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  • Adrien Book

150 lessons I learned by 30 I wish I'd applied at 20

I turn 30 today. I got most of what I wanted out of my 20s. I got married. I drove a tank. I got a promotion. I drank a Manhattan in New York, a sangria in Barcelona, a Guinness in Dublin and a lager in Munich. I made "a lot" of money from my writing. I pet a camel. You get the gist.

Most importantly, I learnt a lot of really simple, dumb lessons that turn out to be valuable day in, day out. The below list is the result of a few years of painstakingly writing down the smartest things I’ve heard or read about how to live well as a young man in the 21st centuries. Some I apply Always. Others I’m working on applying Sometimes. But they’re all worth keeping in mind.

If you’re too lazy to go through 150 bullet points, here’s a poem by Kai Skye that I really like, which should give you idea of how a life may be well lived.

I want to do important work, I said. Then smile at people you meet, she said & play with dogs & tuck a blanket around someone who falls asleep. That’s not what I meant, I said. Of course you did, she said. You just had a smaller idea of important.

Forgive the sentimentalism. I’ve had whiskey.

  1. Be on time.

  2. Keep your word.

  3. Buy the orange properties in Monopoly.

  4. If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.

  5. All dogs are the best dog in the world. Pet that dog. Go on.

  6. Regulations are written in blood and erased by money.

  7. Don’t cling to a mistake because you spent a lot of time making it.

  8. If life shuts a door, open it again. It’s a door. That’s how they work.

  9. Don’t send nudes using non-encrypted platforms.

  10. Don’t underestimate the role of luck in life. Not all success is due to hard work, and not all poverty is due to laziness.

  11. The proper response to being told something you already know isn’t “I know.” It’s “You’re right.”

  12. When someone tells you you’ve hurt them, you don’t get to decide that you didn’t.

  13. When it comes to investing, boring is sexy.

  14. A gun is always loaded.

  15. In a crisis, all correlations go to 1.

  16. Love always takes work, but it should never take suffering.

  17. You don’t buy beer, you rent it.

  18. Don’t try to create and analyse at the same time — they’re different processes.

  19. Always sit at the bar — being on a first name basis with a good bartender is one of life’s rare pleasures.

  20. It’s perfectly fine to walk through someone’s scene — nobody owns the sidewalk.

  21. Leaving negative comments says more about you, the person who left the negative comment.

  22. Money won’t make you happy — but it’s more fun to cry in a BMW than on a bike.

  23. Compounding is the strongest force in the Universe — use it to your advantage in love, friendship and finance.

  24. Return to the mean is the second strongest force in the universe.

  25. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet. Abraham Lincoln said that.

  26. Punch up all you want — but never down.

  27. Never gloat — pride is not the antidote to shame, but its source.

  28. Invest in great luggage.

  29. Confidence is quiet, insecurities are loud.

  30. Don’t worry too much about controlling your emotions; control your actions instead.

  31. Always introduce people who are in a conversation or who you think may have something in common.

  32. If you offer to help, don’t quit until the job is done.

  33. Always RSVP “no” if you’re the slightest bit unsure. It’s so much easier to change your reply to a “yes” at the last minute than to try to come up with an excuse to cancel. And if you reply “yes,” you have to go.

  34. A good therapist is the best thing in the world. A bad therapist is worse than no therapist at all.

  35. Principles only mean something if you stick by them when they’re inconvenient.

  36. Don’t set yourself on fire to keep others warm.

  37. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

  38. Don’t fill up on bread, no matter how good.

  39. Giving money is good; giving time is often better.

  40. You are both more and less special than you think you are.

  41. Nobody is ever against you. Nobody will ever care enough about you to be against you. It’s an incredibly liberating realisation.

  42. Sympathy is a crutch; never fake a limp.

  43. It’s okay to go to the movies by yourself.

  44. Admitting you’re wrong isn’t a failure — it’s an opportunity.

  45. If you’re frustrated with someone, change the medium: call if you usually text, email if you usually talk…

  46. Forgive others not because they deserve forgiveness but because you deserve peace.

  47. Remember that owning a house and having a home are often two very different things.

  48. You only get one chance to notice a new haircut.

  49. Remember that your personal experiences make up 0.00000001% of what’s happened in the world but 80% of how you think the world works.

  50. Never call someone before 9am or after 9pm (exceptions may apply).

  51. Don’t post in the manner of an influencer if you’re not one.

  52. Be decisive. Right or wrong, make that decision. The roads of life are paved with flat squirrels that couldn’t commit to a lane.

  53. There are plenty of ways to enter a pool — the stairs are not one of them.

  54. Thank the bus driver.

  55. Know at least one good joke.

  56. Don’t linger in the doorway. In or out.

  57. Giving up is often the best choice there is. Too many people drag along projects with poor odds of success for far too long.

  58. Your goals are meant to honour you, not fix you.

  59. A handshake beats an autograph.

  60. Forgive yourself for your mistakes.

  61. Be mindful of what comes between you and the Earth. Always buy good shoes, tires and mattrasses.

  62. If you don’t do anything to stop a mistake from happening again, you can’t keep calling it a mistake.

  63. Don’t eat lunch alone or at your desk if you can avoid it.

  64. Don’t judge too quickly: we have a tendency to want the other person to be a finished product while we give ourselves the grace to evolve.

