Recently, I turned 25 years young.
Like a proper introvert, I began contemplating where I am in my life and how time seems to be passing faster and faster. After that existential meltdown, I somehow managed to write down the major lessons and thoughts I gathered during my temporary stay here on Earth.
These lessons reflect my experiences and opinions, so take it as such. This is a very personal blog post, so feel free to share your equally personal opinions. Here are, in no particular order, the 25 lessons I learned so far.
1. Reality is subjective
As a kid, the world seemed black and white. The media, entertainment, parents, bullies… everything is either good or bad. A big shift in my worldview happened when I learned about paradigms and how each person perceives the world through their own senses. This allowed me to improve my empathy and understand others more easily.
It also made me a bit of a nihilist…
2. Everyone has their own struggles and flaws
This lesson followed the previous one. Just like I struggle with anxiety, procrastination or finding my purpose, so do others. Even those who seem like they have everything figured out. This realization humanizes those who I tend to put on a pedestal.
3. Don’t judge others
This is a big one! I grow up in a relatively small city where almost everyone knows everyone. This tends to breed gossip. I also feel that in Portugal, where I grow up, still exists a lot of this gossip mentality. Small country problems. When I finally read “The 4 Agreements”, I realized how wrong and futile judging others is.
It automatically removed a lot of the friction in some of my relationships with others. It allows me to see others as they are, not how I want them to be.
4. It’s my responsibility to improve myself
Hopefully, I will live a long life. Although to reach that goal with health and abundance, I need to constantly work to improve myself. Always. Until I die. If I don’t know about something, it is my responsibility to seek that information instead of complaining.
5. Follow your inclinations
Major one! During these 25 years, I received a lot of career advice. However, the best piece of advice consistently comes from the same source: me. When I was younger, other’s advice had more weight in my decision-making process because my self-image was tainted by society’s expectations of me.
Now I can feel the changes during the years and how time (and distance) allows me to detach from these outside influences. Following my inclinations is becoming easier and easier.
6. Allow others to speak freely about you
Let others know that you WANT criticism. Create a relationship where others can give their honest opinion about your behavior, business, habits, etc. Some people do this regardless of the relationship but personally, I only give my full honest opinion if I feel like the other person is receptive to it. I try to do this with every relationship I want to nurture.
7. Not all advice is good advice
Being opening to criticism is different than accepting and implementing all criticism. Everyone like to give advice, usually about topics they have little to no experience with. Every time I receive or seek advice, I always look at the person’s past actions, results and most importantly, if their advice is based on fact or simply an opinion.
Just a side note: Sometimes people tell me that I should listen to them because there are older than me. Older doesn’t mean wiser. Experience and action make you wise, not how many times the Earth went around the Sun.
8. Listen More, talk less
If you know me, you know that speaking too much is definitely not an issue for me. I only speak when I have something to say, which allowed me to develop other skills. During the years I came to embrace my introspective personality and focusing on nonverbal communication.
I understand that this lesson is very specific to me but it’s something I grew to value.
9. Follow the path of highest resistance
In these short 25 years, the few big decisions I made were always towards the path where my comfort zone could be challenged. Resistance, in this case, doesn’t mean going against my gut feeling. It means making decisions based on the potential gains of that experience.
By the way, the path of highest resistance is also the path least walked. I take great pleasure in walking it and as I get further and further from the main road, it gets better and better.
10. Be critical of everyone
I already came across multiple people, both in person and online, who seemed to have all the answers and be THE mentor. In that state of mind, it’s easy to become narrow-minded and believe in everything that person believes. I grow to distance myself from fanaticism because it blinds me to the truth. A balance between skepticism and openness is the way.
11. There are two sides to every situation
This one is a continuation of lessons #1 and #3. We tend to receive information only from one point of view. But it takes two to dance and in social dynamics, we must understand both sides to have the complete picture. It already happened to me countless times. Someone misinterprets another person or situation and then relays the information to me like the telephone game. Once that happens, it’s easy to take sides and dismiss any information that goes against that initial input.
12. Trust in the process
This lesson is one I try to remember every single day. Why? Because I sometimes turn into a monkey and only care about the bananas in front of me. Instant gratification feels good but leads nowhere. On the other hand, patience and daily work are the reason why the greats exist.
Again, I try to remind myself every day because it’s so damn easy to forget about the process. Perhaps one of my biggest struggles…
13. What goes up must come down
A difficult pill to swallow. There’s one thing in this world we cannot avoid: taxes. No, wait! I mean suffering. I recently went through a breakup and I questioned myself about the whole experience. Was it worth it going through the good moments only to reach this moment of pain? The answer is… hell yeah!
I rather live with ups and downs because the opposite is worse. A life of average, a life of boredom sounds f*cking scary. Good memories last forever and shouldn’t be tainted by pain and fear.
14. Don’t think too much about it
When making an important decision, I tend to think about it over and over again. I try to analyze all the possible consequences. What can go wrong, the impact in my life, how others will react. This mindset usually devolves into paralysis by analysis and fear overpowers my ability to act.
The best way I found to make big decisions is to just ask a simple question: Does it feel right? The decision might take me to unexpected places where I do not control all the variables but if it feels right, that’s all I need. This lesson relates a bit with lessons #5 and #9.
