This is a continuation of part 1 of my 27 lessons learned in 27 years, which you can read here.
If you haven’t read part 1 already, I recommend doing so before reading part 2.
14. Put exercise and health as your top priority. You are what you eat.
I cannot emphasize this enough — exercise and health should be your #1.
This relates to my #2 — manage your energy.
It’s the best thing you can do for yourself, other than investing in your education.
Play the long game for your health, energy and success.
Not to mention the more selfish reason — everyone wants to look good naked, right? Or get six-pack abs and ripped? Lose fat and get toned?
Every single successful person has cited exercise and health as key to his or her success — and I am no different. This is universal. Don’t fight it; embrace it!
Regarding diet, this relates to my #9 — much like how you reflect those closest to you and your environment, your body reflects what you put inside of it.
Is it something good? Or bad?
If you eat lots of junk food, you’re going to be sluggish and not at your body’s optimal state. And vice versa. You get it.
If you see athletic, fit people walking around in the gym, what you see is the results that they put into their fitness and diet.
They did not suddenly wake up like that one day.
Appearance is the consequence of fitness.
Protip: You can actually lose weight without going to the gym at all. Count your calories. Abs are made in the kitchen (but not all calories are equal — 2,000 calories of ice cream is not the same as 2,000 calories of a balanced diet).
If you’re a woman, I highly recommend lifting. If you aren’t lifting today, start now.
Muscle memory is also an incredible phenomenon — the earlier and more active you are, the less effort it takes to get your body back into the swing of things later on. One of life’s amazing things, like compound interest, in my opinion.
Side note: if you need some additional inspiration, I love checking out Reddit’s r/progresspics subreddit — it’s incredibly motivating. Real people and real results.
Example: After each Barry’s Bootcamp class — I’ve felt such an amazing body detox, that the feeling is indescribable. After lifting heavy iron at the gym, I come away feeling great.
Looking good is just a byproduct to me now — I’m all about the health benefits and the feelings. It’s really, honestly, therapy for me.
I grew up as a tomboy and was naturally athletic — I regret not pursuing sports more seriously when I was younger, but have kept consistently working out throughout the years, so much so that my body starts to feel ill if I haven’t been physically active in awhile. This was odd and funny to me at first, but I’ve accepted it since.
But it was a long and educational journey that brought me here —
I had an unhealthy relationship with food when I was in middle school, bordering a binge-eating disorder while being obsessed with working out on the treadmill for hours. My summer internship in Dallas had many tedious nights in Gold’s Gym on the elliptical and treadmill — weird how that’s one of my main memories from that summer, huh?
I have a much healthier relationship with food now.
I was Paleo for a couple years in college, became mildly gluten intolerant (which lead me to found my first startup) — and now stick to a simple high-protein, low-carb diet and count calories with MyFitnessPal.
I used to look at the scale and my absolute weight and BMI as success or failure— now I look at body fat % as my key metric. I recently took three DEXA scans (Dec 2016, April 2017, August 2017) to track my progress. It’s going very well so far! I’ve lost almost 7% body fat overall. If you’re serious about your fitness, I recommend looking into getting DEXA scans.
I used to just do cardio, but now I lift heavy things and incorporate cardio HIIT —the best “bang” for your buck, when it comes to fitness.
I used to try to learn some things on my own, but decided it was worth the investment to hire a personal trainer to teach me fundamentals of power lifting. This was back in 2014, and I had 10 sessions or so — one of the best investments in my life. Hands down. (Fun fact: I also traded some web design skills for some free sessions with him!)
- One thing I wanted to specifically point out with this trainer is that he taught me incredible things about how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. If you can’t believe you can do it, you can’t do it. You have to push through. You just have to. Nobody else can do this for you. Half the battle is in your head — you won’t know what I mean until you actually experience this yourself.
I used to just do the same thing over and over — but now try to do things in “phases” — like 2–3 months focused on core classes, 2–3 months focused on cardio HIIT, and so forth. I remember one time I took core classes 3x/week for a month, my body got so used to it that I honestly felt I could teach the class afterwards. Ha. You have to switch it up, otherwise your body gets too “used” to it… or at least, that’s my experience.