  65. Know the size of your partner’s clothes.

  66. You are what you do, not what you say.

  67. In order to get something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.

  68. Some occasions call for vodka. Others for tea. Know the difference.

  69. Don’t boo at sporting events.

  70. Don’t be the talker during movies.

  71. Make goals for the next 18 months AND for the next 10 years.

  72. Don’t follow your dream: people who say that are already rich.

  73. You’re never too old to need your Mom.

  74. Look people in the eye when toasting.

  75. Know how to cook at least one good meal and how to prepare at least one good cocktail.

  76. If you’ve made your point, stop talking.

  77. If you’ve met someone and they clearly don’t remember your name, say, “Hi, we’ve met, I’m X.”

  78. Get up. Dress up. Show up. That’s always a good start.

  79. When giving a thank you speech, short and sweet is best.

  80. Try to get rejected at least once a week. You’ll never believe all the cool places you’ll end up getting into.

  81. If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company — you have to like yourself for others to like you.

  82. Hope for the best. Plan for the worse.

  83. It’s okay to ask how to say someone’s name.

  84. Try most things once, but not everything.

  85. Humility, graciousness, intelligence, and empathy tend to generate more respect than bottle service at the club.

  86. The work in every relationship should be split 60/40, with both people trying to be the one giving 60%.

  87. When opening presents, no one likes a good guesser.

  88. The best way to show thanks is to wear it (even if it’s only once).

  89. Never get your haircut the day of a special event.

  90. The first step towards true greatness is wearing clean underwear.

  91. When you marry someone, remember you marry their entire family.

  92. Under no circumstances should you ever ask a woman if she is pregnant.

  93. You make choices, and your choices make you. It goes both ways.

  94. You only improve when you’re up against someone who’s better than you.

  95. Make time for your mother on your birthday — it’s a special day for her too.

  96. Gift randomly.

  97. Sometimes, the best way to solve your own problems is to help someone else.

  98. Always thank the host.

  99. Never lie to your doctor.

  100. Give credit. Take blame.

  101. When life gives you lemons, don’t just make lemonade. Sell it, too.

  102. Admit when you’re wrong.

  103. Whoever put the most work into planning the trip gets first dibs on the rooms.

  104. Know how to keep others’ secrets.

  105. Time spent with grandparents is time well spent.

  106. It’s never too late for an apology.

  107. Be the friend who makes a decisive call when everyone else is waffling about.

  108. Don’t use your safety net as a hammock.

  109. Be slow to anger and quick to forgiveness.

  110. Never answer the phone at the dinner table.

  111. If you’re staying more than one night, unpack.

  112. Lying is OK, but every lie you tell is a lie you have to keep track of.

  113. If you don’t understand, ask before it’s too late.

  114. Know how to use Excel at least as well as your boss.

  115. Be nice to kids and teenagers: reputations are built over a lifetime.

  116. You won’t always be the strongest, smartest or fastest. But you can be the hardest working.

  117. Your dance moves might not be the best, but I promise making a fool of yourself is more fun than sitting on a bench alone.

  118. The most important decision in your life is picking the mother/father of your children. Compatibility, shared values, friendship, trust, responsibility, character, etc. matter at least as much as love.

  119. Common values matter more than common interests.

  120. Vote in every election.

  121. 99% of people who got wealthy did it by betting ON something, not against something. Positivity wins.

  122. Don’t make decisions under the influence, be that drugs, alcohol or emotions.

  123. Always know the interests of the person you go to for advice. I do it for clicks.

  124. Only look in your neighbor’s bowl to make sure they have enough; not to see if you have as much as them.

  125. If you launch and no one notices, launch again.

  126. Top-shelf sunscreen for your face is worth it.

  127. Choose your industry wisely; better to be an OK surfer on a big wave than a great surfer in a bathtub.

  128. When building a piece of IKEA furniture, don’t tighten all the screws to 100% right away. Start by tightening each one to 75%, and only bring them up to 100% once all the screws fit nicely together. This principle applies beyond furniture too.

  129. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

  130. Don’t ask “what if things don’t work out?”, ask “what if it does?”

  131. Be who you needed when you were younger.

  132. Have fun, otherwise it’s not worth it.

  133. If you like something, say so. It will make someone’s day.

  134. Social media only makes us feel better because we can shout into the void and the echo makes us feel like we’re being heard — avoid it.

  135. Never fry bacon naked.

  136. If you ghost someone, stay gone forever.

  137. To judge a book, open to a random page in the middle and see how you like it. I recommend page 87.

  138. Give up all hope of changing the past.

  139. You don’t find purpose, you create it.

  140. Never shake a man’s hand sitting down.

  141. If you need music on the beach, you’re missing the point.

  142. Never turn down a breath mint.

  143. Other people are not your content.

  144. While on a date, if you find you’re talking a lot, ask yourself, When was the last time I asked a question?

  145. Don’t post RIPs for celebrities. It’s weird.

  146. Nothing good happens after 2am. Go home.

  147. Hope. The work of this emotion requires people who throw themselves actively into what is becoming, to which they themselves belong. Try it.

  148. If you’re writing and feel the need to use an exclamation point, you subconsciously know your words aren’t vivid enough. Drop the exclamation point and rewrite the sentence.

  149. Kill your darlings.

  150. It takes extreme strength & courage to be consistently kind in a world that rewards selfishness. Make sure to thank people who demonstrate kindness: they are choosing the hard route to make the world a better place.

150 lessons I learned by 30 I wish I'd applied at 20

Good luck out there.


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