One year ago today I published my first official piece of writing.
It was a reflection piece on my 23 birthday. 23 pieces of life advice I felt like I could offer in confidence learned from my 23 years of life (a little pretentious, I know).
I’ve since unpublished it.
I changed the hosting site of my blog a couple times and I just didn’t feel like it was something that needed to follow me in the move.
As I sit here a year later rereading it, I’m a little embarrassed. The ideas seem solid but wow, I was corny.
I would be scared if I wasn’t embarrassed though.
One year ago I started writing and publishing out of the blue. No experience, no training…I was a noob. Writing hasn’t blown up into anything extraordinary for me or anything, but I’ve grown exponentially as a creative and as a person through the process.
I think the thing that feels cringey about this blog post from a year a go isn’t the writing, but the concept that I thought I had 23 life lessons to share. If I’ve learned anything in the last year it’s that I don’t know shit…
I don’t have lessons to share like a wise monk. I’m a twerp ass twenty something trying to figure it all out while battling a Tik Tok addiction just like everybody else…What I do have to share though is a voice. A voice that is very much unique to me and my own experiences.
And although opinions, experiences, and stories get all sorts of muddled together and lost in translation these days due to the information overload that is the internet…My voice still matters, and I think I’ve grown a lot in my confidence and ability in sharing it in just the past year.
That’s why I’m re-sharing this post. It’s a part of my story, my experience, and my voice both past and present. It sheds light onto who I was, who I am, and how much I’ve grown.
it’s important to me that I continue to develop this voice and my ability to share it. This piece and the growth I’ve experienced over the last year simply serve as another brick in the wall of the overarching structure that I’m building.
If you’ve read anything that that I’ve written over the past year I sincerely thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your attention is a gem and it means the world to me that you leant it to my work for a short time.
I hope I continue to write for MANY, many more years to come.
I’m 23 and I’m feeling me…
I recently celebrated my 23rd birthday and wanted to use this time as an excuse to do some self-reflecting.
I spent a lot of time trying to write some sappy intro that summarizes the last year and how much I’ve grown, but I chucked it all out to get to the good stuff quicker.
These are 23 ideas that dominate my attention and represent who I am and how I carry myself….well at least as of age 23…who knows where I’ll be next year.
I highly recommend doing something similar to this annually because it forces you to conceptualize your daily insights. I found that I was able to write down plenty of ideas that I thought deserved to be on this list but I had trouble summarizing and backing them up.
Turns out my philosophy wasn’t as logically sound as I thought.
I spent 4 nights obsessively typing out these ideas and ended up with nearly 8000 words. I was able to flesh out the thoughts I was less confident in and put a cherry on top of the ones that I was. I took those ideas and cut the word count down to what I have for you today.
I hope you enjoy and are encouraged to try this on your own.
Here’s to year 24!
Welcome to my self help book…
1. Artfully differentiate yourself from the norm
There are a lot of people out there who are living their lives just trying to fit in. They choose their hobbies, careers, and even sometimes their spouse based on what other people will think of them. There is a dominating part of human nature that just wants to roll with the crowd.
At the same time there’s another whole demographic of people who long for originality. I see people strive to be different just for the sake of being different and in this process they lose a lot of the validation that their ideas might deserve.
I feel like I’ve always been stuck in a middle ground between these two groups of people. I used to feel like I was unable to make a decision on which mindset I wanted to take, but I realized my middle ground was the perfect place to be.
I work with a group of people who don’t read books for fun. They spend their evenings playing video games and watching movies and that’s become the norm to discuss in my work environment. I was dumbfounded when I came to the realization that I was hesitant to share something I had learned in a book I read because I was afraid of being judged. There was a disconnect here when I realized that I spent my evenings confident enough in something to devote my time to it, but not confident enough to share it with others.
So who was wrong…me or them?
I think answering this question is where it gets tricky, but that’s exactly where I learned my lesson. I feel like any self help book you pick up is going to tell you not to give a f%#@ about what other people say, and for the most part I think that’s true. There’s a world of possibilities that open up when you learn to value what you truly value. But I want to get excited about these things that I value, and I want to get excited with other people. I want to motivate and inspire them along with myself.
If I can’t relate to them and what their “normal” is, everything I say just gets disregarded as “weird.” There’s no credibility in a relationship if there’s no relatability. Playing with the balance between conformity and originality is truly an art form, but its one that’s worth the time and effort. I’m no expert at it by any means, but I do believe that the balance changes with every relationship you develop. It’s an ongoing process of learning and developing.
