27 Things I’ve Learned, Unlearned, and Relearned Over the Last Year
I am reporting to you live on August 30th. Two days after my 27th birthday. I would have written you on my birthday, but alas, I forgot my password. It took me two days to figure it out. It goes to show you that just because you get older does not mean you get smarter. Anyway. As of two days ago, I now self-identify as a new number: 27. As you may or may not know, I am especially excited about this year. Because 27 is my absolute favorite multiple of 9.
In celebration of 9,864 days (10,000 is right around the corner!) of me being alive, I figured I would assault you with a listicle of 27 life lessons that I acquired, unacquired, and reacquired over the last year.
Why am I doing this? Because being a tall straight white male, I have been conditioned by society to speak as if I know all of the answers. So giving people advice they didn’t ask for is in my nature at this point. So why don’t you sit down while I mansplain life to you from my ivory tower of privilege?
As with all of these lists, it needs to come with a huge disclaimer: This is a list of things that I believe now. There is a chance you disagree. There is a chance that later in life, I will disagree.
Or in all caps: THESE ARE MY LESSONS. I LEARNED THEM. THESE ARE VALUABLE TO ME RIGHT NOW. HOPEFULLY YOU FIND THEM HELPFUL TOO. IF YOU DON’T FIND THEM VALUABLE THAT IS OK. YOU ARE ALLOWED TO DISAGREE. WE CAN STILL BE FRIENDS. BUT IF YOU RESPOND WITH SOME DEROGATORY BULLSHIT COMMENT, PREPARE TO FACE THE WRATH OF SOMEONE WHO ON AVERAGE DOES NOT LIKE BULLSHIT COMMENTS FROM PEOPLE TRYING TO MAKE EVERYTHING ABOUT THEMSELVES.
LIFE HACKS: I will start with Life Hacks since people fucking love Life Hacks.
1. Listen to a song on loop to get more work done. This is a pretty cool life hack that I learned from Ryan Holiday. It will completely drown out the noise around you. Listen to it enough times in a row and it will just blur together. Then you will start only hearing your thoughts. Pretty bizarre.
I like this a lot better than being surrounded by silence. Silence is weird, listening to Lady Gaga’s “Perfect Illusion” on repeat 45 straight times is totally not weird.
Side note: I know the lyrics to pretty much every Lady Gaga song. Deal with it.
2. Go to Sleep. Tons of people give this life hack now a days, including Ryan Holiday and Ariana Huffington, but I did not actually start listening to it until this year. A rested me is 300% more efficient than a tired me. I wish I could go back and tell old me that nothing is more important than consistently getting 7 hours of sleep. It would have saved me more hours than I would have known what to do with. But I have no time machine so no use crying over it.
3. Use dating apps. I have had a really good experience on dating apps (Shout out to Hinge!). There are two main reasons you should use these apps:
- Dating apps make life much easier. People are busy.
- The network effect. Everyone is finding people on apps now. I know, your mother and father don’t understand dating apps. But this isn’t the roaring 20s anymore, Eleanor. This is how people meet. Get over yourself and stop judging everyone. Maybe you haven’t been on a date because you are so self-righteous and people secretly hate you. But what do I know.
4. Don’t fly Southwest on a cross country flight. You are better than this. Please don’t write a comment saying something like “MUST BE NICE TO BE ABLE TO AFFORD THAT.” Jesus. Calm down. All I am saying is life is too short to fly in a cramped middle seat for 3,000 miles because you were 2 hours late to check in to your flight. I would much prefer having my seat number for an extra $50 roundtrip.
5. Be pretty. Here is a harsh reality: People treat attractive people differently. It is a fact. How do I know this? This may surprise you, but I used to be fairly hideous. I was like a soft 3 on a 1 out of 10 scale. Now I am like a hard 6. Which is huge. Life is different as a 6. People find the same jokes I used to tell funnier. They listen more intently to the things I say. The difference is (Arya) stark.
I know its taboo to tell the truth about things like this. I know I am supposed to say something like “People listen to me more because I have developed such a great personality over these last few years!” But the reality is this, I am nicer to look at. I don’t look like I am going to die. I don’t look like I value the next plate of Applebee’s boneless buffalo wings over living past the age of 43. People respect that I care about what I look. This is how humans work. You can complain about it or live in reality that this is the way people work. Your call.
