30 Life Lessons I’ve Learned in 30 Years

2013-12-14 20.15.47Today marks the day that I turn 30. Well, in a few hours actually. Some days I feel like I’ve learned and seen a lot. Others, it feels like I’m just getting started. It is amazing to reflect on the things we’ve seen, experienced and the people we have encountered. I’ve learned a lot reading great works but I think I’ve learned even more from observing other’s behavior and listening to their words. I want to spend my life pursuing knowledge and I hope to enjoy the process of continual education.

Although I feel like I’m still at the beginning of my journey, I’ll share a few things I’ve learned along the way. (Picture from #11). As an author, some posts are more fun than others. This is certainly one of the more entertaining ones to write. Without further ado:

30 Life Lessons I’ve Learned in 30 Years

  1. Slow down – We spend most of our life planning, rushing, and thinking about what is next. Slow down. Life is better at a sustainable pace.
  2. Choosing your spouse is the most important decision of your life – I can’t think of anything else that is as impactful, either positively or negatively, as your choice of spouse. They will be the person you spend most of your time with and the filter for every major life decision. I’m pretty lucky I got this one right.
  3. Riding a bike in the pinnacle of transportation – I really enjoy riding my bike. But it really represents so much more than that. It is the best financial advice I could ever give. It keeps me healthy. It is not quite as harmful to my surroundings and places me into a really neat community. If I could convince you of only one thing that would make your life better it would be: Ride your bike.
  4. Eating good food is worth it – Eating is one of my favorite hobbies. That is why I love to travel and eat delicious (and sometime even not delicious) food. Eating crap is a sure fire way to suck the life out of your body. Good food is better tasting, better for you, and surprisingly easy to find everywhere in the world.
  5. Debt does not make you happier in the long run – I’ve done just enough financial counseling to understand the impact debt has on families and individuals. Sure, you might be able to get what you want now, but it’s simply not worth it in the end. Ask your grandparents if you need a second opinion.
  6. Kids can be as expensive or inexpensive as you make them – As an economist, I had a bit of trepidation about the expenses of having children. Fear not, you can spend as much or as little as you want on children. There are plenty of people around the world that have no money but are amazing parents with wonderful kids.
  7. Pollution sucks. No really, it is awful – I spent the first quarter of my life as a ‘maybe I’ll recycle that’ non-enviromentalist. However, traveling to India blew my mind. I don’t think I’ll ever be the same. Taking better care of the environment became real in an instant.
  8. Buying something high quality that lasts a lifetime is better than buying cheap disposable crap – I thought I could get away with cheap. But cheap often costs more and provides an inferior experience. Even better, items built for a lifetime can often be purchased inexpensively used and still be in great shape.
  9. Tequila is seriously evil – (And alcohol is mostly overrated) I’ve had some pretty good fights with various forms that make up intoxicating drinks. I’m pretty sure they’ve had their fair share of victories. But I think I will live a fully content life if I never have another drop of tequila.
  10. Seriously, you should probably go the Philippines – One of the single most life changing decisions I’ve ever made was to move over to Manila and work for a short while. The people I met and the church I attended completely changed my life forever. Oh, and the beaches are the best in the world.
  11. Little girls are precious – My dad always talked about the special connection fathers have with their daughters. Something different than the rest. And now I understand. A simple smile and hug from my little lady is one of the most unique and incredible feelings in the world. I love her so much.
  12. Working hard makes relaxing more fun – I enjoy relaxing. I’m pretty good at it as well. I also enjoy being productive. Hard work, especially on something you enjoy, makes relaxing more entertaining. I actually get a little bored after prolonged periods of inactivity.
  13. Family and relationships are more important than money –  As a financial blog, most of the content revolves around spending, saving, and investing money. But way too many people, myself included, spend too much time and energy on earning and spending money while neglecting the people that make life worth living.
  14. Don’t go to Mexico with Hugo – I’ve done some pretty crazy things in my life. But I’m pretty sure I should be happy to be alive after my collegiate excursion to small town Mexico. Even scary people can be really nice if you are friends with them.
  15. Eat real food, mostly plants, and not too much – To paraphrase the entertaining author Michael Pollan. It is about as succinct as you can get about food, health and diet. But the words are timeless and would change society if just a few more people would pay attention to them.
