Yes, I’ve turned 27. It’s the age where I can’t see myself as a recently graduated college student anymore. The year to join the 27 club (although I’m not applying, don’t worry lol). The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know anything. I guess I’ll just enjoy the ride while it lasts…
I’m ignoring my own advice on most days. However, these 10 lessons keep offering value to me. I’m hoping they can do the same for you.
1. You are not your emotions
You’re not your emotions. You are not your feelings. If you don’t feel like doing something it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. You can recognize the emotion without identifying with it.
For example: “I don’t feel like writing, let’s do it tomorrow”. If you identify with your emotions this is a fine excuse. After all, I don’t feel like writing.
However, you can feel the emotion without seeing it as who you are. “I feel the emotion of resistance, but I choose to sit my ass down and write anyway”. The emotion is there to advise you, but it does not control you. There is a separation between your emotional brain and your logical brain.
This snaps me out of a rut. “Hey, I don’t feel like it. But I can still control what I do with that information. I can choose to act despite feeling resistance. If I just move my right toe, I feel like I’m in control.”
Feeling a negative emotion does not mean you can’t choose to take action anyway. Let your emotions guide you instead of controlling you.
2. Plan small steps in systems you can see yourself executing today
Focus on small actionable steps today. Instead of planning for abstract goals in the future. All my progress is the result of just showing up. Small steps repeated daily.
I tend to get stuck. Because I keep trying to figure out how to jump from A to Z. I’m creating this abstract masterplan in my head. But that’s not how it works. You can only jump from A to B. At B you see a path to jump to C etc… There’s no shortcut. You have to put in the work.
Let’s say you get the best workout plan in the world. It’s so good that you can’t buy it anywhere. You get it from a guy in a black hoodie in an alley. He pulls it out of an empty shopping bag while murmuring something about horoscopes. You grab the plan from his hands. When you look up he’s already riding towards the sunset on a Bird scooter. You finally have it. The best workout plan in the world.
But it’s not going to help you. Information isn’t the problem anymore. Otherwise, we’d all be millionaires with a six-pack. These days it’s all about creating a system. Doing it daily and staying consistent. You have to sow before you can reap.
“No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.”― Warren Buffett
You don’t randomly get offered your dream job by e-mailing the CEO with no experience. You build up to it. Put in the hours, create small projects, which get you in touch with an employee at the company, who sees your portfolio, who refers you to the CEO. By being consistent daily you’ll get there.
Sidenote: This is why I think a lot of networking is bullshit. If you have no relevant skills or portfolio, it doesn’t matter who you get in touch with. A great network can give you momentum. But if you don’t have anything to offer meeting Elon Musk isn’t going to do anything for you.
3. Wherever you go, there you are
I realize I am always myself and wherever you go, there you are. Go on holiday — there we are. Win the lottery — there we are. Move overseas — there we are. Wherever we look, we are looking out of the same pair of eyes; whatever we do, it’s still the same body doing it.
Don’t think going somewhere else will make you a different person. You grow, you change but in the end, you are still the same person.
Winning the lottery is still you winning the lottery. It does not transform you into the perfect person you are fantasizing about. You still wake up with the same brain.
Often people hope for a big event to change them. Winning the lottery, traveling the world, making new friends.
4. Your beliefs are critical for the way you act
Your actions flow from your identity. If you believe you are a runner, going out for a jog is a simple thing. Just put on your shoes and you’re out the door. Because runners run.
The only times I’ve stayed consistent with working out was when I identified as a sporty person. My environment reinforced this. Taking sports supplements (because I’m sporty), tracking calories (Of course that’s what sporty people do), eating the right food (Well it’s a lot of work, but that’s what fit people do right).
Right now, I don’t identify myself as a sporty person. I’ve fallen off the wagon. I identify as a computer dork. So everything reinforces this belief. It’s cold outside (of course I stay inside, I’m not one of those sporty people. Why would I go outside?). I order take-out, no problem because this fits with my identity of a computer dork.
If you identify as a computer dork. Why would you go to the gym? It makes no sense. Even if you do, you won’t try hard. Because it feels like you punish yourself.
Ask someone who quit smoking if they want to have a cigarette. “I don’t smoke” means they don’t identify as a smoker anymore. “I quit smoking’ means they are identifying as a smoker who quit for now. Take a guess which person is more likely to pick up smoking again?
Which identity do you subconsciously believe in?
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.”Henry Ford
5. Publish at 80%
You miss opportunities. By not publishing something when it’s 80% ready, your projects never see the light of day. You keep perfecting it. After a while, you give up and abandon it. Unless you send it out in the world you’ll never know what resonates with people.
A soccer match finishes. A music album does not. It’s just published. So many things never finish. They’re set free into the world.
Remember, Premature optimisation is the root of all evil. So much art, writing, and software have never seen the light of day because it was abandoned due to perfectionism.
When I’m making a resume the first 80% takes me 1-3 days. Getting it to a 100% can take (okay I speak from experience) two weeks. Is that last 20% going to make a difference? No. The work experience, skills, general layout. That’s what matters to the recruiter. External circumstances matter. Is the position still open? Are they already in talks with candidates? Finding the perfect font and tweaking the design for weeks won’t make the difference.
6. Your environment has a huge impact on your success
Life’s not fair. Your environment determines how likely you’ll be successful. The country you are born in, the education of your parents, the city you live in, the people you meet in high school. They all have a major impact on your life.
Living with roommates who drink 5 days a week will increase your alcohol consumption. Participating in a community with entrepreneurs will increase your motivation to start a business.
Design your environment before you start thinking about discipline and hard work.
Where does your work have the most effect? What environment will accelerate your growth instead of limit it?
Working very hard in a traditional boring company could get you nowhere.
Working normally in a company with lots of travel opportunities or rapid growth can get you much further.
Don’t overestimate your willpower and don’t underestimate your environment.
“You can’t easily overcome a poor environment, but you can easily thrive in the right one.”
7. What you do is more important than how you do it.
I understand what you do is more important than how you do everything else, and doing something well does not make it important. Knowing your priorities is key. Focus on the big areas and don’t worry about the small stuff.
When you work, focus on Deep Work. Turn your phone off. Block distracting websites.
8. Progress is measurable
If you can not measure progress, chances are you aren’t making any.
9. Only take advice from people with skin in the game
If someone suggests you buy a stock or option and doesn’t buy him or herself, ignore it. If someone does a prediction but doesn’t put his own money on the line, ignore it. If someone recommends you something without doing it themselves… ignore it.
10. Via Negativa
Via Negativa is about subtracting from your life instead of adding to make it better. Avoid making bad decisions before focussing on good decisions. It’s better to not make stupid mistakes consistently instead of trying to be super intelligent. Prevent ruin.
If you avoid high risk of hurting yourself or ruining you financially you are already ahead of the curve.
- Before doing things to make money make sure you don’t lose money. If you have €1000 and you lose 50% in a bad bet you need a 100% gain to get back to €1000.
- First stop drinking soda instead of adding weight loss supplements, complicated exercise routines, and machines.
- Quitting smoking will provide more health benefits than eating healthier.
- Don’t say yes to your most important project. Say no to all the other good ones.
We often don’t know what the long term effect is of adding something. But we are better at sensing the result of removing something.