I recently turned 31 and had the chance to pause and reflect on my life lessons and achievements. I was 18 when I started this business that can now operate without me. Even in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis, it’s on the cusp of a meteoric expansion.
That hit home how much I should take time to celebrate my wins, instead of just working and keeping myself busy.
Over the last 13 years, I’ve made learned some powerful life lessons. Now I’ll share them with you just like how my mentors and influences have shared theirs with me.
Here we go:
11 Life Lessons I Wish I Had Uncovered When I Was Younger
1. Learning is for life and it doesn’t stop after school
To grow in life, you’ll always need to be learning. Everyone whom we consider “successful” have one thing in common: they all read a lot of books and consume a lot of content. They pair that with their current understanding of the world to make new informed decisions.
Now, reading is only one way to do it. Even a teenager can learn skills from a game like Fortnite. It can be communicating with a team, managing expectations, dealing with different personalities in a group, and so much more.
The key is to make learning fun. In fact, enjoying the learning process should be the main goal. This way, you get to keep the habits that will get you to the outcome you wanted as a byproduct.
When you fall in love with the process rather than the product, you don’t have to wait to give yourself permission to be happy. – James Clear, “Atomic Habits”
How my teacher made learning math fun
What hit this home for me was when I revisited my 5th or 6th grade at school. We had this amazing teacher who actually made math fun. (Crazy, I know.)
Now, despite loving data and analytics I’m not a math whiz. But my teacher was able to get me excited about math like this:
He would split the classroom into two teams, and we’d “battle” each other using math problems. The game we played was almost like “Tekken or Streetfighter for math”. Instead of having a joystick, our teacher would draw 2 fighters on the chalkboard to represent the 2 teams.
He’d ask a math question, e.g. What is 8×8? The first person with their hand up would be allowed to answer. If it was right, your team got to cause a gruesome “injury” to the other. Our teacher would exaggerate the “injury” to make it more fun and entertaining. But if your answer was wrong, your team would suffer the “injury”. The opposite team would also get the chance to answer and inflict even more damage on you.
It’s now over 20 years later and I still remember my multiplication, subtraction and addition. Thanks to my 5th or 6th grade teacher, I remember that game every time I think of 9×9.
If you break it down, what he was doing fits the model of “Atomic Habits“. It helps to reinforce the positive behavior of learning math, because the learning process is fun.
So the next time you have to do something, take a second to think how you can make it fun. Or how you can get a reward that you enjoy or value out of it.
2. Building a Knowledge Management System
This is one of the greatest life lessons I wish I had known sooner. If only someone at school had taught me how to absorb and catalog all the information that was being thrown at us! This is the single greatest investment I wish I’d made sooner.
I’ve only been using the framework of Zettlekasten with Getting Things Done for the last 2 years. But it has done wonders for my ability to recollect ideas, action items and enjoy mental freedom. All because I know my ideas and concepts are jotted down somewhere that’s easy to be found.
It has helped to get me excited about writing and clarifying my thoughts, when they used to be swimming in my head. Because I can set aside any thoughts to revisit later, it also gave me the freedom to spend time on Deep Work projects.
3. Becoming a faster typer
I don’t know why I didn’t do this earlier it seems obvious in hindsight. Its one of those life lessons that can’t be learned early enough. Over the past 3 months, I’ve improved my typing speed. This allows me to increase my productivity by over 30%, since most of my workday is spent typing. From emails to notes, articles, sales pages, ads, and so on.
I came across this during my deep dive of the core skills I need to help me achieve my goals even faster. Then I managed to achieve it by Applying First Principles to learning.
4. Learning to Stand on the Shoulders of Giants
There is always someone out there who has done what you’re trying to do. Or at least has access to the people you want to meet. Find them and learn from them directly, or simply by following what they do.
5. Having a mentor or coach for every area of your life that you want to excel at
In my experience, the quickest “silver bullet” to succeed in any new endeavor is to learn from someone a few steps ahead of you. You don’t want them too far ahead as it’d be overwhelming. But you also do want to move up the ladder of mentors as your skills progress.
Why didn’t anyone wake me up to the power of investing and compounding interest earlier? (Well, probably because I was a kid who thought I knew it all when I really knew nothing.)
But now life lessons have taught me better, and I use apps like Raiz to make daily contributions. I’ve been able to build up a significant security buffer for my family, and start an investment account for each of my kids.
I started out small, only investing $1 per day. Then I increased that by another $1 every week. Over time, I didn’t even notice the money going out of my bank account. Soon I’d be investing $156 per day over 3 years into my portfolio.
This was the easiest way for me to get into investing. It allowed me time to get comfortable with it, instead of investing a significant portion of my income right off the bat. Once again, it comes back to what James Clear says in “Atomic Habits“: Make small changes, and they will swing big doors.
For USD markets I use Stake.com as I am Australian, and have found this great for trading US stocks.
