29 life tips on my 29th birthday
No, I don’t feel older. But I do feel wiser.
Here are some things I’ve learned in these 29 years. Hope you find one of them valuable.
1) Learn the names of employees at restaurants you frequent.
Find great servers, build relationships with them, and ask for them every time. It makes them feel validated to have a regular who prefers them, you can tip them well, and you know you’ll always be taken care of.
Ask them about their life. No one does that. 99% of customers don’t even know their name or they forget it after a night.
I went to the Chipotle near my apartment one to three times per week for two years. There was this quiet dude who was always working. His name is Mike and he was taking on extra shifts to take care of his mother who was sick.
Every time I went in there, I said, “What’s up Mike! How are you man? How’s your mom doing?” He’d give me updates and then pile two enormous piles of steak onto my burrito bowl, free of charge.
All it takes is spending five seconds to treat someone like a human being for them to want to go out of their way for you.
2) Ask 3 questions before stating your opinion.
When someone says something you disagree with, hold off on your counterarguments and rebuttals. It’s more important to ensure you know exactly where they’re coming from and why they believe what they believe.
Steelman their argument. Articulate their opinion so that they’re pleased with your summary.
This has three useful effects:
- It makes them less combative and defensive.
- You avoid arguing with things they don’t believe.
- It slows things down and gives you time to decide whether or not you even want to pursue a disagreement.
A simple rule to build this habit is to force yourself to ask three clarifying questions before giving your thoughts. So you believe x because y?
3) In a group of friends, ask: “What impresses you most about every other person?”
When you’re hanging out with two to five people, this is a fun and wholesome game to play. Everyone takes a turn going from person to person and saying what they most admire about them.
No matter how close you are to these people, you’re bound to hear and say things you’ve never heard or said before.
Everyone feels more connected and heartwarming conversation ensues.
4) When you feel the urge to send an emotional text, wait 24 hours.
No one’s ever been told to “stay awake on it.” Get a night’s sleep and see if you want to send that same text tomorrow. You probably won’t.
I’ve saved myself from sending countless passive-aggressive or annoyed one-liners and paragraphs. These kinds of messages never lead to fruitful solutions. They never make the recipient go, “Oh you’re frustrated? I’m so sorry. Here’s why I was wrong and I’ll never do it again.”
All context is lost over text. If it’s that important and the feelings are still there the next day, call the person.
Don’t hit “send” when you’re in a state. That state will pass, but the message can’t be unsent.
5) Have your phone out of sight when watching movies or TV.
Two screens are too many. Just sit and enjoy the story.
Especially if you’re watching with someone else. It’s meant to be a shared experience.
Too much dopamine-searching weakens attention span and makes us less present. Do what you’re doing. If you’re watching a film, watch the damn film.
6) Know what success actually is.
What we think it is: Someone who is really good at something, doing things we could never figure out.
What it actually is: Someone who worked on something for years and years until we all see their polished results.
Just keep at your thing and eventually you’ll be amazing at it.
7) Buy expensive noise-canceling headphones.
Use them for work, to listen to music or podcasts while you cook, or just to quiet the world around you.
It’s one of the best purchases you can make. I suggest Bose.
8) If a book is bringing you zero value or entertainment, just put it down.
I used to have this rule that I had to finish every book I started. Slogging through boring pages was torture. All that rule did was take weeks (sometimes months) away from me reading something I might’ve actually enjoyed.
If it felt like a chore or a battle to get through the last three chapters, stop reading it. There are too many phenomenal books out there for you to be wasting your time on one that sucks to you.
You might hate a book but love it five years from now. But do your present self a favor and spend time diving into writing that fills you up.
9) Status is fun, but it’s a mirage.
Money. Clout. Reputation.
These things aren’t meaningless. I love making great money. I love building relationships with people who have wealth and power.
But these things will never complete us.
How many times do we have to hear rich and famous celebrities tell us being rich and famous does nothing for our happiness and fulfillment? Status can be fun but it will never be the final piece of the puzzle.
If your basic needs are met, if you’re healthy, and if you have loving relationships…and you’re still waiting on more status or success to be fulfilled, you will remain empty.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make more money or wanting a more interesting life. But real fulfillment comes from spending quality time with great friends and family, learning hard and rewarding skills, and being a grateful and healthy human being.
10) If you hate cooking, pick an easy and healthy meal to make every day.
It doesn’t have to be every day. Most days will do.
I love cooking…for other people. But when I’m home alone, I feel zero motivation to experiment or spend more than 20 minutes preparing a meal for myself. I just don’t care.
So, rather than wishing for more invisible willpower, I just choose a simple and nutritious meal I could make basically every day.
For a while, it was scrambled eggs with black beans and salsa. Protein. Carbs. Tasty.
Sometimes I’d use peri sauce instead of salsa. Sometimes I’d cook sausage instead of beans. Make it flexible and repeatable. This removes the headache of figuring out what to eat for at least one meal per day.
11) Frequently ask, “If I knew I’d die 10 years from now, how would I be living my life differently?”
Then do those things.
12) Set up regular hangouts centered around activities.
An easy way to consistently spend quality time with people and get out of the house.
Love knitting, board games, or walking? Find a friend or a group of people who enjoy it too. Then pick a day to regularly meet with them and do that thing.
Some examples from my life:
Thursday morning swims with a bestie.
Tuesday night chess club.
Sunday rock climbing with the bros.