2. Honesty brings value
Through my early to mid teenage years, I was obsessed with the band The Avett Brothers. I learned countless lyrics, followed their setlists online religiously, and attended 10-11 shows of my own (how a 14-15 year old made this happen logistically? I’m not too sure…Thanks Mom & Dad?)
Although they have a lot of great one liners, and I can go on and on about the lessons I’ve learned from their music, there’s one lyric that still resonates and holds a significant impact on how I carry myself today. It’s found on the fourth track of their studio album “Emotionalism.”
“The weight of lies will bring you down And follow you to every town ‘cause Nothing happens here that doesn’t happen there When you run make sure you run To something and not away from ‘cause Lies don’t need an aeroplane to chase you anywhere”. -“The Weight of Lies” by The Avett Brothers.
Basic stuff, but as a 14 year old kid this hit home. I can still remember the first time that I heard it. I had gone on the internet and found the closest library that had the record (a solid 30 minutes from where I lived), and I convinced my dad to drive me out on a Saturday morning to go get it (thanks again Dad). I popped the CD in on the drive home and those words hit me like a ton of bricks!
I’ve told my fair share of white lies in my life and I still tell them today. Nobody’s perfect. But realizing the true power that lies can hold in your life is a game changing process. The longer we spend time on this planet, the more we realize we can get away with not telling the truth but all that does is force you to run away from the life that you’re supposed to be living.
“Own your mistakes. This will be hard but it does wonders for yourself and your relationships.”
3. Find the logic in what you are doing. Is it there? Or are you just following instructions?
There is no reason you should base your actions around other peoples’ definitions of success.
I got married when I was 21 and received a lot of flack from other people for not being “prepared.” We were too young…we hadn’t experienced enough life yet…I didn’t have a “real” job, the list of responses were endless. But 2 years later the decision to get married was the best I’ve made in my life so far.
The reason we pursued our decision outside of what would be considered “the norm” is that we knew our situation better than anyone else. Of course it’s still beneficial to hear the advice given by outside minds – it can increase your awareness on a situation and broaden your perspective – but at the end of the day, we were the only ones who could see our circumstance from OUR perspective, and we had to make a decision based on the logic that was presented to us.
This system of thinking has helped me with switching jobs, dealing with relationships, and leading me to publish this blog. If you’ve thought things through, and you truly believe that you are aware of a situation, other people’s instructions are never an excuse to not do something.
4. Your things don’t dictate your happiness
I’m no minimalist but I do think it is important to be very intentional when it comes to the physical things that we allow to fill our environment.
In my 23 years I’ve experienced some tight times financially. I strive to live a pretty frugal lifestyle in general, but nothing teaches you a lesson quite like having to abide by a strict budget. Although they were hard times, they’re memories I wouldn’t trade for the world. They gave me insight into a different perspective that eventually led me away from the practice of buying things in order to ignite some type of joy in my life. It also taught me to place a higher value on the things that I already have, forcing me to “get the job done with the tools at hand.”
I’ve also gotten really good at getting rid of and donating things that I haven’t touched in months or no longer really enjoy. When you really value what you have, you take pride in your assets and don’t want them to be attenuated by things that hold no real benefit to you.
At the root of it, we can become reliant on material goods for our source of happiness. Build your relationships and figure out how to have fun/find joy without them. Once you’ve done that, things can be used as a tool to facilitate happiness, but they’ll never drive happiness.
5. Grow by doing
Ideas are great, planning is great, dreams are great. But you’re never going to get anywhere without action.
In the lifespan of every project ever, there is always the point where you come up with an idea. You then think of all these awesome ways that you can develop it and make it as incredible as it can be, then you hit a wall. You realize that you have to turn your idea into some type of physical manifestation, and this idea scares you to death.
A lot of people revert back to the planning stage where they can at least feel a false sense of progress, but in order to achieve anything, you need to take a leap of faith and start doing, no matter how big the task is.
Action compounds over time. I’ve found that once you start chipping away at a large task, your progress seems small and maybe even unnoticeable, but in the long run you’re just getting better at “the act of doing.” Once you get inside the knitty gritty of the task, you find all the ways that you can break it down into smaller sub tasks and it gets much more manageable.
The important part is to not let your doubt cripple you.
