I turned 30 this week.
That's about one-third of an average human lifespan learning new things, overcoming obstacles and navigating a complex world.
So, when I had a free afternoon this week, I spent it contemplating all the things I've learnt so far that have impacted my life for the better.
Although this is not an exhaustive list, here are 30 little lessons and tips that have shaped my life over the years and might come in handy for you too:
- Give your family the cream. Give your family and loved ones the full attention and respect they deserve. Don't take out your misguided anger on them. Put your phone down, and cherish every moment you spend with them.
- Forget chasing vanity metrics. We put too much emphasis on how many friends we have, how many books we read in a year, or how many people like our photos on Instagram. For a less stressful life, focus on fewer but meaningful connections and goals.
- Chisoku. Be content with what you have rather than mindlessly buying new things.
- Listen to your internal red alert. Your gut feeling is often correct. During one of our introductory visits to a pet boarding facility, my wife and I felt that the host might not be caring or responsible enough. Since we were short on time, we decided to make the booking anyway. Unfortunately, the host ditched us on the day of the boarding, leaving us scrambling to make alternate arrangements.
- Don’t optimise your downtime. You can be as productive as you want during work hours, but keep your downtime for rest and rejuvenation.
- Buy mini perfume sets. Gives you the ability to switch things up now and then instead of being stuck with a single scent for a long time.
- Get a dog. It can be challenging at first, but once you get through the training phase, you'll have a lovely companion for you and your family: 10/10, my best decision of 2021.
- Don’t get consumed in the news. Putting too much focus on the news on TV and social media can negatively affect your mental state. Strike a balance, and add a filter between the media and yourself to protect your mental peace.
- Have a north star in every area of your life. Guiding principles will help you stay focused on your long-term goals rather than getting plagued with destructive habits.
- You can save money without being too frugal. Don't get into the habit of saving too much and delaying every nice purchase or experience for later. Save money, but also occasionally splurge on things and experiences that'll enrich your life.
- Be mindful of your time. Your time in this world is limited. So stop giving away your time like free candy and reserve it for your most important life goals.
- Understand first, then respond. We often make the mistake of listening just to hit back with a counterargument. For more meaningful conversations, listen with intent. Understand what the other person is saying, pause, and respond if necessary.
- Not all hobbies should be monetised. When you turn a hobby into a business, it becomes work. And if you don't enjoy that work, you slowly lose interest in that hobby. I've thought of monetising my photography skills for the 24th time till now. And every time, I put that thought in the trash. I want to shoot the photos I desire. Not what other people expect me to.
- Travel and see places. Travelling, especially internationally, is a life-changing experience. Not only do you get to explore other places and cultures, but you also get better at managing your schedule, navigating your way through obstacles, and dealing with people.
- Start managing your finances early. Track your expenses. Plan your short and long-term investments. Have a good understanding of how money flows in your life. Compounding works like magic. So, the earlier you start, the better.
- Diffusers can brighten the mood of your home or office. Cheap reed diffusers don't need batteries, last for weeks, and are an easy hack to make your environment feel a little better.
- Have an emergency fund. Jobs and, in general, income sources can be unpredictable. Having money to keep you afloat for at least six months will keep your stress levels in check during an unfortunate incident.
- You don’t have to follow the herd. Everyone has different ambitions and goals in life. There's more than one path to a successful and meaningful life. You don't have to hustle if you don't want to. You don't have to buy a house because your friends are doing the same. Forge your own path.
- Be prepared for the worst. With a bit of premortem decision-making, you can handle disastrous situations calmly and rationally.
- Focus on your mental health. We often treat mental health problems like anxiety, depression and addiction as a phase we need to power through. Be more aware of your mental state, acknowledge the problem and deal with it rather than dismissing it.
- Invest in good quality products. Cheap options might seem lucrative and the best bang for your buck, but good quality products will stand the test of time. Prefer quality over prices when buying products you use daily, like your computer, mattress, chair, and more.
- Use credit cards to your advantage. Credit cards are one of the most powerful financial tools. Abuse it, and it can ruin you. Play it smart, and you can reap immense benefits that compound over time.
- Always have backup travel essentials. Airlines misplace baggage all the time. Carry a pair of underwear and some essential items like chargers and money in your carry-on luggage or split across multiple checked-in bags. Then, if things go south during your trip, you'll still have access to basic items until you sort out the situation.
- Do one uncomfortable thing each year. Uncomfortable exercises force you to grow. In 2019, I made my first international trip. In 2020, I learned to drive. In 2021, I raised a puppy. In 2022, I started pitching sponsors and seriously monetising Hulry. In 2023, I started producing and publishing videos on YouTube.
- The easiest way to build a habit is to chain it with something you already do. Need to drink more water throughout the day? Take a sip from your bottle whenever you come out of the toilet. Don't want to forget to take your keys and your wallet when you go out? Frisk your pockets every time you're about to step out the door.
- Go for a regular watch instead of a smartwatch. This is a personal preference, but for me, analogue watches win over smartwatches any day. One less thing to charge. One less source of distractions.
- Inbox zero is not always a good idea. I've wasted too much time keeping my inbox to zero items amidst the daily inflow of emails. Recently though, I've ditched the idea that I have to have inbox zero and instead set up rules to keep my inbox in a manageable state.
- Smile and be kind to people around you. Everyone's going through difficulties in their life. A tiny act of smiling or making a kind gesture can infuse positivity into someone's life and make a difference. But don't be too nice, as some people might take unfair advantage of your politeness.
- Trust but verify. People will often bluff to get you to do things that might be unfair. I once had a legal company asking me to pay late fees for yearly tax compliance after pinning the blame on me. When I went through the emails, it was clear that I always responded on time, and it was they who filed my paperwork late. I raised a complaint with the senior management, and they agreed to cover the late filing costs.
- You might not have missed the train yet. There isn’t always a specific time to do things. People start businesses, pick up new hobbies, change careers, and get married at various ages. You don't have to build a successful business by 25 or get married by 28. Live life at your own pace.
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.