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I’m probably not equipped to give you advice on how you should live your life. And, when you think about it, who is? We all live different lives, face different challenges, and are all born into different eras and completely different situations.
But in reflecting on my life over the past 30 quick years leading up to my birthday today, I’ve come to realize that there are a bunch of rules I’ve personally found indispensable in how I act on a daily basis. These rules have helped me out quite a bit—and in case they help you out too (or just make you think!), I’ve rounded up a few of my favorites below 🙂
1. Being kind to others is the most valuable investment you will ever make. Whenever I’ve been kind to someone, without expecting anything in return, that kindness usually comes back to me in some weird, circuitous way. What you put into the world you get back twice over.
2. It’s worth seeing all of the advice you consume as a series of suggestions, not a bunch of rules to follow.
3. Run away, fast, from experts who pretend to have their shit together. We all have our faults, but some people (especially those who call themselves “thought leaders,” “gurus,” and “experts”) are better at hiding them.
4. The more thoughtful you are, the less competitive and aggressive you need to be. This is a good thing: work and life become more fun when you work together with people, rather than trying to one-up them.
5. Don’t do anything unless you’re not going to do it right. It’s worth seeing yourself as someone who does good work.
6. If you’re in the middle of a conversation or a meeting that’s way over your head, try paying close attention with quiet confidence. People will assume you’re smarter and more knowledgeable than you actually are. But make sure to study up for the next time.
7. If you believe in an idea strongly, chase it. What other people think matters, but not as much as you think it does. A few years back, I declined a few full-time, good-paying jobs to devote a year of my life to following my passion. At the time, only one person supported me: my then-girlfriend, now-wife. The project ended up spawning a book that has been translated into 11 languages, which led to another book that has been published in 16. I chased the idea because I believed in it—belief is usually all you need to get started with something. Screw the naysayers.
8. Drink more water. If you feel anxious, burnt out, or low on energy, ask yourself how much water you drink on a daily basis. You might not be getting enough.
9. Anything that tastes sweet and has zero calories is absolutely terrible for you. There are no exceptions to this rule.
10. If you’re consistently low on energy, try: vigorous aerobic exercise on a frequent basis, investing in your sleep hygiene, putting cleaner burning food into your body, and cutting alcohol and caffeine out of your life.
11. Retry foods you think you dislike every few years.
12. All of your suffering comes from your inability to come to terms with how things change.
13. If you’re always excited for your next vacation, your life at home needs to be more exciting. As Seth Godin has put it, “instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”
14. If you know exactly where you’ll be in five years, you’re either playing things far too safe, or you’re not accounting for all of the risk in your future.
15. There are some people who only talk about themselves, and never ask you about you. These people usually aren’t worth your time and attention—but sometimes they speak so much because they feel like they’re never heard.
16. If you want to know your value, pay attention to how you make other people feel. This isn’t an indication of your worth, but it’s a good place to look if you’re curious about the difference you’re making in the lives of those around you.
17. Everybody on the planet loves getting a hand-written letter in the mail. A letter takes just ten minutes to write, yet the recipient may cherish it for years.
18. We all need at least a bit of time to ourselves where we reflect on our lives. Spend the occasional Saturday afternoon disconnected, or even consider taking a yearly “think retreat” (one of my favorite productivity rituals). Everyone needs some time to reflect on and strategize about their work and life.
19. The more time we have to reflect, the more grateful we become. It’s only when we step back from our life that we’re able to appreciate all we have.
20. The world is created by those who step up. Every book you read, every song you listen to, and every product you use on a daily basis was created by someone no smarter than you, who willed that thing into existence through hard work.
21. Pay close attention to how you come across to other people. Annoying as this can be, we’re all judging one another.
22. If you want to live longer, quit watching TV. The average person spend about 15 years of their life in front of their TV set, and watches around four hours of video each day.
23. The analog world provides us with more meaning and enjoyment than the digital world. But the digital world makes our life more efficient. Enter into both worlds wisely.
24. The best budget decision you can make is to purposefully resist developing expensive tastes. We get used to everything we have—eventually, what we have, and what we do, become our new “normal”. Just as you get used to boxed wine, you get used to drinking $50 bottles of Chardonnay. Resist developing expensive tastes in everything from coffee, to wine, to travel, to the size of your house.
25. Status is the greatest driver of consumption. If you feel the desire to buy something new, question whether it appeals to your sense of status; whether you’re convinced you that you need that thing to become a better version of yourself. Accumulating more junk is a terrible way to become a better person.
26. Books are the best thing money can buy.
27. Boring advice: set up an automatic monthly investment plan that deducts money from your account immediately after each paycheck. As you earn more money, increase this monthly contribution so that your lifestyle doesn’t inflate.
28. True love is not real. But true friendship is—and it’s what most people are referring to when they speak about true love.
29. One of the most underrated skills: letting other people finish their sentences before starting yours.
30. Be wise with your words. An offhand comment you make may be remembered by someone forever—especially if you’re chatting with someone under the age of 18. As a general rule, your words are more influential than you think.