7. Having the Ability to Sell yourself
At the moment, I’m paying the price for not learning this skill early. So much so it slows my speed to execute and get things done.
I’m talking about copywriting, sales skills and the art of negotiating. In everyday life, you’ll need all 3 skill sets:
- Copywriting will help you to better sell your ideas and thus get the outcomes that you want more easily.
- Having sales domain experience will help you to deal with objections to your ideas effectively. It helps you present them so the other party agrees with you. We do this every day in our relationships with our families, partners and kids.
- Being able to negotiate well helps in identifying the logical and emotional parts of the brain you need to appeal to. In my experience running a business and doing over 200 sales calls and proposals, people all bought based on emotion. This refers to how they felt about me as a person and if I could deliver what I said I would. They then used logic to justify making that decision to themselves, their colleagues, friends and family.
This is why there is buyer’s remorse. You can be a great emotional seller. But you still need the logical facts and goods to close the deal.
8. Setting goals and how to achieve them
This is a tough one as I believe you do need life experience to truly understand what you want to do with your life. Especially since your interests and hobbies do change over time. However, the core concept of what you fundamentally like seems to be ingrained in each of us.
For me, I’ve always liked to build things. Now instead of rebuilding computers or Lego kits or an army on Starcraft, I like facilitating and growing businesses. It gets me excited.
So I do believe that even at a young age, we have some understanding of what our life purpose might be. It’s amazing how the mind can think that far ahead! It was fun to be young and discover new things without a care in the world. But it’d been great to have a mentor sitting me down and asking – “Is this what you really want to do?”
I would not change the choices I have made, but one huge part I lacked was understanding that it’s okay to fail. Regarding this, I want to thank Tim Ferriss for his TED talk “Why you should define your fears instead of your goals”.
In it, he talks about how he minimizes the fear of failure by asking: What really is the worst that could happen? What can you put in place to help minimize that risk? In about 90% of the scenarios, my mind had conjured up a bigger fear than was actually there.
External things are not the problem. It’s your assessment of them. Which you can erase right now. – [Marcus Aurelius]
I was coasting
I’d say that I was coasting through life for a good 5 to 10 years. I was making money for the sake of making money, as I thought it would bring me happiness.
That’s until I really sat down and was completely honest with myself on what I want out of life. It’s a hard and scary talk you need to have with yourself. Now I know I’ve said this before, but I really want to drive one of the biggest life lessons home. Happiness isn’t the end outcome. It’s the enjoyment of the process you take to achieve the outcome you desire. Happiness comes from the journey, not the destination.
9. Looking after your body and being healthy:
As you get older, your body doesn’t spring back as well as it used to. We can’t get away with putting rubbish in and not exercising much but still be healthy and fit anymore.
That’s why you need to keep a good eye on your health to continuously achieve peak performance. Develop healthy habits on eating a well-balanced diet and understand how that affects your mood and energy level. This has paid huge dividends for me, in terms of being able to achieve what I have with my business while having a family.
10. Managing your money
This is a massive one that I wish I had my head around sooner. It would have accelerated my investments and thus my compounding interest.
It’s important to understand how much income you need to live a comfortable life, before and after taxes. Anything above that number is just bonus.
For me, 300k per year net pays the bills and I can live reasonably well. 500k means I have set myself and my family up for life. $1M means I have set my family and closest friends up for life. Having these numbers figured out gives me a goal to achieve. Then adding the ingredient of figuring out how to do it through the things that I enjoy.
A huge win for me was learning how to use credit card points to my advantage. It helped me to fly business class and first class on Emirates for less than the cost of an economy ticket. That was an amazing experience! I appreciate the team at iFLYflat for helping me discover this world of points.
Another realization I had is that budgeting SUCKS, but it’s important to understand to at least 10% =/- where your expenses are going. Personally I use PocketSmith for this. It automates 90% of the process for me and I know where my expenses are going during my weekly review.
This alerts me about something I need to fix or a habit I need to change, if they start pooling up in one area. (e.g. so much money wasted on iTunes games could have gone to investing!)
11. Having Free time and Doing Nothing
As a long-time workaholic, this is one of the best skills I have learned. I’ve always liked to be on the move or doing something, so I found it hard to stop and do nothing.
I think the bigger issue is that everything in society now is designed to entertain us and give us small dopamine hits. It’s no wonder we are distracted and find it difficult to get anything meaningful done.
Now I’m a geek and I love robotics and tech as much as the next nerd. I want to build J.A.R.V.I.S for my house just because that would be so cool!
All jokes aside, my biggest breakthroughs in personal development and business have come through in times of doing nothing – just having fun and playing. So make sure you plan some downtime where you sit in a room and do absolutely nothing – just you and your thoughts.
At first, it’s tough but over time you get better, just like the skill learning curve. Once you start getting the hang of the skill after the first 7-14 days, you’ll want to stick with it.
So that’s the top 11 life lessons I wish I had known when I was younger. What’s yours?
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