Today is my birthday and it’s hard to believe I’m 34 because I don’t feel my age.
It doesn’t seem so long ago that I turned the big 3-0. I was living in Taipei and searching for a direction in life after reaching that milestone. I sat on top of a hiking trail overlooking the best view of the city I had ever seen anywhere (click to see my pic). I remember reflecting hoping the next 30 years would be the best years ever.
That next year of my life turned out to be the best of my life up to that point. I started kickboxing, which in turn introduced me to Eleanor, which led to living in Sydney and a few years later brings me to writing for people like you.
It’s a great start to my 30’s.
21st 34th birthday I’m going to reflect on personal lessons from the last 34 years.
1. You have to be 100% responsible for your life.
I went through the latter part of my 34 years expecting things to happen for me. I was doing what everyone expected me to do so where was my happiness? It eluded me because I wasn’t taking responsibility for my life. I didn’t make my own choices. I reacted instead of took charge.
Then I realized that this is my life and I make the decisions that shape my life. I control my thoughts and actions. No one else does. Once I began to do that my life started to take a direction I wanted. (If you want to learn more about this sign up to get my free ebook in the sidebar.)
2. You are better than you think.
We continuously don’t give ourselves enough credit for our talents and abilities. What we create might only be 80% in our minds but may be 110% to other people.
Don’t let those limiting beliefs hold you back. Belief and confidence will carry you to where you want to go.
3. Enjoy moments when you laugh so hard that you cry.
Those moments that make laugh us hard don’t happen everyday but when they happen, it’s really special. I can think of movies where I laughed uncontrollably and just random situations.
The last time I laughed that hard was when I came back from the restroom in the mall in Taipei. Eleanor had her cheeks puffed out (looks like when you’re holding air in there). I thought she had air in there so I just pressed against them to squeeze the air out. Next thing I know, I’m getting sprayed with water!!!! We both were laughing hysterically in the middle of the mall. I told her she should have told me she had water. She said she had no idea I was going to do that! Plus she couldn’t say anything! We laughed so hard and still laugh about it to this day.
4. Dancing in the morning is a great way to start the day.
One thing like to do is spontaneously start dancing with Eleanor in the morning. I don’t do it enough, but when I have done it, it brings a huge smile on her face to start the day.
Find ways to do fun things in your morning routine instead of the same old boring stuff.
5. We only have one shot at this life.
This is it. We’ve been given this great gift to enjoy everything that life has to offer. There’s no chance to go back and do things over again at the end.
Have you found the Fountain of Youth? In that case, this is still the only shot we have at this life. Make it great.
6. Don’t take more than you need to survive.
I wrote an entire post about it but I want to say it again cause it’s so true. There is a law that mankind breaks every single day. It’s a law nature has followed for billions of years. The law is nothing in nature takes more than it needs.
The biggest redwoods trees only takes water it needs. Lions don’t kill every single animal it sees for food. Sharks don’t eat all the fish. Just what it needs.
As for us? We’ve become a nation who buy more and more. We have what we need but it’s not enough. In our body, there is something takes more than it needs and eventually kills us and itself. That is cancer.
7. It’s okay to cry at sappy stuff.
We’re all human and getting emotional is part of it. I’m a guy and suppose to be tough and manly but I tear up at movies. Heck it’s even happened in a comedy when something touching happens. It’s stupid I know but I can’t help it.
Let me share a quote from Jim Valvano, a college basketball coach who lost his battle with cancer eight weeks before this speech.
“To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”
8. Money doesn’t buy you happiness.
All the money in the world isn’t going to buy happiness if we’re spending a majority of our time at a job we absolutely dread. Money isn’t the answer to all our problems but I want money. Enough money to not be in debt, worry about bills, support my family, give back, and travel.
For me, it’s not about finding ways to work hard to make a lot of money. It’s about working smart to make money that allows me to have freedom.
9. There’s no avoiding the tough situations.
I’ve had to make some tough decisions in life. It’s never fun. Life isn’t about easy decisions and smooth sailing. I wish it always was, but I don’t think anyone has a life like that.
