April 9, 2012

34 Things I’ve Learned About Life and Adventure

Want to become wiser? It’s fairly simple and closely resembles Brian Tracey’s formula for being luckier:

“Luck is quite predictable. To have more luck, take more chances.”

To become wiser, therefore, take more risks and stop letting fear rule your life. Change it up a little.

In honor of last week’s dual birthdays, here are 34 things I wish I knew years ago.

***

Reduce the amount of negative inputs to your life.

When I was first using Twitter, I signed up for a service that sent me notifications whenever people unfollowed me. What a terrible idea! I started worrying about every post. Should I not say something about my actual life? If I post a photo of my cat on top of the refrigerator, is that too off-topic?

Thankfully this concern lasted only two days. I turned off the notifications and life improved.

There is almost always more than one way to accomplish something.

There is a traditional way and usually multiple alternatives. The alternatives aren’t always better—just be aware that they exist. You don’t have to do it the way everyone else does. You don’t have to jump off the bridge.

Some people may be threatened by alternatives, but that’s OK—your life isn’t determined by what other people think.

Make your peace with money.

Money does buy happiness, at least a certain amount of it. But after a while, more money doesn’t buy more happiness. Therefore, figure out what you want to do and let those things determine your budget.

Never ask, “I have x amount of dollars—how should I divvy that up among various expenses and projects?” Always ask, “What level of resources do I need to accomplish all the goals and projects I want to pursue?”

Focus on income more than expenses.

The way out of debt is not usually found through clipping coupons, skipping lattes, or buying discount toilet tissue. It is found through increasing your income. Live frugally and consciously, yes, but if you’re struggling, find ways to make more money instead of ways to cut back even further.

(Related: It’s OK to be poor for a time, but don’t have a poverty mentality.)

Balanced people don’t change the world.

Passionate people who don’t have it all together change the world. If you’re worried about life-work balance, something is probably wrong with your life or your work. Instead of agonizing over balance, get excited and create change.

Deadlines and quotas are your friends.

Set them and live by them, or live by the law of procrastination. Forced deadlines are better than artificial ones, but take whatever you can get.

If you want to publish a blog, do so on a regular schedule—no exceptions. If you’re trying to write, aim to write at least 1,000 words a day. These practices will serve you well.

Get over it.

If you’re like most of us, something bad probably happened to you at some point. It was unfair and cruel. Maybe it was even really bad.

But you have to get over it for reasons that are entirely selfish. Simply put, you can’t let these things define you. It’s about your life, not anyone else’s. At some point, you just have to move on.

Even atheists want something to believe in.

We all want a mission. Eager volunteers will usually work harder than paid employees. Give people something to believe in and they will support your cause. Challenge them to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

In any project, create your own definition of success.

If not, you’ll always be playing someone else’s game. Play your own game. Make the rules and decide how you’ll score the points. Choose to be in charge and then you are in charge–it’s not complicated.

Understand that some positions and organizations exist solely to make your life difficult.

I called them the Department of No in my first book—people who are in charge of saying no. To negate their powers, you can go around these people, ignore them entirely, or get them on your side by making them think you are on their side. (Direct confrontation is often a losing battle—they have been saying no for a long time.)

Helping others makes your own life better.

I call it “selfish generosity.” Freely give, freely receive. The greatest decision Jolie and I made together was choosing to move to Africa and volunteer. We would come back to the U.S. to visit and people would say, “Wow, what you are doing is so great!” And we would say, “Yes, it is… for us.”

“It’s not time to worry yet.”

This quote comes from Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, by way of Jolie. There’s a time to worry, but it often comes much later than we think. If you don’t need to worry… don’t.

Related: don’t borrow trouble.

Tweaks matter.

At a certain point, it’s all about continuous improvement. When you’re near death, running a marathon, or tweaking copy for a sales page, 15% improvement is huge.

One definition of happiness is “Continuously improving your circumstances.” I would add: “and the circumstances of others”—but more on that in a moment.

Avoid getting into a position where you’re unable to walk away.

Never find yourself powerless. Be careful about negotiating from a point of weakness; it’s usually better to improve your odds first. (Tip: if you do find yourself in such a position, sometimes the greatest thing you can do is to walk away anyway.)

Love the process.

