It’s sort of a tradition at this point for me to do a post around my birthday (see: 30, 29, 28, 27, 26). This year, I decided to write down 31 lessons I’ve learned in the past few years. Anything older than that tends to become a “known fact of life” and stands out a lot less.
These were initially written with modifiers like “most”, “often”, or “tend to”, but since that makes the points less pithy, I’ve taken them out. However, know that I don’t mean these lessons literally to be true in all circumstances and situations. The universe is messy and the right answer is always: “it depends”.
So without further ado:
- Life comes in two speeds: too slow, and too fast.
- No matter what you’ve achieved in the past, it’s what you’re going to do next is what people often care about.
- Related: everyone has a boss. Everyone’s boss wants more out of them.
- Getting a few minutes of quality face time with someone important is worth the time and effort if you care about building a relationship.
- Two signs you have a really good friend: they let you crash at their place anytime. They’re comfortable with lending you a lot of money.
- Media-free commutes are a great place to do some thinking.
- People don’t read/finish books. Which means reading can be a real advantage.
- The best writing provides the most clarity with the fewest words.
- People have a hard time with change. Accepting that change is inevitable is not intuitive.
- Things take time to permeate the world. Keep at it.
- In larger organizations, it’s worth developing an alternative plan to put in your back pocket should you be called to propose something new.
- While in reality, everyone is complex and messy, developing a crisp personal narrative helps create opportunities.
- When people dislike X or say “X is bad”, what they really mean is “X is bad for me”.
- You don’t really know how much power you have in a situation until you try to assert it.
- Related: Bluffing can take you a long way.
- Humans are visual creatures. Never forget that a picture/diagram/whiteboard drawing is often 10x more effective than a write up.
- Related: well-executed designs are another 10x improvement against basic wireframes.
- A strong network/community is one of those things that doesn’t seem super useful until it does. Then it seems like magic.
- When you win, people come up with all sorts of reasons (accurate or not) for why you were better. And when you lose, the opposite happens.
- Brands matter because our attention spans are limited, so we jump to what is known and familiar over something new and potentially unsafe (thus requiring further investigation).
- People don’t actually want feedback or advice—they just want to feel validated and praised about what they’ve already done or are planning to do.
- There will always been a desire to experience live performances people: plays, concerts, speaking engagements. We crave human connections.
- People would rather defend their beliefs and protect their egos than be wrong, even when they could reap benefits of course-correcting.
- Breakthrough technologies often have uncomfortable implications. Cryogenics. Strong AI. Autonomous vehicles. Lab grown organs.
- Happiness is adequate rest, daily workouts, meaningful work, friendship, and physical touch.
- Long-term planning can actually work if you stay flexible but focused.
- No system is completely meritocratic—status, gender, race, and other factors are too hard for people to totally separate. Doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile goal to strive for.
- We crave leadership most when times are tough or uncertain.
- On one hand, people all pretty much care about the same few things—safety, progress, love, novelty, connection. On the other hand, we have a really wide range of ideas about what will get us there, and just opinions on things generally.
- Myths are more powerful than facts.
- There are many more ways to get things wrong than to get them right.
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