25 years. 25 life lessons.
The last couple of months leading up to my birthday I’ve been reflecting on some of my recent good fortune. I’ve had arguably the best year of my life. I’ve traveled, worked with brilliant people, made great new friends, fell in love with an amazing girl, and found joy in my every day life.
This sense of purpose and gratitude led me to start a campaign this summer to raise money for charity: water. This organization is trying to get 663 million people access to clean water (yes, 663 million people across the globe do not have access to clean water). I launched this campaign because I have the chance to make a small dent in a solvable crisis. I have the chance to give something back.
Now reviewing the last 25 years, there are some core lessons that I’ve decided to share with you. Maybe you’ll agree or perhaps you won’t. But I challenge you to at least think about each lesson and apply it to your life.
1. Don’t dwell on the things you cannot control.
At so many junctures in my life I’ve wasted time letting things out of my control affect me. There are things in your life you cannot change. For those things, find work arounds and move on.
2. Always go the extra mile if your reasons are good.
Whether you’re bettering yourself or bettering the world, if the cause is good, don’t slack off.
3. Positive results aren’t mandated and sometimes those results are indirect.
If you believe in karma, you should agree with this. The universe has a weird way of catching up with us. Do the right thing and do it because it is the right thing.
4. Be a man (or woman) for others. The world needs more of them.
My catholic high school’s motto was “men for others” (all boys school). I didn’t really understand that saying until I was old enough to recognize qualities such as generosity, compassion and empathy. I see those qualities in my father and in some of my closest friends. Once exposed to it, it’s easier to understand.
5. With those you love, never cut corners.
You’ll never regret going above and beyond for them.
6. Anticipated climatic moments are usually anti-climatic.
Graduations, promotions, interviews, and even birthdays are a few examples of moments where we have these big expectations about how monumental they will be. Sometimes, they just aren’t. Accept that this is life.
7. Find great mentors. Study them.
Mentors at work, within the family, among friends and among leaders that run the world.
8. Judge someone’s actions, not which they cannot act upon.
You can’t change skin color, birthplace, or sexual orientation.
9. Don’t back down from a fight if the fight is worth having.
There are senseless fights and then there are sensational fights. Know the difference.
10. Remember the world is a very big place. For better or worse.
You might be a small fraction of the world. However, your contributions to it can be far greater than a small fraction.
11. When you’re down, don’t calculate the cost to get back up, calculate the cost of staying down.
Everyone has been down. Study any great person in history. Some of the greatest humans that have ever walked this planet have been jailed, discriminated against, bullied, beaten, tortured and faced other adversity. They calculated the costs of staying down and then found the means to get back up.
13. Luck is a component of every outcome.
Whether it’s 1% or 99%, it plays a part, every time.
14. Bullies never win in the end.
There is no end game for bullies. They never find solace.
15. Struggle makes us stronger, wiser, and overall better.
I wrote about this two years ago in a post about being Dyslexic.
16. Impatience and ambition are a deadly mixture.
It’s tough to move slow when you’re determined to move fast.
17. Take vacations. Travel. Open your eyes.
Seeing new things, meeting new people, discovering the world is a big place, provides an enormous amount of perspective.
18. Anxiety breeds irrationality.
Levels of paranoia can disrupt your life and lead you into misery. Don’t let anxiety lead you places you don’t want to go. Be stronger.
19. Pragmatism is noteworthy, but not always the best course.
Sometimes you should take the path less realistic. It’s less boring.
20. Bad days always end.
Close your eyes and sleep it off. Tomorrow is a new day. It’s as simple as that.
21. When you’re the adult in the room, act like it.
Regardless of the situation, whether you are the youngest or the oldest, when you’re in charge don’t falter. Lead. Find confidence.
22. Surround yourself with great people. Keep them close.
Great friends make life great.
23. Hard work trumps raw talent.
Any day of the week I’d hire the hard worker over the talented wunderkind. I see that in my friend Mike Uva. He is making a career in sports journalism, slowly moving up the chain because he works harder than his competitors.
24. Smart people make mistakes. Often.
Don’t write someone off as stupid because they make mistakes. Truthfully it’s how they handle their mistakes that often defines them as smart.
25. There’s no such thing as “making it” in life.
But there’s finding peace in what you do and who you are.
Bonus lesson (a.k.a. #26) Follow your passions. There is no better course to follow than the one you want to follow.
From the rapper G-Eazy, my favorite lyrics:
Everything costs something bro
Winning somewhere, somewhere else you just lost something though
The cost of opportunities is always good to know
But if you know that then you’re good to go
Yea, no dreams too big
Chase anything you have the passion to do
Bottom line: life is short, do what you’re passionate about. I’ve met some extremely accomplished and successful people that simply chased their passions. Why can’t that be you?