I used to try to get gains in my lifts — but now just try to do maintenance and stay active, as my goals now are not to “bulk” up. And this works for me; I am not in the slightest way concerned that I’m not lifting as “heavy” as I “should” be.
I used to have body envy, but over the years, put in the time and learned some new things and tried some new things — to the point that I’m now very comfortable and confident in my body. It’s much more difficult now for me to find “fitness inspiration” at the gym than it was for me years ago.
Again — back to my #12 learn to ask for advice but more importantly, how to apply it for yourself — just do what works best for you in your own situation.
These are insights about working out that took me years to learn and hone, that I wanted to share with you. But again, this is just my journey — yours will be uniquely your own.
Find the workouts you enjoy. Do them, consistently.
The best workout routine is the one you actually do, consistently.
The best diet is the one you actually stick with, consistently.
Being consistent is by far the biggest challenge in exercise and diet.
But don’t blindly just keep doing something — observe yourself and learn more about your body as you go. Learn and adapt.
The journey is more fun than the destination.
15. Compare yourself to yesterday, not others.
This is something I can’t “teach” you simply by you reading these words, but you having to develop self-confidence, self-awareness and the mental “growth” mindset to truly understand this yourself.
I don’t remember the first time I’ve read that phrase “don’t compare yourself to others”, only that it’s difficult to always believe in yourself all the time, in spite of where you are in life.
The grass is always greener. Always.
But the most famous and/or most accomplished person has his or her own insecurities and jealousies. Everyone does.
By extension, everyone seems normal and not weird, until you truly get to know him or her.
Accept that and just focus on yourself and becoming better each day.
Life is too short to worry about someone else.
How are you going to leave your legacy on this world and accomplish your goals, if you’re always worried about other people?
Become mission-driven — work on behalf of helping others, not to keep up with the Joneses.
Focus on what you can control. Tune everything else out.
Incremental progress, much like compound interest, simply cannot be overstated.
Example: This relates to #12 learn how to ask for advice, but more importantly, how to apply it to yourself — even as you look at someone else’s success on the outside, you probably have no idea how that person got there.
That kid who got a terrible SAT score or bad GPA but still managed to get into Georgetown? Oh, his uncle is on the board of admissions. Did you know that?
That guy who is driving a brand new BMW and buys bottle service at the club every weekend? He maxed out his credit cards and has next to no savings, regardless of a high salary.
That girl on Instagram who has perfect pictures and a perfect body? She hires a professional photographer and personal trainer, has a wealthy boyfriend and works out two hours a day.
Are you as impressed now?
I’m sure if you had those circumstances, you’d exploit those unfair advantages as well, right? But you wouldn’t trumpet them out to everyone.
No, people love it when you make things look easy — they don’t want to really hear how you got there. That’s not fun. And it downplays their glow of success and accomplishment.
A lot of things can happen behind the scenes that you have absolutely no idea about, so again, take someone’s success story with a grain of salt (again, be an investigative journalist — ask yourself, “What else am I missing that’s not being told here?”).
Life can be very unfair sometimes.
Take Facebook too — everyone posts their highlight reels of their lives, not the day to day struggles and insecurities. Do you think people want to see when you’re depressed and crying about a job you hate, or when you’re on a yacht on the Amalfi coast having the time of your life #yolo?
Oh, and guess which post would get more “likes”?
Social media in a nutshell.
You have to vigilantly guard yourself mentally and emotionally, in my experience. Don’t compare yourself and your situation to others.
Let’s also acknowledge the counterpoints.
That girl who made varsity soccer as a freshman in high school and went to Princeton on a soccer scholarship? You didn’t see the many hours spent practicing and training when she started playing soccer at age 3.
That guy who retired early at age 35? You didn’t see the extremely frugal lifestyle and high savings habits he had with his first job at age 14, or long hours worked and strong performance to leverage and negotiate salary raises, etc.
That company that is now a “breakout success” and one of the trendiest startups today? You didn’t see when they first started out seven years ago in a garage, with next to nothing and struggling to keep the lights on.
My point in all of this?
It’s not to discourage you to throw up your hands and say, “oh, I’ll never get into Harvard because my dad isn’t a three-generation legacy there!”, or “oh, I should never try out for tennis in high school because I didn’t play since I was a baby in the crib!” — don’t use this to make excuses for yourself.