15. Being social is a skill, not a gift.
Until my early 20’s, I believed that being social was a gift which I, unfortunately, didn’t possess. I saw others effortlessly interacting with complete strangers and being completely comfortable within a group. Those people looked like superheroes, blessed by nature. Fortunately, it all changed once I learned about the existence of a group of people: pick up artists.
Basically a bunch of nerds who dedicated themselves to learn about social dynamics and become good with women. I was immediately hooked. Although I didn’t play “the game”, seeing these people approaching social dynamics as a skill gave me permission to start improving. Today, all my social anxiety is gone.
16. Be your best friend
Perhaps the most important lesson of them all. Relying on family, friends or partners for emotional support is important but there is one person who will stay with me until I die. A friend who is always present and available.
I am my best friend. It may sound weird or egocentric for an extrovert but trust me, you want to be in good terms with yourself. Because if you cannot be your friend, how can you expect others to be? If I am in good terms with myself, I am more available to others. Everyone wins.
17. Learn about yourself
To become friends with anyone, you need to care to the point where you seek new information about that person. The same applies to us. I recently implemented a new practice in my routine, journalling. I sit down, open my notebook and write. About my thoughts and my ideas. I allow the pen to map my inner conversation.
The result: I am forced to put my abstract thoughts into words and in the process, I learn about myself. Suddenly I understand past decisions, my inclinations, the fragmented details are connected. My point is that you need to find a practice where you stop, and listen to your thoughts. Meditation, hiking, journalling… whatever it works for you.
18. Deep work is the key to success
My ability to focus on one task is crippled by years of internet connectivity. I talked about this in my previous post but the bottom line is that this world is now designed towards instant gratification. I feel this reality every day which makes it extremely hard to create instead of consuming. And as you can see (and read), I create stuff. For a long time, I wasn’t aware of how much the internet distracts me from success. But finally, I can see the trap.
I only need to somehow stop my unconscious self from getting sidetracked, sit down in front of a blank page and suffer until I can finally start creating something I might end up deleting. Deep work is not easy. Getting to that “special place” is hard. But I know that behind that wall, is where all my best work is.
19. Don’t let your ego dictate your thoughts and actions
Especially in a social environment, I noticed my ego taking control over me. Especially in moments of friction and emotion, the ego is ready to jump in. I feel like learning about the ego and its traps allowed me to become more sensitive and more observant.
If you are at the stage where you can at least accept the ego can influence you, check out these books: The 4 Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and the Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday.
20. Learn about the game of money
Another major lesson. Once I finished college and started earning some money, I started seeking financial advice. In school, we never talked about managing money. At home, my parents drilled into my head the value of saving money. Although that’s very good advice, I felt like that couldn’t be just it. How do you others earn money? Are there other options to the traditional nine to five job? How much should I save? Should I save forever?
During this past year, I managed to learn a lot about money and how it circulates around the market. The sad truth: money is a game and if I don’t know the rules, I will lose.
21. Learn about investments
Another big lesson I only learned recently. I have been investing in myself for a very long time without even knowing. I invested countless hours surfing the web and in the process, I learned English and everything I know about graphical design and video editing.
But recently I discovered how to do the same for my money. I learned about compound interests, index funds, ETF’s, robo-advisors, fees, cryptocurrency… Learning about financial investments unlocked many doors I didn’t even know existed.
I learned this one from Gary Vaynerchuk. The way he communicates with his staff and audience guarantees that his message is perfectly captured. He does this by communicating the message, the reason behind the message and his feeling and opinion on how the other person will interpret the message. He basically puts all the card on the table, making it extremely easy to understand me.
Since I implemented this, I find it much easier to communicate my thoughts to others and how it helps others to understand me by having more context.
23. Be a team player
I played basketball for almost 9 years straight and the most important lesson was how much the team’s overall performance depends on each player’s ability to cooperate. I also noticed how the coach can impact the whole team dynamic and how important he or she is in creating a positive environment.
It is super interesting how these dynamics can be imported into a work environment and still make total sense. I will eventually write a full post about this topic, so stay around.
24. College is overrated
Oh yes, college. I went through 3.5 years of mechanical engineering school (bachelor’s degree) and 2 more years for the master’s degree. This gives me some credit to talk about the current state of “higher” education. Again, this is my opinion so take it like so.
Universities are outdated. Finding a good professor is rare, students learn how to pass exams instead of learning how to think critically, no one talks about soft skills and how the job will actually look like… And still, college served me well. I only have my current job because of it. This makes me look at university more like a stamp of approval instead of tangible knowledge.
25. Cultivate an abundance mindset
I left this one for last on purpose. For you to see how serious I am about this one, here is a quote:
“Life is as good as your mindset.“ — Anonymous
I honestly believe that a powerful mindset is more important than skill or talent. The one thing all successful people have in common is their ability to brainwash themselves into believing they can do it. That they can achieve their crazy goals. That they live in a world full of opportunities. A mindset of abundance.
In my opinion, this lesson is the most important of all 25 lessons present in this post. Why? Because it empowers me with a mindset of expansion, where fear doesn’t dictate my thoughts nor actions.
If I get fired, do I panic? No. There are tons of jobs out there waiting for me. Can I turn Road Delta into something great? Of course, if you put in the work. It might be delusional but at least… it will make me keep going forward.
Surprisingly, this post turned out to be quite a ride for me! I feel like I learned a lot from writing this lessons into a readable form. I hope you got something out of it too. See you in 25 years!