It’s all process—in life, in love, in work, in travel. Visiting every country is largely about process, not outcome. I just like doing it! I like the planning, the executing, the challenge, the memories. Sometimes I even like all the stress over visas and complicated routings.

That’s partly why I’m sad that it’s ending next year, but that’s another story.

Be a believer, not a cynic.

Yeah, it’s much easier to tear down than to build. That’s what most people do. “I’d just like to play devil’s advocate…”

But the world has enough cynics, so your challenge is to build.

Loneliness: It’s not all bad.

It’s OK to be alone sometimes. It makes you tougher. It makes you aware of the world. And when the time comes when you’re not lonely, it makes you appreciate it more.

Chances are, you’ll never regret saying “thank you.”

Remember the words of Dalai Lama: Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.

To be clear, I don’t always follow this guideline—I often fall short. That’s why it’s the model. See “continuous improvement.”

Be careful about advice—both giving and receiving.

Most of the time, you already know what you need to do. And most of the time, the people who ask for your advice don’t really want it. (Hint: they want you to say, “That sounds great!”)

Less stuff, more life experiences.

Invest in experiences more than furniture. It’s not “throwing your money away”—it’s spending it wisely.

Note: this doesn’t mean you won’t buy furniture or you can’t have a home life. It just means you deliberately choose to value experiences. You are willing to save and invest in them, even to the exclusion of things you choose to own.

When getting started, just get started.

“I had a great idea that I never followed through on!”

Guess what: no one cares. Get started and see what happens, or let it go. Find a way to launch your project within 30 days of conceiving it. If that feels uncomfortable, make it 3 days.

If you want to get noticed, do something worth noticing.

The way to attract influential people to your life (if you care about such a thing) is by doing something worth noticing, not by asking people to notice you. Basic… but so often missed.

Also, don’t be a curator, be an instigator.

Comfort zones are comfortable for a reason.

Make small changes, make big changes, but choose to change. Change is the only constant. To get out of a rut, change one thing at a time until you find the answer, or change it all at once and see what happens.

It can’t be worse, right?

Sad but true: sometimes the people close to you won’t understand.

Whether returning from a trip or choosing the path less traveled by, a strange phenomenon tends to occur: those who are closest to you just don’t understand.

Yeah, it’s tough. You may even encounter resistance. This is sad, and sometimes it gets better as people get used to it. Even if not, you’ll usually find other people who do understand. (It’s a funny thing.)

When in doubt about the next step, help someone and make something.

Do these two actions every day, 365 days a year. When you get stuck at any point in any process, come back to the basics: helping and creating.

(These things also help when you’re depressed. For me, drinking coffee and running—not usually at the same time—help too.)

Choose active over passive whenever possible.

When I’m home I exercise almost every day, seven days a week. But it’s not as hardcore as it sounds. Plenty of days, I run out of time or energy and can only manage a brief, 15-20 minute run at the end of the day.

A few years ago I learned that those 15 minute runs have both physical and emotional benefits. Since then, I’ve tried to make active choices: walk whenever possible, ride my bike instead of taking the bus, do one more thing before going to bed. In short, choose forward motion.

Failure is overrated.

People often paint failure as a glorious thing. “Embrace it!” Really? You are a winner. Choose to win.

Sure, you’ll probably fail at some things. Whatever. Who cares? Success is better.

Attack a few big projects at a time with lots of small steps.

It’s the time and money theory: how much time, how much money, how much additional resources will you need? Break it down, step by step. Work on the steps every day and add to them as you go along. It’s simple, powerful, and effective. Anything you want to make, build, do, or accomplish using your own force can be managed this way.

Do your own thing.

Yes, we all know this. It’s better to be the authentic you than an excellent copy of someone else—everyone agrees.

The problem is that imitators can often achieve some degree of success. Then they think, hey, this works! Well, it does work… at a low level. But it’s deceptive. If you really want to step it up, you have to find your own way, however you do it.

Ask a lot of questions.

There’s an old saying that the pope and the peasant combined know more than the pope. In other words, you can learn from anyone. Be curious and ask questions wherever you go. (Also, beware of incurious people—such people think they know a lot, but usually don’t.)

Say yes more often than no.

Yes, you should put limits around yourself and protect your commitments—for the things you don’t want to do. Everything else, fill your life with fun people and projects. Say yes!