Some tough decisions may need introspection, a mentor, a trusted friend or family member to help you. You don’t have to be alone in making big decisions. Just make sure, in the end, the decision comes from you.
10. Never let anyone borrow money.
I’m lucky I don’t have friends who have hit me up for money, but my mom, being a business owner, has had employees asked for a loan. Sadly she was too nice and lent money to a handful of them. Some paid her back, but the there are ones than never paid her back. Some paid back some then left. Some got the money and took off a week later. I could write a whole page about the stupidity of it but I won’t. It gets me so upset just thinking about it. I believe my mom has learned her lesson.
Therefore I’ll never lend any money to anyone. I’d believe my max would be $100. If you lend money to family or friends, you have to think of it as a gift. Don’t expect it back. I’ve read stories of people borrowing money for emergencies only to see them spend it on a vacation.
When people want to borrow money, they’ll talk to nice but when you remind them later for a payment, they get upset that you are asking about it.
If you haven’t been in this situation before learn from my mom’s mistakes and don’t do it!
11. The world is so unique and full of amazing experiences.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have been able to travel to Europe, Australia and Asia and got to experience the cities, museums, attractions, culture, and food. The world is such a big place with so many amazing things to see. If you haven’t done much traveling overseas, find a way to go one day.
Plus I love being at the airport. I’m like a kid on Christmas when I know I’m going to the airport for a trip.
12. There’s never a perfect time to start.
If you keep waiting for that perfect day you’ll be waiting forever. You cannot wait for the moon, stars, and life to align perfectly to start something. Don’t say you’ll start tomorrow or next week. I don’t believe in waiting till January 1 to start making changes in my life. That perfect scenario will elude you. Don’t keep waiting to start.
13. It’s pointless to drive fast and aggressive.
I’ve found the older I’ve gotten the slower I drive. When I say slow I mean 5-10 over the speed limit only. I don’t speed up after a green light only to have to slam on my brakes at the next red.
Just last week I’m driving on the highway and a car is right on my ass. I guess I wasn’t going fast enough. So the pickup truck changes lanes, speeds pass me, and gets back in front of me. As we exited the highway and approached the stop light, I was right behind that very aggressive pickup truck. It’s so pointless to me to drive like that.
14. Sports are the best unscripted drama on television.
I used to love reality shows but watch it less now. There’s one unscripted drama I’ll never get tired of watching and that is sports. No matter what you expect will happen, there are games that you cannot fathom what just happened. Hollywood isn’t even that good enough.
For example, I’m a huge fan of soccer so I enjoyed every match during the recent woman’s World Cup, especially when the US played. That game against Brazil by far was the most exhilarating soccer game ever. The final game against Japan was just as unbelievable. If you watched the games, you know what I’m talking about. You can’t make up a story better than those games.
15. I feel much better when I exercise.
I’ve gone through long periods of not exercising and long periods of exercising. When I do exercise, I feel better the rest of the day. I feel more productive. I have more confidence. That rush of endorphins right after a work out wakes me up and puts me in a good mood.
It’s no coincidence I started this blog at the peak of my fitness this year coming off my second half marathon in five months.
16. Your mind is more powerful than you realize.
Whatever you want to achieve all begins in the mind. It’s the engine that’s running and all you have to do is push down the gas pedal and steer away from obstacles in your way.
What happens when you close your eyes and imagine yourself standing on the edge of a building 10 stories in the air then start to imagine slowly falling forward? You really feel it! You open your eyes and are glad that didn’t really happen.
Then there’s the placebo effect. Patients get medicine thinking it’ll cure their ailment when in fact they get a placebo. However they’re healthier and healed later.
The power of the mind is strong. Don’t doubt it’s powers.
17. Experiences are more valuable than possessions.
We’ll remember experiences forever but our possession will only make us happy temporarily. I’ve bought many things cause I thought I wanted it, but after I bought it I found I lost interest in it within a month. In 30 years, I’ll remember the trip I took to Bali this April than whatever I bought the same time.
