“Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.”
Paulo Coelho, (Author; The Alchemist)
“Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”
Bruce Lee (Actor and Founder; Jeet Kune Do)
“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”
Randy Pausch (Professor and Author; The Last Lecture)
Good advice can take years to mature.
The line to get into the Musée d’Orsay in Paris was 300 people deep and wrapped around the entire building. I’m not a big museum guy but I heard this one was better than the Louvre. Plus it had a Vincent Van Gogh exhibit with that self-portrait he did right after cutting off his ear. Usually when there’s a long line for something like boarding a plane I just pretend like I’m confused or lost and walk up to the front and slip in front of everyone. That wasn’t going to work here.
I hate long lines. With a passion. Almost as much as I hate guided tours. There’s something about being herded around like a cow that I just don’t like. So I decided to ditch the Van Gogh exhibit. Just like I ditched waiting in line to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. But then I remembered something one of my wrestling coaches said to me back in high school: “If one door is blocked, try another.” My coach was referring how I missed the cutoff for going to the National Wrestling Championships by one point. I thought my season was over until we sent a petition to the tournament officials. The petition was granted and I was able to compete.
If One Door Is Blocked, Try Another
There had to be another way to get into this museum. I circled behind the building past where the line finally ended and saw a guy swipe an ID card and walk into an unmarked door. I ran up and caught the door before it closed and burst into a small room full of security guards and museum officials. Someone to my right yelled at me in French and when I looked over I saw three administrative-type people sitting in a row and frowning at me. I walked up and started smiling and begging in my best broken French.
The admins started laughing and pointing at me and shaking their heads. I stood there with a dumb look on my face until one of them pulled out a temporary ID card and put a sticker on it and pointed to an entrance. I had no idea what just happened but I rushed into the museum before they changed their mind. I started walking through the museum pretending to know how to appreciate art when I saw the Van Gogh exhibit. I couldn’t believe it–there was another line! I started doing my act-confused-and-slip-in-front-of-everyone bit when an official grabbed me and pulled me into the exhibit. He said, “Thank you” and let me go. What just happened?
I walked around the exhibit and took pictures and then went to the next exhibit where the same thing happened. An official grabbed me and pulled me into the showroom past everyone in line. I looked down at the sticker on the ID card and Googled the words on it. Valid access–authorization current only. That’s what the sticker said. I found out later that it was the same pass that the museum gave art critics. I spent the rest of the afternoon skipping every line and going into restricted areas like some kind of magician. After I left the museum, I put the sticker in the back of my passport to remind me to always try another door.
25 Things To Know By 30
I just turned 33 and couldn’t help but think back to all the great advice I’ve gotten in my life so far. Good advice usually appears out of nowhere and when you least expect it. You’ll just be living life when all of the sudden someone random person will drop a line on you that sticks. It might not stick at first but sooner or later it clicks and makes sense and you start to see how it applies to lots of different situations. Here are 25 sticky pieces of advice everyone should know by the time they’re 30 years old:
1. Other people have good ideas too.
A professor in college told me this during his office hours and my mouth dropped. I had never considered the fact that other people had good ideas too. I mean I knew that other people had good ideas but I always saw my ideas in competition with other people’s ideas. This piece of advice changed my thinking and now I spend a lot more time listening to the ideas of others instead of just waiting for my turn to try to ram my ideas down their throats.
2. Don’t act like a fly that keeps slamming itself against a window over and over again.
My college wrestling coach said this to me one day in practice because he was trying to get me to be less one-dimensional in my wrestling matches. I would usually just do the same one or two moves over and over again until the other guy got tired enough to beat. This piece of advice changed my mindset from just trying to find ways to work harder to trying to find ways to work harder and smarter.
3. Some people can have all the evidence in the world but they still need the confession.
I was really angry when a friend told me this one day. I was trying prove to my girlfriend at the time that she was wrong about something. I had a ton of evidence and all the laws of logic on my side but she wouldn’t confess to being wrong. It was driving me insane. This piece of advice helped me understand that any time I spend trying to hold up a mirror to show someone they’re wrong is a complete waste of time because no one plays a villain in their own life.
4. It’s better to have 100 friends than 100 dollars.
My best friend told me this just about every week my senior year of college and I thought he was nuts. Now I realize that your network is a large part of your net worth. The only way to scale, grow, and see more and more opportunities both personally and professionally is to build a larger and larger network of like-minded people around you.
5. People listen more when you talk less.
I joined a Toastmasters club my last year of graduate school to work on my speaking skills and one of the leaders there told me that people would listen more to me if I talked less and paused more. When it comes to public speaking or really any kind of communication, silence is a powerful tool. Silence makes people pay attention and can help you deliver your message much more effectively.
