1. Follow your dreams
After 32 years of doing what I was “supposed” to do, this is the year I’m finally following my dreams. I’m jumping off the deep end and against all odds, I’m going to be betting on myself for once. I have been helping many people become wealthy by working for them. This year, my biggest life lesson is that I need to follow my dreams and make daily progress towards achieving my dreams. No more waking up in the morning to help make my CEO realize his dreams. It’s my turn!
2. Take a step back
This is a really hard lesson for me and one that scares me each and every day, but taking a step back to make a giant leap forward is a major lesson I’ve learned over the last 32 years. I was always taught that you have climb the ladder of success but no one ever told me that there are different ways to get to the top. I’ve been climbing up the same ladder for the last 10 years and I’m finally realizing that if I take a step down, I can jump on to a different ladder that will take me even higher! But taking that step down/back is hardly ever easy. I’m having to put a lot of egos and insecurities aside in order to make this move.
3. Be kind
There is just so much hate in the world. Everyone has an opinion about something and everyone thinks they are right about whatever it is they are defending. I’ve learned over the last 32 years that it is so important to be kind to others. When I lived in Missouri, I experienced kindness the most. Folks living in the Midwest radiate with this kindness that I never experienced until I left California. Now that I’m back in California, I long for the days where I can see kindness in my community again.
4. Have empathy
Everyone is going through something. Showing empathy towards others is something I learned that changed my life. I like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and genuinely try to help people out. In order to influence people, you need to show empathy and let others know that they can trust you and that you have their back. I’ve had so many bosses that showed no empathy whatsoever and I do not work for them anymore.
5. Build Relationships
Everything that I’ve learned up to this point can be summed up into one word: Relationships. Every interaction, business transaction, and communication is influenced by the relationship I have with the other person. During the pandemic, it became even more important to build that sense of community. I have had the opportunity to get closer to the people that are truly important in my life. I try to build relationships with everyone that I interact with. Try to get them on a personal level and show genuine interest in their lives. This is so important for me and I firmly believe we all need to improve our relationships with people.
Not everyone is going to agree with you all the time. People are entitled to their opinions and learning how to deal with differences has been a major life lesson. There are times when you get what you want and there are times when you do not. I try to at least reach a compromise when I hit a wall with someone. Giving up a little and the other person also giving up a little helps solidify relationships and it’s something that’s usually easier to do when people are kind and express empathy. But, far too often throughout my last 32 years, I have encountered folks that just won’t budge. I don’t understand why people are like this. So many great ideas that could have become something great if people just learned to cooperate and work together.
This has been on my mind lately. I quit a super stable defense job to join a startup. I joined because my work in defense just wasn’t having the impact I wanted to have. I wasn’t given any leadership opportunities and I thought that joining a smaller company would help that out. A few months into the new startup, I learned that my problem wasn’t that I wasn’t being given leadership opportunities, it’s that I wasn’t ready to lead. Since then, I’ve read a lot about what it takes to lead and now I think I’m ready. But in order to lead, you need to want it really bad. You need to have a driving passion and desire to lead because leading is different than managing.
Time is money as they say. Doing things for the sake of doing things is not good. I’ve learned that you need to sometimes stop for a second, take a look around and do something better. So many things in life can be optimized or improved. I see so many people doing things the way they’ve always done it because it’s just the way it is. I’ve been taught to always find ways to improve and to make things better. If you don’t like something, change it.
Related to optimization, I’ve learned the value of pivoting. Growing up, I was taught that you needed to stick to your word. I thought this was solid advice until I realized how silly this is in real life. Pivoting with facts and data is something that I learned post college. I’ve taken ownership of my career and my life because I learned how to make smart pivots. I’m about to make the biggest pivot of my life and I’m really glad I learned how to do this wisely.
10. Learn from your mistakes
I’ve made a lot of mistakes over the last 32 years. I once let someone borrow my 400 dollar bike and it was stolen for a few hours. I’ve made minor mistakes like picking the wrong instructor for a class or accidentally purchased the wrong thing. Every set back has been a learning opportunity for me. I will say, that after all the mistakes I’ve made, I rather learn from other people’s mistakes. Thankfully, no mistake I’ve ever done has cost me too much, but it still hurt each every time.
11. Try new things
I grew up eating the same food, living the same routine, day after day. I played it safe up until I went to college. There, I met unique individuals from all different backgrounds and I learned to try new things. I was always uncomfortable and I know that I missed out on many events simply because I didn’t want to try something new. I’ve had a lot of impostor syndrome most of my adult life and that too has prevented me from trying new things because of fear of failure. It wasn’t until just recently that I decided I wasn’t going to let fear get in the way of me trying out new things.
12. Explore new places
I grew up living in the same house for 25 years. I wasn’t allowed to cross major intersections alone. Because of this, I didn’t venture very far. In 2014, I made the boldest move and moved to St. Louis, MO. This was by far the scariest thing I had ever done. I lived there for a total of 31 months. While living there, I never ventured too far. Not exploring things has been one of my biggest regrets. And once this pandemic is over, I will start to see more of the world. There is so much adventure out there!
13. Save for generational wealth
This is something I just figured out recently. My parents were very poor and they lived paycheck to paycheck. My grandparents would often not even have food to eat. I was taught to save my money and live a frugal life. But beyond a savings account, I wasn’t ever taught that there were other ways to make your money work for you. I’ve changed this for me and my family. We want to leave wealth for my children and their children. We don’t want them to worry so much about making ends meet like my parents had to worry about every day of their lives.
Part of our generational wealth strategy is diversify our investments. We have 401k’s, stocks, coins, CD’s, and properties. We continue to monitor smart things to invest in and set aside money every month to make sure we are investing appropriately.