Do you think that’s what successful people do, even as they know what’s required of them and what it takes to succeed?
It’s so that you are aware of what it takes, either through unmistakable hard work or unfair advantages, and accept the challenge and obstacles regardless. Many paths to Rome, right?
How can you leverage everything you have at your disposal for your biggest successes? How can you justify not using every advantage you have?
Again, this relates back to all my previous principles — learn sales and how to sell yourself, take (calculated) risks while you’re young, every experience is a lesson not a failure, find your unfair advantage, create your own opportunities, etc…
Nothing ever really happens overnight.
Be an investigative journalist — but then again, people have selective memory as well and may be unconsciously forgetting, or even misattributing, factors to their success.
Successful people also always like to downplay the factors of luck and timing and other special circumstances that lead to their success. Remember what I said about confirmation bias and survivorship bias?
That’s something I meant to mention earlier — luck and timing are HUGE.
All the stars aligned for each opportunity I had. Nothing happened in a linear fashion like, oh I wanted to work at XYZ Company and *boom*, it happened. Then I immediately worked on getting to the next ABC Company and *snaps fingers*, it happened.
Did you know I almost attended UT-Austin — since I got into their Plan II Honors program, but rejected for their Business Honors Program (2nd only to Wharton)? Did you know I almost interned for a tech consulting company, instead of interning at RetailMeNot? Did you know I almost joined BP after graduation, and probably would still be in the oil and gas industry today, if I did?
I’m not eager to share these “failures” — but they contributed to where I am today, no doubt.
It’s these little things you don’t hear about.
Focus on yourself and what you can control — get better and better each day. Don’t worry about others and things you can’t control.
I worked on getting incrementally better at fine-tuning my system and processes, not being concerned about others — and it produced big wins for me later on.
Keep your head down and keep working. Don’t get distracted.
16. Don’t try to multi-task. Focus on a few things and do them extremely well.
This goes back to the 80/20 principle.
Don’t spread yourself thin. Focus on your biggest levers and double down on those.
Don’t get distracted by other things.
Don’t mistake “busy” with being “productive.”
Learn to say “no” and prioritize your commitments.
In order to truly master something and learn something really well, you need to double down and focus. You cannot multi-task at something.
For someone to become a concert pianist and perform at Carnegie Hall, she needs to put in the many time and hours needed to build her skills and expertise to that level required to perform.
Do you think she could get there by also being a swim team captain, tutoring middle school kids, volunteering at the local soup kitchen, being on the debate team — while maintaining a 4.0 GPA and high test scores?
This may very well be possible, but not probable and recommended — why take on so many more responsibilities and not be very good at any of them, rather than saying “no” to 99% of “noise” and “yes” to the one most important thing?
Ivy League schools get 4.0 GPA students at a dime a dozen — but what is your unique edge? Are you that accomplished oboist they’re looking for, Olympian swimmer, published author, etc? (Do you think those people got to where they were doing 10 things at once?)
Anyone you see who is exceptional at something, is known for something, has most definitely honed that skill and expertise over the years. It didn’t happen overnight. And it certainly was a result of focus and commitment.
Example: I had little to no social life during high school and college.
I was too “busy” being focused on my ambitions and career — which I succeeded, but then also to the downside of the lack of “development” in other areas or experiences like college tailgates, cultural things like opera performances, etc.
But I’m OK with those tradeoffs, given I made the right decision to spend my time on the things I considered the most important, at the time.
My biggest lesson here is to be completely okay with saying “no” and not feeling guilty about it whatsoever.
Again, I used to say “yes” because I thought I’d be missing out, or immediately regret and feel guilty after saying “no” — but then, I am self-aware about what makes me happy and my priorities, and am happy with my decisions.
Be ruthless about saying “no” — if you’re not excited about it, if it doesn’t align with your priorities, don’t force yourself to say yes or do it.
17. Always keep learning. Being good at two things is better than being excellent at one.
Even as you are focusing on certain things, don’t be a one-trick pony.
Be a bit more well-rounded to become more “deadly” in your skillset.
Not just at what is required, but what you actually enjoy and can see yourself becoming the top 5–10% in the world. Again, leverage your strengths and unfair advantages.
