The premise of this article is simple. 30 years, 30 life lessons. (Note: After much protesting, I’ve added a 31st lesson. You’re welcome.)
The inspiration for writing these down comes mostly from Andrian Iliopoulos’ List of Maxims. I also like Mike Cernovich and Good Looking Loser’s versions, which you can find here:
- Good Looking Loser: Things I wish I knew in my early twenties
- Mike Cernovich: 37 thoughts on not wasting your twenties
1. Be true to yourself
Never be afraid of being disliked. If you live true to yourself, you look forward to rejection. As long as you are happy with the life you have, let people fall out of your life who want you to change or disapprove.
This doesn’t count if you’re putting your livelihood at risk by breaking the law or hurting people, but never let others make you feel bad for what you want, what you like or how you want to live. With that said…
2. Seek out mentors
If you are unsatisfied with any segment of your life, you are a fool if you don’t seek out mentors who have success in the area you wish to improve.
I’ve watched many guys remain losers because they refuse to cut their ego and ask more accomplished men how to improve their health, love life and finances. If you’re happy with your life, see lesson 1. If you aren’t, get help.
3. You can always get “good enough”
If you really like something but you aren’t good at it, you still have a good chance of getting in the top 20% of all people doing it if practice and get top rate instruction. Top 20% isn’t a bad place to be. At that point, you can probably make a little money with your skill.
It doesn’t matter how bad you initially are if you like doing it. You’ll be more likely to put in the work needed to at least become above average. Always have room in your life for a skill you really like doing but aren’t the best at.
4. Improvement is possible
Most people can improve their life. There are only a select few who can’t. All the people I’ve met that never do better and continually fail all had the following attributes: lack of humility, no self-awareness, inability to suffer and inability to take responsibility.
If you only have one of these traits, or even two, there is hope. If you think you’re always right (no humility), don’t know when you’re wrong to correct (no self-awareness), can’t do hard things for a long amount of time (inability to suffer) and always blame others (inability to take responsibility), you may as well be dead. Your life is worthless.
5. Self-discipline is King
Growing up poor means you miss out on some of the more entertaining aspects of life, but that isn’t the worst part. The real damage is if you grow up poor because your parents have no discipline.
The greatest damage children sustain is from growing up in a household where delayed gratification and personal discipline isn’t enforced.
6. Bros before hoes
Never ruin a friendship over a relationship. After a particularly horrible incident in my life, there is a rule I began to adhere to that I learned from pimps. If a girl left one pimp for another pimp, the new pimp did two things.
First, he made her give him all of her earnings for the night. Second, he went to the old pimp and told him what happened straight up. The actions forced the girl to be loyal and the pimps to settle things like gentleman.
The point isn’t to run your friendships and relationships the way pimps do. The point is to have a clear set of rules for handling exes that all involved understand. It’s one thing if you’re being unfair and inconsiderate. It’s a totally different problem if you’re breaking whatever code you have. In the old days, traitors and deserters were shot.
7. Don’t befriend other guys’ girls
In the same vein, there are few reasons to actually be friends with a friend’s romantic partner. No matter what type of sexual relationship they had, there is nothing to be gained by being a friend to both.
You can be friendly and get along when they bring them around, but there is no good reason (other than trying to score on the back end) to be legitimately friends with a friend’s lover.
Some people will argue, but no matter how cool you all are it creates a fundamental problem: conflict of interest. In a perfect world we’d all be happy, get along, and have the same interests and agendas. However, in the real world you have to pick sides.
8. There’s a female friend-zone
Men give attention to get sex. Women give sex to get attention. This is a gross over-simplification based on what each sexes highest priority is, but it is accurate enough to make some predictions.
It explains why more girls than guys believe that men and women can be “just friends”. It allows us to better understand the frustrations of each: men aim to avoid being “friend-zoned” (giving attention without sex in return) and women aim to avoid being “fuck-zoned” (giving sex without attention in return).
It allows us to define what a “hoe” is. For men, it’s a guy that gives his time up without regard to what he gets in return and for women its one that gives her sex up without regard to what she gets in return.
9. I don’t know what to call this lesson
I have only loved 3 women in my life. Despite being of different ages and backgrounds, they’ve all had remarkable similarities.
- High artistic talent (but not a professional artist)
- Almost never drank
- Strong father figure
- No tattoos
- Restrictive diets
- College degrees
- Only had sisters
It’s important to note that I was definitely not searching for a girlfriend when I met any of them (in fact, for two of them I was definitely trying to avoid a relationship). However, I fell for them. The point here is that I am ridiculously discerning. I don’t even like hanging out with girls. But these commonalities showed up in the 3 I fell for.
