10 Things To Know Before Turning 40
The year is drawing to a close and so is my youth as I turn 40 tomorrow. Here are my top 10 lessons from the last 40 years:
1. Plan to Fail
This is by far the most important thing I have learned in my life. It may seem counterintuitive and most personal development advice is all about visualising and planning to be successful. But the biggest reason people fail is they don’t expect to.
Imagine you start a new diet and exercise plan in the new year. Things are going well, the holiday pounds are coming off, you look and feel great and your energy levels are through the roof. Then, one day, you have a late night meal and wake up the next day feeling fat, bloated and a failure. You may skip the gym that day and generally feel down about yourself.
This is a crucial moment at which you face a fork in the road. In this situation, most will say “fuck it” and give up. “The diet didn’t work”. “The gym isn’t for me etc”.
Life is full of setbacks. The people who succeed know setbacks are coming and expect them. When you fail to stick to your diet, live up to your principles or hit your targets, the trick is to acknowledge the setback and get back on the horse as soon as possible. Failure is part of the process - you can’t avoid it, you can only prepare for it.
2. “If You Feel Like There’s No Way Out It Means You Don’t Like the Obvious Way Out” - My Dad
If you find yourself in a situation where it seems like there’s nothing you can do, all it means is that you’ve run out of options you like. But life isn’t about doing things you like - sometimes you have to do things that you don’t like. Whether it’s asking for advice, accepting that things don’t always work out or having to put more effort in, the solution to “impossible” problems almost always exists. It’s just outside your comfort zone. And…
3. Comfort is Overrated
Whether you want material success, spiritual fulfilment or anything in between, the process of getting there won’t always be comfortable. If you could get everything you have by being comfortable, you’d already have everything you want.
You can have what you want or you can be comfortable. That’s the choice. Sorry.
4. Everyone (Including You) is Doing Their Best But That’s No Excuse
The most dangerous people in history were motivated by the desire to do good as they understood it. That isn’t to say there aren’t evil people in the world but those who are just evil or psychopathic are usually unable to motivate enough others to join them to cause real large-scale harm. Hitler, Stalin, Mao were all trying to improve their societies and were able to persuade others to implement their plans. Hitler didn’t think murdering millions of people was evil - he thought it was necessary to improve his country and the world. So did Stalin. So did Mao.
The fact that your or someone else’s intentions are good means something, but not a lot. What matters more is the results your actions produce. If your behaviour does not produce the outcomes you want, change it.
Likewise, do not give credence to other people’s ideas because they’re “trying to do good”. A lot of people who want to improve the world are just compensating for their own inadequacies and don’t care about the damage they do in the process.
5. “There Are No Solutions, Only Trade-Offs” - Thomas Sowell
Most people understand this instinctively in some situations while being completely oblivious to it in others.
If you want a nice car, there is a cost to pay. We all get that. But it is also true if you want a nice anything. If you want a beautiful wife or a successful husband, a great career or fulfilling friendships, all of these things come with a cost. Being rich and famous seems desirable (and there are many ways in which it is) but it comes with costs that most people never think about. The same is true of anything. When you’re making decisions, always think of the trade-offs.
6. Skills > Qualifications
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