18. Having a bunch of possessions is useless.
I remember moving into my college dorm was fun. Moving out was the worst part. Why? All the stuff I accumulated during that year! It never seemed like I added much but it slowly built up.
The same goes with my house. I’ve lived here for 8 years and moved in with just the basics and now I have a house full of little things hat serve me no real purpose. I plan on doing major de-cluttering very soon.
Now I’m more conscious before I buy. Do I really need it? What purpose does it serve me?
19. Do weird things if it makes you happy and it’s not illegal nor hurts anyone.
There’s something I do that you might find weird but I do regularly when I go on vacation. I take pictures of food. I’ve been doing it for almost 10 years but more since I lived in Taipei. I love eating and just love to remember my experiences with what I ate.
I know the trend is growing based on websites of people sharing their pictures, but I know there are some that think it’s stupid to do.
I love to do it. It doesn’t hurt anyone. It’s not illegal so I’m going to keep doing it.
20. Watching TV for no reasons absolutely wastes your time.
I love watching sports and some great shows on television but besides that it doesn’t do me any good to just sit on my couch and channel surf for hours all the time.
I used to do that often. If nothing was on I’d keep searching for a half way decent show. My free time at home was spent in front of my computer and television. Now I only turn on the TV if I’m doing something that doesn’t need my full attention or I really want to watch a particular show or sporting event.
I’m so much more productive because I’ve cut back.
21. Let others have the spotlight.
We live in a competitive world and sometimes feel the needs to be better than others. However when you’re talking with someone, take a moment to put your ego aside and let that person have the glory.
Let’s say I’m sharing an exciting experience I had. Right when I’m done, the other person jumps in and tops my experience. It’s as if they weren’t even listening. Instead they are waiting for the chance to share their story. How would you feel if you told your greatest story and the other person jumps in and tells you theirs? You’d feel pretty crappy. This is something I do not like and I don’t associate with people like this.
Don’t be like that. Let them enjoy the moment. Make a comment about their story. Make them feel good. In turn they’ll feel more comfortable around you and you give them a boost in confidence. If you do this with someone you just met, you’ll most likely make a great impression with them.
22. Be proud of who you are.
Growing up, mainly through high school and college, I wished I had blonde hair and blue eyes. I even dyed my hair blonde once on summer break in high school. The first time I did it, it looked orange. I had to bleach it even more. It looked horrible on me! I wanted to look more like the people I thought were cool. I wanted to be more accepted. I wanted more girls to like me more.
As I’ve gotten older, I love that I get to know two countries and culture. I’m proud of my parent’s birth place, Taiwan and proud to be an American.
I wouldn’t change my black hair and brown eyes and weird last name for anything now.
23. Life can be taken at anytime.
I reflected in a post that life can be gone in an instant. It’s scary to think that. We all want to think we’ll live forever and die naturally but life is so unexpected. Do as much as you can to live each day fully. Make sure you laugh, think, love, and make a difference everyday.
24. A smile goes a long way.
When you do anything, do it with a smile. If you ask for something, ask with a smile. If you see someone walk by you and you make eye contact, smile. How great did it feel when a cute girl or guy smiled at you? The world is a much better place when people smile.
25. Be thankful more often.
I’m not perfect. Without my glasses or contacts, I’m almost blind. I’ve grown a couple small bald spots (gasp!) on the back of my head that are slowly growing back after getting cortisone injections. I have a metal plate and six screws in my ankle from a soccer injury in high school. I wish I was taller and I bite my nails.
Despite all those I’m thankfully to be healthy. I’ve got two healthy legs to walk and run. I have two arms, two hands, and ten fingers to do so many things. I’m thankful.
Learn to be thankful for the things you have in life instead of focusing on what you don’t have. If you want help to get started see my 30 day gratitude experiment.
