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35 takeaways after 35 years
”If this isn‘t nice, I don’t know what is!”
I’ve picked up a new rule this year: if someone gives me a nonfiction book recommendation, I always read it. It’s been a great way to build an eclectic reading list and bond with others.
Successful personal finance includes the same fundamentals as developing six-pack abs: reduce your [spending/calories], increase your [income/protein], and start [saving/lifting].
Using fewer words often does the job. Once, while at lunch at Chipotle, I wanted to take my food to-go, so I approached the counter and said, “Can I get a metal to-go top for my bowl?” The guy at the counter looked at me funny and said, “A lid?”
Here’s a quick way I center myself. Wherever I am, I close my eyes and count each unique sound I hear. Even during a quiet day outdoors, I might pick up ten or more unique chirps, whisps, or clicks. When I think I’ve counted each sound, I listen closely for one more. I take a deep breath, then open my eyes.
I work with a woman who runs ultramarathons. I asked her once, “How on earth do you run fifty miles?” She laughed and said, “I don’t run that far. The goal is to move my body fifty miles. Run, walk, or crawl—no matter how I get there, crossing that finish line makes me an ultramarathoner.” I will never forget that.
The endgame of building wealth is wild generosity that makes people look at you funny and think you’re playing a trick on them. It’s stepping into a coffee shop and handing the barista a $20 tip for a $4 coffee. It’s tipping a server $100 for a $50 meal and completely changing their day. This is by far the most fun you can have with money.
Here’s a terrible sentence: “The last thing I want is to hurt you.” It’s awful because even though it’s the last thing, “hurting you” is still on your List of Wants.
There are so many opportunities to be kind. Here’s one: ask the person scanning your groceries for their favorite candy bar and buy it for them.
Relationships are richer when we convert our short-term noun feelings to long-term verbs. Trust is a verb. Care is a verb. Love is a verb.
Living in California for six years—experiencing sunny, 72-degree weather every day—taught me that I can get tired of anything.
One of our most bone-headed ideas is sacrificing sleep so we can work more.
Strong opinion: homemade Rice Krispie treats are superior to S’mores.
I prefer to treat cable news like its fiction (because more often than is appropriate, it is). I pretend it’s season four of a show I don’t watch anymore because the characters are unlikable, and the twist last season seemed written by monkeys. If asked, “Did you see that thing on the news?” I can say, “Not yet. I’m rewatching Ted Lasso now, but I’ll get to it.”
I like history books because they do the work we struggle with—decluttering current events and converting them into sensible stories. The daily news cycles might be nothing more than anecdotes edited out of tightly-written history.
I like this, too: Kurt Vonnegut once wrote about his favorite uncle, Uncle Alex. He said Uncle Alex’s biggest problem with people was they never seemed to realize when they were happy. So, Uncle Alex would sit under apple trees in the summer, sipping lemonade and exclaiming, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is!”
I’ve accepted that I’m not an entrepreneur. I don’t wake up at 5 am to work on side projects. I don’t have a grand vision for a new, groundbreaking product. Nothing I build with my hands will make any far-reaching impact on society. But I’ve realized my chief aim in life: to build skills and resources to protect and advocate for others.
As a manager, my key to avoiding micromanagement is a core belief that smart people grow to fill the space they’re given (and vice versa).
Effective communication involves two steps: First, prepare with IQ—gather your data, draw out insights, and edit your script. Second, deliver with EQ—know your audience, read the room, and take time to listen.
I was dining with a friend at a steakhouse in Nashville, sipping an Old Fashioned and slicing into a steak, when I realized that sitting with someone and hearing their life story is one of the great human privileges.
On that note, I’m confident that technology will never fully reproduce the joyous alchemy of two people talking over a meal.
Last year, I shared my love for bourbon, but this year, I’ve decided to stop drinking unless it’s a special occasion. It tanks my mood, and I’d rather drink Coke Zero.
I barely remember anything about my favorite books. Instead, I remember the world around me while reading them. I’ll never forget reading a few hundred pages of The Stand while on a Vegas vacation (there’s a whole Vegas plot in the book) and reading one hundred terrifying pages of House of Leaves in a dingy hotel room in Santa Barbara.
My ten-month career break in 2020 taught me I didn’t need a fancy job title to feel complete. So, when I reentered the workforce in 2021, I felt comfortable setting aside job security in favor of taking bigger risks. Having recently accepted a promotion back into management in April, I can confidently say my time off was the best thing I could’ve done for my career. It continues paying dividends.
My new unpopular opinion is that BBQ food tastes the same everywhere you go in America. I’ve tried most of the hot spots—Memphis, West Coast, East Coast, Deep South—and they all have equally tasty BBQ.
When considering any investment, I try to imagine its subsequent investment—if I buy a stock and sell it tenfold, where would I reinvest the gains? Would I reinvest them into the stock or put them in a diversified mutual fund to “lock in” my returns? This thinking usually leads me to skip the risky bet and invest directly in the mutual fund. For me, that subsequent investment is often the better long-term play.
While I don’t regret buying a rental property, I regret thinking it would be a stable, passive investment.
These lists are a way to document my experiences and share them with others. But in the real world, unless someone asks for my advice, I try to keep these “lessons” to myself. In my thirties, I realize how little I know about most things, and I’ve learned that most people would rather just be friends than students.
Every once in a while, I come across a book I’d describe as an “unlock”—it unlocks a skill or mindset that changes how I interact with the world. The latest “unlock” book I’ve read: I Hear You by Michael S. Sorensen.
I didn’t truly understand the meaning of “live in the moment” until I tried my first one-rep max deadlift.
Two months ago, I achieved a dream of being able to do pull-ups. I don’t know where I got the idea that I couldn’t build strength atop my 6’4” frame, but I’m happy I’ve finally debunked that idea.
Nothing is ever enough until you decide it is.
In the corporate world, there’s a false belief that if we could get our processes right, work would flow more smoothly. But I’ve accepted that “getting the process right” is forever unfinished and, in fact, the majority of the work.
I wrote a letter to my older brother recently. He lives thousands of miles away, and we haven’t spoken in years other than birthday texts. My mom relays our life updates—I hear he’s happy, his kids are great, and he and his wife are thriving in their careers. My early relationship with him was complicated, though. I explained this to him in a seven-page letter: Growing up with you was hard, but we’re good. I hope for every happiness in your life. I later learned from my mom that when my brother read my letter, he spurned it. Something I wrote offended him, and I might never know what it was—a word choice? A misunderstood sentence? But I’m at peace with the whole matter. It was an act of reconciliation that I needed. Whether he understands it or not, his little brother loves him.
I don’t feel that sting of endless comparisons with my peers these days. Moving to a new city every few years helps, but I prefer looking back at my “five years ago self” and ruthlessly comparing myself with that person instead. Back then, I dreamed of living in NYC and being able to do pull-ups (check, check); I liked my job well enough, but I feared losing it (no longer the case); and I felt stuck and unsettled (solved, for now). It feels terrific seeing improvements over time.
The feelings of happiness and self-actualization I described last year have continued for another year. I’m satisfied with my life. Happiness for me is a “trailing measure”—a blessed payoff on decisions that go back as far as my twenties. So, each day now requires two things: to enjoy today’s happiness and to make decisions that, I hope, will lead to tomorrow’s happiness.
…says the bonehead writing this at 1 am.
No, I haven’t tried Kansas City BBQ.
Murphy’s Law hits hard.