This weekend I turned 27.
It was a quiet day. I didn’t post on Instagram about it or throw a lavish party for myself. I drank really good coffee, went climbing with my girlfriend, and decorated our new apartment.
My philosophy on birthdays is complicated. Always has been. On the one hand, I think we place an overemphasis on aging. On the other, I think growing older is something to be celebrated. It’s a damn gift to be alive.
Birthdays to me are intensely personal, almost spiritual. They are a day to reflect on what it means to be here on this planet, spinning on its axis and rotating around the sun.
Last year on my 26th birthday, I wrote an article called 26 Lessons in 26 Years On Planet Earth. It was one of the first tastes I ever got of “virality” and by that, I just mean — people who didn’t know me personally… read it. I felt famous.
This article is my follow up. 27 new lessons to commence my 27th year. My reflection on the year behind…
I’ll be honest, this year was tough. I hit the lowest low I’ve ever hit. And I was tested more than I ever have been. But it’s also been an intensely beautiful year. I’ve had some major life changes and learned just how resilient the human mind and body truly are.
With no further introduction, here they are:
- Find great mentors. Not just people who’ve achieved the level of success that you want to achieve, but genuinely good people, with a depth of insight and experience. This year, I found two men that I consider world-class mentors. You’ve never heard of either of them, but they are some of the best human beings I’ve ever met and they are having a massive impact in their little corners of the world. Every time I talk with them, I feel refreshed, refocused, and motivated. They give it to me straight and call me out on my bullshit. That’s what makes a great mentor.
- Write for truth first. My best writing (and living) comes from a place of pure honesty with self and others. But there are things that happened in my life this past year that I cannot write on the internet about, that I cannot even tell some of my closest friends about. My inability to speak freely and openly about what I’m going through has created a massive writer’s block. Every time I sit down at the computer, I’m dancing around a set of topics. It makes for really bad art.
- Life is supposed to be fun. It’s not supposed to be so damn hard all the time. If it’s always hard, you’re doing something wrong.
- Brick by brick. This is a philosophy I started living by this year. When you look at something as big as your dreams or even deep as depression, it’s nearly impossible to know where to start. What I’ve learned this year is that you just start… you lay this brick as best as you can. Then you worry about the second. If you keep going, eventually, you’ll have built something resembling a wall. Maybe even a house.
- Mind right, game tight. We all “know” our experience of life is determined by the voices inside our heads. It’s all in the way we interpret things. It’s easy to feel good when things are going well. It’s much harder to feel good when things are going poorly. But the winners in life are the people who’ve struck out the last 17 at-bats and get in the batter’s box with just as much confidence as if they’re on a hitting streak. These are the most intimidating competitors. These are the people who have the audacity to believe they can change the world… and the only ones truly capable of doing it.
- Family is a choice, not an obligation. This was a lesson I should have learned nearly 5 years ago when I was fighting relentlessly for my father to choose us after my mom died. I didn’t realize at the time that he wasn’t obligated to do so. In our society, we take for granted the obligatory, biological, ancestral aspect of a family unit. We assume it's all that’s necessary to keep our families alive. But any child who was adopted or grew up in a single-parent household could tell you, a family is not an obligation, it’s a choice. The people in our lives have the right to choose whether we are worth keeping around. Our parents don’t have to love us. They don’t have to treat us right. They should, but they don’t have to. This year, I also realized I am not obligated to put in the effort where it is not reciprocated. I am not obligated to try and repair things. I am empowered with a choice.
- “Be where your feet are.” — Graham Betchart | Graham’s been called the “NBA’s spiritual guru” and this guy speaks truth. Every time we work together he reminds me that spirituality, presence, mindfulness — don’t need to be complex. It’s as simple as being where your feet are.
- There’s more healing to do than you think there is. Everyone thinks they are “woke.” But when it comes to our personal traumas and the traumas of others, there’s always more healing to do. Always. Part of being “woke” is recognizing that our pain is many layers deep, and doesn’t just spontaneously disappear. Love that process of recovering and uncovering and you will be happy for life; tie yourself to the outcome and you’ll be miserable for life.
- Talk is so cheap. How many people say they “want” success, happiness, love? How many people “want” to change their lives or lose weight? How many people even know how to reach the highest levels but still don’t follow it up with action? SO MANY. Why???? The neurochemical process behind this is complicated. When we say something out loud like, I don’t know, “I’m going to publish a book next year” or “I really want to quit my job” our brains get a little micro-high. We get a hit of dopamine. We are fulfilled by the mere thought of doing something. Our brains start to “pre-celebrate” the wins because they can’t perceive the damn difference between saying we’re going to do something and actually doing it. So if you want to live a good life, shut up. Stop talking. And just do the thing you want to do.
- Having a home base is essential. I spent 6+ months this year moving from temporary place to temporary place with all my things. It sounds all cool and new-agey to travel around and live in Airbnb’s, but it was honestly exhausting. I realized for the very first time that I want to “settle” and be fully present somewhere. I want to plant real roots in one place. I haven’t had the feeling of “home” in a long time and realized it’s my job now to create it.