26. Eat what you want but eat it in moderation.
There are so many different diets out there and I’ve had my share of healthy eating. When I haven’t been eating healthy, I’ve found I’m able to maintain my weight decently by watching my portion size. Most portion sizes at restaurant are so large to begin with. Try sharing it or saving half for another meal.
I’m don’t want to deprive myself of the foods and desserts I love, but the key is moderation and not overdo it all the time.
27. You can never get time back.
Time is something we can’t make more of. It moves on whether we want it to or not. So think about how you want to spend your time.
In five years, you will be five years older. Decide what you want to do in those five years. If you do nothing, expect to be the same person in five years but older and probably heavier while you sit there complaining about what you want but fail to take any action.
28. You can do anything you want.
You hear this often but it’s so true. We dreamt big as a kid but as we got older we were taught to think more realistic. It’s time to go back to thinking more like a kid.
If there’s a goal you want to achieve, there is someone in this world that has done the same thing. You want to start your own location independent based business? It’s been done. You want to climb Mt. Everest? It’s been done. You want to run a marathon but have never run more than a mile in your life? It’s been done.
If others are living the life you want, why can’t you? What makes them different than you? Smarter? Probably not. Worked hard? Yes. Took action? Definitely.
29. Learn to appreciate the small things.
The cool side of the pillow, a parking space near the store, finding $10 on the ground, no cavities at the dentist, walking in the house and moments later hearing the heavy rain outside, getting a high five from a baby, or hitting all the green lights.
Enjoy the small things we take for granted. They are life’s little gifts to us.
30. You will fail.
That doesn’t mean you’ll always fail but there is no success without failure. Look at this list of famous people and read their stories of success despite countless rejections and failures. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve failed. You just have to be right once. Remember that.
31) You can’t please everyone.
Whether you’re selling a product or service, it’s impossible to please every single person. Take for instance a great meal at your favorite restaurant. You love it. Your friends and family love it, but there are people who have been there and say it’s nothing special.
What about a movie that’s a critical and box office success? You loved it. Most of your friends loved it yet there will be a minority of people out there that hated it.
No matter how hard the restaurant owner or director tried to create their best product, it won’t please everyone. In that case, just focus on the people you can please and not worry about the ones you can’t.
32. I don’t want to be on my deathbed and regret so many things in life.
When it’s my time I want to be happy with my life. I want to feel I lived a full life and did everything I wanted. I want to know I did as much as I could and impacted so many people. I want people to be happy that they knew me and continue to feel my impact I left in this world.
33. Know why you’re doing something keeps you going through the low points.
Just knowing how to do the steps to achieve your goal isn’t enough. If you know why you’re doing something will keep you from quitting.
When I trained for my first half marathon, it was so easy to quit or take days off but my “why power” woke me up on early cold mornings to run.
I’ve had days when I wondered why I shouldn’t just quit this blog. It gets overwhelming or isn’t grow as much as I’d like. I have doubts. Every blogger goes through this. Yet here I still am and in it for the long haul. I love it. That’s why knowing the big picture and why you’re doing this will keep you going.
34. Learn to live in the present moment.
Too often we worry about what happened in the past or future problems coming up and neglect to live in the present. The past already happened. We can’t predict the future but we can control how we are living at this moment.
John Lennon once said, “Life is what’s happening while we’re busy making other plans.” While we’re busying making those plans life passes us by. Kids grow up too fast. We miss the little experience that show us how great it is to be alive.
There is no guarantee of tomorrow. We are only promised now. Stop worrying too much about the future and bring your attention back to the present.
It’s been an good 34 years (I’m still alive) and know the next 34 will be even better. At that time I’ll probably be writing my 64 lessons in life by talking to a computer the size of a quarter.
What can you do for my birthday? How about sharing this post with the share buttons on the left. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Stumbleupon. More than one would be great. It’s my birthday so I can wish big right?
See how easy I am to please on my birthday?
This post was inspired by Adam Baker’s 26 Life Lessons I Learned in 26 Years.
Update: Chris Guillebeau has a great post about 34 Lessons he’s learned. Go and read that as well.