Every year, around my birthday, I like to write down the things I learned, one lesson for every year I’ve been alive on earth. Since one of my recently self-published books, Essential Habits, is structured according to healthy, wealthy and wise habits, I thought I’d do the same with the lessons I have learned this past year.
Healthy (eating, exercise, relationships)
- Stretching is also exercise. I used to think that cardio and weight training were the be-all and end-all – do those two things and you would be healthy as a horse. But I realized as I’m getting older that stretching and having functional movement is important, maybe even more important.
- Create systems, not goals. I try to be active every day, whether that’s walking, stretching, doing yard work, etc. Whether I have time for a 5-minute or a 30-minute workout, I count it as exercise.
- YouTube is your friend for workouts. Whatever equipment you have, however much time you have, whatever your goals are, there’s a workout on YouTube for you. Don’t believe me? Search for it.
- Body weight exercises are great too. Don’t have a dumb bell? Kettlebell? Pull up bar? Even body weight exercises are great if you consistently do them.
- Eat until you are 80% full. It takes time before your stomach tells your brain you are full so get to 80% and then pause before eating more. Also, you save room for potential dessert.
- Eat more plants. It’s better for you. It’s better for the environment. And just because you didn’t like a vegetable when you were younger doesn’t mean your tastes haven’t changed. Also, there are so many great vegetables out there – don’t be afraid to try new ones.
- Intermittent fasting works for me. I am not a doctor nor do I play one on the internet. Maybe it will work for you (try it!) I know intermittent fasting works for me. Less money for groceries? Yes. Weight loss? Sometimes. You also get the time you would have spent making and cleaning up after breakfast. I can’t say enough good things about fasting.
- Hydrate. I never seem to drink enough water throughout the day. My handy trick? Fill a few water bottles and then leave them around my work areas. Any time I pass by, I take a swig from the water bottle.
- Friendships and relationships are never one-sided. Don’t expect your friends to always contact you to hang out. And don’t expect your friends to hang out with you when you want to. You have to contribute as much to a relationship as you are getting out of it. For more on this, see The 80/80 Marriage by Kaley Klemp and Nate Klemp.
- Be the first one to contact your friend. Don’t sit around wondering why your friends haven’t contacted you in a while. Go out on a limb and be the one to reach out to your friend you haven’t talked to in a while.
- Friend notes. I have such a bad memory that I have to take notes on the conversations I have with my friends. What did we talk about? Did they say they were working on a big project? Do they have something special coming up (anniversary, birthday, etc.) Then before the next time I have a conversation with that same friend, I review my notes to refresh my memory on what to talk about and what to ask.
- Meditate. I know everybody likely tells you to meditate. If you don’t have the time, start small (I mean really small). Start with one minute. Build up from there as you have more time.
Wealthy (making money, investing, possessions)
- James Altucher’s Hub and Spoke model. There are many ways to become wealthy. One of the best ways: pick something you are good at, build a following, and then leverage the knowledge through digital assets. For example, if you are amazing at discovering the best restaurants, you can take that knowledge and create a blog. You can shoot videos and create a YouTube channel. You can take Instagram pictures and build a following. For more on this, see Skip the Line by James Altucher.
- Build digital assets. You want to build digital assets that work for you while you are sleeping. Articles, videos, podcasts, books, etc. All of these digital assets can earn money and best of all, they don’t require any additional time from you (or maybe they do but a little marketing can go a long way). If you trade your time for money, you are limited by how much time you have.
- The three skills to building wealth: making money, keeping money, growing money. You may be good at making money and keeping it around (saving), but if you can’t grow it, you won’t be rich.
- Wealth is not about what you have. Compare the billionaire to the homeless man. The billionaire would be distraught if his home and all of his possessions burned down in a fire. The homeless man? He would shrug and move on to another shelter.
- Beware that the things you own don’t end up owning you. What do you really need in your life? One of my friends said all he needs is a bed and wifi. Are the things in your life weighing you down?
- If you don’t have time to invest, invest in index funds. Choose one with a low management fee. If you have the time to invest, it’s probably better to invest in index funds, anyway.
- Look for ways to cut expenses. Every quarter, review your credit card bills and look at what subscriptions you are paying for. Do you need to pay $100 / month for an expensive phone plan or are you working from home all the time where you have wifi all the time? Are you paying for Netflix or a newspaper or magazine subscription but not getting very much out of it?