Forget about never being afraid, but don’t let your fears make your decisions.

We’re all afraid of something. The trick is to make sure you’re challenging yourself enough, and to decide things independent of your fears. Figure out what you’re really afraid of, then don’t hold back! Also, as mentioned above—say yes.

Complacency will suck the life out of you if you let it.

Always try to better yourself. Don’t stop growing. If you do become complacent somewhere and stop improving, move on to a new challenge as quickly as possible.

Also, remember something when considering new challenges: If the outcome is certain, it’s not really a challenge. (Hat tip: Jonathan.)

Pursue a life focused on creative work.

What if, every day, we focused our lives on making something and putting it out in the world—and what if we adopted this as our primary way of viewing the world? What if this was our core focus, our motivation, and our practice?

(Note: This perspective is not incompatible with religion, philosophy, or other worldviews. It’s a way to live. I wrote about this subject more in The Tower.)

Life is short. Live with urgency!

This isn’t a new lesson; I’ve been aware of it for a long time. But it’s how I try to live every day—with the constant awareness that each moment is finite and non-renewable. We don’t get it back.

There are models that focus more on letting go and taking it easy. If that works for you, great. But if you find it unsettling that each day is slipping away, the alternative is to live with urgency. Come to the end feeling worn out.

***

Those are my 34 things, in no particular order except the last. Thankfully I was only turning 34 and not 75… that would have required a lot more thinking.

Whatever age you are, what have you learned? Tell us something here.

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*Want to use this post as a model for your own blog? Feel free to share your own 34 things and include a link back here. We’ll share a sample of reader posts in an upcoming follow-up.

*In case you missed last Thursday’s post, I’m giving up my birthday for Charity:Water. You can do the same with your own next birthday.

Image: Jodi

Comment on this article

90 Responses to “34 Things I’ve Learned About Life and Adventure”

  1. April 9, 2012

    Mary Ellen

    Extremely thought provoking and I so couldn’t agree more. More experiences, less stuff is something I am trying so hard to teach my children. Thanks for sharing these granules of inspiration.

  2. This is awesome, Chris. Definitely will share with my peeps. I’ve learned many of these things over the past several years…some I’m still learning.

    I’m grateful that I’ve always had the attitude of “What level of resources do I need to accomplish all the goals and projects I want to pursue?” — it’s served me well and has enabled me to do things that might seem impossible to others. I’m still working on being ok with getting noticed…kinda required for the things I want to do. LOL

    Hope you had a nice birthday weekend.

  3. April 9, 2012

    Jim Ordway

    Enjoyed this post Chris. A lot of useful insight in this one. My favorite is avoiding complacency, DON’T STOP GROWING. Ever.

  4. I would recommend not to follow money… I followed money when I was in my 20′s and was making six figures by the time I was 27. I was also working 60+ hours a week, not exercising and obsessed with my career! Then when I was 31, my wife gave birth to our second child and he died. Although it took a few months, I realized there was more to life. That is when I took a sales job that was less money but gave me more time to spend with my family and work on things that I am passionate about!

    So I suggest that you find a way to pay your own bills, but also that will give you an opportunity to work on things you want out of life. Since I took the sales job, I have dropped 10lbs, running my first 1/2 marathon, started a side business that I hope to sell soon, and wrote a book. I have also been less stressed and spend more time with my family.

  5. What a great post!

    Work from the inside out NOT the outside in. If you focus on first knowing yourself, getting in sync with life is much less bumpy and more fulfilling.

    Unfortunately, too many of us are conditioned to rely disproportionately heavily on external factors – opinions of loved ones, marketing, societal pressure, etc. Doing so is often a self esteem killer and a progress stopper.

  6. These are truly awesome and well thought out ideas.

    My best piece of advice is Make New Rules.

    If you don’t like the path pushed by conventional wisdom, question whether you even want to play their game. It’s not losing if you choose to play a different game. Isn’t happiness what we all (should) be after, anyway?

  7. As much fun as it would be to not like you, you’re quite the authentic good spirited guy.

    You live it, you preach it, and yes, we all take note.

    Thanks for being an inspiration, Chris. It’s your pieces like this one that keep us all fresh.

    It’s tragically existential, but life is meaningless. Only we can assign its meaning, and with that, it is about life and adventure. Or at least, that’s what I’ve learned.