Biweekly phone calls with my friend living in Rwanda.
We expect our relationships to take care of themselves. Proactively scheduling things is a lovely and efficient way to ensure we actually tend to them.
13) Run errands without your phone.
When was the last time you left the house without your phone?
Next time you have stuff to do out and about, leave the black rectangle at home. You won’t be on-call. You’ll have no choice but to be present and engaged with your surroundings. You’re more likely to spark conversation with strangers.
Feel the peace that comes from spending an hour or two completely unreachable and offline. Nothing to compulsively check. Nothing to experience other than the world around you.
14) Write letters, not cards, as gifts.
Giving a $5 card with a sentence on it is such a common tradition and it has always seemed odd to me.
People do it for “the thought.” But there are so many other, more personal and meaningful ways, to express that sentiment. Namely, taking 5-10 minutes to write a letter.
Outline plainly what this person means to you, what you love and appreciate about them, and how they’ve helped you and made your life better. Then read it to them.
It doesn’t matter if this is on printer paper or on a notecard. It’ll mean so much more to them than a funny card with your signature on it. They’ll remember how it made them feel for years.
15) No one is thinking about you as much as you are.
From your perspective, you’re the main character in the movie. But for everyone else, you’re a supporting character at best and a background extra to most.
Stop obsessing over everything you do and say. Not a single person is thinking about you even 1/10th as much as you are. They’re just worried about being the main characters in their movies.
Go to the gym. Share your opinions. Apologize and improve when you make mistakes and get feedback.
Because no one cares as much as you do.
16) Take month-long breaks from booze and sugar.
Pick a month. I typically do January and October.
You’ll get excellent sleep, eat better, and have more energy and willpower.
Can’t do this? You might have a problem.
It’s crucial to prove to yourself you don’t need something like alcohol to have fun, be fun, or live an interesting life.
17) Keep a list of your friends’ goals.
What they’re working on. What they want most. Their latest wins.
Check in on them and see how these things are going. It takes minimal time on your end and they’ll feel seen and supported.
18) When you’re feeling stuck, answer these 3 questions:
- What do you want most right now?
- What’s in the way of that?
- What’s step 1?
19) No one has ever been rejected into a coma or black hole.
The fear of being rejected is 100x worse than actually being rejected.
Ask that person out. Give that sales pitch. Ask for help.
The absolute worst thing that can happen is they say no. Now you’ve gone from not having that thing to not having that thing. You’ve lost nothing.
20) They’re not texting you back because…
They don’t want to.
People who are excited to converse and engage with us will prove it by continuing to converse and engage with us.
Short texts. No response. Never calling back.
These don’t necessarily mean this person hates you. You’re just not a priority to them right now. That’s okay. It doesn’t make them bad people. It just means you shouldn’t keep exhausting yourself to keep the conversation alive.
The number of times in high school and college I kept texting a girl who clearly wasn’t interested in me…I thought, Maybe if I just send the right text, if I just send the perfect joke…she’ll want to get with me.
Never happened. People who want to talk to you will talk to you. If they put in zero effort, stop being needy and move on.
21) The 10/80/10 rule.
10% of people will dislike you no matter what.
10% of people will love you no matter what.
The other 80% will decide based on how skilled you are, how fun you are, and how delightful you are to talk to.
22) Be an ESPN sportscaster.
Bring up the accomplishments and highlights of your friends and partners. Hype them up. Show them off. Congratulate them in front of other people and on your own.
“Look at this! Let’s see that again! Isn’t that incredible?”
They may seem embarrassed but underneath that, they’ll feel super supported and respected.
23) Never set a secret expectation for someone.
If you want something from someone, tell them. No matter how overt or passive-aggressive you are, they can’t read your mind.
Quiet expectations are a one-way road to resentment, disappointment, and unspoken tension.
Be clear and direct about what you want.
24) Be on time.
It’s the easiest way to show respect for others and yourself. It also relieves the constant burden of feeling rushed and frantic.
Being the person who’s always late to things is a childish reputation to have.
25) Download ‘News Feed Eradicator.’
Hate scrolling on Facebook but don’t want to delete it?
Download this browser extension. It hides your Facebook news feed. No more being hypnotized by the algorithm.
26) Keep a list of your biggest insights.
Realizations, discoveries, mindset shifts. What have you changed your mind about lately?
It’s like finding old photos of who you were and what you were working on in the past.
27) Tell your friends “I love you.”
Especially guys. You’ll wish you said it more when you die.
28) Under 50 and don’t like what you look like shirtless? Prioritize exercise and diet.
It’ll only get harder. Now’s the time.
Hire a trainer. Get someone to help you figure out what to eat.
Give yourself more energy, confidence, and brain power by taking care of your body. If you were responsible for taking care of someone else’s body, would you fill it with sugar, simple carbs, and processed foods? Would you make sure that that body was never active?
Be kind to your future self and take care of your present self.
29) The quickest way to earn someone’s respect is to be able to take a joke.
There’s a difference between bullying and poking fun.
If someone is messing around with you, laugh. Join in on the joke.
This shows people you don’t take yourself so seriously and that you’re secure with yourself. I struggled to take jokes when I was younger because I was wildly insecure. Every jab felt like a missile.
Now, I make fun of myself more than anyone else. Life’s short. Be less serious and more silly. You’re no God.
Hope you enjoyed some of these. Hope you disagreed with some of them. Email me and let me know what you think.
See you next year for my 30th!