- It’s time to start thinking in decades. When we are young, going through the school system, we are trained to think in 4-year windows. We are always moving towards another graduation. But as you get older, that timeline doesn’t stick. You need to expand your mind and start to see in bigger windows. Decade long projects. Life long commitments. That’s the stuff I am playing with now.
- Strong people ask for help. I’m historically terrible at asking for help. To the point that when I really need help, it’s like someone’s pressed my mute button. I am physically incapacitated from speaking. And that’s because we’ve been made to believe it’s honorable to go through it on our own. Our egos are constantly getting the way. They even make up lies like “I don’t want to burden anyone else.” The truth is, we don’t want to be seen empty-handed. It’s hardest to be vulnerable when we feel broken. It’s also the time when exercising our courage is most important.
- Unconditional love and high standards are not mutually exclusive. This is perhaps the most important lesson I learned this year. At times, you are going to have to put your foot down and say, “This relationship isn’t serving me. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It just means I can’t be around you until you get your shit together.”
- Fear is a temporary feeling with permanent consequences. Every time fear appears and you refuse to confront it, you are missing out. The best things in life are hidden on the other side. Which means every time you exercise the courage to bust through your fear, you are moving closer to your potential, to the beauty that life has to offer.
- If someone’s words cut like knives, that’s on you (not them). What are you going to do — blame every person that’s ever said something terrible to you for your unhappiness or failure? Honestly, fuck that. Work on yourself to the point where no one’s words or judgments can penetrate you, only motivate you to become better yet.
- It gets better. No matter how pervasive and permanent it seems. No matter how broken you feel. No matter how many times you’ve been rejected or beat down. No matter what it is that you’re dealing with. No matter who has harmed you. No matter if you can see a way out or not. It. Gets. Better.
- Discipline is self-love. Last year I learned that “discipline is freedom.” When we don’t have to choose to workout, meditate, and do the hard things because it’s automatic, we become free. That’s true. But this year, I also learned that discipline is self-love. When we love ourselves, when we are deeply aligned, we do the things that put our happiness first. Not short-term pleasure, but long-term happiness. That means executing on our dreams instead of scrolling through Instagram, making the time to meditate in the mornings instead of going through emails.
- I have a savior’s complex, big time. I think a lot of this stems from trying to “save” my mom as a kid. I (obviously) never wanted her to die and, therefore, wanted to do everything in my power to make her immortal. I’ve brought that same behavior to other people in my life. The truth? It isn’t within my power to save anyone or to make them happy. However, it is my job to set a positive example and love on them… hard.
- You can’t pour from an empty cup. Okay, okay. This is a repeat lesson. I deep learned it this year though. My cup had like three drops of water left in it at one point this year. Luckily, I learned how to turn the faucet back on.
- Learning a lesson is not the same as mastering it. I am re-reading Essentialism for the fourth time right now. Great book, you should definitely read it. But the point is… I still haven’t mastered the lessons. So, I keep going back and revisiting it. And I will keep doing that until I no longer need to in order to live the principles.
- Write it down. A few months ago, I was feeling pretty down. I wrote out a long bucket list of things I wanted to do. Nearly everything on the list just came through me. I wasn’t trying to force or mold my ideas, but rather to map by subconscious thoughts into tangible bullet points. #3 on that list was to work with Yes Theory. Fast forward a month later, I was working with them fulltime.
- Charge more and fire faster. In a hustle culture that’s promoting free work, this seems like a counterintuitive message. We are told to fight for scraps and perfect the minor details. The thing is, you shouldn’t be providing free work to just anyone. Especially anyone who doesn’t have a conscience about it. I would have 5x the amount of money in my bank account if I hadn’t provided any free or underpriced work this year. Working for free is worth it if you know the work will help open doors, create leverage, or turn into something. But in most cases, it’s not worth it. If you want to work at the highest levels, you need to charge in a way that reflects that. Period. You cannot build a business if you cannot pay your bills on time.
- Stop caring what other people think. So self-explanatory, yet so underrated. I’m pretty sure this is the key to happiness.
- Financial wellness is as important as living your passions. Being broke sucks. Wondering how you’re going to pay rent is the worst. Accruing debt is not-so-dope. These things put you in survival mode and begin tapping into your creative reserves. To be successful and feel deeply fulfilled, it’s important to carve a middle path.
- Confidence is an action. I can’t tell you how underconfident I’ve been — about my writing, about my social acuity. Literally, so many things I couldn’t even list them all. But the key to confidence is knowing that it’s not a feeling. It’s not something that just shows up or doesn’t. It’s a choice. It’s an action. It’s moving towards failure, towards fear rather than burrowing in the corner. That is true confidence.
- You can’t phone in your habits. There is no point in life when you can just stop going to the gym and remain fit. That’s a habit you have to cultivate, week over week, month over month, and year over year. You have to keep showing up to get the benefits. So stop focusing on all this science about how long it takes to build a habit, and start focusing on the process of continually implementing it. Focus on the joy you get from sticking with it… for the long haul.
- Everything is transient. Every feeling. Every experience. Every idea. Every person. Everyday. Nothing lasts forever. And that’s what makes it beautiful.