  8. I very much feel like I’m only just discovering all the things I wish I’d known years ago. From this whole wonderful list, I think the one that resonates most with me right now is: “Comfort zones are comfortable for a reason.” Thanks in a large part to AONC, which I very recently stumbled on and devoured, I am starting to realize how long I’ve spent in my comfort zones and how I will never step outside them and do the things I want to do if I don’t actually make some changes. It’s invigorating, overwhelming and scary to realize that what you spend your present moments doing is what makes up your life. How easy it is to stay where you are and coast along — how intimidating but vital it is to really change. Here’s to taking those first baby steps and to the long and rewarding journey that follows.

    As for something I wish I’d known earlier: smile in photos. Don’t worry that you look silly, or that your hair is messed up, or that the photographer is using an unflattering angle. Smile, have fun, be in the moment. And then apply that philosophy to how you live your life.

  9. All of these are great, but I most agree with the last. Life is to short, this has been somethings that has been uttered from my mouth many times.

    I carry it in the back of my head when I wish to take a new challenge in life, or just want give myself some purpose to achieve.

  10. I think most of what you have learned is good advice especially about less stuff and more life experiences. I disagree though on the one about earning more income. I’ve found that any increase in my own income is balanced out by an equal increase in spending. On the other hand, I’ve found that my life is significantly better since I cut out many of my expenses and quit focusing on making more money.

    Of course, my quest is a little different than yours and we all need to do our own thing.

  11. @Jack,

    No problem – it’s probably a situational thing. I also agree that reducing various things (activities, commitments, stuff, whatever) certainly helps.

  12. Terrific. My birthday is on the 15th. Thank you for the inspiration.

  13. Once again
    A list article to take to heart
    And action!

    Thanks!

  14. I love this. Thanks for writing it and sharing it

  15. Some of my favorites are failure is overrated, say yes more often than no, and do creative work. And as so many of us know, the one about people close to you not understanding is also, very sadly, often true.

    What’s cool about this list is that many of the points are obvious enough, yet rarely stated. Nice work, Chris.

  16. Thank you for this. (!)

  17. Things I have learned lately. I reduced my cell phone bill to $30 dollars a month from $140. Huge yearly savings. I have not missed my smart phone one single day. I went to Virgin Mobile and it has worked great. Eliminating cable packages, HD cable box, cell phone, has saved me a huge chunk of money on a annual basis. This money has shifted to the experiencing fund.

    I can only control the present moment. Everything arises out of “right now.”

    Reduce as much news watching as possible, and limit e-mail checking and twitter surfing.

    The amount of time and money you can recoup by limiting mindless web surfing and reducing technologies you are opening a vat of time and instantly finding additional cash.

  18. Chris, each idea is a gem and I could comment about all of them at length however what I want to do instead is to appreciate your genius for being so open to the lessons of life. You consciousness shines through and your light blesses all of us.

    Your comment about questions is so true. Questions asked combined with compassionate listening can change the world. I just wrote a book called Awaken:100 Questions To Expand Your Mind and Open Your Heart. If you are interested, let me know and I will send you a copy.

  19. Outstanding post, appreciate your thoughts. What I have learned from marathoning is you simply cannot accept failure. What you wrote is so true. You are a winner, failure usually takes people away from believing this. One of the best posts I have read since I began blogging in 2011.

  20. Add: I keep meaning to ask you how do I put a picture where your globe is? I have this tech stuff slow learning curve.

  21. Gravitar.com – it will follow you to other sites.

  22. Yes yes yes.

    I’m turning 35 this year and it’s amazing how life just keeps getting more and more interesting and rewarding and beautiful every day. My husband and I are very much looking forward to hearing your speak in Washington, DC.

    Two of my favorite lessons learned:
    – Recognize that Love appears in all shapes and sizes and is not something to be avoided. Embrace it and see what happens.

    – It’s okay to be picky about your friends. Surround yourself with smart, bright, creative, kind people. Life is too short to be surrounded by negativity, cruelty, and those who find life boring.

  23. “Balanced people don’t change the world.” That’s a fascinating statement and somewhat of a relief to hear.:) I do think passion makes meaningful changes and passion is hard to temper or balance with everyday tasks. We do our best but passion captures our focus and outweighs what we see as less critical.