6. Everyone overestimates what they can do in a short amount of time but underestimates what they can do in a long amount of time.
I think I read this in a book during my third or fourth year of graduate school and it changed my perspective immediately. There have been so many times in my life when I’ve wanted to have a breakthrough or drastically change my life overnight only to be disappointed by how little progress I could make in a short amount of time. But when I look back a few years I’m always surprised by how different my life is now versus then. Great changes happen through consistent daily efforts that don’t seem like much over the course of days or weeks but really add up over the course of a year or more.
7. Stop crying, it’s just blood.
My Dad said this to me when I was five years old and I never forgot it because I really was crying just at the sight of a little blood on my knee, not because my knee really hurt. I think about this advice every time I’m faced with a big obstacle or task. First, I’ll feel a lot of pain at the sight of it, usually in the form of dread or fear or worry. But then I’ll tell myself that it’s just blood. It looks scary but once you get past that superficial impression the obstacle or task doesn’t really hurt.
8. Don’t stay with someone because you don’t want them to be with anyone else.
A friend told me this when I was debating on breaking up with a past girlfriend who was treating me badly. I was young and couldn’t bear the thought of her dating anyone else so I stayed in the relationship and took the abuse. Until I heard this. Then I broke up with her. I’ve continued to use this advice by always asking myself, “Do you really want to do this, or do you just want it because someone else wants it?”
9. You’re not the only ego in the room.
A couple of people I used to work with told me this a few years ago right before I was about to give a big presentation. I had positioned myself as kind of the hero of this presentation without thinking to make my audience feel like heroes too. I took the focus off of me and put it on the audience and, as a result, everyone loved the talk.
10. Sometimes quitting is the healthiest thing to do.
My senior year of college I tore my ACL and MCL in my knee during a wrestling match. I didn’t get surgery right away because doing so would end my season. Instead, I went through intensive rehab sessions for 6 weeks straight and then tried to wrestle again by wearing a huge metal knee brace. I made it through two matches before tearing everything again. This time I also damaged my meniscus and some articular cartilage. The doctor told me that if I tried to wrestle again without getting surgery I would permanently damage my knee and have to either wear a brace or sit in a wheel chair for a long time. That’s when I realized that sometimes quitting, at least temporarily, is the healthiest thing you can do.
11. Sit back and let your enemies expose themselves.
A friend told me this my last year of graduate school while I was in the middle of a big dispute with my academic advisor. I tend to the be the aggressive type that is always looking for ways to take action to get what I want. My friend suggested that, for once, I sit back and let my advisor attack and expose himself. It was good advice because my advisor ended up attacking me and making himself look foolish in the process, which helped me build a case against him to get my degree.
12. How much can you really know about yourself until you’ve worked in sales?
I had just started my first job after graduate school as an Application Scientist when a friend told me this and really made me think. I thought that getting a PhD and traveling and teaching were harder than anything I would ever do. Wrong. Selling is always the hardest thing to do. I used to have no respect for salespeople. I thought they were slimy and shifty and shady on and on. But now I realize that every single business in existence exists because of salespeople. And, everyone is in sales. One way or another, all jobs require you to either sell yourself or sell something else to survive. If you really want to see what you’re made of, get a job where you have to sell a certain number of products by the end of the year or get fired.
13. No profit is like a cancer; no cash flow is like a heart attack.
I went to a small conference last year that a friend organized and during one of his talks he said this line and it really opened my eyes. He meant that if your business is not making any profits for one reason or another, it will eventually kill your business. But, not right away. You can treat low or no profits by changing your margins or launching new projects or by doing a thousand other things. But, if your cash flow stops–if you stop bringing in money altogether–your business dies on the spot. No treatment. No hope. DOA.
14. Just because you’re in shape on the outside doesn’t mean you’re in shape on the inside.
A girl I dated in college told me this and I’ll never forgot it. It was my junior year after wrestling season and I was working out twice a day and partying hard every night. I was acting a little cocky one day flexing or dancing around or something when she said that my outsides look good but my insides were probably a mess. Just because you’re in shape or have a good BMI or can bench 400 pounds doesn’t mean your organs are healthy or your insides are functioning properly. Since then, I’ve decided to party less and to focus on my insides as much as my outsides.
15. You can always control how you handle a situation.
A few years ago I was diagnosed with a type of chronic kidney condition brought on by stress and inflammation. Even though my kidney function is great now I was really a mess about this diagnosis back then. The doctors told me that it could lead to death and basically scared the hell out of me. I got depressed and started acting really sad and pathetic. Everyone acted like they felt really bad for me and kept asking if I was okay. For some reason this just made me feel more pathetic. Then, I went to see an old friend and as soon as he saw me he slapped me on the back and said, “It looks like you’re going to have to do this without kidneys.” My entire perspective changed right away. I stopped acting like a victim and started acting like myself again. This made me realize that no matter what happens to me, I can always control how I handle it.
