It was my birthday this month. I'm officially in my later twenties. Unlike past years, I felt an urge to pen thoughts that I feel are important as I take another trip around the sun.
The thoughts I decided to share aren't gospel truths. Some will resonate with you, and some won't. Some will contradict each other. They're what I say they are. Thoughts.
1. Don't Neglect Reading: Ashamedly, I can count the number of books I read between the age of sixteen and twenty-six on my hands. That crucial love for reading got lost somewhere in my teenage years. It took a pandemic and George Orwell to reignite my love for reading. And important as reading is, it's as important to read widely.
2. Build Stealth Wealth: The net worth you need to reach for financial independence will heavily depend on your lifestyle. A strong financial buffer will allow you to explore opportunities without worrying about meeting your next obligation. To build wealth, consider how you can add value (don't try to become famous for the sake of fame).
3. Find Somewhere To Call Home: I've spent time in over twenty-five countries. During some of that time, I never had a place to call home. Perhaps, the fear of becoming stagnant made me apprehensive about finding somewhere to call home. Accept that calling a place home doesn't mean you'll never move again. Finding somewhere to call home and embracing a community is when I've been most content.
4. Write More Often: Writing is therapy. Write whatever it is that you have an urge to write. The important thing is that you translate your thoughts to the written word. You might get inspired and choose to share your writing online or with select individuals. That's great. However, your first goal with writing should be to satisfy your needs.
5. Shop At Independent Businesses: I spent at independent businesses pre-pandemic. However, while I was in Vienna during the pandemic, I made a conscious effort to direct my spending (online and offline) towards independents. We should be encouraging the small and medium-sized enterprises that fuel our economy.
6. Embrace Your Community: Pandemic lockdowns made me appreciate community. It made me appreciate them for what they are, not what some wanted them to be. On a related note, loving your country is not bad. It's okay to dislike your government. However, that's separate from your country and culture, which should get embraced.
7. Learn How To Learn: School took away my love for learning. That's the most precious gift you can possess. Furthermore, it failed to teach me how to learn. I can imagine the story is true for many other people. But, you've got to own the shortcomings. Take learning how to learn seriously. It's the skill that will keep on giving throughout your life.
8. It's Okay To Cut People From Your Life: You're not a selfish person if you cut people from your life. That's true for both personal and professional relationships. However, don't let stubbornness stop you from reconciling with the people that matter. From my experience, it can take years to process your thoughts and reconcile with people.
9. Become Fluent In A Foreign Language: The process of language acquisition will challenge you. It's a challenge worth your time. The satisfaction you get from conversing in another language is immeasurable. If the satisfaction of speaking in a foreign language is not enough, consider that it'll improve your cognitive functions.
10. Spend Extravagantly On Something: You'll learn that the best thing money buys is comfort. Also, you'll learn that spending money only solves your money problems. You can't buy your way to contentment. I've spent extravagantly on several things, e.g. upgrading my flight ticket to first class. It was fun. However, that fun was short-lived.
11. Take Spontaneous Adventures: With the demands of everyday life, learn to live in the moment from time to time. Let serendipity take control and help you to gain new stories. You don't want to be that person who tells the same stories. If you wish to form novel memories, you've got to get comfortable not planning every aspect of your life.
12. Define Your Idea Of Success: When you put another human's life on a pedestal, you'll get influenced by their idea of success. Once you've done that, you'll start playing the comparison game. It's a terrible game. You've got to define what success means to you. And, you've got to define the timeline on which you want to achieve it.
13. Collect Something: I have a small (but growing) collection of first-edition books by a particular author. One day, it might give me a great return on investment. In the meantime, it embeds me further into a community that I appreciate. That's the beauty of collecting. Start collecting something you appreciate, e.g. NFTs, vintage wine, etc.
14. Build Lasting Relationships: I cringe each time I hear the quote, 'You are the average of the five people you spend most of your time with'. I understand that the people around you influence your behaviour. But, don't cull good people because of a quote. You don't want every relationship in your life built on transactional value. Strengthen the relationships with people who will stick around when shit hits the fan.