6. Laugh at your insecurities.
Being easily offended is one of the biggest enemies of your own efficiency.
When I think about all my own insecurities, I think about all the time and effort that I waste trying to run away from them. Then I think about all the other things I could have spent that time and energy on.
Do yourself a favor and have a sense of humor about yourself…it’ll help in the long run.
7. Change starts with yourself
The most common mistake I see in my behavior whenever I become stagnant or bitter with the world is that I devote all my attention to noticing the faults of others. I never direct the blame inwards. It’s easier and way more entertaining to find things wrong with other people than it is to even think about yourself and your own behavior. But if you truly want to see change in the world around you, it has to start with you.
It has to do with relatability, accountability, and the basic law of compound interest.
Hypothetically, if you think the world’s problems all stem from the fact that not enough people read books, then you need to read books yourself. Set an example and encourage others around you to read books. If they hold themselves to the same standard, they’ll encourage others to read.
We get nowhere finding the faults in our system and doing nothing to fix them.
8. Focus on your physical health
We’re often encouraged to invest into our careers, our education, or maybe you even have a good voice in your ear that tells you to invest into your relationships. But recently I realized that we’re rarely encouraged to invest into the health of our own bodies…which is wild because we literally live inside our bodies….forever
You can see this by the hustle culture of the top careers in any given field. You sit behind a desk for 9 hours a day (sometimes more) discouraged from getting up and disrupting work flow, all so you can further develop your “career.” But when you think about your money, career, and “success,” it’s all futile without a respect for the human body.
You only get one body, so why is our career more important?
9. Remember your progress
For whatever reason it’s a part of human nature to feel discontent. No matter what you’ve achieved, you will naturally look past your success in search of that next phenomenon of accomplishment.
It’s important to go easy on yourself. Having low self-esteem isn’t good for anyone and if you’re ignoring your success, there’s nothing to keep you from falling into that pit.
I try to make a list every night of a handful of things that I accomplished that day. It gives me a physical way to see the manifestation of my work and inspires me to continue to produce the next day as well.
10. Caring about other people is the coolest thing you can do
Oftentimes, a lot of our time and energy gets consumed with how other people view us. Whether it’s our friends, co-workers, or just complete strangers, there’s no real way of escaping it. Although I’ve talked about the practice of caring less about what people think, there is no realistic, healthy way of ridding it from your mind completely.
My advice is to take that energy you would be using to conform yourself to others standards, and use it instead to improve your empathy and care for other people. In the end, it’s probably the most foolproof way to increase other peoples’ perception of you while also improving your relationship building skills.
We could all benefit to care a little more about people other than ourselves. Do onto other as you would have them do onto you. It can only improve the environment around us and like I’ve talked about already, all improvement starts with acting on yourself.
11. Adaptability is key
Control is a funny concept.
We strive for control and consistency in our everyday life. We convince ourselves that we have it by making schedules and to do lists. In reality, life is throwing us for a loop, dishing out curve balls left and right. There is no such thing as consistency in any healthy life and we definitely don’t have control over what’s going to happen tomorrow.
I’m in no way bashing schedule makers, time blockers, or to-do list guru’s either. The tools of a great productivity system are vital for everyday life. What I’m trying to say is that the most successful people I’ve seen are able to roll with the punches that life throws them. This involves deviating from the schedule, rearranging the to-do list for tomorrow, and being willing to adapt their plan to best suit the situation that is presented to them.
This isn’t only applicable in productivity either. Apply adaptability into any key area in life and I guarantee that you’ll find benefits. It’s the same concept as keeping an open mind. The more you are willing to explore the other alternatives, the more concrete and efficient your worldview will become.
It’s all about exploring different directions without losing sight of your true vision.
12. The power of positive thinking is a real thing
I’ve spent my fair share of days in misery and self pity, I’ve also tried to be a ray of unphased sunlight in an obviously hopeless situation…Both suck.
But there is something to say about trying to find the positives in daily life. Why focus on the bad when you can always find the good?
13. Don’t let your “one true passion” cripple you
If anyone ever tells you that you NEED to “niche down” to one skill or interest, they don’t have your well being in mind.
We can see a lot of this problem in our education system, especially in students entering university for the first time. 17-18 year old kids are told to pick a precise area of work to focus the remainder of their life on, and they’re burdened with loans and debt on top of that. All without ever experiencing life on their own.