- If you can’t build digital assets, trade your time for money. Do consulting. Work a part-time job on top of your full-time job. When you are actively working, your brain will be abuzz of all the things you could be doing instead.
- Good maintenance now saves money. Maintaining your car will make your car last longer. Maintaining your house means your house will have fewer repairs in the future.
- The cheapest thing is not always the cheapest. I once bought a broom and a dust pan at the dollar store thinking I would save money. The broom, after several uses, broke (the brush separated from the shaft). So I went to the store to buy a more expensive but solid broom. The dollar store broom and dust pan (at least the one I bought) ended up going into the trash.
- Check your insurance. The worst time to find out you don’t have insurance? When you go to make a claim. Check that you have up-to-date insurance for all the things in your life you want to protect (your home, your car, your life).
- Pay yourself first. Got a Christmas bonus? Invest it once you’ve received it. Got some birthday money from the parents? Sock it away before you spend it.
Wise (reading, emotions, checklists, decisions)
- Learn the terminology. A lot of the times, learning the terminology can go a long way. For example, say you have some weird plant in your lawn that you can’t get rid of. You don’t know if it’s a weed or something else. You might search for its distinctive features. It’s colour. Maybe you’ll take pictures and ask a forum. How much easier would it be if you knew the name of the plant? Significantly.
- Journal and get your thoughts out of your head. There is no better way to ‘clean out’ your mind. Write your worries. You’ll see there’s not much to worry about. Write your moments of happiness. You’ll get to relive them when you read it over in the future.
- Read any way you can. Used bookstores or libraries are great. If you don’t have the time to read physical books, listen to them. Don’t have the time to listen to audiobooks? Read summaries. If you don’t have the time for summaries, well, you’re out of luck.
- Share the things you have learned with friends. My boss and I were talking about the books we read recently, and my boss said that your network of friends is like a knowledge database. Every time you share something you have learned, your friends will store or reflect it back to you, maybe even at a later date.
- Emotions can distort things. During a heated discussion with your partner or a negotiation with your boss. It’s important to be able to control your emotions and not let your emotions make you do something you don’t want to do (like buy that overpriced car or say hurtful things to your spouse). One way to separate yourself from the emotions? Using a metaphor so that the heated argument or negotiation changes from you vs. them, to us vs. the problem.
- Checklists are invaluable. Checklists ensure you are asking the right questions, doing the right things, and allow you not to have to think about what to do next. I like using checklists for questions to ask when I’m coaching someone, for month or year-end for my projects, and for evaluating solutions to challenging problems.
- Many times, the reversal can be handy. The question ‘how can I eliminate the weeds in my lawn?’ leads to solutions such as weed killer, hiring a landscaping company, setting the lawn on fire, etc. The reversal ‘how can I prevent the weeds in my lawn’ leads to solutions such as replacing the lawn with artificial grass, gravel, or placing concrete all over so that the weeds do not have a place to grow in the first place. Many people in fast-changing organizations ask: what’s going to change in ten years? Another handy reversal: what’s NOT going to change in ten years?
- Try something new. It doesn’t seem like you will become smarter if you took on tango lessons or crochet, but you will form new connections in your brain to things you already know.
- How you do anything is how you do everything. If you hate your job, you’ll get out of your workplace at 5 PM and find you don’t have the energy to do anything else. If you love your job, you’ll get out of your workplace at 5 PM and find you have energy to do whatever you want. Here’s a handy strategy if you hate your job: focus on something small (task or project). Do the best you can. Master it. Find something a little bigger. Master that too. Coworkers and bosses will take notice. They will compliment you. And then you will magically find you have passion for the work.
- Decisions with no consequences or easily reversible outcomes = no time spent deciding. Decisions with large consequences and irreversible outcomes = spend lots of time on deciding. Deciding what to order at Starbucks? Don’t spend time deciding. Deciding who to marry? Spend lots of time deciding. Don’t spend significant time making ‘small’ decisions.
- You don’t need to know the answer. It’s okay not to have the answer. But it is important to be able to ask good questions.
- Any time you learn something new, be happy. When you learn about something you didn’t know before, a new world of knowledge opens up to you.