30 things I've learned in 30 years

30 life lessons. Take them with a pinch of salt.

30 things I've learned in 30 years

A month ago I turned 30.
Few people would have bet on it, but here I am.

30 years is a weird age. You're definitely not old but you're also definitely not young anymore.
You're "young-ish" and "old-ish". At the same time.

But now I'm digressing. On my birthday I went on a date with my amazing girlfriend. At one point, halfway through the meal (and after a couple of glasses of wine), she looked into my eyes and asked me: What have you learned so far? Given your current knowledge, would you do the same things again?

I found that question very interesting because I don't think I've ever stopped to think about it. My first, gut-instinct answer was "Yes, I would!". And I meant it. Overall, I'm happy with my life and my choices and I do believe that life is first of all about making mistakes and learning from them. So, yes: if I went back I'd definitely do the same things all over again.

However, the more I thought about it, the more I started to realise how much I've learned over the years. All the crazy situations, questionable people, inspiring books, weird encounters, everything that has shaped who I am today and the way I think.

So I thought I'd make a list of 30 things I've learned are true in life. You are welcome.
Why 30? Because 30 makes it for a clickbait catchy title.

Here we go:

  1. Say I'm sorry
    A lot of people (especially men) are not used to saying I'm sorry. They think it's not cool or manly enough to apologise. But saying "I'm sorry" it's such a powerful gesture because it shows that you're mature enough to accept responsibility for your actions or words, which is ultimately the difference between an adult and an immature person.
  2. Start saving as soon as possible
    If there is one thing I wish I started earlier in life is saving. As soon as you start earning money, put at least 20% of your income in an index fund returning 5-7% per year (which isn't particularly high). By the time you're 40, you will have accumulated enough money to buy a house outright. Compound interest is the name of the game.
  3. Learn to reason by first principles
    The difference between reasoning by first principles and reasoning by analogy is like the difference between being a chef and being a cook. If the cook lost the recipe, he’d be screwed.
  4. Develop healthy habits
    I'm far from being a healthy person at the moment, but I now understand the basics of habit formation (especially the role the environment plays in shaping our habits) and I wish I developed much better habits when I was younger. The good news is that it's never too late (for example I've developed a reading habit that allows me to read 30 books a year very easily).
  5. Learn the basics of nutrition
    I've been a fat kid for most of my childhood. It definitely didn't help that my mum had never taken the time to learn about the basics of nutrition, the role of the different macronutrients and what my body actually needed. You don't need to be a doctor, but learning the basics will massively help you (and your kids) live a healthier life.
  6. Avoid as much as possible starches and sugar
    Speaking of basics of nutrition: avoid starches and sugar (both found abundantly in processed food) as much as you can. The evidence about the side effects of a carb and sugar-rich diet is massive.
  7. Love is about agreeing on the big, important things...
    ... and compromising on the small things. I'm amazed at how many couples do the opposite but not surprised they usually don't last very long.
  8. Never go to sleep on an argument with your loved one
    Enough said.
  9. Pick your battles
    Not everything is as important as you think it is. A lot of people get angry about a LOT of things. Their life runs them instead of the other way around. Don't be that guy; don't let the little things get at you.
  10. Work on your relationships
    I've been notoriously bad at this but it's something I'm working hard at. A life without strong, genuine relationships is not worth living.
  11. Ignore social media and news
    Social media and news are in the business of monetizing your fears and insecurities. Ignore them and your life will be immediately 10X better.
  12. To truly understand people study Darwinian evolution and psychology
    We are slightly less hairy monkeys whose actions are still dominated by hormones, pheromones and ancestral fears. Want to truly understand why people do what they do? Read Darwin and good books about behavioural psychology.
  13. Give without expecting anything back
    Give without expecting anything in return is a wonderful act of trust in the kindness of fellow human beings. And when you do it, you will feel amazing.
  14. Learn what makes you happy
    A really big one for me. I don't think you should spend your life searching for your "role in the universe". However, I do believe that over time you figure out what clicks with you and what doesn't; what makes you happy and what doesn't. My advice: be an active observer and notice what you're doing when you're happy. Then do more of it.
  15. Optimise your life for learning
    Knowledge is your competitive advantage. A lot of people think learning stop when they get out of school. They usually end up working for those who understood learning is a lifelong process.
  16. Develop a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset
    People with a growth mindset believe that human qualities like intelligence and creativity, and even relational capacities like love and friendship, can be cultivated through effort and deliberate practice.
  17. Learn to receive feedback
    Don't take things personally. Yes, some people's feedback is useless and even harmful but the only way to truly grow and improve is to get feedback and act on it.
  18. Come up with some principles and live by them
    Unless you have a clear decision-making framework you'll be optimising for short-term goals. Predefined principles make optimising for long-term goals much easier.
  19. You're not entitled to an opinion unless you can back it with facts
    Don't be the idiot that says "this is my opinion" as if that's sufficient to say something. Back it with facts or logic or just shut up. The world has too many people who think they are entitled to an opinion and not enough people who bother justify it.
  20. Read the classics
    People way WAY smarter than you and I have figured out a lot of things already. Take advantage of the Lindy effect: if a book has been around for a long time it means it has stood the test of time (plus critics) and therefore it's more likely to contain timeless wisdom than a book that's been around for a few years.
  21. Don't be envious of other people...
    ... Only compare yourself with where you want to be in 10 years. Not worrying about keeping up with the Joneses has been one of the biggest improvements to my life and mental health.
  22. Life is much more fun when you have ambitious goals
    Your time on this planet is ridiculously limited. Make it worth it.
  23. Expand your mind
    Travel the world, meet new people, learn about different cultures, get out of your comfort zone. You can live your life thinking that yours was the only way to live or you can go out there and know that it wasn't.
  24. Don't wait to say "I love you"
    I've always waited far too long to tell people how important they were for me. And every single time I wished I did that sooner. Don't wait to tell people that you love them. Do it now.
  25. Give second chances
    We all fuck up. All the time. Giving people a second chance is not a sign of weakness but it's about recognising that we are humans.
  26. Listen to your body
    Big one for me. Whether you like or not, you're going to spend the entirety of your life with that mass of bones and flesh. Learning to listen to it it's one of the best things you can do for yourself.
  27. The strong defeat the weak but the smart defeat the strong
    You will see this pattern everywhere in life. Be the smart guy.
  28. Learn to sell products, not your time
    Your time is limited. Learn to sell products or services that can be distributed easily. That's how you create true wealth.
  29. Love is putting another person's needs in front of yours
    If you ask 10 people, they'll give you 10 different definition of love. I choose this one because it's about sacrifice and selflessness.
  30. Coming up with 30 things I’ve learned in 30 years is REALLY hard

The next 10 years of my life look terrifying: getting married, buying a house, making a baby or two and all the other grown-up things. It will be fun to write this list again when I turn 40 and see how many items in my list I believe are still true.

UPDATE: It looks like this post has generated a big discussion on Reddit and over 11K views!