30 Things I Learned at 30

Lessons from a Year of Foundations

Hamza Khan
Sep 3, 2018 · 5 min read

Five years ago, my friend Dev Basu inspired me to compile a list of lessons learned during 365-day rotations around the sun. My anthology includes orbits numbers 26, 27, 28, and 29. This is 30.


If it’s not fun, you’re not going to do a lot of it. And if you don’t do a lot of it, you’ll never master it. Do what you love, and love what you do.

If you want lasting results, do small and imperative things regularly. Consistency over time equals results. Castles are built one brick at a time.

Remain open to adventure. But before you allow the winds to blow you where they may, become exceptionally skilled at sailing.

Conductors play the orchestra with their backs turned to the crowd. Practice thoroughly. Make good choices before you hit the stage. Then, trust the process.

Your guidance counsellor was wrong about specialization. Our automated future won’t be kind to those who can only create value in singular and narrow ways. Get bullish on optionality and adaptability.

Make your goals truly important to you. To quote Jim Rohn, “If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” Your thoughts become things.

An object in motion stays in motion. Whatever you do, don’t break the streak. Don’t lose momentum, don’t stop—keep moving forward.

Don’t let certainty prevent you from moving forward. You can’t always make the right decisions—but you can make decisions, and then make them right.

If it doesn’t make you anxious, it could mean that the stakes are too low. And if the stakes are too low, you won’t learn or grow. Nothing changes if nothing changes.

Ask yourself, “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid of what anyone would think?” Listen carefully to your answer, and then get to work.

You can be certain that chaos will occur, especially when you least expect it. As the Chinese proverb suggests, “It’s better to be a warrior in a garden, than a gardener in a war.”

Taste the blood on your lips. Let the failure wash over you. Drawing on the vivid memory of your failure, work to never allow yourself to feel that way again.

A concerned friend once told dejected chess prodigy Bobby Fischer, “If you don’t play chess, eventually there will come a time when no one will ask you to play.”

If you keep battling the same opponent, you’ll turn into a one-dimensional fighter. And if you keep editing yourself, eventually you’ll get erased.

No is an incredibly powerful word. A complete sentence, even. Have the courage to decline and walk away. It will make your yes valuable.

In the wise words of Muhammad Ali, “A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.”

You have the entirety of recorded history at your fingertips. To enter into any situation completely uninformed is both lazy and irresponsible.

It’s your interface, and it’s your currency. It’s your truth, and it’s your promise. It’s the sum total of your stories, and it’s the expression of your value. Protect it at all costs.

If you’re not telling your story, someone else is. Own your narrative, own your reputation. Don’t leave it up to someone else to tell your story.

Know what you want and clearly ask for it. Don’t wait for someone else to ask on your behalf. If you don’t have a seat at the table, you might end up on the menu.

Learn how to bravely confront reality fast and early. Get past the cringing and get to work. Consequences only get worse with time.

When faced with an array of tough choices, think of the thing that you least want to do. That’s probably the right thing to do. Toughen up and do it.

Whatever is holding you back—relationships, projects, fears, etc.—let it go. What good are rocket boosters once all the fuel is spent?

Regularly unpacking things allows you to repack them with much more intention and wisdom. Lighter (and fewer) bags make for easier journeys.

Don’t get distracted from practicing your instruments, writing new music, and taking your show on the road. Trust yourself. Trust the process. Know that true skill is undeniable.

If you campaign hard enough, eventually you’ll get elected. Meditate on your follow-up to getting everything you want. Anticipate victory just as you would failure.

As Peter Drucker put it, “You cannot do a job if a job is all you do.” The world needs you at your best. You have to nourish to flourish.

Don’t confuse social media for the real thing. Real life is happening right before your eyes and all around you.

With your eye on the destination, find joy in the journey. Marking your progress will help you to sustain momentum and appreciate your growth.

As the Chinese proverb states, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.” Keep on trying, even if you have to restart.

Hamza Khan

Written by

Managing Director @StudentLifeNet. Author of #TheBurnoutGamble. TED & Keynote Speaker. Multi-Award Winning Marketer & Entrepreneur. hamzakhan.ca