    I also love your advice to not ask to be noticed but DO something to get noticed. Right – oh. Something I am working on.

  24. Action brings answers. Just doing something often gives me the answers I need and have tried (and failed) to figure out logically in my brain.

  25. Amazing. Love your style.
    For me the most important: Love the process.
    Greetings from Arcidosso – Italy :)

  26. Amazing list.. I am surprised you hadn’t mentioned to trust your inspiration! That’s been a key for me.. Learning to listen to it, trust it then finally act upon it. That plus the 34 other things mentioned above, life is guaranteed to be full!

  27. Great stuff! I’ve shared it with all. It’s always refreshing to be reminded of the basics. Much thanks for the inspiration.

  28. I’ve learned (and continue to learn) that people will be friendly if you let them. If you choose to see the good in them, you’ll find it.

  29. Excellent post! I loved it. Very wise indeed. My favorite is to “live with urgency.” I’m working on a number of projects with a Holocaust survivor named Leslie Schwartz, and I’m always amazed at how fast he gets things done; he does not put off anything from the smallest to the most important tasks. I think because of his age and his experiences he has developed this love for life and the ability to put oneself out there and make things happen. No excuses and no tomorrow. I noticed that same trait in WW II veterans I had interviewed years ago. If I asked them to do something, they got right to it. None of this laziness and easy going attitude about life my generation and those younger seem to have inherited. Check out my blog (listed above) if you want to read more about Leslie. Thanks for a great post. I will share this with all my students.

  30. Live In A Daily attitude of Gratitude….choose to see all the good in EVERY situation…..This is the biggest one I have had to learn the last 5 years.

  31. “Failure is overrated.

    People often paint failure as a glorious thing. “Embrace it!” Really? You are a winner. Choose to win.

    Sure, you’ll probably fail at some things. Whatever. Who cares? Success is better.”

    Someone finally said it! I hate failing. It happens, but success is much better.

  32. Pingback: Life Lessons and The Need To Travel (Muddy Monday) | Where's Pablo?

  33. I have learned some of these of the points in this post, through trial and error and each experience. I still have a lot to learn from this list, reading it, makes it that more easier to confront! Thanks for sharing.

    I realized one of biggest blocks for not having made the major leap (quitting my job, selling my belongings and traveling across South America) and following my true passion, is that I was hiding behind my fear (failure) by making excuses that made me look like a hero. ” I love my family and friends too much to just take off,” ” I want to be there as a role model for my nieces and nephews,” ” It is too late, I worked hard for everything I have…”. Truth is I was afraid! The day I confronted one of my worst fears (climbing a mountain in Mendoza), fear of heights, it was like a slap in the face! I realized that by saying it was “too late” I was accepting that I had become part of the furniture. NO WAY! I had too much to offer. As you described, I refused to let my fear decide for me. I still am afraid, but, now, it feeds me. It means that I am pushing myself to do something I never tried before. I used it as a sign to prepare and go for it!

  34. Excellent perspective. Might be my favorite of all your posts. Keep it up.

  35. Reducing the amount of negative input in my life is a 24/7 task, but it’s worth it.

    And no one understands me! But my children are very supportive. I need to branch out and follow my instincts. I bet that would lead me to people that understand.

    This is my favorite post of yours, so far, Chris.

  36. Chris! I love this list, but if I had to add one, it would be this:

    Feel EVERYTHING. I live in one of the busiest Cities in the world, where it’s constant and non-stop and people pop anxiety pills to get through basic feelings. I don’t pop pills, but I learned after my Dad died in 2009, and having spent several months later and weeks of daily crying, that I needed the days to just sit on a park bench, read my book, and cry. If the day warranted doing nothing, then I did nothing.

    Yes, time matters and is irreversible, but you can’t move forward unless you know where you are coming from mentally and emotionally. Balance may always remain elusive, but I’m definitely better for taking my days to just feel and using it to move forward.

  37. Essere positivi e lasciare alle spalle input negativi ci aiuta a vivere meglio noi stessi e sopratutto impariamo a sopportare gli altri a tutti un grazie e un benvenuto

  38. This advice is solid gold. This could be a short book in itself — thanks for sharing with everyone here. “Freely give, freely receive!”

