29 things I learned in 29 years

I turned 29 recently.

Here are 29 things I’ve learned, using the words of others. You all know how much I love quotes :)

And really, what have we learned that someone much wiser than us hasn’t already articulated?

1. You understand your parents better as you get older

The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect, he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself, he becomes wise. – from Quora

2. Relationships are like cars

Women treat cars like men treat relationships. They think that as long as it works, they’re fine, but they don’t get the checkups, they don’t pump the tires, they don’t change the oil, and when it breaks down they’re like, what happened to my car?? Men are the same way with relationships, we just sorta assume it’s fine as long as it’s there and it’s working… – Adam Carolla

*I don’t remember the precise quote, and can’t find it online, so this is me paraphrasing. Also listen to Loveline, it’s great.

3. Travel now. Not later. Now

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
– T.S. Eliot

4. Long-term happiness is about sacrifice

The only thing that will make you happy is to set a goal, then kill yourself to achieve it. I have a theory that the elation you feel is directly proportional to the sacrifices you make. – Dr. Henry Nicholas

5. Never stop learning

活到老,学到老 (Literal English: live until you’re old, study until you’re old)

6. Make 5-year commitments

If you actually want results, make a 5-year commitment to a particular path, like building an online business, developing your social skills, becoming a world traveler, etc. A lesser commitment is largely pointless. – Steve Pavlina

*I feel the need to point out that I am horrible at this

7. It’s never too late

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today

8. Conquer fear and you’ll be unstoppable

Evict your inner wussy – David DeAngelo

9. No one’s perfect. Accept it and move on

The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for. – Bob Marley

10. Confidence is everything

You sound like a 17-year old guy who’s happy to get some pussy. I want you to sound like a 30-year old guy who likes to fuck. – D.O.C.

11. Re-think, re-do, and re-learn what’s important. And again. And again. And again

To make sure this goal was achieved, I created eight laws of learning, namely, explanation, demonstration, imitation, repetition, repetition, repetition, and repetition. – John Wooden

12. In startups and relationships, pick the right market

When a great team meets a lousy market, market wins.
When a lousy team meets a great market, market wins.
When a great team meets a great market, something special happens.
-Andy Rachleff

13. Kobe is funny

This is another example of the basic difference between [Shaq] and Kobe. Ask Shaq to do something and he’ll say: ‘No, I don’t want to do that.’ But after a little pouting, he will do it. Ask Kobe and he’ll say, ‘OK,’ and then he will do whatever he wants. – Phil Jackson

14. Buy less stuff

Consumerism is like a drug that [people] wanna get off but they don’t know how. – Linus Chung

15. Break the rules

Society tames the wolf into a dog. And man is the most domesticated animal of all. – Nietzsche

16. Hire and keep great people

The 2 hardest things you’ll have to do when running a company are recruiting and talking people out of leaving. – Marc Andreessen

17. It’s what you love

Charlie Kaufman: But she thought you were pathetic.
Donald Kaufman: That was her business, not mine. You are what you love, not what loves you.
(my favorite quote from Adaptation)

18. What the hell is water?

Two young fish are swimming along one day. As they do, they are passed by a wiser, older fish coming the other way. The wiser fish greets the two as he passes, saying, “Morning boys, how’s the water?” The other two continue to swim in silence for a little while, until the first one turns to the other and asks, “What the hell is water?” – David Foster Wallace

19. Own a word

The most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in the prospect’s mind. – 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

20. Don’t make exceptions

It’s easier to hold to your principles 100 percent of the time than it is to hold to them 98 percent of the time. – Clay Christensen

21. You’re eating fake wasabi

Real wasabi used in minority of Japanese restaurants, even in Japan. Most restaurant wasabi is actually a mixture of horseradish, Chinese mustard, and green food coloring. [source]

22. We’re wired to look at hot girls

Guys’ brains light up while looking at pics of hot girls in the same way that girls’ brains light up while in deep conversation – Dr. Drew

23. We know nothing

96% of all matter is hypothesized to be dark matter or dark energy. We only see/feel/detect 4%. [source]

Scientists estimate that we have discovered less than 20% of the species on Earth. [source]

24. Aliens exist

There are an estimated 100 billion planets in the Milky Way ALONE. [source]

25. Drink more coffee

In the 18th century, coffee houses were known as Penny Universities. Steven Johnson argues that coffee (and coffeehouses) fueled the Enlightenment. Before coffee, people drank alcohol throughout the day. [source]

26. Listen to your gut

We have a functional and complex neural network or ‘brain’ in the gut, called the enteric brain, and fear is mediated by this brain. The # of neurons in our gut is equivalent to that of a cat! [source]

27. Happiness = Reality – Expectations

I’ve also seen it written as “Happiness = Reality / Expectations”. Either way, keep your expectations low

28. What do you think about in the shower?

Summary: What you think about in the shower is the top idea on your mind. To be successful, what you’re working on should be what you’re thinking about in the shower. The 2 major distractions are money (i.e. fundraising) and disputes (eg, Newton was so distracted by his disputes with Linus that he stopped publishing altogether). – from PG’s The Top Idea In Your Mind

29. Write often and much

Having high school students focus on coherent, organized, analytical writing significantly improves school performance and knowledge retention. [source]

There you have it, folks. I’m hoping to review and add one each year. Would be cool to see when I turn 100 ;)

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.

9 thoughts on “29 things I learned in 29 years”

  1. Nice post! The post at 100 will be fun to read ;) Even seeing how you feel about these points next year or five years from now would be interesting. Especially enjoyed the reminder about Johnson’s argument around coffee fueling the Enlightenment. Seemingly so simple, but made me think. Thanks for sharing, Kevin.

    1. Yeah, I love Steven Johnson and authors like him who are able to take many disparate threads and make cohesive, retrospectively-intuitive arguments. Who really knows the truth, but like you said, it makes you think :)

  2. Awesome post! I recently learned the wasabi/horseradish thing too. It’s like almost all champagne isn’t really champagne :)

  3. Loved it, but don’t you mean the reverse…

    27. Happiness = Expectations – Reality

    Happiness = reality – expectations
    Keep expectations low to maximize happiness?

Thoughts? Questions?