29 Things Learned in 29 Years


It’s my birthday today. And I tend to get very reflective this time of year, every year.

I don't know if birthdays do this to everyone or if I'm particularly susceptible because as I get ready to turn a year older we're all collectively turning the page on a new calendar year, too.

This year was no exception. With that in mind, I wanted to quickly share some of the best things I've learned from 29 years of good living.

Some of these are simple, maybe obvious; others feel rather profound. I hope you find something on this list that resonates with you or helps you consider something completely new you'd never thought about before.

1. Don’t wait for permission to do what you want.
Sometimes you get lucky and people give you a chance. But you'll waste a lot of time and energy if you sit back and hope for that rather than just reaching out and going for it.

2. Time is your most valuable asset -- but money is still important and has a place in life.
Money provides leverage and options. But you can always make more money; you can't make more time.

3. Take nothing personally.
Nothing anyone else does is about you; they act based on how they feel and interpret the world (of course, that's a two-way street: how you react to others is about you, not them).

4. Let go.
Practice the art of non-attachment.

5. Take responsibility for yourself.
To do so is to claim your power and agency in your life.

6. There’s no need to make things Right/Wrong.
Thinking in terms of "what works" and "what doesn't work" is a much more effective mindset than labeling things as right or wrong. 

7. Be present.
Ultimately, the only thing that is real is what's happening right now. That might sound a little "out there," but think about it: you can't go back to the past and you can't know the future. Reality is now.

8. Everything changes.
Even you. And that's okay.

9. The only failure is to never try.
So get out there and do the thing. All the things.

10. Everyone operates at the level of their own consciousness and awareness.
You may be more conscious, or more aware, than someone else -- but that doesn't mean that other person is not trying their best.

11. Dare greatly and embrace vulnerability.
A la Brene Brown.

12. You can’t be fearless.
…but as Elizabeth Gilbert explains, you can tell fear to get out of the driver's seat. It can come along for the ride but it sits in the back and it never gets to decide where you go.

13. There is a difference between what happens in life, and how we interpret what happens.
You get to choose how you react and perceive the world. (I like to remind myself of this by thinking of the Whose Line Is It Anyway catchphrase: "Everything's made up and the points don't matter!")

14. Do, then be.
Most of the time we think we need to BE before we can DO. But it works the other way around: you act, and then you are. (Want to be confident? Ask yourself what would a confident person do in your situation. Then do that thing -- and then you will feel confident. You will be confident.)

15. You already have everything you need right within you.
You don't need to change; you need to get grounded in who you are and then feel free to be that person. 

16. Take action.
Ideas mean nothing without implementation. 

17. Don’t overplan.
On a similar note, the more you think and plan and talk about something... the less likely you are to do it. Do the thing first. You'll figure out "how" as you go.

18. The unknown is where magic happens.
There are no promises when you walk into the unknown, of course, but there are endless possibilities. 

19. There is no finish line.
You’ll never be “done,” although you'll always finding yourself thinking you just turned into the person you were always meant to be. That's human nature. As Dan Gilbert puts it, "human beings are constant works in progress who mistakenly believe their finished."

20. Find your voice and use it.
Not everyone will like it -- and that's perfectly okay. There are far more people out there who need what you have to say. You do them a disservice by keeping quiet because you don't want to be disliked.

21. “Go outside. Remain.” - Nick Offerman
If you feel stuck or unhappy or down or stressed, stop what you're doing and go outside. Take a walk. You'll feel better.

22. Guilt is a useless emotion.
Forgive yourself for whatever you're hanging on to; it does you no good to hold trials and judge yourself harshly for past events over and over and over again.

23. Tune in to recurring negative situations.
That being said, pay attention to negative situations that seem to keep happening -- and you find you're the common denominator in all of them. That might be a clue to lean in and spot a self-destructive pattern (and then put a stop to it).

24. If you want a friend, be a friend.
Reach out to people (and remember that everyone wants to feel loved and connected to others, just like you do).

25. Tomorrow is never promised or guaranteed...
but it's pretty likely to happen. That's why it's important to strike a balance between enjoying life right now as you plan responsibly for tomorrow.

26. Be less certain about your own knowledge.
Challenge your own beliefs. If you struggle to do this, do as Annie Duke suggests and "think in bets."

27. Practice making intentional decisions.
Ultimately, you can choose whatever you want -- but make sure you're choosing based off what YOU want and what's right for YOU, not what you think you should do or what someone else said would be a good idea.

28. Create. Measure. Iterate.
Sometimes, you need to act based on the information you have now -- and then adjust as you go. As my friend Shannon Insler puts it, "create, measure, iterate." In other words, do the thing or make your choice. Identify what worked and what didn't. Then adjust from there and go again.

29. Happiness is a choice.
Make that choice, daily if necessary. Choose joy.

I've learned a lot of good stuff in 29 years. I can't wait to see what the last little bit of my 20s teaches me to add to this list next year.

Other EssaysKali Roberge