Life, sometimes (© Rafael Sarandeses)

Taking Note of Your Big Life Lessons? These are My Hard Earned 38.

And yes, some of them involved tears.

Rafael Sarandeses
Nov 22, 2017 · 14 min read

Change is very difficult to embrace. On the one hand, everything around you is actually designed so that you don’t change. People profit far more from you not changing the way you are or the way you behave than from the opposite. Besides, change requires a trigger, either by an internal shift or by an external shock. Change needs catharsis.

I spent most of my youth racing cars, something I did professionally with some success (winning a few national titles along the way) until the age of 21. Then I dived into entrepreneurship when I decided to invest into and run a shipyard in Italy for a couple of years (note to self, don’t do that again!). I then joined Goldman Sachs in London and started a 10 year stint in investment banking. A stint that came to an end in late 2013.

Between 2014 and 2017, two decisions would transform my life. First, I went on to co-found ThirdWay Africa with my partners, leaving behind a comfortable banking career in London to be come an entrepreneur in Africa. Then came my divorce after almost 10 years of marriage and two wonderful kids.

You see, growth is not a consequence to things. Growth is a conscious decision made as a result of sheer self-awareness. For the first time, these two events made me look inwards instead of outwards. The person I needed to be to get to the next level was not the person I was. I had to work on the toolkit. And that lead to a conscious decision to grow, which then required a lot of action. Action. Doing. Work. You need to DO stuff to get stuff DONE. A simple fact of life that is pretty much ignored by most people, including me at the time.

Below are the top 38 things that I learned through this journey, through the good and the bad. And yes, some of these “notes to self” came with tears in the process.

1. Stop chasing. Start attracting.

2. When not working, focus on learning and creating.

3. It is easy to think that good things happen to other people for no reason. Well, it does not work like that.

“The greatest reward in becoming a millionaire is not the amount of money that you earn. It is the kind of person that you have to become to become a millionaire.” — Jim Rohn

The “chosen ones” choose themselves. Most people live their lives avoiding problems. Great people seek great problems, and success at solving these bring more (and potentially bigger) problems to them. That involves a lot of energy and a lot of hard work.

4. Before setting any goals, define the person you want to be.

5. I replaced motivation and willpower — which I cannot control over the longer run — with systems.

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing — that’s why we recommend it daily” — Zig Ziglar

Find your rituals, your routines. Your checklists. Whatever gets you to a peak state to kick-start your day. It will create a safe and energetic environment, like warming up for a big competition. I am not talking about drinking lemon water or bulletproof coffee here. I — for instance — write, read and/or meditate every morning. It works for me, it sets me up for action. You need to find your own rituals. Of course, this may mean you have to wake up a little earlier… but hey, you need to put the hours if you want progress.

6. Be willing to look bad and ugly while you grow.

7. To love someone is different than being in love with someone.

“To say that one waits a lifetime for his soulmate to come around is a paradox. People eventually get sick of waiting, take a chance on someone, and by the art of commitment become soulmates, which takes a lifetime to perfect.” — Criss Jami.

Being in love is a passive state. Love is an active verb and requires action. Every morning you need to decide to love that someone. You renew your vows. And by doing this you decide to invest into the relationship for that love to be nurtured, to be fed. Daily.

8. Real commitment is a scarce commodity these days. If you can commit to something, you are already ahead.

9. We live in an epidemic of average.

10. We all need to go through the garbage and focus on the real materiality of things.

“You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” — John Maxwell.

Most things don’t have that much importance, when we finally apply a bit of perspective. Worry, in general, is mostly in our heads. We fear what we don’t know.

11. I believe one of the most important things in life is acceptance.

12. Personal growth does not happen to you by accident. It is a conscious decision to make an investment in yourself.

13. Ask yourself why you could be fired today.

14. Aim to be effective with people and efficient with things.

15. If you want to lead, don’t be a jerk

16. Things happen for a reason, so stop fighting it and embrace it, make it work for you.

“You can only connect the dots backwards” — Steve Jobs.

Believe in serendipity. You may not see this at first, but the universe will conspire for you to help you get where you want to go… as long as you work to visualize your goals and aspirations. I have seen this in action, and it is powerful. As Picasso said, “anything you can imagine is real”.

17. Happiness is about expectations.

“Happiness is not about what the world gives you — happiness is what you think about what the world gives you.” Mo Gawdat.

Therefore, when assessing what life gives you, be conscious of how much you are investing into it in the first place.

18. Giving back should not be only referred to money. Turn the dial to giving back your time.

19. Don’t bore them with the details.

20. When starting a company, the intrinsics of the people you hire are far more important than their hard skills.

21. Writing changed my life.

22. Consistency beats any other character trait when it comes to success.

23. Make sure you maximise the opportunity you are given and utilize momentum when good things start to happen.

“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” — Vladimir Lenin.

24. Perfection is the enemy of good.

25. Do not sacrifice who you are for anyone.

26. It is easier to settle on lesser goals because they are easier to achieve than bigger, more ambitious goals

“Any disparity between what you know you can do and what you are achieving is an ethical issue.” — Grant Cardone

Most big goals have no clear path, but lesser ones will put a highway in front of you and tease you. But keep this in mind: the world gives way to people that know where they are going, even when no path lies ahead of them.

27. Don’t feed negativity, don’t gossip.

28. The most important asset in our lives is not money, nor time. The most important asset is attention, being present.

29. Courage is created through action.

30. Don’t listen to me. Listen to them. Books provide you with the ultimate return on investment.

“Read 500 pages every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest.” — Warren Buffet.

“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none. Zero.” — Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s longtime business partner.

Read. Read a lot. About all topics. I cannot stress this enough. Someone has already thought about most topics, allowing you to benefit from the leisure of your couch. As per Michael Simmons saying: “Books compress a lifetime’s worth of someone’s most impactful knowledge into a format that demands just a few hours of our time”. Amen.

31. Positioning is everything.

32. Success is what happens when an idea is well executed.

33. We are all in our own race.

34. Your instinct is there for a reason. Have trust in it.

35. Stop with “I am too busy”. Seriously. Enough. You need to protect time to stop and think.

36. Be clear about the things you do well. Then maximise them, and aim to hedge your weaknesses as well as possible.

37. Get used to making decisions with imperfect or asymmetric information.

38. Success will take longer than you think to materialise, and also will drain more resources than you ever expected.

So what is my takeaway after all these years…?

Well, very simple really: that we are not programmed to learn through the experience of others. If you have children, you know this very well. They need to do it themselves, as learning will only happen through their own action. The experience of others will, at most, put us on a better track. But the running is only for us to do. So don’t borrow wisdom and live your life, practice a lot, try new ways of getting the most out of yourself. Be the person you want to be. And most of all, be ready to put in the effort… and maybe some tears as well.

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this article, feel free to clap and to share it with others who may appreciate it. Thank you!

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple.

Rafael Sarandeses

Written by

I Help Executives Reinvent Themselves | Executive Search, Executive Coach & Career Fitness Professor |

A network of business & tech podcasts designed to accelerate learning. Selected as “Best of 2018” by Apple.

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