Obligatory Reference to COVID-19
My 21st birthday is during a pandemic. Boo hoo. Sad face.
Pity party over.
Here’s a quick story followed by a bunch of life lessons.
After bombing a math test in my first month of college, I overreacted so dramatically that I developed an obsessive and vague drive to “get my shit together” that continues to this day.
I turned things around in that class in a few library sessions, but that initial panic and taste of mediocrity launched me into a frantic passion for making as many high-quality decisions as early as possible in life.
I started reading books on success, productivity, and entrepreneurship.
I started journaling and reflecting on life.
I started writing and publishing my work.
With my 21st birthday just hours away, I took an hour or two to quickly summarize and share a few key specific habits/thoughts/rules that stood out to me over the past three years of near constant study, reflection, and thought on how to “get my shit together.”
This is as much for me as it is for you. Don’t think I perfectly adhere to these rules myself — these are aspirations not gospel.
Warning: I’m usually more formal and proper in my writing. Today, I decided not to be. If you don’t like ‘bad’ words, sorry. Also, I change tone in each tip. Hold on tight.
Things To Do
1 — Cardio
Run. Run up hills. Run with your friends. Run with dogs. Ride a bike. Swim.
Everything is easier and better when you are in good cardiovascular shape: school, work, managing emotions.
Don’t be lazy.
Cardio will get you really skinny but not necessarily strong.
2 — Do Compound Lifts
As a beginner or intermediate lifter, you will get 80% of the results everyone else is getting with just three exercises.
Back-squat, Deadlift, Bench Press.
Another 15% can be realized by adding in Shoulder Press, Bent-over-Barbell Row, and Pull-ups.
That last 5%?
It isn’t worth getting unless you want to be a body-builder.
Less is more. Don’t complicate it.
By the way, none if this matters if your diet sucks.
3 — Pleasure Read and Pleasure Learn
We all hated reading in school. What a shame.
I’ll leave the education system rant for another time.
Reading is awesome if you pick books that interest you.
Learning is awesome if you pick topics that interest you.
Reading sucks when other people make you read boring books.
Learning sucks when other people make you learn boring stuff.
Lose your phone an hour before bed.
Read a book for a bit then fall asleep.
You’ll be hooked to this habit within a month.
4 — Keep a Journal Regularly
Imagine if therapy was free?
Turns out it is.
Get junk out of your head and externalize your thoughts.
Paper journaling > Digital journaling.
5 — Seek Discomfort
Success can be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations you are willing to have and the number of uncomfortable situations you are willing to endure.
It’s up to you to find situations that challenge and excite you.
Build a culture within your friend group of routinely challenging each other.
Set hard goals that scare you.
The best cure for nervousness is immediate action.
6 — Live In Another Country — Go By Yourself
This is one of the most fun and rewarding experiences any person can have at any age.
If you are not responsible for anyone else, you can literally just pack a bag and tell everybody you know “see ya in a few months.”
Learn how to make friends all over again, learn how to get around, see what another culture is like, boost your instagram game, and meet cooler people than those that chill in your hometown.
What’s better than that?
Cold calling is awesome. It is to be embraced and loved.
Every cold call is a fun game, discrete challenge, and learning opportunity.
Don’t be afraid of them.
This skill will pay dividends well beyond relationships.
8—Build A “Personal CRM”
Don’t underestimate the value of your long-term connections and friends.
There is no shame in making a recurring reminder to periodically call/text/email important people in your life.
Its way better than forgetting about them. Really, the intention to build an automated system to remember them speaks to how much you care.
Use calendar or reminders and literally make something like “call my sister” and make it repeat on a set interval that sounds right for you.
Do the same for anyone else who is important to you.
9 — Tell People That Inspire You That They Inspire You
LinkedIn DMs are a gold mine.
Tell people that you read their writing, use their product, or take their advice.
Thank them for what they do.
10 — Make Your Bed Everyday
Don’t leave your room until your bed is made.
If you are reading this, I am assuming you are an adult.
Act like one.
Things Not To Do
11 — Don’t Text and Drive
If you text and drive, you are an asshole.
Your conversation isn’t more important than the lives of your passengers or other people on the road.
Use Siri, make a call, or just fucking wait.
For good measure, don’t drink and drive either.
12 — Don’t Rush Decisions That Don’t Need To Be Rushed
You don’t need to join a fraternity your first semester.
