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30 / 30: Life Lessons Learned

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Last week was my 30th birthday. With my 20s officially behind me, I quietly sat in my living room and made a timeline retrospective of my life over the past 10 years; the ups and downs; the good, the bad, the ugly.

I can't say my 20s were pretty and peachy-keen. I had to work hard, very hard, as a lot of us do. I didn't have anything handed to me in regards to legacy, finances, education, or my career. I built my life from the ground up, and I did it with perseverance, grace, self-awareness, and compassion.

That said, I’d like to share a 30/30 list of the life-lessons I’ve learned. Maybe there are things in this list that resonate with you, maybe not. These are my key insights and takeaways over the past 10 years, in no particular order.

  1. Love: “A life without love is no life at all” - Leonardo da Vinci. Love your friends, love your family, and love yourself.
  2. Rediscover Newton's Third Law: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. You receive from the world what you give to the world.
  3. The only constant is change: change is inevitable. Receive it and accept it, because as you get older it will only happen more frequently.
  4. Be the change you want to see: mentor, teach, volunteer, model good behavior, take risks, invest in yourself, support others, and help others help themselves. After all, the only thing you have control over in life is you.
  5. Trust: a healthy and secure relationship requires trust. This applies to platonic, romantic, and working relationships. To build trust you have to get to know people, spend time with them, be genuinely curious about who they are, and have the ability empathize with them. Trust is the glue to effective communication.
  6. Communicate: having the ability to communicate clearly with others is one of the best skills you can grasp. It allows you to present your vision and tell a story in a way that others can understand, so that you can create and construct new realities, no matter how deep or systematic the remnants.
  7. Be kind to yourself: be able to take a look at the past, no matter how dark or how poor your choices were. Be warm, kind, and sensitive to yourself, knowing you did your best with the resources you had. Treat yourself like you’d treat a really great friend.
  8. Be your own advocate: stand up for yourself, know your rights, and decide what you want, because nobody understands you better than you!
  9. Life has no meaning, you have to create meaning: it’s important to take a step back regularly and look at the big picture. What do you find to be the most valuable? Is it your family, friends, people, hobbies, health? Or are you valuing something shallow and not looking at what’s actually important? Understanding why you exist and do the things you do, your purpose, is what life's all about.
  10. Smart Goals are awesome: setting goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely will help you accomplish what you want with clarity.
  11. Start small: Battle feelings of being overwhelmed by breaking things down. Take complex problems or tasks and simplify them into small pieces you can manage.
  12. Perfection is stagnation: being compliant all the time and never breaking the rules work against your confidence. Everyone is human and nobody's perfect. Face it, you’re going to fuck up at some point.
  13. Embrace failure: failing fast and often builds self-esteem, optimism, and the courage to face challenges head-on. All of these things make up confidence, and confidence is what allows you to master your natural talents and abilities.
  14. Practice a Growth Mindset: really believe in your ability to grow and improve. Welcome in new challenges. Persist in the face of setbacks. See effort as a path to mastery. Learn from feedback and criticism. Understand that you have free will.
  15. Attention + energy > time: Managing your attention and energy is more valuable than managing time when it comes to being productive. That said, use your time wisely. You only have 24 hours in a day and 33% of that time is spent sleeping. Focus on what’s most important!
  16. Less is more: Pareto's principle states that 20% of your time spent on vital tasks contributes to 80% of your results. Spend 20% of your time on vital, high return tasks and minimize your low return tasks. It might seem like putting in those extra 10 hours at work this week will help you get things done faster, but in reality, your work will take more time and give low-quality results. 
  17. Accomplish what you intended: if you intend to ace a job interview and you do, you are productive. If you intend to work for 4 hours without interruptions and you do, you are productive. If you intend to have the most relaxing week of the year and you do, you are perfectly productive. Accomplishing what you intended is, in my opinion, the most important part of productivity.
  18. Build a strong support system: invest your time, attention, and energy in the most significant areas of your life, so that if and when the shit hits the fan, you have a strong, sustainable system in place to reinforce you and push you back up.
  19. Happiness is better when you’re engaged: some people are just happy people by nature; but for a lot of us, happiness comes from solving hard juicy problems. This requires you to be engaged. When you’re engaged in what you’re doing, you are more committed to the task at hand and willing to put more effort into it because you deeply care about the results. When you’re engaged, you’ll be filled with an undeniable energy of conviction and resolve, and you’ll rise high above and beyond expectations. The fruits of your labor will be even more rewarding than before.
  20. Read every day: the best way to generate new ideas is to read, read, read! Even if it’s for 20 minutes per day.
  21. Say no: you’re not responsible for everyone’s happiness. Don’t commit to activities that drain you. Focus on activities that cultivate your energy and motivate you.
  22. Admit when you’re wrong: everyone is a jerk sometimes. Admitting when you’re wrong and apologizing with sincerity will maintain your connections and prevent burning bridges. You won’t regret it in the long run.
  23. Let it go: when an event, environment, habit, or person becomes toxic, STOP. Let it go. Sometimes cutting something out means creating a pathway forward. Getting rid of things that give you no value fosters your ability to be happy.
  24. Forgive: It takes a strong person to say sorry and a stronger person to forgive. When you forgive, all of your anger, resentment, hurt, and fear will disappear. Forgiveness may take time, but once you’ve done it, you’ll be ready to ride life with perfect laughter.
  25. Slow down to speed up: taking the time to reflect on what’s working, what’s not working, what you’ll stop doing, and what you’ll start doing next is a necessary step to improving quickly and continuously.
  26. Be Here Now: Presence is power. Dwelling on the past causes depression. Overanalyzing the future causes anxiety. When you are present, you are able to be grateful for the wonderful things life has given you. Time slows down, and you’re able to cherish those precious moments with the people you love.
  27. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable: the world is chaotic and being comfortable with low predictably forces us to change. When you’re okay with being uncomfortable, you’re able to deal with being vulnerable...and vulnerability breeds creativity.
  28. Build a routine that works for you: exercise, sleep well, eat healthily, drink water, meditate, work on meaningful things, and have fun!
  29. Express yourself: everyone has different ways of expressing themselves. Maybe it’s through art, music, writing, coding, sports, cooking… or hell, going to a peaceful protest. Whatever you do to express yourself, get rid of your pent up energy! Say what you mean, and do it in a healthy way.
  30. Get some fresh perspective: maybe you have a mentor, teacher, or friend you can rely on to give you an honest opinion or advice. Or maybe it means traveling a lot and trying new things. Make sure you take some time to get out of your head, think outside the box, and develop some fresh perspectives.

Everything I've accomplished was with the support and help from the inspiring people around me, and I was the driving force. When I look back at what I've achieved over a decade, I couldn't be more prepared and excited to soar into my 30s: fearless, confident, and deliberate. I am 30, and I am the definition of a self-made woman.

Laney's Playlist for 30/30: Life Lessons Learned

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