This isn’t an objective problem, some figure out their passions with ease. But there are a lot of people out there who were forced into decisions that they regret and are now plagued with discontent.
I think the solution is to allow yourself to have a wide variety of interests. I have many interests including business, art, writing, sports, health, and music, and I love that I have such a wide range of subjects to pursue. But not too long ago, I remember kicking myself for not having one specific passion. I saw the kids around me in high school who knew they were going to be engineers or doctors since they were 12 go off to school and I felt behind and lost.
I think that it’s important to remind yourself often that it’s okay to be curious. Without curiosity, our ability to learn only suffers.
14. Don’t sleep on art
We often think about the productivity of our interests in terms of vocation based success: “How will this thing help me better my career or make money.” To an extent, this is fine. If you love something and are good at it, why not make money while doing it. But I’ve found that my love for art, music, and creative work has taken a huge hit under this mindset.
When I was in high school, I was art obsessed: music, fiction, paintings, you name it…if it was considered a creative work, I thought it was awesome. But I also thought I would always end up working in a creative-based industry. Once I decided against that path, I lost my love for anything art related. I couldn’t find any benefit in devoting my time to it. It felt like it was a selfish form of expression and no one was going to see it, so what did it matter?
This kind of mindset has plagued me for years but as I reflect on my 23 years of life, I’ve realized that the majority of positive lessons that I’ve learned have been found through some type of creative work. Countless song lyrics come to mind that I can attach to each one of these 23 lessons discussed here. Fiction books have shown me other societies and cultures (some real and some fiction) that have broadened my perception of the world and forced me to think outside of the box. Even painting and photography have led me to see beauty in life that I otherwise would have just ignored.
Just because you can’t see the immediate benefit of consuming creative content, doesn’t mean that it’s not productive.
15. Life is way too short to not spend your time doing the things you want to do
I think this starts with realizing you have the ability to choose what you want to do. Sure, we all have to work and make money in some capacity, but we have more control over that then we think. We have the ability to choose a lifestyle that conforms to whatever amount of money you make. If you want to take a pay cut to work a more fulfilling job, then do it. If you want to devote your life to your work, that’s your call. Like I said, it starts with realizing you and you alone are in control of your choices. It doesn’t matter what your friends or family will think, or what they do. What matters most is what is going to make you happy.
16. Avoid judgement and don’t compare yourself to others
The way we hold our perception towards other people rules so much of our self conscious and we never quite realize the extent that it controls us.
Like an addiction, our mind seems to talk ourselves into judging others. We don’t really see an issue with it as long as we’re not projecting our judgment physically onto others. In fact, judging others tends to boost our own ego and make us feel good. But there’s never really a moment of realization where you take judgment “too far.” We consistently talk ourselves into allowing it to happen until it is so deeply ingrained into who we are as people.
I really hold an issue with this for two reasons. First, looking down on someone else for something just isn’t kind. Talking about someone behind their back isn’t helping them. If you intend to talk about someone’s problems, help them.. The second reason is that it trains your brain into a pattern of thinking that involves comparing yourself to others. When you judge someone for the way that they write, you immediately say things to yourself like “at least I don’t write like that.” But this way of thinking gets ingrained into your mind and it carries over into your thought process about your own writing. Now every time you write something, instead of publishing it, you fear that other people will then look at you the same way that you looked down upon the writer before you. It’s a cycle that leads to nothing productive and is 100% more beneficial to try and avoid at all costs.
17. As soon as you find yourself in the comfort zone, get out of it
This is probably the most classic “self help” idea on my list but these kinds of classic oldies are just too good to ignore.
I think in order to live your life by a motto like this, you have to make a decision on what type of life you want to live. Do you want a life dominated by consumption, entertainment, and comfort? Or do you want to get shit done?
Just to be clear, I by no means am judging one party or the other. In fact this whole concept is how I came to the realization of my no judgment rule. People are allowed to choose comfort if that’s what they want their life to be.
But if there are things in this life that you want to accomplish, and if you want to be more than just a consumer, then you must realize you have to separate yourself from the consumer. We no longer seek comfort as a destination. We don’t do whatever we can to appease our desires for ourselves. We need to have a vision and continue to adapt our direction in order to chase that vision.
18. Do something with your ideas
The human mind is an absolutely incredible thing. The rate at which it can spin different alternatives and points of view into thoughts and refined ideas that differ from person to person is absolutely incredible.
