40 things I learned in 40 years

December 31, 2023

Today, according to the Gregorian Calendar on Earth, I turned 40. I we were living on Mars, I’d be 21! Early in my career, I was always the youngest person on the team or at the company. I always gravitated proving that being young didn’t mean you could tag along with the big kids. In college, I took the advanced painting classes as a Freshman to prove this point. Now I find myself often the oldest person and working with colleagues who were born after my favorite films.

To celebrate, I’ll reflect on 40 things I learned in my years on Planet Earth. They’re a combination of professional and personal insights. Though the list is numbered, they are not ranked in a particular order—just as I thought of them. The ordered list helps with counting.

  1. If you work in tech or startups, focus on the craft of your work. Avoid, “the scene.” For some, having a startup is a lifestyle and there are always people who want to appear like they are doing stuff but don’t care about the work.
  2. It’s okay to change and not be the same person you used to be. In fact, it’s encouraged.
  3. Don’t worry about being single; enjoy it. What people say you’ll find love when you’re not looking for it is usually true.
  4. When working at fast growth startups, the people you couldn’t stand or not get along with were likely under the same pressure you were—hence all the tension. Down the road, most of the people I conflicted with became friends once we were successful (winning cures all).
  5. Throughout my career, I’ve told every hiring manager that I don’t want to have to think about money. This was true entry level to now. Not having to pay the bills and focus on the mission and vision of work is truly a blessing.
  6. Find the soundtrack to your lie—a song that follows you wherever you go—driving, traveling, at a coffee shop. Mine is, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears For Fears.
  7. When applied correctly, Catholic Guilt is a feature, not a bug.
  8. Make room for serendipity in your life.
  9. Put your phone in another room or out of reach of your bedside. Get a proper analog alarm clock. You’ll sleep better and stress less.
  10. Live in New York at some point in your life. It’s one way to experience the whole world and have your friends come to you.
  11. Unless something unethical is happening, if you’re considering leaving, stay a few months longer. The regret of staying longer and it continuing to not improve is much lower than if you leave too soon and things turn around. It can take multiple years to turn something around.
  12. You have only one body in this lifetime (for now), and it doesn’t regenerate (for now). Take care of your body, especially your lower back. You’ll get to the age where injury occurs because you slept in an awkward position!
  13. Don’t cheat on your significant other. Not only is it the wrong thing to do, it also feels like a lot of work to manage it all. If you cheat on someone don’t be surprised if someone does the same to you.
  14. The oppressed often become oppressors.
  15. The quarter life crisis is overrated. If you’re worried about your life at 25…stop. Whatever you experience between age 25 to 32 probably does not matter at all.
  16. What annoys you about younger people are likely things that annoyed other people when you were young. Remember that.
  17. It’s very possible that losing a pet will be harder on you than losing friends who are human. I don’t know how to explain it. Don’t be surprised if you feel that way.
  18. A top indicator of relationship success will be if you can successfully share a bathroom together.
  19. Have a personal website and a homepage on the internet. It’s your source of truth for your ideas. Growing up along with the internet, I can’t tell you how powerful of an idea publishing for yourself online was. We take it for granted. Make a now page and share what you’re up to.
  20. The nerds and people teased in high school often turn out to be the cool people. I remember a few friends of mine getting made fun of for listening to Daft Punk.
  21. Friendships don’t have to last forever. Some will fade as you grow older. It’s okay to let it go and appreciate what you had.
  22. You will meet some people in your life who are your soulmate in an alternate universe. Don’t cause an incursion. Appreciate how they are doing in the other reality.
  23. There is no success without a successor. Share your knowledge and wisdom with the future generation. If you’re successful, I believe it’s your obligation to pay it forward to the ecosystem that made you successful. Mentor someone, fund their work, etc.
  24. The most important parts of work happen between the meetings.
  25. You’re going to do something to mess with Gen Z, like how Boomers put razors in the walls of homes instead of having an actual solution. Think about what that is and don’t do it.
  26. Book at one-way flight somewhere and figure it out later
  27. One of the most powerful sayings: Ichi Go Ichi E: One Encounter. One Opportunity. Keep this in mind in every breath you take in life.
  28. Walking conversations are the best activity in the world. Invite an old or new friend, grab coffee (or tea), and take a long walk. You’ll get exercise and catch up.
  29. Don’t be a creeper.
  30. “I used to be with ‘it’, but then they changed what ‘it’ was. Now what I’m with isn’t ‘it’ anymore and what’s ‘it’ seems weird and scary. It’ll happen to you! —Grandpa Simpson from The Simpsons
  31. Listen to music the way the artist intended. Put your Spotify playlist aside, pick an album, and listen to it in sequential order. Don’t do anything else and give the music your full attention.
  32. The two most boring conversations are about the weather and people talking about which cities are the best.
  33. “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."— Antoine de Saint Exupéry
  34. Don’t waste your time worrying about Forbes 30 Under 30. Find inspiration from people who found success later in life.
  35. The funniest movie you’ll ever see is The Happening. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it now.
  36. If you’re undecided on what additional language to study, take Spanish.
  37. When you can’t afford to travel, read books. They’ll take you to places and give you perspective without leaving your house.
  38. “I don’t know,” is one of the most powerful things you can say.
  39. In your late 20s and 30s, most of your friends gathering will be either at a wedding or funeral. You’ll say, “we need to get together more aside from weddings and funerals,” but the next time will be a wedding or funeral. Don’t let that happen.
  40. Age is not an indicator of wisdom or experience. Because someone is a certain age doesn’t mean they give good advice, like me (especially me).

Let’s see what lessons the next decade shows me.

Proof of Concept: The 000 Series

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