I turned 32 a month ago and long-time readers know I try to use birthdays as opportunities to reflect and learn. The past couple years are here: 31, 30, 29, 28, 27, 26.

The past 13 months have seen a lot of change — I was part of a mass lay off, worked as a freelance product manager, got engaged, gave a TED talk, started a new company, raised capital, and helped people find exciting new job opportunities. As such, I have a new set of thoughts, sometimes a re-statement of prior lessons, but still meaningful for me to share again. While I do these mostly for me, I hope you find them useful as well.

Feel free to write me a note about which one resonates most with you!

  1. The way we see the world is shaped profoundly by the stories and lessons we learn in childhood and adolescence. Some people learn to recognize and shape those unconscious mindsets, others are utterly controlled by them.
  2. Achievement in any endeavor is about a combination of allowing things happen (being patient, exploring unknowns, being flexible) and making things happen (careful plans, disciplined execution, focus). Most of us lean towards one pole and must be aware that they should also leverage the other.
  3. If something really matters, you’ll find a way to get it done. That said, it’s important to continually revisit our schedules and list of tasks to ensure we\’re prioritizing the most important things (health, family, revenue-generating activities).
  4. Most things in life follow a power law, especially media and products. You have to work hard every time but only some of what you do will be a big hit. That said, when you find something that works, dig in deeper — you can often milk it for a lot more.
  5. Video games are far more satisfying (to me) when they have compelling characters and stories. In general, storytelling—real, actual storytelling—is one of the most underrated and underinvested skills.
  6. Having the right words can take you from awkward or unsure to confident and persuasive. Those who have mastered language and thinking on their feet can control a discussion and usually get their way.
  7. Slow and steady does not always win the race but consistency over time can lead to a massive long term advantage in data, insights, network, trust, skill, and wealth, among other things.
  8. Almost everything is both easier and harder than it looks. Easier in that getting started is doable for nearly anyone. Harder in that reaching a very high level takes an unreasonable amount of time and effort.
  9. Don’t be afraid to be wrong / dumb. Some people just care about sounding smart and being right, but the most successful people are willing to try weird things, take risks and occasionally look stupid in the short-term until they figure out a strategy that leads to massive long-term results.