What I’ve Learned So Far

Something changed when I turned 30. Actually, a bunch of things changed:

–My body breaks down more easily. Or as my friends joke, “my body’s 30 year warranty has expired”.

–My ability to rebound from a couple drinks the night before is non-existent.

–All of my friends started having babies (we start late out here in nyc).

But I think another change has overshadowed all the others. I now feel old enough to think that I’ve actually learned something in this crazy thing we call life.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far…

When a friend or family members is struggling, it’s not enough to say “I’m here for you, anything you need”. Because when you say that, you’re just giving them homework.  Pick anything useful, big or small, and just do it for them. Give them a random call to see how they’re doing. Write them an email telling them how much you care for them. Get pizza delivered to their house. Instead of a promise for future help, these small things show that you care right now.

Think with a purpose or intention. Without intention you’re just floating around and reacting to what’s happening around you. When you have a goal for the mind to reach, you will get there. Do the thing you want to be or become and your brain will fill in the details later.

Take full advantage of what you have. It’s easy to lose track of all the beautiful things in our lives because we get used to them. If you have a family, tell them you love them and spend time with them. If you have a job, kick ass at your job. If you have dinner on the table, savor the meal.

Traditions all start with a first time. Think about your favorite traditions from your childhood. Maybe it’s a family trip you’ve done every summer. Or an annual trip with your friends. Or a monthly dinner with your grandparents. It probably just feels like part of your normal life. But those traditions all had a first time and, more importantly, someone had to go out of their way to initiate them. Be the person who sparks the traditions you want to be a part of.  And while you’re at it tell the person who started your favorite tradition, “thanks!”. 

No one really knows what they’re doing. Seriously, everyone is just figuring it out as they go along. Your parents. The CEO of your company. Your friend with the cool job. They all second guess themselves, they all have insecurities, and they all don’t know what they want to be when they grow up. Keep this in mind when you’re looking at a goal and not sure how the heck you’ll ever get there. Remember that someone else figured it out without knowing what the hell they were doing.

You don’t have to go to an exotic location to travel. You likely live in a place that 2 billion people in this world would love to see. Actually, it’s probably more like 5 billion people. Try to bring the traveler mindset into wherever you happen to be. Even if you’re in the middle of nowhere or your boring hometown – find something cool about that place and go do it.

We get taught how to make money but we don’t get taught what to do with our money. And that’s the most important part of the equation. I’m not talking about how to setup an investment account or how to manage your 401k. I’m talking about what you’ll actually do with your money once you earn it. Money a tool and it’s important to learn how you want to put that tool into action. I think Tim O’Reilly said it best: “Money is like gasoline for your car. You don’t want to run out, but you don’t just want to do a tour of gas stations”

Remember specific details from your prior conversations. The next time you see that person, follow up on that story or offhand comment they told you. It shows people that they are special. No one does this so the bar is very low. Seriously, it blows minds.  I’m pretty bad at remembering conversation details so I’ll often jot down quick notes and give it a quick review before the next time I see the person.

The right decision at the wrong time is still the wrong decision. When evaluating your options, timing is a big part of the equation. Often times we make decisions harder than they need to be because the opportunity may have been perfect in the past or seems like it will be perfect in the future. But what about right now?

Your love is infinite. Don’t be stingy with your love. Think of a mother with 2 children. Or 8 children. Or 14 children. You would never question that mother’s ability to love every child with the same amount of force. Apply that principle to how you love your family, friends, and even people you’ve just met.  

Join the Conversation


  1. Dan, loved your post and am so glad to see you doing more public writing. A few thoughts:

    • To the point on friends/family struggling — totally agree, and you’re great at this! The random calls are so impactful. I remember every single one of them.
    • On purpose, 100% agree — I find that I move in and out of living with and without purpose. Some days I feel like I have a clear vision of what I want to accomplish and where I want to be; other days feel more routine or aimless. I guess the important thing, though, is that you’re always challenging yourself to be better, and asking that hard question “Did I live with purpose today? Did my behavior reflect my values?”
    • I think the piece on taking advantage of what you have — basically, gratitude — is supremely important. I find that our society today is an anxiety factory — it’s built to make you feel that you’re not enough. Great reminder to remember that everything you could ever need and want is exactly what you already have. This one also dovetails nicely with the “no one knows what they’re doing” philosophy. Within reason, no one’s any better than you or more qualified than you to accomplish at anything.
    • Traditions — yes! As I age, I find myself wanting to start more and more of these (and to continue the existing ones). We have a few great ones going together already so let’s keep making them happen! Another benefit here: having something to look forward to is a strong elixir for the mental/emotional doldrums.
    • Traveler mindset — I like to think of this as having a natural curiosity about the world. I also believe that it extends beyond places — to people and things, too. If you’re curious about everything, you’re never bored and you’re constantly learning. As a byproduct, you’ll also be seen as a genuine, passionate, and endearing person by showing such an interest in others.
    • “Bar is low” for relationships. Huge realization for me this year. Sometimes I’ll just scroll to the bottom of my text messages and write a note to someone I haven’t contacted in a year — “Hey man, how are you doing? What’s new with you and Susan?” When you see that person, half the time they’ll make a comment along the lines of “You are the best at keeping in touch with people.” That blows my mind! It takes 30 seconds. But as you said, the bar for effort and caring here is absurdly low.
    • As a corollary to this point, I think it’s important to trim your relationships as you add to and maintain them. Some people from prior points in your life are not the right ones for this point (or for future points). Going a step further, some people are just plain toxic. I’ve been trying to steer clear of the vain, the crude, or the addicted — people who don’t seem to embody positive values. They’re just going to drag you down and away from your goals.
    • Love is infinite — great point. Again, I feel like our society is not at all structured in a way to maximize love (We put our parents in stodgy old-age homes, for God’s sake). A little kindness goes such a long way — if you smile at an old woman on the street one morning, that interaction will warm her for the rest of the day. Why shouldn’t we behave like this constantly?

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