Example: If you’re an engineer, learning sales skills and people skills will take you very far in your professional life — up the career ladder and possibly into management roles. I know some engineers who are exceptional at coding and development, but are not great at communication and it is very evident in holding them back in some areas.
If you’re a designer, learning to code or becoming more technical will allow you to build rapport with engineers and product as you bring more value to the table beyond some pretty mockups and prototypes.
For me, it’s understanding consumer-grade user experiences and building them in an enterprise world.
In this fast-changing world that is quickly adapting to automation and emerging technologies, think about your skillsets in an effort to build a “moat” around yourself and your unfair advantages — what are things you are uniquely qualified to do? What are areas and gaps you see, given the technology trends and waves, that you can leverage for yourself?
18. Be very self-aware. Know yourself. Be comfortable and secure in yourself. Stop giving a fuck about what others think.
I think this only comes with age and experience.
As you grow confident with yourself, become better at what you do, continue learning and becoming better — you won’t be concerned about what other people think anymore.
It relates back to #15 compare yourself to yesterday, not others — you have absolutely no idea about why or how things happen to other people, but you have complete control over your attitude and agency towards your own life.
Example: After all of these lessons, I have learned a lot about myself, life, what I want and what I don’t want, what I like and don’t like, what I’m good at and what I’m not good at, what I know and what I still don’t know… and I’m happy and comfortable enough with myself to admit that.
Confidence is attractive, and so is knowing what you want, and not being insecure and comparing yourself to others.
Self-awareness is even more attractive — because you are uniquely you, not anyone else, and your journey in life should not be dictated by anyone other than yourself.
This relates later to another principle I have in terms of documenting and reflecting on your lessons and experiences, as well as finding your small joys and keeping a gratitude journal — while also staying humble.
Want to hear something funny?
I actually wrote part 1 of my 27 lessons post last year in 2016, when I was actually about to turn 26… and barely changed anything I wrote in part 1.
No joke… that post was literally sitting in my Medium drafts folder, and probably would never have seen the light of day, until I got angry with myself and overcame my fear of rejection.
I was too chickenshit to post it, because I was scared about what other people would think — am I tooting my own horn too much? Do people really care about what I have to say? Is everything I’m writing here as obvious as I think it is?
My part 1 post is way too long at ~30 min read! Should I shorten it? Isn’t the optimal Medium post like a 5–7 min read?
But that didn’t feel right to me and give myself credit for what I wanted to say… and plus, why should I reject myself and not let other people decide for themselves if they wanted to read the full thing or not?
At the end of the day, I said fuck it — and published it.
I’m mainly writing this for myself, not anyone else — but if anyone reading it gains something new or learns something new, I’m grateful as well.
19. Work with great people.
This is one of those principles that probably should be much higher on my list, but given how “early” I am in my career, probably why it’s this “far” down on my list, ha.
Bar none, people are the most important thing when you consider working at a company.
Your manager is the most important person and factor when you join a company.
Example: As an intern, I used to be enthralled and amazed by all the cool perks of working at a tech company — the free food and drinks, ping pong tables, on-site gym, on-site massages, etc.
I don’t care about any of that anymore.
None of that matters if you work with bad people. Or work in a bad company culture.
I’m laughing a bit while writing this, because I remember when I used to read this and just naively and mechanically nod but not truly understand — you won’t really get what it’s like to work with bad people, until you’ve worked with great people, and can immediately tell the difference.
This was one of my biggest “interpersonal” lessons last year, in learning to work with difficult personalities, as well as learning about myself and how to approach situations and challenges where it involved people, not products.
And you know what? That’s perfectly normal.
In fact, I consider myself very lucky that I have not had an experience inspired out of a Dilbert comic — or terrible startup cultures — because the people I’ve worked with have (mostly) been amazing and wonderful.
Your growth and potential is very much dependent on the caliber of people you work with. Hands down.
You’re not always going to hit 100% with amazing people all the time, but you should absolutely try your hardest and damnedest.
Don’t be a big fish in a small pond. Go to a place with smart people, and where you are definitely not the smartest person in the room.
People and culture are everything.
20. Schedule everything. Put it on your calendar. Time box it.
If it’s not on my calendar, it’s not happening.
