So I turned 30 years old yesterday. While I’m not usually the sentimental type, my wife insists that this is a big milestone, so I figured that I should reflect on the first three decades of my existence and see what I have learned. Perhaps it’ll help me figure out what else to learn in my next 30 years. (Or just show my incredibly bad memory!)
So here goes a list of sundry and somewhat random musings on one score and ten years:
- The Power of Compounding is Amazing – In case you haven’t noticed by my posts on this blog, I’m fascinated by the effect of compounding. This is true across so many areas of life, not just money. I love the idea of planting one seed, it grows into a plant, and then it compounds into thousands of other seeds. Or the ideas and influence of one person, communicated to many people compounds to become an entire movement. This principle of self-propelling exponential growth is just incredible to me.
- The 80% Full Plate Rule – I was very involved with all sorts of extra-curricular activities growing up. I hit a wall quite young when I struggled to find the balance of when enough is enough and when I had overcommitted myself. My brother-in-law (close friend back then) told me to imagine my life as a dinner plate, and that to get the most out of life without getting burned out, fill it up with activities and commitments only up to 80%. The last 20% is reserved for incidentals that inevitably arise and also as a buffer for existing obligations that always expands. This, surprisingly, leads to living a life that’s usually 100% full. It’s a helpful mental hack for time (and energy) management, and fortunately with maturity and experience that plate gradually gets bigger, so 80% today for me is a lot more than even 100% of the plate back when I learned this.
- Two is Better Than One – Of course, I’m referring to life after marriage. Obviously there are crumb-saving advantages of being able to share resources with another person (one home, one car, one bed, lower taxes, etc.), but not only that, life’s just generally better! Having a companion on this journey called life makes it so much more enjoyable to travel. Moreover, every time Deb and I hear about the woes of our single friends’ pre-marital plights (our sympathies are with you!), we just look at each other and remark how we’re so glad that “the hunt” is over for us.
- Think Critically without Becoming Critical – Some of the people I’ve admired the most through life have been those who have the uncanny ability to be independent thinkers–folks who think deeply about things and come to sound conclusions. (Some may call this wisdom.) But of those people, the ones I admire even more are those who are able to articulate those ideas without being a jerk. It seems in the modern culture we live in, be it the media, politics, or even church, it’s the sensational and critical that’s most promoted and acclaimed. What a lost art it’s become to disagree without being disagreeable!
- My Way Isn’t the Only Way – When I was an idealistic “young person” (ahem), I was all about being “right”. The rigidity of only accepting my perspective as right and true, while rejecting others was a way of thinking that took some time for me to outgrow. The world is a much lovelier place (albeit much more complicated) when I learned to empathize and see things from other people’s perspectives–even those with whom I vehemently disagree.
- Quiet Time Every Morning is Vital – As a teenager I developed the habit of spending a quiet moment every morning in prayer, Bible study, meditation, and reflection. It’s been such a helpful way to start my day. Even if I’ve got tons to do, tests to study for, places to go, etc. taking that little time out inevitably makes the rest of the day more efficient and more productive, and I tend to just have a better outlook going through it.
- Proactive is Better than Reactive – I have discovered in observing myself and others that we tend to react after things happen to us rather than proactively create the circumstances before they happen. I might go so far to say that a commonality among many successful people is that their proactive/reactive instinct is biased toward proactivity. I’ve tried to shape my thinking so to not react by complaining or blaming when something happens to me, but rather to quickly shift my thinking to see what can I now do proactively to address the situation or to affect future outcomes.
- Valuable Things Are Worth the Effort – The worse thing that could ever happen to a person, I believe, is to develop a sense of entitlement—to think that somehow it’s “owed” to us. The fact that I’ve discovered in my short life is that all valuable things in life are worth the effort—be it in school, work, personal finance, relationships, etc. I think part of the secret is that whatever we are striving to obtain increases in value because that effort changes us in positive ways that would never have happen had we not exerted ourselves in the first place.
- Knowing How to Learn is More Important than Learning Lots of Knowledge – I love to watch Jeopardy even though I’m frequently dismayed at how little trivia I know. But I console myself that it’s not the amount of bits and pieces of information in our brains that’s important, but it’s having the capability to teach ourselves new things that matters most. It goes back to number 1 on this list. We can COMPOUND our brain power by training ourselves how to learn–then going out there and learning new things! It’s like getting unlimited free upgrades to our brains forever!
- There’s a Purpose – The philosophical question of purpose is an important one. It applies to so much of life that I wonder how it’s possible to live a sane existence without coming to terms with it. Why should I live a frugal life? Why was I born on this earth? What’s the point of me being here? Even as a kid, I never liked doing things without being told why I should. As I’ve gotten older, this trait has only gotten stronger. I’m thankful that through the Bible I’ve come to know a God who doesn’t ask me to live this life without offering a reason for living it.
I could’ve waxed eloquently on many more points (that often happens late at night when something’s on my mind and Deb’s trying to sleep), but these are a few nuggets that I’ve picked up along the last thirty years of sojourning on this dusty planet.
So what about you? Do you have some amazing profundities you’d like to share with us from your life-long adventure? Share them with us in the comments below!