  39. This article made my day. Thank you so much for sharing!

  40. April 9, 2012

    Matt Thomas

    I read this article in Morgan Freeman’s voice. I would recommend it.

  41. Ha ha – good call.

  42. Great points! Very insightful.

    I would add about Failure: don’t embrace it and think it’s the best thing since sliced bread, but at the same time don’t let it scare you.Don’t think it’s the end of the world and act out of fear to avoid it. Accept it. You will fail at times. C’est la vie. What makes you a winner is to keep going. To see if for what it is…an indicator to try something different.

    Thanks Chris!

  43. right on re: the failure thing. somehow “embrace failure” supplanted “be brave” in the lexicon. i’m glad you’re setting it straight.

  44. Great post! I love the urgency part. I’m 28, but all my life I feel this urgency and people around me don’t seem to get it. All they see is a person that is in a constant rush, stressed out with commitments and someone who spends too much energy and will eventually tire out. But, my belief that life is too short to just sit down and relax, when you are inspired to try so many things. However, I don’t blame those who want to live it calmly and quietly. Urgency – it’s the keyword! Live it up! Thanks Chris.

  45. April 9, 2012

    Sofia Garces

    Great list! Thank you for sharing.

    I’m 21 and just moved in with my boyfriend this month, completly agree with you on everything but the living fast hits close to home life is too short too second guess everything.

    And also never regret the past, what’s gone is gone!

    Already pledged to donate my birthday :P It’s a long way out still but I can’t wait!

  46. Pingback: Lessons in life and adventure

  47. great, thought-provoking reminders! and more than a little humbling – in my day job, I’m afraid I’m often in the position of saying no to people and things (although I try to make it about helping people find the way to say yes), and that’s got to change. I think my favorite one is “When getting started, just GET STARTED” (emphasis mine, because I need it).

  48. Here’s one of my little bits of wisdom: People will disappoint you…don’t let that stop you from trying.

    We live in a society of quotations…Never, ever quit (there are times when giving up is good)…Do what you love, the money will follow (B.S. you have to have some type of system for the money to follow) and dare to dream (dreams are good but action is better).

    I love your honest unfettered approach to life, Chris. Happy Birthday!
    The best is yet to come.

  49. April 9, 2012

    Ann Kurz

    Hi, Chris! It’s been a long time since I’ve read AONC. Today I decided to check my email, and there you were, with your wisdom and life lessons! Now that I am 65, and have recently had some health issues, I appreciate this urgency even more! Being out of the mainstream for several mos has taught me more about timing and patience than any other experience I have had to date.
    For your younger readers, I say…do not discount the experience of others, esp older folks, for they have been your age, but you have not been theirs! It will not hurt you to listen to their advice. You do not have to follow it, but listen all the same and learn from their experience–why else do we have them if not to share them with others?! No one person has all the answers, but maybe, collecting all our wisdom and experience, we may not have so many failures or questions! Happy trails!
    P.S. Surround yourself with people who make you laugh every day….

  50. Live life by these watchwords: Velocity, Execution and Focus!

    Happy Birthday Chris!

  51. Pingback: Something to Believe In | Jessica Sideways.com

  52. I will 78 on April 28. I have learned to enjoy every day. I enjoy my family and friends. I enjoy visits to the Oregon Coast. Also the Native American history of my family which is mixed with my Lakota and Chinook ancestors as well as French, English, and Scotland ancestry. I enjoy your inciteful words and have your book on non-conformity. I am glad I no longer accumulate stuff and don’t have that burden. My food intake is minimal and I feel better because too much and “my gut won’t like it”. My theme of life is ‘if it is to be, it is up to me’ and choice is a great balancing act. If you want to do something do it before you can’t. Chris has made travel his ambition plus all the writing…wonderful accomplishments. Thank you for the inspiration.

  53. An absolute keeper, Chris, loved it! Some of those speak to me directly, piercingly. Ouch.
    Thank you for sharing!

    I actually wrote about my own 35 lessons learnt in 2011 with the number one being that our thoughts create our reality. They influence our experiences much more than we might think and often we are not observant or picky enough with the thoughts we spend time thinking.

    Don’t believe everything you think.

    http://www.janaschuberth.com/35-lessons-learnt-in-2011

    J

  54. I think that I agree with “Balanced people don’t change the world” IF balance is seen as static. For me, balance is not a peaceful place of non-moving equilibrium. Rather balance is like a tight rope walker redistributing weight on his front foot, then left, then front, then leaning back, then forward etc. Balance is always dynamic.