Time box everything, don’t just create endless to-do lists.
Example: I learned this principle from Cal Newport back in college, and have used this practice ever since.
Your to-do list may be 5 items long for today, but 2 of those things may actually require 3–5 hours of work each, which you would’ve learned if you tried to time box it on your calendar for that day and realized how unrealistic your to-do list was.
Know yourself and be honest with yourself with how long something will take.
I just also want to put in a plug for automated reminders — this is great for building habits. Set aside time for recurring instances — for working out, for reflection, etc. on your calendar so it won’t take up headspace for you to remember.
21. Invest in new experiences and new memories. “Lengthen” time.
Travel to somewhere new. Try a new restaurant. Explore the surrounding areas.
Get outside of your comfort zone.
Don’t buy material things, but invest in new experiences and memories.
Example: Because you can get so easily sucked up in the everyday life of work and routines, time will very quickly fly by — for instance, how is it halfway through 2017?
I feel like my 20’s are flying by — and I’m sure once I reach my 30’s, settle down and have kids, time will fly by even faster.
I made it a personal goal last year to travel more — and I went to New York, Denver, LA and Portland as well as local hikes in the Bay Area.
This year, I saw Broadway shows for the first time — went on a binge and saw Wicked, Book of Mormon and Hamilton back-to-back when I was in New York several weeks ago. It was fantastic.
If you haven’t noticed, time seems to “lengthen” when you’re in a new place or experiencing something new — because your mind is taking everything in as it is not used to it (as it is in terms of your daily commute to work, etc).
These not only make for good stories and talking points with others, but good learning experiences — I learned some things about myself with each of those experiences (and spent a lot of money in the process, but don’t regret it at all).
22. Find your small joys. Keep a gratitude journal.
I think I started keeping a gratitude journal probably 3–4 years ago — and it’s helped be develop a positive mindset and see the “good” in everything, in spite of it being negative or positive.
You don’t need a “home run” everyday in order to stay positive.
A small joy could even be just making it to the gym that day, even if you weren’t able to carry out your routine to the full capacity (maybe you weren’t feeling great that day, etc) — but you made it to the gym, regardless!
A small joy could be that you forced yourself to get second-date drinks with that Tinder date you’re on the fence about, and honestly could not care less about — but went and surprisingly it went well! Or, it didn’t go so well but now at least you know and can amicably cut ties.
A small joy could be that you made coffee for yourself every day for the past 3–4 weeks, thus saving yourself $100-$200/month from getting a $5 latte once or even twice a day.
(These are all true small joys I have written in my gratitude journal, by the way.)
Example: This is my favorite activity to do everyday. I used to just boil things down to 3 things I was grateful for everyday — but now I just literally list out every single thing I’m grateful for (and the list could get up to 10–15+ items with sub-bullets), just because I’ve programmed my mind to see the good in everything that happens and want to celebrate all of the small joys, silly or not, and mundane or not.
I encourage you to keep a gratitude journal for 30 days as an experiment. This is one of those habits that help me on the daily grind and get me through each day’s ups and downs.
It’s always fun to look back a month, 3 months, 6 months — or even a year ago — and see what happened each day that I thought noteworthy to document.
23. Define success for yourself. Don’t let others define it for you.
These are all my stories and my successes (and failures). Don’t let me define anything for you, and take everything I say with a grain of salt.
Define success for yourself — what makes you happy? What makes you feel useful and valuable? What truly drives you and motivates you?
Example: Here in Silicon Valley, it’s easy to get caught up in the media madness that is about the newest technologies and trends, or who has raised the latest fundraising rounds — and succumb to peer pressure and have others define what “success” means to you, without truly asking yourself what “success” means.
Again, depending on what you read, who you surround yourself with, your environment — you need to consciously guard yourself on your intake and figure out what success means to you.
This goes back to previous principles of learning to ask for advice but also more importantly, how to apply it to yourself.
Is it raising money to become the next billion-dollar unicorn? Is it bootstrapping and building a lifestyle business? Is it staying in San Francisco and paying for a million dollar property — or moving elsewhere for cheaper costs of living?
Is it joining the hottest startup and buying a lottery ticket in the form of equity? Is it joining a big company and working your way up to management from there?