  16. Early mornings are the only true free time after you have kids – Sometimes it means really early morning. I’ve realized, just in my short experience, mornings have become a new sacred time. The calm before the storm. I actually prefer evening and nights but I’m learning to embrace the time before sunrise.
  17. Turn off the news – Actually, you can probably turn off the televisions as well. It makes a lot more sense to worry about the things you can change and intentionally ignore the things you can not. Spend some time to understand your circle of influence. I’ll bet you’ll have a more optimistic and trusting mindset if you wouldn’t fill your head with the lasted bleeding headlines.
  18. You won’t finish your life wishing you spent more time at the office – I’ve pretty much enjoyed every job I’ve ever had. I’ve even extolled the virtues of working for someone else. But I’ll spend more time with my family in a few years once I’m financially free.
  19. A nice complement shared is better than the perfect one in your head – Perfection often comes with an expensive price tag: Inaction. In a similar vein, any idea written and shared is better than a perfect one in your head
  20. One German Oktoberfest beer is about the same as a six pack of the watery stuff – I’m pretty sure I’ll never be back to Munich in September.
  21. The things that are stressing you out now won’t be that important in five years – I tend to have a low stress personality. However, I still can get caught up in the minutia of a weekly to do list. It helps to remember that most of my biggest worries are not really that big. Chances are good, things will be alright.
  22. People are fascinated by Jesus, even if they don’t like religion – I’m a pretty big fan of religion but I still contend with plenty of skeptics. Jesus lived a pretty incredible life, taught some pretty wild concepts, and is still pretty popular after he died 2,000 years ago. Love one another is about as powerful as it gets.
  23. Traveling the world is pretty amazing – I never set out to be a world traveler. But mostly, I consider myself a learner. And I’m convinced that traveling, especially to see other cultures, is one of the best ways to expedite the learning process. Oh, and those memories- they appreciate over time.
  24. Sexual purity takes work, even after you get married – Temptations are pretty strong and they don’t go away as we age. In fact, they may even grow stronger. Everyone needs a set of limits and boundaries we won’t cross. We need some guardrails in our lives.
  25. I want to be a Renaissance Man – That’s my new goal in life. I want to learn as much as I can. I want to understand as much as I can about the world and I enjoy the notion of being competent in all the important areas of life.
  26. Marketing is more powerful than you think – They wouldn’t spend billions of dollars if it didn’t work. Modern day marketers are pretty amazing at their jobs. They manipulate our thoughts at levels so deep we are often unaware. It takes intentionality to step away from the power of marketing.
  27. Smiling is contagious; not smiling is also contagious – I try and smile a lot. I know it makes me happier when other people seem happy. It is really a small thing but it connotes so much more. A genuine smile is incredibly disarming and can communicate across any langauge. Smile.
  28. Self control is the most important determinant of success – If I could only evaluate one data point to determine a successful life it would certainly be self control. Self control is at the center of contentment, health, relationships, parenting, and life. Take the time to be intentional about cultivating it.
  29. You only notice your health when it leaves– I don’t really think about being healthy unless I’m sick. I wish I could appreciate how great my body feels when I take care of it. But I notice it more when it is broken. It seems that many older individuals constantly remind me that health is my most precious resource.
  30. You are still going to want something you can’t have, even after you get it – Contentment is fleeting. All those things on our wish list, even if we got them today, would be replaced by something shinier tomorrow. New stuff doesn’t permanently raise our level of happiness.
  31. (Bonus) I’ve still got a lot to learn – I truly enjoy the leaning process. Every day I find something new or realize that I’ve still got a long way to go. I love to read, talk to people, and travel the world.

I really love learning and I’m always trying to learn new things. What are some of the wonderful things you have learned in your time on this planet? Also, special shout out to Leo who also writes a lot and happens to share my birthday. Do you identify with any of these lessons? Any you should add to the mix?


4 thoughts on “30 Life Lessons I’ve Learned in 30 Years

  1. What a great list! I’m turning 30 myself this year, and so many of these points resonate with me. Not being a parent yet, I’m simultaneously encouraged and dismayed by numbers 6 & 16. 🙂 Any future posts in the works on economizing and time management with kids?