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29 lessons learned in my 29th year

I like the sound of 29. It’s a prime number. It’s the last of my 20s. And I feel great about what’s in store this year.

Since 25, I’ve started a biennial tradition of blogging “X Things Learned for X Years” – check out years 25 and 27. While much of this year’s reflection borrows from my 2017 review, I’ve some fun(ny) new ones to share for my 29th.

  1. Being versus doing: at high points of stress or confusion, just being – instead of trying to actively solve the problem – has been immensely helpful for me. This means sitting with a feeling, or letting my subconscious chip away at the problem (e.g. “sleep on it.”) This has been especially helpful with emotional issues or problems I create in my own head. I’m excited to write about this counterintuitive idea soon.
  2. Binary versus spectrum thinking: Too often I put myself in an either/or scenario, whereas the optimal solution sits in the middle. Conversely, making choices more binary (fuck yes or no) can be helpful as well. Learning to work with both binary and spectrum thinking has helped me solve major dilemmas in career and relationships. Another idea sitting high in my drafts pile.
  3. It’s not forever: Speaking of binary options, it’s easy to think of certain choices as something you must do forever. Don’t like a job or relationship? You can always leave. Or you can experiment with something without the pressure of feeling like there’s no exit. I realize I’m speaking from a place of privilege, but it’s been hugely important for me to remember my agency and personal responsibility.
  4. Conscious – competence quadrant: The idea that with skill progression, we start out from consciously incompetent (being a n00b and thinking about what we’re doing) towards unconscious competence – the state of flow in which you’re great at what you do without thinking about how you’re doing it. I’m fascinated by good teachers; they’ve achieved unconscious competence yet need to make that knowledge conscious when transferring it. Another article in the pipeline.
  5. Values clarify everything: I used to give advice based on my values. Now, when someone asks me for advice, I make sure to understand what their values are first. Often times I don’t even need to give advice; simply reminding that person of their values helps remove the perceived roadblock.
  6. Inviting strangers to dinner has been a fun social experiment. Not only does it foster conversation + a sense of community, but it’s also efficient (brings people to me). Come to one of my dinners sometime, friend.
  7. Asking better questions: This year has been an explosion of better questions: “What if this were easy?” has been a great now. Replacing “how are you?” with What’s something interesting that happened this week? has also lead to qualitatively better conversations.
  8. Test drive things early on: I was fantasizing about some cars for a long time, then finally test drove them. Turns out, they weren’t as fun or sexy as I thought. The lesson? Test drive things so I don’t fruitlessly fantasize about something I might not like.
  9. Porn is a reality distortion device. Porn is not just sexual pornography, but anything excessive a la food porn, nature porn. Consumption of porn was directly in conflict with my desire to practice being versus doing (lesson #1). I’m giving up porn for 2018 and if I succeed, will probably give it up for life.
  10. Cruises with friends is awesome. I had the best time with my internet bestie on an inexpensive Mexico cruise…now I want to do annual cruises w/friends!
  11. New mantra I learned: Whenever I feel like I’m not being my best or true self, I repeat to myself “I love myself, I love myself, I love myself.” Stolen from the amazing short read Love yourself like your life depends on it.
  12. New visualization: imagine yourself as a cup overflowing with joy. I LOVE this visualization for putting me into a present, grateful state. Instead of reacting from a place of loss or fear, I’m acting from a place of abundance and love.
  13. New habit: coffee + french press. I may now be a full blown coffee addict, drinking 2-3 cups a day (but stopping by ~3pm, because sleep). This habit kicked into high gear when my uncle gifted me a French press, usage of which pairs up nicely with the Zojirushi thermos.
  14. New fav drink: the carajillo. Discovered this in Mexico City, the carajillo is a Spanish drink mixing coffee with brandy, rum, whiskey or anisette. One of my favorite drinks that I can’t find in the States.
  15. Wealth is the ability to say no. I’m not rich in money, but in time and freedom. Again, speaking from a place of privilege and entitlement but I’m just grateful to have the freedom to say YES to things that bring me joy, and NO to what doesn’t align.
  16. Crypto investing lesson 1: buy & hold hodl has outperformed any of my shorter term strategies. Also, personal note: do not do any trading late night as a way to kill boredom – FOMO and bad decisions run high in these scenarios 😅
  17. Crypto investing lesson 2: determine entry & exit points ahead of time. While I buy and hold, I also learned to set up sells to capture crazy 10x gains that may very well become 2x gains (or losses) weeks later. Read Part 4 of the Crypto Investor Series to learn more.
  18. Building bigger trap muscles: I looked awkward with relatively large arms but not the shoulder & trap muscles to support them. Diamond pushups, shoulder lifts and weighted pullups have gone a long way to rounding out my upper body.
  19. Canned food is awesome: I think canned sardines and oysters are delicious. Cheap, no prep needed, high in protein and good fats, and just as elegant when plated with colorful veggies.
  20. Unclench your butt: In the midst of doing the pigeon-pose for the first time, I realized that I couldn’t “relax into” the pose without unclenching my butt. This was a huge body awareness insight for me – I clench my butt as a fight-or-flight response under duress.  It was also funny to understand where the phrases “being uptight” or “being anal” comes from. If you find yourself holding a lot of stress in your body, try clenching and unclenching your butt. Bonus kegel points.
  21. Wishing others happiness is the ultimate happiness hack: feel down about yourself, or losing faith in humanity? Instead of judging others, I learned to wish them happiness instead. Which unsurprisingly makes me happier.
  22. Expressing desire, shamelessly. I’m practicing on communicating what I want in a raw, vulnerable way. Whether it’s “I need your help,” or “I want to be closer to you,” I astonish myself with how much my ego uses language to obfuscate true desire. One of my favorite slogans is NEVER HIDE by Rayban, an idea I want to practice.
  23. Exploring the #MeToo movement: it was illuminating to read my female friends’ stories of being violated, in ways overt and covert that men rarely experience or acknowledge. This is making me more aware of my interactions with not just women, but everyone to create safer spaces and interactions. I do hope that the outcome of the movement is elevated equality and understanding between everyone, and not a gender war. Men and women – we need each other.
  24. Lead with curiosity: a helpful frame of mind to reorient from a place of fear (“I wonder what she’ll think of me”) to a place of playful discovery (“I wonder what she’s like.”)
  25. Dreaming a new dream: I have a new desire to build a career by chasing curiosity & growth. The first iteration looks like getting paid to write on a variety of topics and building a following. I’m guessing the next iteration might look like building a tribe & community.
  26. Kids change everything: the dynamic of a family, the sense of responsibility and possibility in the world. Now that I have a baby niece and nephew, it does make me reevaluate what being an adult means, and what I want out of life.
  27. Very few things matter. We only have so many fucks to give. We only have so much energy and time. By recognizing that only few things really matter to me in life – which are drawn from my values of health, wealth & relationships – I’ve been able to let go of draining, non-issues like social media arguments and small mistakes.
  28. Don’t over-optimize: Optimizing things requires energy and carries cognitive load in of itself. Trying to over-optimize things is ironically suboptimal, and leads to burnout. I have to 80/20 how I 80/20 things. Learning to pick my battles – like whether a confrontation is worth the trouble – has given me back peace and time.
  29. And lastly, remember to have fun. This quote makes me feel better about again and my inevitable death…

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride! – Hunter S Thompson

My cup truly overflows. I am a cup overflowing with joy.


Also published on Medium.

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