(This should take around 6 mins to read)
I’ve been sitting for the past hour wrecking my brain trying to think about what unique reflections or insights I can give… jump onto Quora and there’s a plethora of people giving generic advice around the “turning 30 milestone”… start saving now… start taking care of your health… etc. etc.
I wanted to try and avoid writing a similar cliche article — admittedly, it was hard not too. Below, I’ve summarised some notes that I jotted down for myself on how to navigate life, as well as how to extract the most from it, and overall how I try to set myself up for success both personally and professionally. The notes are expanding and changing with time.
To start with I should confess that I’m a (recovering) self-improvement junkie. If I spotted a podcast with the likes of @Naval on it, I would drop everything and listen. My apartment was (and still is) overrun with non-fiction titles. I’d often spend hours on Medium, trawl through TED Talks, I could go on…
Recently though, I discovered a couple of actions missing in my approach. Things that now make all my learning, listening and note taking much more impactful.
If you take away one thing from this article, take away the approach I describe.
First, I was missing a practical notebook for recording all the advice as it pertains to me. Somewhere to think about the advice I was consuming, in context. Some people call it a ‘wisdom journal’, if you want to do some googling on the structure. Over the years I had made notes, bought various Moleskins, jotted stuff in the margins of physical books — the list goes on. But, as you can imagine, I lost most of these, or it was written on paper so I couldn’t chop, edit, distill or update (easily). N.B. I now use the Ulysses app on my iPad Pro, but I’ll write a separate post on this soon.
Second, I was missing a daily reflections journal. Somewhere for me to note down how I was actually applying and adapting the stuff listed in my ‘wisdom journal’. They both interact and rely on one another. For example, if you’re trying to develop your emotional intelligence, what use is reading a bunch of books and articles on it if you don’t take time to reflect on the advice that worked and understand what didn’t? You end up just mindlessly reading, getting off on the fact that you think you’re learning and improving — when in fact, you’re just wasting time.
For the insights from my journal, I should provide some context. First, I’m a tech nerd who wants to put a positive dent in the universe. I measure my success primarily it terms of commercial success (although that is changing) — e.g. what products have I launched, what revenue have I generated, what utility have people gained. Therefore my journalling is mostly structured around these end goals (sales / relationships / fundraising / managing / etc.).
From a personal perspective, I’m still very much ‘in flux’, some of the goals are ever changing. I used to subscribe to the ‘16 hour workday’ manifesto, meaning no real work/life balance — I’m sure you’ll see that viewpoint has changed a little as you read through the points below. Now I’d say I’m focused on continuous improvement, learning, and working smart.
Jumping into some of the actual notes… some of them I elaborate upon, some of them I just list. Hopefully a few of them resonate with you. Feel free to use any of them to start building out your own ‘wisdom journal’.
- Work hard – you can get very far by simply out working most people. You can also get far by working smart. To get into the top 0.1%, you’ll need to do both. You’ll need a strategy for avoiding burnout. Think of entrepreneurship as a ‘marathon of sprints’. Success begets success. Put in the hard work when you’re young (with relatively few responsibilities).
- Demonstrate strength and warmth in parallel – this is hard to do in practice. Strength and warmth are the universal dimensions that shape our judgements of others. This is because they are the factors most likely to affect our lives. High strength can elicit fear, while lots of warmth can elicit love. Not coincidentally they are also what we value morally. People who are inherently charismatic, the ones who seem to just get stuff done, have the ability to demonstrate both strength and warmth in parallel.
- Get good at sales; throughout life you’ll always be selling – think shareholders, team members, bosses, and just about anyone. There are a few foundational pillars that can be learnt. Having these in your repertoire and building upon them is worth the time investment. Be a good communicator, believe in what you’re making, stick to your word, cultivate relationships — are all good starting points.
- Compound yourself – I think it was Archimedes who was quoted as saying “give me a long enough lever and I can move the world”. Compounding yourself is one of the most important values that I try to follow. I’m sure my friends can attest to this. I’m always rabbiting on about 1% improvements day-after-day. Anything to the power of anything becomes a very large number after a surprisingly short period. Related to this is the power of time. Think long term. So many people optimise for the short term.
- Don’t sell your time – time only scales linearly. This means working a 9-5 salaried job won’t help you put a dent in the universe. Furthermore, in most 9-5 jobs, someone who has been working there for 2 years is as effective as someone who has been there 25 years — this shows a cap on growth.
- Understand your personality traits – by understanding yourself better, you can make interactions with your team better. This spans quite the universe of things. For example are you someone who prefers to sit and read when digesting ideas or topics? Or are you someone who enjoys a group discussion? Things as basic as this can make a huge difference in how impactful you are in whatever you do. Therefore understand what makes you tick, make sure people around you know them too, your strengths, your weaknesses (so you can start to build up a plan to complement them)
For these I’m not going to go into as much detail — I’m pretty sure they’re mostly self explanatory.
- Say yes – most always say yes and do it
- You have no control – you have to learn you don’t control anything — except your mindset and your framing.
- Be present
- Ego & jealousy – reduce instagram
- Small daily habits – rather than one or two massive changes
- Get a handle on your finances – compound interest is your friend
- Get up early
- Cultivate a good work ethic
- Party when you’re young, just know when to stop
- Have a 1 / 2 / 5 / 10 year plan
- Sleep and rest
- Don’t take yourself to seriously
- Be curious
- Show others love, be vulnerable but remember nothing is permanent
- Have some values and try your best to stick to them
- Don’t follow the crowd; embrace being different
- Write, draw, play music… have a creative outlet, even if you’re “not creative”
- Don’t put up with toxic people
P.S. would love if you could give this a share or a thumbs up if you enjoyed it. I’m only just getting back into writing after a short break. What did you think of this longer form post? I’m working on spending more time and effort into crafting long posts, rather than just throwing an article together.