33 Things I've Learned by 33 [Pt. I]

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1. Destinations are a Deception

Lock in and learn to enjoy where you are.

What you plan to do or where you plan to be is predicated upon loving and living where you are right now. It may very well be that the person you need to be to excel later in life, is hinged upon growing through the rise & grind that you're living in now.

2. Stop Dreaming. Start Doing.

Dreams are wonderful and your passion matters.

But a dream without any deadlines is a pipe dream. Wanna flesh out your passion? Set calendar dates and make intentional progress towards your vision.

The sooner, the better.

Photo by Joel Tiegreen

3. Savor Reality

Social Media is filled with the high notes of day-to-day life and human existence. It's a stream of consciousness saturated with epic moments.

Don't fall into thinking that what you see happening in the lives of others, somehow makes your life less interesting. Someday days and seasons of life are more mundane than others. Learn to enjoy them, then the epic moments will be that much sweeter.

4. Take Time to Unplug

This past summer I took a one week sabbatical from electronics. For one solid week, I abstained from all social media, only checked email once per day, and only answered incoming phone calls and texts from close friends & family. The result was amazing.

I went hiking. I went out for coffee or dinner and left my phone at home. I felt far less distracted than I have in a long time.

My suggestion: Turn "Off" your notifications.

Be present and learn to savor your surroundings.

There's a reason why people still enjoyed life when technology was less advanced. Greater than the vicarious adventures of being online, is actually going outside. That's right, outside is still out there and it's not as overrated as some have led you to believe.

So, take an adventure or start planning for one.

Once you turn off those notifications, you'll be impressed at how much else is happening around you. You'll also be surprised at how more work gets done.

5. Comparison is a Cold Killer

There's nothing that has derailed my progress or personal growth more than comparing myself to someone else. It's almost a certain way to make myself depressed. I've had to train myself not to do this.

Other people have different pasts and ways that have contributed to their success. Often they possess skill sets that are unique and distinct from yours or mine, so any room for comparison is unfair.

Learning to adapt the practices of those with like-minded visions or goals is smart. But you can't afford to compare yourself to where others are in life simply because they're not you.

Embrace your own ambitions, then you'll be too focused on where you're headed to size yourself up to anyone else.

6. Generosity is a State-of-Mind

Real generosity is not about the "haves" & the "have-nots." Real generosity is about utilizing what you do have to make an investment in those around you.

In exception to money; time, experience, talent, wisdom, as well as resources, are all things which can be given to benefit those within your sphere of influence.

Learn to give liberally and without expecting anything in return.

7. Make it Good, then Make it Better

You don't have to be good at everything. In fact, you don't have to be good at much at all to get started. Explore your interests, discover your passion(s), then get to good at it. Once you get good at what you do, dissect the details and make it better.

The Ritz-Carlton is an impeccable experience because they excel in hospitality.

Disney World is an engrossing experience because you become enveloped in a world (quite literally) of imagination.

Need another example?
Watch the video of what this guy does, and you'll see what I mean.

8. Be a Teacher

Invest in others. Teach them what you know. Build them up.
Share your best practices and advice.

This process alone, is perhaps the most rewarding experience of all. There's something about helping others get ahead, to benefit from your experiences and knowledge that supersedes most other joys in life.

9. Doodle, Dabble & Daydream

Find a way to process your thoughts, ideas, imaginations. Create time or space in your life to record these details.

For me, I normally use one of two methods:

Digital - I have all of the notes on my phone & tablet linked to my email, so they're always accessible. If something breaks, I can still access these notes through my cloud storage. I also have an electronic recorder. I use it to vocally record notes & ideas when I'm pressed for time and can't write something down.

Analog - I keep a Blackbook consistent with a steady stream of thoughts, ideas, doodles, poetry, sermons and notes. I've had one since college.

Here's the kicker, when you hit a creative block, go back and revisit these notes. The value in maintaining a constant stream of ideas is that when you run dry, the stream is there to inspire you once again.

You can see some of my more recent doodles here.

10. Learning is Essential

Post high school, most people neglect to learn more than what they were initially taught in grade school.

Teach yourself. The Internet is laden with DIY methods and sites devoted to helping others self-educate. How else do you think I learned to build this website?

Here's a few sites I would recommend:

- CreativeLive.com - Online classes customized to teach you in your talent or trade (free & pay).