    And if balance is dynamic, then I think that balanced people are the only ones that can sustainably impact the world.

  55. I love this, many of the concepts I’ve thought about and learnt myself. Other are new to me and will probably be a future learning. I wrote a post like this not long ago 31 Magical Life facts I Have Learnt So Far.

  56. I despise balance and in fact wrote a blog about it. Remember when you were on the seasaw in elementary school? Was it fun to be balanced with the person on the other side? No way. The best place to be was up in the air, half out of control, hair flying, screaming, “Mr. Brown, put me down”. That was living!

    And..experiential over material living any day…. It’s in my own manifesto.

    Great post Chris, thanks!!

  57. My favourites: ‘Balanced people don’t change the world’ and ‘If the outcome is certain, it’s not really a challenge’. What have I learned? Honestly, right now I’m not sure I’ve learned anything, in fact I think I’ve gone backwards from the freedom and joy and creativity I had when I was studying Arts at university and backpacking through Asia. That was a long time ago, and it’s time to find that joy and freedom and purpose again now. I think (I know) that I’ve fallen into the trap of doing that ‘safe’ thing. Paying the mortgage and working in jobs I don’t like instead of following adventure. What will I do? Take it step by step and find my way back to an authentic life. I’m more and more aware that I’ve been slumbering through my life, marking time, and it feels very, very uncomfortable. Time to wake up!

  58. I like what you said about being balanced. If I tried to do everything I was supposed to do each day to be balanced it would be 52 hour days with nothing really getting done.

  59. April 9, 2012

    Michael Kearns

    Thanks very much for what I found to be a very timely post.

    Last month I turned fifty and in the last six months I walked away from my job as an attorney, closing the firm I’d been building for nearly two decades. My job was important and basically involved daily knifefights with those you correctly identify as the Dept of No. Day in and day out, I was honored to help good people, but eventually, for the sake of my health, sanity and family, I said said enough is enough.

    In my twenty years of practicing law I did a lot of good for a lot of people, but took a very great numer of beatings along the way. Those beatings, fortunately, bred wisdom.

    I’ve never sat down to create a list like the one you’ve created, but I’m pretty certain that if I did, it would read a lot like your list. Your advice is, from my experience, dead on.

    My favorite piece of advice from your list, this month would have to be: “Avoid getting into a position where you’re unable to walk away.”

    I have no doubts about the path I’m taking today, but I wish I would have left sooner. In waiting as long as I did,I lost a lot of leverage given the collapse of the economy over the last four years. Taking the time to look ahead and to honestly read the tea leaves is, I think, something everyone should do on a regular basis.

    I would also add one other thought to your list. I’ve never regretted taking a chance on myself- no matter the outcome of any project.

  60. “what ever age you are, what have you learned?” I am 74 so this will take awhile. Thanks Chris for another great post.

  61. There is a lot more than 34 years of wisdom in this. Thanks for sharing with us and continuing to inspire new (better) ways to look at the world.

  62. April 9, 2012

    Scott Stevenson

    So many gods, so many creeds, So many paths that wind and wind, While just the art of being kind is all the sad world needs.
    Ella Wheeler Wilcox, poet (1850-1919)

  63. April 9, 2012

    Plant_Magic

    If you talk to the right person, the right way, you can get whatever you want.

  64. Of these things the one I have learned and applied most effectively is not worrying yet.

    Say the computer dies as I’m approaching a deadline. What DOESN”T work is finding someone to complain to, along the lines of “every time I have a deadline…” –they already know the universe is not fair. Instead: is it really dead? What if I try this? Or this? Oh, I know, I’ll try this. Usually something avails.

    By learning to stay calm in crisis, not focusing on blame but only on the appropriate triage, I’ve saved thousands of chestnuts from the fire, so to speak. And I feel good about that.

    Other than that — well, still got lots to learn.

  65. Our experiences is what makes our lives richer – not the accumulation of stuff. It’s also the only thing we take with us when we end this journey and begin the next…

  66. I always thought balance in life was necessary. But if you want to make a dent in this universe, the scale needs to be tipped on one side versus the other. In this case, the side to make things happen!

