I turn 32 today. You know how sometimes you reach another birthday and wonder where the time went? I don’t have that sense this year.
That’s probably because a lot has changed since my last birthday. One thing hasn’t: I still hold myself accountable for producing a list of things I’ve (re-)learned during my recent trip around the sun.
I’ve done this for four years running (31, 30, 29). An annual reminder for anyone reading this: publishing these lessons is an accountability mechanism for me, not an expectation that they’ll be helpful to you. Your mileage will vary.
To the lessons!
Grudges truly are toxic. The classic line from Dune is that fear is the mind-killer. If fear is a heart attack, grudges are mental heart disease. They’ll eat you for years. It’s gruesome to witness. Avoiding heart disease requires a healthy lifestyle. Purging yourself of grudges every once in a while is a critical component of self-care.
You can just have the thing you want. Sometimes, long-term plans are required to accomplish faraway goals. But if you’re choosing a restaurant for Friday night, you can probably just have what you want. The same goes for things as small as consumer goods or as big as the lifestyle you want.
Acknowledge and celebrate your wins. “At what point do you let yourself say, ‘I won’? Because if you don’t figure out a way that you’re going to feel good, you’re going to feel behind for your whole career, your whole life.” -Jason Segel
Calibration is fucking difficult. I’ve been putting numbers on things more often in the past year. That practice began an eye-opening process of learning just how close my guesses are to reality. I’m doing pretty well! But there are still some areas where I’m underconfident or overconfident. Both are bad!
If you write the answer at the bottom of the page first, you are no longer reasoning. If you have to make your reasoning suit a conclusion, you’re not reasoning. Only if you withhold judgment until the very last moment do you have a chance of reasoning through the question fully. This is especially relevant because…
We change our minds far less often than we think. By the time you think you know what you’ll say to that offer, you’ve decided. Even if you think there’s a 30% chance you’ll change your mind, the actual number is around 5%. Keep that in mind before you even tentatively choose anything.
Familiar doesn’t mean ordinary. After a long or difficult trip, I’ve found myself super grateful for the familiar surroundings I’ve been excited to escape. In the coming year, I want to do more to make my everyday life feel as fantastic as it actually is.
You can have difficult conversations. For some people, installing a brain-mouth filter is valuable. For others, removing it can be useful. I’m often in the latter camp. Tell someone you’re frustrated. Share your uncertainties. Ask for help. It’s worth the conversation.
What were you upset about three years ago? “One thing I do when I’m upset about something or staying up all night thinking about something is look back on myself three years ago and think about what I was doing this about then, and realize that that’s going to happen with this thing.” -Phoebe Bridgers
We’re more flexible than we think. In the past year, I’ve had a few separate stretches of doing things I’m on record as disliking: living a car-based life, running errands, being in places without much to do in the immediate area, etc. I expected that I’d chafe at these things. But you know what? I kind of liked it, or at least it didn’t bother me a great deal. It’s nice to feel flexible and willing to take on anything.
My panic attacks are manageable, even under the worst circumstances. I had one driving over a bridge this past fall. That sucked a lot, but I was OK! I didn’t run myself or others off the road and reached the other side safely. By (unintentionally) pressure-testing myself in just about the worst possible scenario, I learned that my panic attacks are not to be so deeply feared.
It’s OK to seek comforting things during periods of significant change. But if you’re always seeking comfort, ask yourself why that is. Something’s off.
“Set boundaries and stick to them” is one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned. An addendum I’m working on internalizing: inside the boundaries, you should be willing to do just about anything.
Most lifestyle gaps between you and the wealthiest handful of people are surprisingly cheap to close. Lifestyle upgrades outside apartments and cars are almost unconscionably affordable. Getting The Best Desk Chair vs. a regular one from Office Max cost me a marginal $500. The very best soap? $10 extra. There’s only a few dollar difference between world-class chocolate and a Hershey bar. You’re by no means required to like Only The Best or to seek it out on every occasion, but there’s no reason you can’t have great versions of things you use frequently or deeply appreciate.
Go learn things. There are lots of things that seem worthy of further investigation to me. One of my favorite things over the past year has been picking one and spending a few hours learning the basics. Going from a 1 out of 10 to a 4 out of 10 is often plenty. You’re not an expert, but who cares? You’re a little bit more knowledgeable.
What do you think you know, and why do you think you know it? You could do much worse than asking this question before making every big decision.
Thanks for reading. I hope to see you again next year.