You don’t need to accept the first job or internship offer you get.
You don’t need to go to college right away.
The consequences of irreversibly committing to the ‘wrong choice’ can be worse than just waiting a little longer to find what is right for you.
13 — Don’t Eat Processed Foods
It is beyond my comprehension that people still eat Cheetos in 2020.
Has all science been hidden from you?
If you are on the “Sprite and PopTarts” diet, you need a reality check and a nutritionist.
Eat simple stuff. Eat one ingredient foods. Sweet Potato. Egg. Banana.
Ask yourself “is this something my great grandparents ate?”
If they didn’t eat it, you probably shouldn’t.
14— Don’t Tolerate Shitty Ads
If you play a freemium game, treat yourself to the ad free version.
If you can’t afford the $10, work 1–3 hours to earn the $10 dollars and buy the ad-free version.
Most ads suck. It’s worth paying to block them.
15 — Don’t Watch Netflix
JK — that’s a clickbait headline.
The real tip is don’t watch Netflix ALONE.
Don’t watch Netflix unless it contributes to a bigger goal.
Here is an exhaustive list of passable reasons to watch Netflix: family movie night, jeopardy reruns, default dating activity, long flight, studying great stand-up comedians, very specific documentary.
16 — Don’t Scroll — Don’t Watch Stories
Real life is what’s in front of you.
If you want to know what people you care about are doing, CALL THEM AND ASK.
Calling friends and family isn’t cold calling.
If it feels like it is, that just proves how scantily your social media connection maintained your relationship.
17 — Don’t Keep Everything In Your Head
Step one in being an organized and effective person is acknowledging the limitations of your mind.
Step two in being an organized and effective person is building around this limitation.
Write stuff down. Take notes. Buy a planner. Use one of the millions of free productivity tools.
Don’t assume you’ll remember anything.
Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.
18 — Don’t Procrastinate
This ‘habit’ sucks.
I procrastinated this article until my literal last minutes as a 20-year old.
It’s been in my “productivity system” for months.
Start large projects immediately.
Find accountability partners.
Break stuff into pieces.
19 — Don’t Expect The “System” To Take Care Of You
A college degree guarantees nothing.
Approach the world assuming ZERO entitlements.
It’s up to you to find and exploit your own opportunities.
20 — Don’t Have A Victim Mentality
I have to acknowledge that I come from a place of privilege before I make this point because I have not experienced meaningful hardship or adversity.
That being said, being a victim is the worst mindset to have.
It’s not cute. It’s not helpful. It’s disempowering. It will not improve your life.
Deal with your shit.
Tips 1–10 from this article are FANTASTIC coping mechanisms for life.
I could be upset about being “stuck” at home for two months.
I could complain about not being able to “get lit” at a Vegas Casino for my 21st after living in Vegas all my life.
But I know that those conversations are a colossal waste of time and attention.
No situation is good or bad. It just is. This is Stoicism 101, y’all.
Whether you think something is good or bad is just your interpretation.
I’ve been empowered by being “quarantined”. I’ve loved it.
Would I choose it? Of course not.
Have I made the most of it? Absolutely.
I spent more time with my parents than I’ve been able to in 3 years.
I’ve had more time for personal projects than I’ve ever had.
Every obstacle can be turned into a learning experience.
The world either acts on you or you act on it.
One Last Thing
21 — Don’t Try To Do Too Many Things At Once
Of this entire list, this is by far what I struggle with most.
A podcast guest shared a deeper interpretation of what ‘focus’ really means.
Follow One Course Until Successful.
Don’t try to do everything at once.
Don’t start dieting, running, reading, and journaling on the same day.
One habit at a time.
Don’t try to be a programmer and a writer and a digital marketer.
One skill at a time.
I may have been smug in parts of this post, but I certainly do not want to come across like I have it all figured out.
I am humbled by how much more there is to learn and experience in the world, and I am excited to see what comes in the next year.
Bonus Thoughts In Bullet Form
- Pursue process based goals. A good life is comprised of meaningful work and meaningful relationships.
- Start investing early.
- Bias toward action.
- Use an old school alarm, not your phone.
- Fun fact: this is the first article I’ve written entirely using the Colemak keyboard. I’m officially an alternate keyboard d-bag.
- I wrote this whole article in one session.
- If you want to promote the birthday vibes please share this with a friend or post it somewhere!