Is it getting home by 5:30pm so you can spend more time with your kids or significant other? Or is it staying late at work to get ahead?
There are no right or wrong answers.
Where do you envision yourself in the next 5–10 years? What does your ideal lifestyle look like? Historically speaking, what gives you the most energy and likewise, what is the most draining?
How can you work backwards to get to that goal?
24. Stay open-minded and open to serendipity. Get lucky.
I mentioned this earlier, but timing and luck are everything.
Work hard, and you’ll get luckier and have more opportunities that are serendipitous.
Example: If you asked me when I started freshman year of college what I was going to be, I’d probably say not-very-confidently, a doctor — and then probably shrug and say, or a lawyer.
Did you know I actually entertained going into advertising, for a short stint one semester? Crazy.
I actually still think it’s fascinating how commercials get created, or how print advertising works (I worked in newspaper production back in high school — maybe that’s why? and tried to start my own online magazine?).
I had no idea what product management was until I flew out to San Francisco in March 2012.
It’s a much more “commercialized” and “hot” field today, but it was something very new five years ago.
A lot of opportunities I had — I just went for it and given timing and luck, doors opened for me. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
My point here is that it seemed like a random, circuitous path for me to get to where I am today… from teaching myself web design in high school, picking a college for pre-med, then thinking about law school and even advertising, then going into banking, then back to sales/marketing, and then finally into product management.
Looking back, hindsight is 20/20 and it’s quite easy to connect the dots and create a “story” by rationalizing backwards — but in the moment, at the time of each step, I knew nothing that was coming ahead.
It didn’t really make sense in terms of a 5-year career plan, but I was just going along for the ride and making decisions based on what I learned what I liked and was good at, at the previous gig.
This is why I don’t plan 5–10 years ahead anymore — I know things can change very quickly, and to be flexible and adapt.
25. Document and take time to reflect. What doesn’t get measured, doesn’t get managed.
If you don’t document and take time to reflect, the time to start is today, right now.
Time flies by the older you get, that you’ll blink and realize the year is half over — what have you accomplished this year? What have you learned about yourself? How have you improved? Or fallen short?
What is important to you? What areas in your life do you want to improve? What have you learned three months ago? A year ago?
Document it. Measure it. Manage it.
I’m not kidding. This might make me weird and seem anal, but I secretly cherish this and it makes me happy — in terms of learning, continuous improvement and incremental progress.
Example: This is one of the most important things I do every day, every week, every month, every quarter and every year.
Every day after I record things in my gratitude journal, I put it in my monthly review and against my monthly milestones — and by extension, look back each week to see what I have accomplished (and where I’ve fallen short) — as well as my quarterly reviews and then annual reviews.
These are habits I’ve developed for myself that are simply a part of my mindset and rituals — daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly.
I can’t remember what I did two weeks ago, or even what I did last week— but that’s because I know I’ve documented it in Airtable and Evernote, and if you give me a minute, I can easily pull it up and rattle off to you what I accomplished each week, month, quarter, year. In the major facets of my life (health/fitness, finances, career, relationships, etc).
This also greatly helps take the cognitive load off my brain and also somewhat helps me “automate” my brain.
I can track how my finances and net worth increased from the start of this year or six months ago, I can track how many times I’ve caught up with friends each month, I can track how many times I went to the gym each month and so forth.
What’s also interesting to me is any general observations that I jot down about myself — it’s always interesting to look back and try to get better.
For instance — I’ve stopped eating banh mi because the gluten clouds my brain and basically forces me to shut down and need to take a nap (there goes 3–4 hours!). Or, a huge mental load just lifted off my brain after I cleared my Outlook work inbox from 500+ emails by half to 250 or so — the takeaway here was my sheer surprise of the unconscious weight and mental load this had hanging over me that I didn’t realize until I actually cleared through it.
Sounds silly, but it was extremely helpful for future reference.
Every little learning helps.
I recommend you start small and just tweak in terms of what works best for you.
I didn’t come up with my whole system in one day, but tweaked it over time — and am constantly learning how to optimize it, based on my own behavior and actions.
26. Stay humble.
Keep an open mind without stroking your own ego too much due to success.
Success and all of its trappings can get to your head, but you need to be able to stay humble and stay true to yourself.