6. Don’t be a dick (unless people deserve it). Yes, this is a life hack. I know you are also probably thinking “dude you were just a dick literal sentences before this.” But the human condition is one of constant contradiction so I march forward never learning from my mistakes or self-analyzing on anything deeper than surface level.
Here are a couple ways to not be a dick:
- Concede your fucking point when you are wrong/ say “hmm I didn’t think about that” when someone mentions something you didn’t think about. It lends itself to better conversation. What you shouldn’t do is say something like “yea everyone knows that” or belittle the dissenting opinion. Cause then people make fun of you behind your back.
- Say thanks when people do something nice for you.
- Do nice stuff for people unprovoked.
Why is it important to not be a dick? Let me give you an example of a time where being a dick is going to backfire on someone. No. You read that correctly. That is future tense.
This year, I met two friends of a friend. I thought I would get along with these people so I went over to talk with them. About five minutes in to the conversation, these people decided to insult me rather than engage me. It was shocking. One of those “are you for real right now?” moments that I am sure all of us have experienced. Now, what you may or may not know about me is that I have a pretty insane memory. I remember the name of every teacher I have ever had. I remember every team who won the World Series during my life. I am like an elephant who witnessed 9/11. I never forget. So what do you think the odds are that I will remember this moment and never give them another chance to redeem themselves? That’s right. 1000%.
You can read that and say “wow you really need to go do some mindfulness training” or you can realize that I am not that different from most people. These two people will never be my friend. I will encounter these two people again in my life. And you can know for sure that if there ever comes a point in my life where I can assist them with something, I will not. (And for the record, that’s not passive aggressive. That’s being the change you want to see in the world by punishing horrible people for being horrible to strangers.)
Am I petty? Abso-fucking-lutely. But in my experience, this is how the vast majority of people are. Except for the psychopaths who forgive people.
Also before you go saying some bullshit about how “maybe they were just having a bad day”, know that even on my worst day I would never treat a stranger like that. Ok, enough about some arbitrary grudge that I plan on holding for the rest of my life.
7. Use a calendar. Schedule in things that matter. Schedule in dates. Schedule in fitness. Actively try to keep in touch with the people who you decide matter. They are worth it.
It is tough to touch on the subject of calendars without touching on the subject of getting shit done. So I am going to mention here that part of scheduling things is because what gets scheduled gets accomplished. But it’s not that easy. You also need to actually do the thing. And sometimes doing the thing is pretty difficult psychologically. So what I have begun to realize here is that I need to live by a maxim: When in doubt, do the smallest possible step towards doing it. A big thing for me is overcoming the inertia of doing nothing to doing something.
If the first step seems too overwhelming, do the smallest possible step of that first step. Examples:
- Apply to that job. Smallest component of taking this step: Go talk to someone who works at the company you want to work at. That’s your first step. Go have a chat with someone about what it is like to work there.
- Go to the gym. Smallest component of the first step? Just touch the gym. Start small if need be. Literally just make it in to the gym. The cynics among us will say something like “oh yea touching the gym will get me a 6 pack, k bye!” But the point isn’t that the action of touching the gym will turn you in to Cristiano Ronaldo (#HesSoDreamy), it is getting you started with the habit. Also chill out, cynics. You guys suck. Whether you know it or not, everyone hates you. We have side texts about you once a week.
Stop agonizing over doing it. And if doing it seems too much, do the tiniest step possible to completing it.
8. Minimize your commute to work. Commuting sucks. Stop commuting if you can. Period. I commuted for a year in order to live in a major city. It was dope. It also was one of the biggest life drains ever. I had no energy to be the person I want to be. The commute eventually sapped all of the fun out of living in this awesome place. This had everything to do with the commute and not the area I was living. I could have been living in the Playboy Mansion, but if I had to drive an hour and a half each way to get to work and back, I would eventually hate it. I would have been like “ahh are you kidding me? All these models are naked AGAIN.” Which is a weird thing to say as a heterosexual male. What I am saying is commuting brings out the worst qualities of you as a person.
Additional downsides of commuting: Commuting makes you fat. Commuting stresses you out. Commuting destroys your social life. Don’t commute.
SOCIAL LIFE/ HOW TO PARTY: According to the Yelp review I wrote about myself, I am super popular and my parties are fucking legendary so here are some party tips for you nerds after you unstuff yourself out of that locker.