15. Find New Opportunities
Over the last 32 years, the best things that have come my way are because I go out and look for them. Some folks get lucky and they stumble on cool things, but for me, I’ve had to go out and look for every opportunity. If you don’t like how something is going for you, change it. If you think something isn’t fair, change it. Go forth and seek whatever it is that makes you happy. Don’t settle for anything less. Find those opportunities, no matter how many rejections you get. Opportunity is out there and it’s waiting for you.
16. Stay Healthy
Maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle is super critical. I’ve always been over weight, but not dangerously over weight that I can’t participate in life. I can run, jump, and keep up with my two hyper active boys. But getting fit is a major goal of mine and one that allows you to prolong your life. Having a longer life also means that you get more time on this Earth to do everything else that you want to do.
17. Find Love
I believe that we weren’t designed to be on this Earth to be alone. I learned early on to find love and have someone that you can share your experiences with. I got married at a super young age (21) and I don’t regret anything about it. Most of the drastic changes in my life have been made with my wife and kids at my side. Everything that I do is with their support and sometimes for their benefit. Go out and find someone that you can share your achievements with.
18. Seek advice
Find people that have done whatever it is you are trying to do before. Learn from their mistakes instead of you making mistakes. It is far cheaper to just avoid doing the things that will set you back. Seek help from others that have been in similar situations that you have been in. I was fortunate enough to work with folks that were almost double my age. I learned a lot from these folks and absorbed every bit of information and life lesson I could.
19. Forgive People
Life is short and there is no time to be mad at people. This is an extremely small world and you just never know when you might need someone. With that said, there are certain lines that shouldn’t be crossed and you should completely eliminate toxic people in your life. In general though, I tend to be more forgiving. Everyone makes mistakes and I tend to follow a three strikes rule before I completely remove people from my life.
20. Never Lie
I learned this since I was just a little boy but you should in general never lie. It adds complications to life that can easily be eliminated. Be honest with people and pivot given truthful data.
21. Serve People
Come from a place of service. Be there for others and help people out. If you do this, you’ll never have to “sell” anything for people. When you genuinely help people out, they’ll naturally want to return the favor. I learned to not expect anything back from people. I give to give and I mainly give my knowledge and time because this is the most valuable thing I have. I don’t expect people to ever return anything back, but it always feels amazing when someone reciprocates the service back to you.
22. Always be learning
We have instant access to all the information in the world. You should never settle with the knowledge you know. You should always be improving yourself because you just never know when you’ll need to know something new. Over the last few years, I’ve been able to make some major pivots because of new skills or information that I have obtained. There literally is no excuse for you to not learn something new. Your priorities just need to be on improving yourself as opposed to just wasting time on the internet.
23. Dealing with setbacks
This has been the hardest lesson for me. I’m trying a bunch of new things that I have never done before and every time those things go wrong, it crushes me. And things go wrong a lot more frequently now that I’m not playing it safe. I haven’t yet figured out how to overcome this emotion, but appreciating your setback and taking a step back to note what could have gone wrong is something I just started doing a few months ago. I can’t afford to get to realize my dreams if I just continue down the safe path that I’ve created. In order to grow exponentially, I have to try many different things that will most likely fail.
24. Dealing with stress
Everyone is stressed out. Everyone has a lot on their plate. You can’t use stress and anxiety as a way to procrastinate. Find a way to cope with your issues and know that everyone has them. This is all mental and you just need to work with yourself to figure this out. I know a lot of people that will pause progress because things get hard. It’s supposed to be hard otherwise anyone would do it. Don’t drop the ball at the 5 yard line. Find a way to push through.
25. Hit Refresh
This is something I learned back in 2016. Everyone once in a while, things get very hectic and you just need to hit refresh. You need to start over and go in a different direction. This is a more extreme version of a pivot because in my experience, hitting refresh usually means letting go of everything in the past and starting completely new. What I learned the most from my refresh was that it’s rewarding to start something completely new. You get a new opportunity at creating new relationships and new things to try out. What is scary about it is that you just don’t know what it’s going to be like. The grass isn’t always greener on the side.
Similar to always be learning, you need to innovate yourself consistently. Are you the person that you want to be today? If not, you need to change it. Don’t live your life full of regrets because you never learned something new or were to afraid to try something new. Change what you are doing and try something new.
I learned how important it is to have a close family. My family isn’t the closest and living through a pandemic has made it extra hard to stay close. One of the reasons why I returned to California was to be closer to family. But of all the people in the world, those that have let me down the most have been members of my family.
28. Extreme Ownership
Every interaction I have, I am the owner of. I take extreme ownership in everything in my life. I avoid blaming others because if something goes wrong, and something always goes wrong, it’s because I didn’t do enough to communicate.
Life comes at you fast and hard. I learned that in order to not completely fail, I need to stay organized. Whether this is for work or for personal matters, I like write things down and keep to-do lists. I set up calendar events and share important information with my wife so that we can stay on top of important things that we need to worry about.
This was a bit of a given, but I learned to save money from a very young age. I’ve gotten a lot smarter about this, but I’m really glad someone taught me to save money. One important lesson that I do want to share is from a college professor of mine. She taught me to live off of only one paycheck. That way, if one of us ever loses our job, we could still survive from that single check.
I’ve been thinking a lot about regret recently. I’m making some major life decisions and the biggest driver is that I don’t want to live my life full of regrets. I don’t want to grow old and wonder what it would have been like to have done things differently. Don’t live your life with regrets. Go get after your dreams and make things happen for you!
32. The Future
And finally, thinking about the future is constantly on my mind. You can’t predict the future, but you can prepare as much as possible. My life lesson here is to be looking ahead 2–5 years out. So many people live in the now that they fail to see what’s just in front of them. Then, when things go south you wont be in such a bind. I learned to try to look forward as much as possible to be proactive with my decision making.