You are so lucky and the universe conspired everything to happen that made you who you are and where you are today. A lot can change instantly to also take that away.
Don’t be a jerk to others. Don’t think that you’re better or smarter than anyone else.
Be kind and stay humble. Help others.
Much of your success and others’ success is pure luck and timing — so don’t rest on your laurels. Keep working hard, keep learning and keep an open mind.
You don’t know everything, and even 60 years later, you still don’t — there’s always value in learning from others and also in a diversity in perspectives.
Don’t shout or brag to the world how great you are (I’m looking at you, Facebook feed) — but show it through your actions and accomplishments. Let them speak for themselves.
Show, don’t tell.
Example: It’s funny, because even as I’m 27 now and look back on the past five years or so, I feel like I know even less now than I did before.
Having gone through my experiences, successes and failures — I don’t feel any more special than anyone else. Honestly.
It took me over a year to get the courage to publish this, because I didn’t think it was worth reading…
I just did the best that I could with what I knew, took advantage of all the resources at my disposal, and used all of these principles to help me move forward a little bit everyday.
So much of my success was due to standing on the shoulders of others — if not for the help of other people, I would not be where I am today.
This also relates back to the principle of comparing yourself to yesterday, not comparing yourself to others. But also being self-aware, self-confident and not caring about what others think — and keeping a gratitude journal.
27. Your mentors don’t necessarily have to be in person. And what got you one place, won’t necessarily get you to the next level.
I actually didn’t have any mentors until I was halfway through college — I’ve always been somewhat independent that way, so I can’t quite speak to others’ positive (or negative) experiences with lifelong mentors.
At the end of the day, it’s your own call to have mentors or not. Or mastermind groups, or a board of directors and so forth.
Generally speaking, think for yourself and decide for yourself if something makes sense for you — and don’t blindly do it “just because everyone’s doing it.”
Be specific about what you want to get out of a mentor, mastermind group, board of directors, etc.
I’m not against of any of those — I just believe that you need to really take some time and think deliberately and consciously about your own goals and purposes, and then how each person fits into that picture first. Do your homework and research.
The mentors I had, I had for specific purposes and specific periods of time — like how to get into product management or advice during my two startups (how to get customers, how to monetize, etc). These people I met up with and shared updates with, but after my specific goal was met, we both dropped contact.
And that’s fine.
I’m not the same person I was five — or even two — years ago, and my problems/priorities are not the same, either.
What got me to one place five years ago, is not applicable to me anymore today to move forward.
You have to learn to adapt accordingly — and the best person(s) to help you five years ago won’t necessarily be the same people to help you today.
Especially what I mentioned earlier — in terms of learning how to apply advice to yourself, building systems over goals, documenting learnings and reflecting, etc.
I don’t find meeting mentors in-person as especially useful unless it is something extremely specific that I have tried to do and that person is the best person to help me given his or her background and circumstances.
This may sound a little unusual, but I wanted to offer my own perspective. I find that taking action, learning through experience and being extremely accountable and responsible for my own choices goes a long way — without needing someone else telling me if I’m doing it “right” or “wrong.”
Again, this is just my opinion, based on my own experiences and my own goals — so take this completely with a grain of salt.
Example: Given the Internet wonders of email newsletters, blogs, Twitter and Reddit — I collectively take all of this curated stream to be my overall “mentorship” that’s primarily online, in the sense of the information I am consuming and thus how it shapes my mind and how I think and act.
Not to mention the immense amount of learning and information you can get from reading books, besides the Internet.
What I learned in terms of mentorship — in the lens of entrepreneurship (my long-term interest and goal) — is not as useful as pure action and learning through experience.
As you can imagine, reading a thousand articles about entrepreneurship is not as useful as taking that first step and talking to ten customers, for instance. But that’s a lot harder to do than sitting at my computer and lying to myself that I need to read one more article before I’m “ready” to take action.
My opinion on this probably will change over time, as I hone in on my specific intents and purposes (and find others uniquely positioned to help and provide guidance) — but for now, I’m happy with how I learn today with online mentors.
Thanks so much for reading part 2! That concludes my 2-part series on 27 lessons learned in 27 years.
If you enjoyed reading this and think others will too, please hit Medium’s “clap” button and share on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.