30 Things I've Learned in 30 Years

I turned 30 this past weekend, so I wrote a blog post. Here is all my best advice.

###On Work:

#####1. It’s easier to focus if you only have 3 things to do per day.

Even when I have a hundred things on my plate, I’ve found that keeping 2-3 things in front of me helps me focus and keeps me from getting too stressed out. If I have something to do that isn’t work related (visiting a friend, or getting an oil change), that counts as a thing. As Merlin Mann says, it’s not a priority if you have six of them.

#####2. Do things that scare you!

If you aren’t doing something that scares you a little, then you aren’t learning or trying new things; you’re stagnating. Here are three things I’ve done this year (so far) that scared me;

  1. Started a podcast
  2. Accepted a full-time job at seanwes
  3. Committed to running a half-marathon

#####3. Being helpful is a great business strategy.

I’m lucky to be the full-time podcast editor for the seanwes network, but I was successful before that because I found a problem that people were having (editing podcasts is hard and time consuming) and solved it for them. If you want to be successful in business, find a problem real people are having and solve it for them. It’s really that simple.

#####4. Doing what you love is more important than making a crap-ton of money.

Every hour I spend doing something I don’t love just to get paid is an hour wasted. Don’t sacrifice your life to make money.

#####5. You become like the people you work with.

This also applies to the people you hang out with, but as we get older, we spend more and more time working. A job is a choice. Be picky.

###On Money:

#####6. Save a little money every week.

Even if it’s just $10, it’ll add up. I have 7 different things I save between $10-$40 per week towards. The money is pulled from my bank account automatically on payday by Betterment. That way I don’t have to think about it or remember to do anything.

#####7. Don’t forget to pay taxes!

This came back to bite me last year. If you work for yourself, you need to set aside at least 30% of your income to pay taxes. You should probably set aside 40-50% just to be safe. Can’t afford that? Either stay at your full-time job or charge more. Don’t go into debt to the government just so you can stay at home and work when you feel like it.

#####8. You probably aren’t asking for enough money.

If you are good at what you do, you are valuable. You probably aren’t asking for enough money. If someone can’t afford you, they will tell you. Don’t negotiate your rates, either.

#####9. Buy high quality goods. Don’t skimp if it’s something you are going to use everyday.

Pay more and get something that will last and be reliable. I’ve never regretted any of the high-priced items I’ve bought.

#####10. Make a list of all the things you want to buy. Order them in terms of priority.

This will help keep you motivated but will also give you a chance to see what is more important.

###On Time:

#####11. It can all go away in a heartbeat.

I learned this lesson in 2010 when a tumor grew in my left leg. Yes, it was cancer, but it was self-contained and after surgery I’m doing fine. Everything changes when you think you might be dead in a year or two. It becomes much easier to say “No” to things that you don’t really want to do. I try never to forget that feeling.

#####12. Time goes by quickly.

The years are short but the days are long. You’ll make a plan at 22, sleep a week and wake up 28. I only have two pieces of advice about this; enjoy it while it lasts, and journal more.

#####13. Be picky about who you spend time with.

You will become like your friends. Are they the kind of people you want to be like?

#####14. Think about the next year, the next 5 years, and the next decade. What do you want to do with them?

Make plans. Set bigger goals. Adjust as you go if you need to. Sometimes life throws curveballs, it’s ok. Just go with it. If you don’t have a plan, you won’t go anywhere.

#####15. Invest in long form education.

You’ll forget Twitter and the two minute Youtube videos. You won’t forget the books you read. Spend more time diving deep into a subject and less time skimming the internet for bite-size pieces of information.

###On Relationships:

#####16. You can’t make everyone happy.

You’re going to meet and date people that aren’t right for you. Learn to be ok with that. Not every relationship is meant to last forever. Accept the end with grace and kindness.

#####17. Friends come and go.

You will meet people that will leave your life as quickly as they came in. You will have to stop hanging out with some of your friends because your values will change and you’ll no longer be interested in what they are interested in, or vice versa. It’s ok. Wave when you see them.

#####18. Be nice to everyone if you can.

There are plenty of jerks out there. Be kind even when you don’t agree with something someone else is doing.

#####19. Your parents were right about some things,

and wrong about others. It’s ok to be yourself and believe things that they don’t believe in. Don’t apologize for who you are and what you believe. Respect their beliefs in return.

#####20. Be careful of negative people.

See number 13. Be careful about spending time with negative people, they will suck the joy out of life and push their misery on you.

###On Health:

#####21. Take care of your body.

If you want to achieve things, you need to take care of yourself. Less sitting on the couch and more moving around. Don’t do stupid, dangerous things that will damage you permanently just to try to impress other people.

#####22. Bike riding is awesome.

Bike riding feels like meditating to me. The world moves at a slower pace and you’ll have time to really look at things. Plus it’s really good for you as long as you don’t get run over.

#####23. Drinking soda is the worst.

Seriously, are you still drinking sugar water? It’s poison. Knock it off. Drink water or unsweetened tea instead.

#####24. Goals are great, but systems and habits are where real change comes from.

It’s important to have goals, but real change happens when you start doing something different.

#####25. Some people think sleep isn’t that important. They’re wrong.

My quality of life and work is so much higher when I get a solid 7-8 hours of sleep. Any less and things start slipping. I’m not as motivated, I’m not as nice. I cut corners and take shortcuts. Sleep is important if you want to be productive and happy.

###On Music:

#####26. Being in a band is like being married.

It’s really hard and takes a lot of work, and there’s no guarantee that you won’t get dumped someday. But it’s a lot of fun while it lasts.

#####27. It’s not always important to get your way.

Things will probably turn out ok even if you don’t get your way 100% of the time. Don’t stress about things so much that you drive people away.

#####28. Hitting publish is more important than getting everything 100% perfect.

You’ll never get everything 100% perfect, but you will get better the more you do something. So do the best you can, publish it, and repeat.

#####29. Your musical taste should evolve as you get older.

Be careful not to write off new music just because it doesn’t sound like the music you loved when you were growing up.

#####30. Record more often. Your future self will thank you.

I’m not just talking about recording music. Journal more. Take pictures. Write about your experiences. We change so much from year to year, and our memory only gives us a small picture of what we were like in the different years of our lives. Writing is a chance to share who you are and what you’re experiencing in this moment with your future self.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. I’m not looking forward to next decade when I write “40 Things I’ve Learned in 40 Years.” Or maybe I am.

Aaron Dowd, August 12, 2015