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30 Things I Have Learned

30 Things I Have Learned

February 17, 2018 9:44 amComments are Disabled


1. Age really is just a number. I’ve met 15 year old adults and children in their 40’s. This observation cuts across gender and background. As I turn 30 I realize that there’s not much more to it than turning right at the end of the driveway. What really matters is where I go from here.

2. There’s no right way to live your life. There’s no script. Many people fought and died for your freedom to choose (within pretty wide bounds) what to do with your own life. Take advantage.

3. Routine is good. Spontaneity is good. Too much of either is bad.

Thoughts and Opinions

4. The most important ideas can be expressed simply. On the other hand, I’ve often experienced ploddingly dreary sentences that neglect to mention anything of importance but attempt to impress the reader with superfluous words and phrases. The better you understand something the simpler it is to explain. You can often detect bullshit based on the words-to-substance ratio.

5. Almost everybody has a religion. Some people worship god, other people worship yoga, other people worship the free market. Other common religions include guns, social justice, etc. What differentiates a religion from an opinion is that a religion makes up part of a person’s core identity and thus questioning a religion will always be interpreted as a personal attack rather than a simple difference in perspective. Religions only change through internal revelation which is not up to you. Let people have their religions. At the same time, believe what you want but don’t mistake religious fervor for truth.

Culture and Society

6. Human nature is the simple building block of our world. And that’s not just a platitude, it’s a deep insight that has taken me years to realize. Thinking about human nature and why people behave the way they do has made it easier for me to understand everything from politics and economics to communities and relationships.

7. It’s easy to complain about things. People who complain about things often consider complaining to be sufficient to affect change. It isn’t, and it doesn’t.

8. What you feel bad or guilty about doesn’t always overlap with what other people/society at large think you should feel bad or guilty about. Listen to your own voice on this one. An apology for something you’re not actually sorry for will always ring hollow. Always apologize when you are actually sorry, even if you’re the only one who feels that way.

9. “No one’s opinion of you matters” is a lie. Lots of people’s opinions affect your life every day. The opinion of teachers, employers, friends, crossing guards, bus drivers, flight attendants, and coworkers all directly affect your life. Their opinions can make your life better. They can make your life worse, too.

10. If you can’t spot the bad poker player at the table, you’re the bad poker player at the table. Same goes for morons and assholes.

Politics and Disagreement

11. For most people, politics is just a hobby. The average person’s political opinion is worth about as much as the average Bears fan’s passing game. This is doubly true for economics. This also means that you shouldn’t pick your friends based on their politics for the same reason you wouldn’t pick your friends based on their movie tastes.

12. If everyone around you has the same opinion about everything, then you need new friends or new opinions. Just because everyone you talk to believes something doesn’t make it true. In fact it may make it harder to realize when you’re wrong.

13. Listening is the most underrated skill there is. It is the solution to most disagreements as well as the key to progress in every endeavor. Listening doesn’t mean agreeing with what another person says. It just means understanding what they’re trying to say and ascribing them the best possible motives. It means engaging directly with someone instead of creating red herrings and straw men. And if you listen well, you will find that people will be more receptive to what you have to say, too. If you’re trying to convince someone they are wrong, try listening to why they think they are right first. And you may be surprised—you may end up convincing yourself that you are wrong. After all, having a truly open mind means coming to the table being willing to be wrong.


14. Your built-in bullshit detector is almost always right. A corollary: other people have bullshit detectors, too. Trying to bullshit someone else is a waste of everyone’s time.

15. Honesty isn’t just the best policy, it’s the only one that will serve your interests in the long term. There are many times it is beneficial to lie, but it’s almost always a short term benefit at the expense of long term growth. This applies to friendships, relationships, career, and self.


16. Reading books is the only way to get smarter. Books on tape are great for the auditorial learners out there. Certain podcasts may be an exception to this rule.

17. Reading the news is the most surefire way to get dumber. Goes doubly for watching the news. Goes triply for the Facebook news feed.

18. The media sells your attention for cash. Be skeptical of anything they do to get your attention. Which is almost everything.

19. Always try to be the dumbest person in the room, except at the poker table.

20. Social skills are as important, if not more important, than technical skills. Like all skills some people are naturally better at it than others. Like all skills, social skills can be trained.


21. Everyone who is successful at something does a lot more behind the scenes than it appears to the layperson. Most people are shockingly ignorant of the difficulty of making it big in any field and even smart people will often make excuses for successes enjoyed by other people (luck, privilege, whatever). The fact is that if were easy, everyone would do it.

22. There really is no substitute for hard work except, in limited circumstances, dumb luck. And the reason it’s called dumb luck is because you need to be dumb to equate it with success. And the result of dumb luck isn’t the same accomplishment that follows hard work.

23. Things that work well often do so without you realizing it (ever consider the journey the orange juice you’re drinking has gone through?). It’s not until things stop working that people realize how well they worked in the first place. Failures tend to be magnified in the public consciousness (think airline crashes or bad CEO behavior) whereas successes are quiet, steady, and boring. Don’t mistake publicity for significance.

24. Ask for forgiveness not permission.


25. There is no such thing as a friend, just friendship. Friendship is highly situational and depends on not just personalities and interests but proximity, time and place. Often the nature of friendships change depending on a change in these factors and that’s ok. It takes two people to sustain a friendship and only one person to end one.

26. You can’t win everyone over. Sometimes you can’t win anyone over. Sometimes you can’t win at all. Tee up for the next game.


27. Traveling is the best way to understand the world. Traveling breaks down stereotypes and preconceived notions. It liberates you from tribalism and irrational fears. It fills in those missing pieces of the human equation that you haven’t been able to quite put your finger on yet. When traveling you realize how universal humanity and human nature is. You also realize that every country has problems and every country deals with the same human limitations in a different way.

28. Every place on earth has its own personality. I find this to be especially true of cities. My favorite cities in the world thus far (in no particular order): New York City, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Toronto, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Budapest, Osaka, Saigon, London, Beirut, Shanghai. These are the cities that mesh with my personality the most. Everyone’s list is different.

Life’s Pleasures

29. Wine is best enjoyed with all five senses. Look at its color and legs, smell its bouquet, feel its texture, taste its complexity, and clink glasses to hear its reverb. Drinking wine should always be a social experience. If you want to drink alone, drink whiskey.

30. Many vices can and should be enjoyed. That’s what they are for. But enjoy always in moderation.

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