I love to write because for me, this is my way to explore that extraordinary thing. It’s a one way ticket to clearer ideas and that, in my opinion, is worth its weight in gold. I recommend writing and journaling to absolutely everybody.
But one thing that I’ve found out of this process, is that clarifying your thoughts only holds value if you do something with those thoughts. What good is clear thinking if I never talk to other people and share the ideas that I’ve developed?
So push yourself out of your comfort zone and start talking to other people. The internet is a great place to start. Go on twitter and start replying to peoples tweets. Find a community and message other people. Start conversation and share the things that you’ve been thinking about. You’ll be amazed at how rewarding and beneficial it can be.
19. Admit that you’re wrong
Pride can take you down a lot of negative roads. It can limit your perspective, force you into illogical points of view, and lead you to the ultimate no no…lying. The first step to getting over it is to realize that you’re not always right. In my case, I’m pretty much always wrong off of instinct.
Admitting that you’re wrong is scary and hard, but it opens up doors to immediate growth, and it feels good.
20. Improvement is a process, not a destination
We always want to think about our lives in a linear perspective. “Once I get into my dream school, I’ll have found success and I’ll finally be happy.” Then once you get there, you realize how hard school can be and it becomes, “Once I finish school, I’ll be stress free and I’ll be happy.” After school it becomes, “Once I find my perfect job, then I’ll be making money, and I’ll be fulfilled. Then I’ll be happy.”
The problem is, nothing about life works in a destination format. Even after you get to where you were trying to go, life is still going to happen. More so, you should never prolong your happiness for a destination-oriented goal. You should always strive to make yourself the happiest you can be now. Again, life is way too short to be messing with this crap!
I want you to think about your goals. Maybe you want to learn how to code, get better at writing, or start a business. Instead of writing those ambitions down in a journal somewhere and obsessing over them until you forget why you wanted to start them in the first place, keep them in mind, but focus on the day to day improvement instead of the destination.
Take note of the ways that you are growing and developing every day! Be adaptable and open to other alternatives, and most importantly, take note of what is bringing you joy during the process.
21. Always seek the other half of the story
There’s always another side of a story than the one you’ve experienced or heard. I believe that in order to fully develop an opinion on something, we need to explore every angle of the matter, not just the one that we want to be true.
With the access and spread of opinions across the internet, I fear that we live in a society that has lost the ability to think for themselves. Whether it be about politics, or just how we should treat other human beings, we see things through a very limited perspective. For the sake of your own well being, your relationships, and the well being of humanity in general, you need to open your eyes to the other perspectives of the world.
In school we’re trained to research opposing opinions in order to understand them. Somewhere in the transition to the real world we lost that. We get so caught up in emotion and the passion of the debate that we lose empathy for one another.
We should never use the excuse of politics, religion, or personal preference to deny the experiences of others.
22. A note taking system will change the way your brain works…for the better
I’m the last person in the world who should show off my note taking system. I’m not even that bad, but there’s just a million people on the internet who are doing a better job and I want to direct more attention to them.
In the end I tend to follow Tiago Forte’s “Building a Second Brain” method the most. I use Notion to save any book, podcast, articles, videos that I consume. I take notes and attach them to Ideas I have in a writing notebook. this allows me to develop informational building blocks and link them together to create a bigger set. I love David Perells take on this. He states that creating content should be 80% information you’ve already curated, and 20% work.
we live in an age of information. Take advantage of it.
23. Don’t run away from bad feelings. They’re the things that are going to teach you.
When I was 18 years old, I have a memory of sitting in a Taco Bell parking lot, freshly dumped by a girl, and wallowing in the feeling of rejection. I was totally discontent with the life I was living, I had no real ambition or direction, and I was feeling lost.
So basically I was your typical 18 year old kid who just got dumped.
But I wrote down a little lyric in the car that eventually turned into a song I wrote that pushed me towards a lot of growth (shameless plug of the musician glory days)
“I heard sadness is a feeling and just like any other feeling it’s going to pass, So take from it what you can, and try to learn while it still stands Cause you’re probably never going to feel this way ever again.”
Feelings are not something to wallow in, they’re something to value. I took that feeling I had in the Taco Bell parking lot and I turned it into a desire for something more. I didn’t focus on the discontent that moment gave me because I realized that it wasn’t going to last forever, and I learned from it.
Eventually it led me to where I am today.