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40 Years, 40 Lessons


I turn 40 today. It's a great milestone. Eight years ago I wrote a post called, 32 Years, 32 Lessons. Six years ago I wrote 68 life lessons in In 5 Years You'll Be Wrong. Late last year I wrote The 50 Best Things I've Ever Learned About Writing. That's 150 nuggets of wisdom (well, 150 nuggets of something) I thought worthwhile to share with the world.

Why stop at 150? Here's 40 more lessons I've learned along the way. Let's see if older leads to wiser. Enjoy.

On Relationships

1. If your partner does not know what you want in life, they can’t support you

2. If you don’t like the dirty dishes your partner left in the sink, clean them. It’s the fastest way to not be annoyed at the dirty dishes in the sink

3. Say less; If your partner says something that pisses you off, wait 20 minutes to respond. If you can’t wait, then say, “Tell me more”

4. Saying you’re sorry doesn’t mean you were wrong

5. Men in heterosexual relationships, the only way your relationship has a chance at succeeding is if you respect your girlfriend/wife

On Measurements

6. Teaspoons and grams are not compatible; One is a measure of volume, the other weight. That’s why recipes and nutritional info don’t talk to each other. The most important conversion you need to know in life is:

1 teaspoon of sugar weighs 4 grams.

So when you see something that “only” has 10 grams of sugar per serving, that’s 2.5 teaspoons (which is almost a tablespoon).

Here are some more important conversions to keep handy:

  • ~28 grams in an ounce

  • 16 ounces in a pound

  • 3 teaspoons in a tablespoon

  • 2 tablespoons in 1 fl oz

  • 4 tablespoons in a ¼ cup

  • ~4 cups in a liter

  • ~4 liters in a gallon

  • Fahrenheit = Double celsius, minus a few degrees, plus 32.

  • For every two drinks at the bar, drink one pint of water (that’s 2 cups, or 16 fluid ounces)

On Money

7. Money is a story. And it’s better to tell a story about money you’re happy with

8. Understand “compound interest” and “expense ratios” as soon as possible

Two examples of the above:

If you invested $1000/month for 40 years at 7% interest it will give you $2,660,000 on $480,000 invested. That 7% interest made your investment increase over five fold.

But there are fees on that. Let’s say my expense ratio is 1.5% and yours is 0.5%

  • I would end up with $1,760,000

  • You would end up with $2,300,000

I would have 25% (or $540,000) less than you. All for a measly 1% difference in fees. Research the fees on your 401k. Try to keep them below 1% total

On Habits

9. An undisciplined life gets filled with someone else’s priorities

10. Try to spend at least an hour in the morning with your phone/computer on airplane mode. And have a routine for your mind and your body, no matter how small, even if it’s one minute for each. Mine currently is: 6 minutes of morning pages, 12 minutes of meditation, 30 minutes of uninterrupted writing, 50 pushups

On Work

11. The things that they fire you for when you are young are the same things that they give lifetime achievement awards for when you’re old

12. Sometimes work is: getting paid to bite your tongue

13. If everyone you work with are “a bunch of idiots,” you’re the idiot

14. Everything you do is selling. Every email, every ask. Everything. Get good at telling a story and you’ll always be useful

15. Never ever max out your bandwidth. Do you drive your car at 7000 RPMS? If you don’t create space, no one will give it to you

16. Your job is not your job description; your job is to not get fired. There are many ways to provide enough value in order to do that. And the more value you provide, the more freedom of choice you create for yourself. That’s your job

On Exercise

17. Don’t think of it as “diet and exercise,” think about it as “eat and train”

18. When going for run, dress like it’s 20 degrees warmer than it is

19. Ten minutes of brisk walking is a way better exercise than spending ten minutes wondering if ten minutes of brisk walking is worth it

20. If it's less than 10 stories and you're carrying less than 10% your bodyweight, take the stairs as much as you can

On Travel

21. You go on vacation to relax yourself. You go on a trip to learn about the world. You go on an adventure to discover both.

22. On any bit of travel, you’ll remember your high point and the last thing you did. Don’t end on a downer.

23. Thoreau said, "We end up spending the best part of one’s life earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it.”

So take all of your vacation days. In fact, take extra. Take unpaid vacation if you can. You will never ever regret taking that extra week off from work. As soon as a vacation ends, put another one on your calendar, no matter how small

24. Pee one more time before getting on the plane, then over hydrate as soon as you get on it (in your aisle seat, of course)

25. Life, liberty and the pursuit of direct flights. A direct flight is worth $__ per hour over one with a layover. Figure out what goes in that blank for you

26. It’s ok to order the spaghetti bolognese off the menu in Asia; Sometimes you just need it

On Creating

27. Create to please yourself, no one else

28. Sometimes the point of writing things down in a notebook is to get them out of your head, not to use them again

On Life

29. Don’t ruminate on a problem your thoughts can’t solve on their own. Take 15 minutes and think through how you will handle something if it happens; after that move on.

30. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.

31. The quest for a single purpose has ruined many lives.

32. In order for art to imitate life, you have to have a life. The idea is to live wider, not longer

33. Say yes to less; your time is your only commodity.

34. Take playfulness, purposelessness and idleness just as serious as you take your work.

35. Your life will mostly be filled by an average Wednesday when no one is looking. Find joy in that.

36. One of the most challenging things in life is balancing the courage to explore and the commitment to stay

37. No matter how crappy the situation, find the laugh. That will be the key to getting through it

38. Honesty and kindness are not the same thing. Understanding when to deliver which one is a superpower

39. The upside and exhilaration of getting your groceries from your car in one trip is not worth the risk of a bag breaking.

40. The upside and exhilaration of executing a well-timed Irish goodbye is always worth it. Your friends will still love you in the morning. Get some sleep.

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© Bassam Tarazi 2020