- Lynda.com - Online learning community that helps you craft personal skills (pay site).

Oh, and learn to like reading. It's still the best way to not stay ignorant.

Many of the bloggers & experts I follow offer E-books you can download for free. Here's a few of my favorites. There's an email opt-in for these, but they're worth it:

- Inside My Toolbox by Michael Hyatt. 

- Mastering Creativity and Transform Your Habits by James Clear.

The Writer’s Manifesto and Wrecked for the Ordinary by Jeff Goins.

11. Set the Deadline Already

Yes, I know I briefly mentioned this earlier. That's because it's that important.

Stop delaying. A poor plan executed today is better than the perfect plan presented tomorrow.

12. Age Matters Less than You Think

In a world where youth is celebrated, it seems to be the cultural conclusion that the more upward in age you get, the less capable you become. But this couldn't be further from the truth. C.S. Lewis speaks of how he first glimpsed an image of a fawn standing in the snow next to a lamppost when he was 16. He didn't even start writing "The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe" until he was forty.

You are for more capable for far longer than you give yourself credit.

If this guy can do this at age 70, then let's just agree that age will only stop you if you let it.

13. Embrace Change

Transition is hard. At this point in my life, I've been married for more than 7 years, have 2 kids, and have already lived in 8 different locations across 2 states. At the time my first daughter was being born, I had just started a new job, moved my family to a new home, and my wife was about to give birth. While I wouldn't recommend doing this often, surprisingly, I found myself able to manage.

Sometimes, change is the only steady constant. In embracing it, you learn that you can change too. When you're willing to pivot quickly, to adapt and adjust, you discover that there's few things life brings that you can't handle.

14. Follow the Peace

You can have plans, ambitions, even a water-tight strategy to make your mark on the world, but there's nothing that can take the place of peace. Nothing.

When your heart is settled & content, there's no price you can put on it.

Go where the peace is.

Photo by Joel Tiegreen

15. Stay Faithful to What's in Front of You

I've worked multiple jobs and have approached each with the same mentality, "How can I be excellent?" "How do I make myself indispensable?"

With each transition, the response has been both surprising and rewarding.

I've had pastors, former bosses, as well as co-workers make recommendations that opened the doors for where I was headed next.

The grass may look greener elsewhere, but it remains greenest where you water it the most.

Learn to be the best asset where you are right now. Right now, is where you build the skill set for where you're going. Stay faithful to what's in front of you.

16. Write

Discover how to express your thoughts and feelings through words.

All of the great voices who have influenced my life have been writers. Many of them have also been speakers.

Writing is a great stepping stone in learning how to arrange your words in front of an audience. The practice of writing builds fluency of thought and confidence.

Journaling or blogging is a great place to start. If you're serious about beginning a blog, then I suggest starting here.

17. Simplify

Bundle packs, super-size, double-portions and the list goes on. I'm not sure where it will end, but there's a subtle beauty in simplifying your lifestyle.

Excess, in part is problematic, since the more stuff you get the more energy, time, & money it takes to manage it. Adding to the list of what you have can seem exciting, but then it demands more from you and can really dominate your life if you let it.

There's not too many things that are "must-haves" for me, but I really like shoes. Some time ago, I decided to downsize my shoe collection, amongst several other things, and it really helped to reduce the clutter in my life.

These days, if I haven't worn or used something within 6 months to a year, I consider either throwing it away or giving it away. I do the same thing with books. Now, once I read a new book, I often give it away to someone I know will benefit from its contents as I have.

You should try it.

Not only is this a rewarding experience, but it also leaves extra room on my book shelf for the necessary volumes I'd like to read again and again.

Simplify -  Hand drawn type by Matt Shirley

Simplify - Hand drawn type by Matt Shirley


That's it for this round, but I'd love to hear your thoughts or more about the valuable lessons you've learned. Of those you read today, which number was your favorite? Please share in the comments below. 

Stay brilliant and be sure to check out Part 2 here

Tweet this - "Real generosity isn't about the "haves" and "have-nots." It's about using what you do have to invest in those around you."

Tweet this - "When your heart is settled and content, there's no price you can put on it. Go where the peace is."

Tweet this"Learn to be the best asset where you are right now. Right now, is where you build the skill set for where you're going."

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