9. The key to getting invited to parties is going to parties when you get invited. Let me walk you through the logic here. If I invite you to a party, and you do not come:
Question: What are the chances I come to your party when you invite me?
Answer: Lower than if you had gone to my party. That’s reciprocity. Fundamental human condition at play right there.
Question: What are the chances I invite you again?
Answer: Lower than if you had gone to my party. That’s called me being vindictive (see additional examples of vindictive behavior above in Life Hacks under “6. Don’t be a Dick”). I refuse to positively reinforce your shitty behavior of not coming to my party by inviting you again. Do not complain to me that you are not getting invited to things if you consistently don’t go to things. There are other people to invite. I am not going to beg you.
10. You don’t always have to go to a karaoke bar to do karaoke. Just do it in your living room. Pull up YouTube on your TV and search “[SONG TITLE] karaoke”. This is a game changer. Of course this will force you to have awkward conversations with your neighbors about why you were awake until 3am scream singing the Nickelback discography. But you could use the experience having hard conversations, you coward.
11. Theme parties are better than “come drink the beer” parties. They weed people out too. You don’t want to be friends with people who don’t dress up for theme parties. Oh you didn’t have any pirate gear for my pirate party so you came dressed in an American Eagle shirt? Looks like your invitation to my (Open) Bar Mitzvah just got lost in the mail.
CAREER SUCCESS: In talking with all my friends who work in corporate jobs, there appear to be some trends to people who succeed and people who do not at said jobs.
12. Make sure your boss likes you. This is easily the most important thing you can do.
How do you do this? In 4 easy steps!
- Do your fucking job.
- Deliver what you promise on time.
- Treat him/her as a person.
- Ask how his/her life is.
Bosses like people who are timely, competent and polite. It’s not rocket surgery.
13. If you feel qualified for your job, you are probably doing it wrong. You should be constantly taking on different projects that are outside of your comfort zone. That’s how you get really cool opportunities.
There is a good Naval Ravikant quote here: “If I only ever did things I was qualified for, I would be pushing a broom somewhere.” But one other way to think about it is: if I feel qualified for my position am I doing the equivalent of pushing a broom given my current talent level? Answer is probably. And answer is your job probably isn’t that hard and it will be automated soon enough so you should acquire more skills by taking on harder projects.
Probably Frequently Asked Questions (PFAQs):
What if I feel like a fraud at my job?
Sometimes you feel like a fraud because you are a fraud. Maybe you are actually bad at your job. But who cares? You are already there. Might as well become better at it. If you feel like a fraud, ask for help. People like to help you as long as you are willing to put in the work.
What should I do to get better at my job?
Figure out what skills are desirable in your line of work. Acquire those desirable skills. (Read Cal Newport’s So Good They Cant Ignore You for more on that.) When you don’t have a set of desirable skills, you are replaceable. You are a commodity. Like salt. No one gives a shit about which brand of salt they buy. But when you get a set of desirable skills, you become a luxury item. Like filet mignon. Be filet mignon.
Also psychological side note: Once you have those skills, remind people that you are filet mignon. Don’t let people treat filet mignon like salt. (Ramit Sethi covers a lot of this on his website. I think this link is a video of him covering the principle behind what I am talking about.)
14. Consider lifestyle when you are planning out your career. This is something I have not actually followed through on myself. But this is the best piece of advice I received this fiscal quarter and I plan on executing on it.
The thought process goes like this: Let’s say you are doing exactly what you love, but you have to work 100 hour weeks and not see your family ever. Do you love it that much? If so, ride on. If not, don’t get that job.
If you live in opposition of your values for too long, you are going to become a miserable human being to be around. I know because I have been there. Figure out what is important to you and then figure out if that “dream job” allows you to do those things.
MENTAL/PHYSICAL HEALTH: Because you can’t have one without the other.
15. Extremist mentality is extremely counterproductive to good mental/physical health.
Example: If you are trying the ketogenic diet, great. But if you beat yourself up every time you eat a carb, perhaps consider that this is not setting you up for long term success. Extremist mentality leads to internalizing shame over doing/not doing something sooner or later. And shaming yourself never helps any situation ever. I know this because my brain works like this. It goes something like start diet –> lose weight –> break diet –> start eating to calm self down –> become unhappy because I continue to break diet.