A wise man once remarked that these traits are all products of discipline and self-restraint. While different dudes are looking for different things at different times, I don’t think there is a man alive that is repulsed by anything on this list. There’s a lesson in there somewhere, for both men and women…
10. Travel more
The single biggest motivator in the world is travel. It’s one thing to read about a place online or see someone’s Instagram pictures. It’s a completely different experience to have drinks on the beach, even if it’s just an 8-hour drive to Wildwood, NJ.
How can you find the motivation to work hard when all you know is what’s around you and that environment isn’t very inspiring?
11. Make yourself as attractive as possible
Get as good looking as you can. Your life is so much easier when people think you’re attractive. Forget the obvious part of this equation where you get more dates and social opportunities. In general, people treat you better and are more responsive to you. It likely means that you’re in good health.
You’re more likely to get hired for jobs. You’ll be given opportunities that others are excluded from. Once upon a time, my roommates and I didn’t pick a person to sublet because, despite everything being good on paper, she looked like a total slob. Yes, people are that shallow. Rather than bitch and moan, use it to your advantage.
12. Forgiveness is important
The most important skill to develop is the ability to forgive. Holding grudges and being angry only hurts you. The other person can’t feel it. Only you carry that poison around. There’s a quote that sums it up best: “Holding on to grudges is like holding on to a ball of fire and expecting the other person to get burned.”
13. Learn to discern great friends from good friends
Good friends are the ones doing dumb shit with you. Great friends are the ones trying to get you to improve your life. Most people surround themselves with only good friends and resent great friends. Great friends surround themselves with other great people and it makes their greatness grow.
The problem with good friends is that you can have a good enough life with them. That’s cool if you’re happy with everything (see lesson 1), but if you want to change, very often it requires changing who you spend the most time around.
14. Not all friendships should last forever
On the subject of friends, you may have to cut old friends off. I haven’t had to do this much, but it’s happened. I didn’t make it a big deal. I simply stopped accepting their invitations and stopped going to see them. Eventually they got the hint.
I generally don’t recommend a passive approach to things, but there are times when subtleties are superior to overt tactics. Your personal judgement and experience will tell you which and when.
15. Don’t live under the shadow of your parents
If everything goes according to plan, your parents will die before you. Not only will they die before you, but they are going to leave you alone on this planet for quite a few years until you pass on.
This means that no matter what they want for you, it doesn’t really matter. You must live your life according to what you want because you’re the only one who will have to live through it.
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16. Happiness and money…
Happiness is having more than enough money to cover your living expenses and basic leisure. If people remembered this and nothing else, they’d relieve a huge chunk of stress in their life.
If you aren’t motivated to make a lot of money, then you can still have an enjoyable life by not incurring extra expenses and being disciplined. You’ll have limits, but successfully navigating them will keep your head above water.
17. Sometimes it’s better to be alone
If you can’t find people that you like to hang out with and you live in a reasonably populated area, be patient. No company is better than the wrong kind of company. If you are true to yourself, you will eventually make friends.
If you live in a sparsely populated area, you might have to move if being happy is important to you. Normally I’d say “see lesson 1” but this particular point is beyond negotiation. See lesson 18.
18. People are the most important thing
No matter how much money you make or how good a time you are having, if you don’t have people you like to share it with then it’s meaningless. It is a special kind of torture to be around people but not really feel connected with them.
19. The company people keep…
Want to know the character of a person? Look at the length and caliber of their friendships. Birds of a feather flock together (See lesson 13). The following is a general guideline rather than a hard rule: once a person is 18, take a person’s age and subtract 14.
Be worried if they don’t any friends longer than whatever you get. While this isn’t always a bad thing (significant life improvements often necessitate a new social circle), it is definitely something that you should think of.
20. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
That’s a cliché for a reason. If you take the extra bit of energy to fix a problem or address it the right way from the beginning, you will save yourself a great deal of headache down the line.
Paying bills on time keeps you from paying the bill later on top of the fines. Using condoms is cheaper than plan B. An abortion is cheaper than raising a child.
21. Debts and friendships
If you owe money to friends, pay it when you said you would or as soon as you have it; whichever comes first. If you have to choose between paying back a friend and paying back an institution, always pay the friend back first.
Friends are faster than banks and understand if things come up. Friends also know if you’re bullshitting and friends hate to be bullshitted. Aim for an 800 credit score with your friends and you’ll never suffer in times of need.
22. Buying and owning a car
I’ve owned 8 different cars. Here’s what I’ve learned:
- The more money you spend on a car upfront, the less money you spend on repairs. Keep this in mind when you go to buy a “beater”.
- As long as you get your oil changed every 3000 miles and pass inspection, your car shouldn’t have any serious surprise expenses.
- Buy your car outright if you can, but as per the first point of this lesson, it may be more cost effective (long term) to take on car payments.
- Unless you live in New York City, your dating life is going to be very expensive or non-existent without a car.
- With Uber and Lyft, there is no reason why anyone should ever get a DUI again.