15. Don't Take Advice As A Gospel Truth: This essay is something you shouldn't take as gospel truth. Each of our lives is unique. Hence, what works for one person may not work for another. For that reason, don't place another human on a pedestal in your mind. Also, it's crucial to consider survivorship bias when presented with advice.
16. Create A Manifesto For Your Life: Decide on a set of guiding principles for your life. Those principles will help you to process the important decisions you'll make. The expectation is that your manifesto will change as you go through life. Your manifesto need not be reams of text. A list of bullet points that resonate with you will suffice.
17. Focus On Your Input And Not Output: Countless external factors can affect your output. It's impossible to manage them all. Hence, don't spend too much time trying to control all of the externalities. Divert your attention towards providing the best input. That's something you control. Get obsessive about your input, not your desired output.
18. Compress Your Working Hours: Experiment with a four-day workweek or the fifteen-hour workweek described by John Maynard Keynes. Don't fall prey to toxic hustle culture and over-schedule your life. An over-scheduled life isn't worth it. You don't need to maximise every minute. Yet, I appreciate we need some structure to life.
19. You Don't Need To Be On Every Social Media Platform: Don't be a maximalist, repurposing your content for every platform. Being absent from social platforms will bring you a sense of calm (some may say boredom). If you must use social media, pick your poison and gain the most value from that social media platform.
20. Keep Your Life Simple: Don't overcomplicate your real and digital life. Try to reduce your mental overload. That'll allow you to focus on the things you enjoy. We often get told, 'What gets measured gets improved'. I get it. I measure some aspects of my life to improve it. But, don't become anal and measure everything in your life.
21. Find An Activity To Improve Your Fitness: Don't neglect your body. Find an enjoyable activity that improves your fitness. It'll improve your mental and physical capabilities. For me, gym sessions became utterly dull. Once I moved to Malta, I changed it up for running. Running is a challenging and rewarding fitness activity.
22. Go Deep On Topics That Interest You: Don't work on something because everyone on Twitter is talking about it. Find a topic that interests you. Begin by exposing yourself to many ideas. Soon enough, you'll find an idea that you can't escape. At that point, concentrate all of your efforts on that opportunity. Learn all there is to know.
23. Map Out Your Family Tree: It's important to learn where your family came from and from who. Hence, you should create a family tree. Traceback your tree as far as you can. At some point, you'll need the help of a professional. Often, it's a specific event that compels people to map out their tree. For me, it was the death of my dad.
24. Study The Work Of Those You Admire: Deconstruct the work of those you admire. It'll improve your work and inspire you to improve. With time, you'll learn to merge your style with the work of those you admire. That'll help you to produce something unique. You can apply this thought to many areas. Notably, it can get applied to your writing.
25. Don't Ignore The Liberal Arts: Many countries push for STEM education. But, don't ignore the advantages of a liberal arts education. A liberal arts education includes the humanities, and it can help you to become a complete human. Similarly, don't ignore an education comprised of working with your hands. It's the most satisfying.
26. Don't Spend Your Days On Busy Work: Learn how to automate and improve your delegation skills. You don't want to spend your days doing unfulfilling work. Ideally, you should be switching between working on manager (maintenance) and maker (growth) tasks. Most importantly, produce work that you are proud to showcase.
27. Spend Time In Isolation: I love spending time by myself. I love it more than most. It's important to get comfortable with your thoughts. Getting to a state of boredom is not negative. It's during those moments I get my best thoughts. It takes time to get to that stage, so don't get pressured into filling every waking hour with stimuli.
28. Don't Get Caught In A Thought Process: As impressive as we like to consider ourselves, we're all imperfect. We don't (and shouldn't) have an answer for everything. Listen to counter-arguments without waiting to reply. Most importantly, be willing to change your mind about a situation. Doing so will show a person of greater character.
I hope that some of these thoughts resonated with you. Others you might have dismissed. That's okay. Maybe, next year, I'll write another batch of thoughts.