It is the literal physical manifestation of the famous Fat Bastard quote from the hit film “Austin Powers” that goes “I eat because I am unhappy and I am unhappy because I eat.”
All because I didn’t follow the perfect diet plan or exercise routine. Well here is what I have learned: There’s no perfect diet plan or exercise routine. Stop searching for them. Because the search is futile.
The correct diet plan is the one that helps you achieve your goals. Whatever those are.
The correct exercise routine is the one that helps you achieve your goals. Whatever those are.
Rule of thumb for figuring out YOUR routine: Simplicity trumps complexity. And any diet plan that doesn’t allow you to eat an ice cream sandwich once a harvest moon is going to fail.
16. Exercise Tips:
- Routine is really important.
- Try to exercise every day. On non-lifting days, go move or play sports.
- Go in to the gym knowing what you are going to do.
- When possible, do not take your phone to the gym with you. I can get away with this during lifting weights. I cannot get away with this when I am doing cardio #IFugginHateCahdio
General Comments on Weights
- Lifting 3 days a week is what I have found to be most sustainable for me.
- I don’t give a shit how much weight I lift in comparison to other people. I actually don’t understand why I ever cared about this. My new questions I ask while lifting are: Is it challenging? Is it building muscle? Am I moving the weight correctly? Cool. Move on. Let the guy with the knee wraps quarter squat 405 in peace.
- On your death bed, you aren’t going to say “I wish I deadlifted more than the guy who supersets every lift with a set of bicep curls in the mirror.”
General Comments on Cardio
- Cardio is the best stress reliever in the game.
- I need to loop the same song when I am doing cardio on a machine so I can forget about how monotonous the whole thing is or listen to an audiobook because I am so fucking now so I listen to audiobooks.
- Focus on the endorphins I am going to receive because I went running. Not on how much it sucks.
GETTING BETTER AT STUFF: From a guy who is better at stuff than you think he is, but worse at stuff than he thinks he is.
17. Intelligence is not finite. There is a really good book by Carol Dweck called “Mindset” that argues intelligence is not a finite quality. This is absolutely spot on. Most of us grew up being labeled something “intelligent”, “athletic”, “dumb”, etc… This became a self-fulfilling prophecy whether you knew it or not. One thing they don’t tell you is that the kids who end up succeeding are the ones who adopt a growth mindset (ie: learned “if I work hard, I can succeed”). This is a liberating notion to many people. There are no “math people” and “non math people”, there are people who kept trying and people who stopped. Think of that the next time you tell yourself, “I can’t do X.” But like fill X in with an activity. (PS: X Gon Give it To Ya)
18. You can learn anything you want. But there are certain rules you need to follow in order to learn new things.
- When reading a book, look away from the book. Try to recall what you just learned. This is great for when you are trying to test that you actually remember what you just read.
- There is a difference between getting the right answer and understanding the right answer. To assess whether or not you know a concept well, try to teach it to a friend who knows absolutely nothing about the topic you are studying.
- In order to learn more effectively, you have to enter states of prolonged focus without distraction called “deep work”. This is a term popularized by Cal Newport in his book “Deep Work“. You cannot let your attention be pulled away from the task at hand. Put your phone away. Put your email away. Just pay attention to the subject you are trying to learn. During these sessions, use the two methods mentioned above to learn.
19. You get better at doing stuff by doing more of that stuff. Kind of. You will hear a lot of people say things like “the way you get better at writing is by writing more.” Which is true to an extent. But eventually you will hit a wall. A plateau. Which you can most likely not get passed on your own. That’s where seeking a second opinion comes in. Sometimes that’s in the form of mentors. Sometimes that’s in the form of peers. But the all of the same thing in common: it is imperative to deliver your material to someone who is not you. Otherwise, you will never get any better at what you are trying to do because you are never getting feedback on it. If you want to learn more about this, look up “deliberate practice.” In classic science fashion, they make the concept really esoteric, but here it is in simple English: “find someone who is good at what you want to be good at, have them critique your work.”
TRAVELING: Because you need to broaden your perspective, blah, blah, blah, once you go somewhere with universal healthcare, blah, blah, blah. Pura vida.
20. You should go travel to get other people’s perspectives on shit. I was in Portugal when Trump got elected. It was interesting to see how many people were like “yea that makes sense, you guys are dumb.” Hurts.