23. Alcohol isn’t an excuse
Most people drink too much. If you’re going to piss people off, 24 is about the age where “I was drinking” becomes an inadequate excuse. You’re going to lose friends and the respect of people around you.
It doesn’t matter if they drink too. You’ll be “the guy that no one can drink around” and since most social events involve alcohol, you won’t be invited. You also won’t be invited because most people will think you’re an asshole.
24. On haters
There’s a lot of talk about haters. Here’s my honest to goodness experience. I preface this by saying that my life and results are not typical: If you discount people that you’ve actively wronged (intentionally or not), then most people don’t really care about you — for better or worse.
They may not like you enough to congratulate you (and if you consider them a friend, this is a different problem entirely), but they aren’t actively hoping for you to fail. They’re too busy making sure their own problems don’t eat them alive.
25. Luck = preparation + opportunity
Luck is when is when preparation meets opportunity. Another cliché but my goodness, is this one powerful. Based on my experiences in life, I think I have the formula for success and luck. Mind you, I’m not the first to put it this way, but I think my take on it can help someone.
Life is the sum of infinitely many opportunities. The only way to take advantage of these opportunities is by acquiring skills or being in the right position. Your life will make significant improvements if you increase your skill set and put yourself in positions where the skill set will be noticed. As another old cliché goes, the harder you work the luckier you get.
26. On God and religion
I have no idea if there is a higher power or not. After studying physics, I am 100% of the belief that the universe was intelligently designed. The concept of the afterlife does not violate what we know of the universe. Treating people with love and respect makes me feel better so I do it anyway.
For all intents and purposes, I carry the beliefs of a Christian or Catholic. Not only that, but I find that — all things considered equal — I tend to enjoy the company of people who have some religious beliefs rather than not. I think I understand why.
Ignore the rituals (church) and consider the following. It costs the same initial amount of energy to believe in a higher power that it does to not. The difference is that the believers get the benefits of believing while the atheist get the burden of explanation.
Believers live with a purpose, trust in a plan, and have a standard of behavior that inspires overt beneficial actions. Atheists are arrogant enough to believe that everything just appeared here and there is nothing greater than themselves. This is probably why atheist are usually people I have no interest in being around or becoming.
27. On pick-up and “game”
The single biggest mistake of my 20’s was focusing so much time and energy on game. The single greatest thing about my 20’s was focusing so much time and energy on game.
I have a love/hate relationship with game. Every dude NEEDS it today to have a shot at anything more than a mediocre love life. However, Game is not just about how to get laid. It’s about navigating the social-sexual landscape with your eyes wide open. The greatest mistake a man can make is selecting the wrong woman from a position of beta weakness and supplicating naivety.
On the other hand, the power your experiences learning game is corrupting and intoxicating. Going from powerless to having control over your love life can ruin you and the relationships around you. The game also makes you incredibly cynical and this can have an impact on other areas of your life.
Still, every guy needs to learn game if for no other reason than to protect themselves from the worst the dating world has to offer.
28. The importance of time
Time is the most valuable thing you can give someone. The next most valuable thing you can do is stake you reputation on them. One step down is giving them access to your resources. Way down the line is money. The progression of value looks like this:
Time > Reputation > Energy »> Money
The trend here is that the more easily something can be renewed, the less important it is. You can never get back time. This is why it’s the most important thing. Your reputation is incredibly hard to rebuild (and incredible easy to destroy), but the only reason why it’s below time is that it can actually be replenished.
If you’re ever in doubt about who is on your side, look at who invests their time into you and who stands up for you in your absence.
29. Malice vs. stupidity
Never attribute to malice that which can be attributed to stupidity or apathy. When someone offends you, it’s because they don’t know or don’t care about your problems. You’ll enjoy your existence more if you learn to not take life so personally.
30. Success breeds resentment
If you want to make people uncomfortable, improve your status relative to theirs. If you suddenly start doing worse than the people around you, people react with pity and they are usually very good at it.
However, people seem to have genuine difficulty adjusting to a person whose status and position increases. Especially if this change is relatively rapid.
I would imagine this is why most people end up with new friends when they make significant life improvements. The main point is that when you make significant improvements in some area of your life, there will be those people who simply cannot adjust to the new you. It’s up to you to decide how much time you spend around them.
31. Bonus lesson
I don’t know if I’ve saved the best for last, but I certainly have saved the lesson that’s made the greatest impact on me until the end. You only need 2 years to change any part of your life you are unsatisfied with. Financial, dating, work prospects, health, etc. 2 years is assuming you put earnest effort in but you aren’t obsessive.
You could become obsessive and make changes even quicker, but it should not take you any longer than 2 years to change your life – if you really want to be better. This means that if you were fuck up until you are 30, you could have a respectable life by 35.
No matter what though, all that matters is that you start because the time is going to pass anyway. In 2 years will you better, doing the same shit or even worse off?