  67. Chris: I took you up on your offer and wrote my own 34 Things post. (Should’ve been 50 as I’m 16 years older!!) Hope you like it. Below is the link. My blog is EncouragementToGo…encouragement for women on the go.

  68. Pingback: The Art of Non-Conformity « The Big Think

  69. I am 34 as well. I think what I have learned is that confidence is key. I will not always know the answer but I am confident that I will be able to figure it out whatever it is.

    Thanks for an awesome article!

  70. Pingback: 34 THINGS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT LIFE AND PEOPLE | Tough Love Self Help

  71. What have I learned? The most important thing is:

    The healthier you are, the more you will do, regardless if it relies on your physical looks/health. When you have mental clarity and good energy flow through your body without obstructions and disease, then you will naturally feel good, have energy to move forward, and have the self esteem to push through.

  72. This is really great stuff. My favorite part is when you say if starting in 30 days makes you uncomfortable start in 3. I spent a lot of the last few years “thinking” about starting something and only lately have i realized that the powers isnt in finding the perfect idea but rather taking action. Great post. I really enjoyed it.

  73. “Life is short, I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” I don’t know who said this but they are definitely words to live by. Another one I find myself thinking about is, “don’t waste your steps”.

    Awesome post! You are very wise for 34, grasshopper!

  74. I’m 38 and I’ve learned that love knows no borders and that many meetings we encounter teach us something important about life and about ourselves.

    I enjoy and applaud your 34 points, many of them I still have to work on. :-)

  75. Pingback: Get out of your funk! » Michelle Kim Photography

  76. April 10, 2012

    Nicholas

    “There is always a third option”

    Often people try to present the world as a series of binary decisions – left/right, up/down, stay/leave, right/wrong, etc.

    When faced with only two options people can generally make a quick jump to a conclusion and then the matter is settled. The problem is that sometimes neither of the options are the right one and we’ve been blinded into thinking that they are the only ones.

    Whenever I am faced with only two options I always try to step back and find a third one to compare them with. Life is complicated and deep – if you can’t find a third option then you’re not looking in the right way.

  77. From all 34 I just realized I got a lot of improvement to do in almost half of them. Thanks for the eye opener… oh and looking forward to see you here in Denver for The $100 Startup!

  78. Pingback: The Week on the WWW, April 11 – My World Discovered

  79. What I’ve learned is there are times when you’re following your passion but you feel uncomfortable, out of balance, overwhelmed, and you ask yourself, “Is this really what I wanted?” That’s when you’re growing. It’s painful to reach your so called “destination of choice.”

  80. Pingback: 34 Life Lessons I’ve Learned in 34 years of Living

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  82. April 11, 2012

    balzacbee

    After your death, try not to leave just bones and regrets.

  83. Thanks for this list, Chris. Every time I need some hustle/encouragement, or a kick in the pants, I find it here. Doing what we want/dream of isn’t easy, but we have to keep on keepin’ on. Life is too short to do otherwise!

  84. I’ve used your deadline advice for my blog and book writing, and it works. If you don’t regulate yourself, you’re leaving it up to others, and that’s giving away your power.

  85. Great piece Chris, thank you for sharing. Here’s a great piece of pithy business advice I was told: “Never buy a straw hat in the summer”. If you if you are spending money on anything: clothes, travel a house, buy when demand is low. Go out of season. Wait till the market is at it’s worse and you’ll get value. Let everyone else pay top dollar so you don’t have to.

  86. Pingback: 37 things I’ve learned in 10 years of being an artist « Bent Tuba Studio

  87. Epic post Chris. Amazing how small grains of experience turn into a sizeable pile of wisdom after four years. There is more useful actionable info here than in a fancy $28 hardback self-help book. Keep on doing it man!

    All the best
    ~Sage

  88. This is a great list. Thank you. I especially like “Get Over It” and “Reduce Negative Impacts”. Just these two tips alone could propel me over nearly every hurdle.

  89. It’s not what you have that matters, it’s what you do that matters.

    Should I (ask this girl out/marry her/similar questions)?
    If you have to ask, the answer is “no”.

    The last one is not from me – it’s from Ken Rockwell.

  90. Pingback: 26 Things I’ve Learned So Far – The Wisdom of Gen Y « by.dana.sitar

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