with alignment.
  28. Become friends with yourself: if you are afraid to spend time with yourself, you should spend time with yourself. There are so many lessons to be garnered from spending time with yourself — learn to enjoy your own company.
  29. Believe in yourself: there’s going to be a lot of doubt and failure in life, if you live it properly, through it all don’t lose your confidence. You are not only capable of doing all that you dream, it’s right in your grasp, if only you believe it to be true.

Happy birthday to me and here's to hoping there'll be 30 more come this time next year!