16. Everything you do after the first 5 hours of the day is crap.
One of my thesis committee advisors told me this in graduate school and I’ve followed it ever since. He was giving me advice on how I should write my thesis. He meant that after working for 5 hours straight on something difficult, your willpower will be so depleted that you shouldn’t waste your time trying to do any more work on it. A lot of studies show that this is absolutely true. Now, I spend the first 5 hours of the day on my most important creation tasks and save all my lower-level (in terms of mental strain) tasks for later in the day.
17. Surround yourself with people who have skills you don’t.
I hate details, rules, regulations, and all financial and process-type work. But some people love this kind of work. A friend recently told me that there are three kinds of workers: artists, entrepreneurs, and administrators, and that every business needs all three to be successful. Artists are the specialists (writers, programmers, performers), entrepreneurs are the risk-takers, and administrators are the organizers. Since hearing this, I’ve continued to surround myself with people who have skills I don’t, which has made every part of my personal and professional life better.
18. If somebody doesn’t like you just the way you are, show them the door.
I heard someone say this during a talk and it’s stuck with me ever since. I used to spend so much time trying to change the minds of a handful of people who didn’t like me. Now, I focus on the people who already like me and the billions of other people in the world who haven’t met me yet and probably will like me too.
19. Broken noses heal, broken seasons don’t.
A guy I was wrestling during one of my last matches in high school reared his arm back illegally and plowed his wrist into my face. My nose shattered and started bleeding instantly. The skin around my eyes darkened until they were completely black and I started to feel lightheaded. This happened right before the State Championship tournament, which meant I could either sit out and end my season or finish the season with a broken nose and have it fixed later. I decided to keep wrestling. A lot of things break in life, but sitting out won’t help. A better strategy is to replace the things that break or put them back together, later if necessary. Either way, keep moving forward because the one thing you can’t ever replace is your life. You only get one.
20. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
My parents used to always tell me this growing up. I didn’t understand what it meant until I was about 10 years old. It means a lot of people will try to fool you in life. And when they are successful the first time, it’s their fault because they’re being dishonest. But if they fool you a second, third, or fourth time, it’s your fault because you continued to trust them. Trust people until they give you a reason not to. This is a better way to live than never trusting anyone or trusting everyone no matter what they do to you.
21. Put a little data in your lab notebook every day.
A professor told me this in college one day and it continues to remind me to not only make a little progress each day but to record my progress. Growth is a prime human need and if you’re not measuring it, you’re not fulfilling it.
22. You’ll never get promoted by looking busy.
I used to work as a waiter in a four star resort and it was every waiter’s dream to work in the best section of this restaurant on a Saturday night because you could walk away with over $500 in tips. I finally got my chance one weekend and I was determined to make the most of it. I hustled as hard as I could, walking extra fast through the restaurant and demanding my food from the cooks and making sure my manager saw me giving it my all. Halfway through my shift, the manager walked up and told me to take a smaller section. I was stunned and confused. Later, one of the senior waiters told me that poise is more powerful than hustle. Never let them see you sweat. Sure, you have to work hard to get ahead but you should never show other people exactly how hard you work. They don’t want to see it. And it makes you look weak and out of control.
23. If you’re not excited by your message why should anyone else be?
In college, I had to give a talk on army ants for a 400-level entomology class. I can’t remember why I took the class but I remember being really excited about my talk because army ants were cool–they lived in giant bivowacs and marched across huge portions of Africa destroying everything in their path. I was excited but I thought that I shouldn’t show my excitement because I wanted the other students to take the talk seriously or something, or maybe I was just nervous. I’m not sure but afterward the teacher gave me this piece of advice and it’s changed the way I present ever since.
24. Liking the idea of something is not the same as actually liking it.
I really like the idea of going to live shows or of going to big events like Burning Man or wearing a suit every day and thundering away in a board room like Harvey Spector in Suits. But that’s just not me. I read a book recently that gave this piece of advice and it continues to resonate with me. Liking the idea of someone or something is very different than really liking that person or thing. The only way to be happy with yourself and your life is to learn to differentiate between what you wish you liked and what you really like.
25. People don’t think about you as much as you think about yourself.
One of my professors in graduate school told me this and I’ve played it in my head over a thousand times since. I don’t know why but it’s so easy to think that everyone else is thinking about my problems just as much as I’m thinking about my problems. But they’re not. They’re thinking about their problems. Whenever I take a moment to remind myself of this, I feel like a huge weight is being lifted off of me. Don’t let other people rent space in your head. Focus on where you’re going, not who is noticing.
What is the best piece of advice you were ever given? How did it help you?
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