It was also interesting that when I said I was from America, they asked “which part?” Like there’s more than one part? Weird.
21. Traveling is cool, but I also like having a set of routines. I think routine maximizes my mental health. I love going to see new places and do new things, but when I don’t have certain things in control for multiple weeks at a time, it gets me anxious. There is some ideal ratio here that I have not quite discovered for myself yet.
RADICAL CANDOR: To end this list, here are six things I am generally not allowed to say out loud.
22. Unless your baby is objectively cute (hint: most are not) or you are related to me, I don’t like your baby photos.
Also, here is a parenting tip from someone who is not a parent: Your kids shouldn’t be playing football. Something like 99% of NFL players have CTE. I may think your kid is ugly, but I don’t think he deserves brain damage.
Whereas if you let your child play football and post his ugly baby photos of him on social media, you think your kid is pretty and he/she deserves brain damage.
So to review, I want your kid to be smart and comfortable in their own skin, you want your kid to have brain issues and you shower them in lies. So who is the better parent between the two of us?
23. Stop endorsing me for skills like “Microsoft Word” on LinkedIn. I honestly cannot handle the number of job opportunities that are flowing in to my inbox on a daily basis because of your endorsement.
Recruiters reaching out to me like “your ability to format a document has me thinking that we really need to bring you on board. Here is a 7 figure salary.”
24. People say a lot of stuff. Those same people don’t do a lot of stuff. Don’t just say things. Do things. If you are on Facebook complaining about the news story of the day every single day, what have you actually added to the conversation? The only person who saw it are your 32 friends who all agree with you.
25. Sometimes your friends are really shitty for no particular reason. I write a good amount and post a lot of it on social media. When you share a lot of opinions, occasionally one of your friends will comment on it and say something like “this sucks”, “I disagree”, etc..
Sometimes it is warranted (ie: they give me a different perspective to analyze something). I go “hmm, never thought of that.”
Sometimes it is gentle ribbing or one of my friends making fun of me. Which I am all for. We are bonding over him calling me a douchebag or something. Love that shit. I go “ha we are becoming better friends!”
But the VAST majority of the time, it is someone projecting a psychological defense mechanism on to me for some unidentifiable reason. I don’t know why. I don’t even think they know why. But they are doing it.
For instance, if I posted a status that said something like:
Instead of calling it “premature ejaculation”, we should call it “ruthless efficiency.”
Here is an incomplete list of psychological defense mechanisms as they appear in response to that status:
- Invalidate your whole argument using an extreme one-off scenario (ie: well my brothers sisters cousin once got killed by a premature ejaculator and I do not think you understand how painful this is to me. You need to really rethink what you post on here.)
- Attack you personally (ie: What do you know about this subject? What are your credentials to speak on this? This isn’t funny. This is a real problem. You are taking a real mental issue and making a huge joke out of it.)
- Bigoteering: the act of bucketizing someone in to an undesirable group without much evidence. (ie: you are such a bigot toward people who cannot ejaculate. No one should listen to you. Bigot.)
- Projecting their polarized opinion on to an unpolarizing post (ie: How can you care about something like THAT at a time like this! People are dying in the streets!)
The desired outcome for all of these is the same: Protect the commenter’s ego.
If they invalidate my opinion, they don’t need to analyze the root as to why they think what they think. They don’t need to analyze why that status update got under their skin. Which is hard work.
Instead they just write me off and it saves their mind that precious bit of cognition. Avoiding that is ideal for the mind, but destructive for a society.
26. People are assholes because assholes generally get rewarded handsomely. (See: Conor McGregor, Floyd Mayweather, Donald Trump, LaVar Ball.) So I would argue that if you actually want to be the change you want to see in the world, don’t support someone who is an asshole.
27. Vulnerability is powerful in small doses and borderline pathetic in large doses. Sometimes you have to write something because you feel like people need to hear it or you feel like people could benefit from hearing about how you got through something. But living as an open book is not ideal. I know, it feels great to have 200 people like your status every day, but is it healthy to lean on other people’s validation like that? I would argue no. It is a form of addiction.
Ok. That’s it. Hope you enjoyed reading.
I will sign off with what I think everyone’s guiding principle should be:
Be your unapologetically strange self.
Or to say it like some old, pretentious guy:
“Love the hand that fate deals you and play it as your own, for what could be more fitting.”