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Today Is My 38th Birthday. Here Are All the Things That I Know at 38 Which I Wish I Knew at 20. by Tim Denning

19:09 May 14 2024
Times Read: 55


Birthdays are when you see how much wisdom you’ve gained.

It’s a better present than a new outfit or a birthday dinner. Wisdom is a currency that pays endless dividends and will change your life. Here’s what I’ve learned in 38 years that I wish I knew at 20.

1. Everything worth doing is terrifying in the beginning
I’ve learned fear is the #1 hidden blocker in everything.

No joke. Fear secretly screws with everyone, especially the fearless. Learning to sit with the fear is where the power is found.

The stuff you’ll look back on and appreciate is the same stuff that feels terrifying right now — changing jobs, having a baby, starting a business, writing online, doing an extreme sport, etc.

The average person runs from fear.

Life starts to change when you choose fear.

Fear = Opportunity

2. We’re all busy so stop telling yourself you’re f*cking special
Newsflash: there isn’t a single person who isn’t busy.

If you use busy as an excuse you’re telling yourself you’re special. And special snowflakes live a life of pain, waiting for the world to be fair.

There is never a time in life when you won’t be busy. That’s why priorities are crucial, otherwise your time will disappear like a fart.

3. Marriage is harder than you think
Single people love to tell married people it’s a bad idea and vice versa.

The truth is being single is difficult because you crave long-term love. And being married is difficult because you have love but you must work your ass off to keep it.

Long-term commitments are harder to maintain.

If you stuff up long-term relationships, the consequences are worse to deal with.

If you screw up short-term relationships, you can just jump back on Tinder and be in a new one tomorrow.

That’s why if you become addicted to short-term relationships, it’s often a hidden burden that makes everything worse. You can find yourself always trying to find the right person instead of becoming the right person.

Change is hard. Switching partners regularly is a great way to outsource the blame to others.

4. Money is a direct reflection of your self-awareness
There’s always a solution to money problems. We don’t find the solutions, though, when we don’t hold up a mirror to ourselves and become self-aware of where we need to improve.

Money problems are a self-improvement problem.

5. Curveballs are guaranteed — expect them to happen
Perfect days aren’t sustainable.

You can have your nice little cold shower productivity routine, but at some point a curveball will destroy it. My business partner has a crippling neck injury. He went from being a hustler to only being able to work 2 hours a day.

Same happened when I hurt my ankle. I couldn’t do the same habits or daily schedule for 6 months.

The solution is to expect curveballs. To plan for them. To build a flexible schedule to deal with problems, instead of putting your life on hold every time curveballs get thrown at you.

6. Writing is how you process the madness of the world
Most people don’t write.

They think it’s a nice to have. They think social media is a circus and the internet is too crowded. They miss the point.

Writing is how you process everything in life (like what I’m doing with this post). Writing is how you join the dots of your ideas and add meaning to seemingly random experiences.

If you don’t write you don’t think.
If you write in public, you simultaneously help yourself and others. It’s the type of habit that significantly upgrades your life.

7. Watching kids grow up is one of the greatest experiences
Yet many don’t get to do it.

They choose to start a business or get a career that leaves them no time to see their kids. They trade time with kids for more money. The money gets spent on lifestyle upgrades that add little value.

Seeing my daughter thrive over the last year has been my biggest achievement — not writing, money, business, or vanity metrics. She gives me pure joy. When I’m with her I become a Buddhist monk.

I live in the present. I feel unwavering love. I feel joy, fulfillment, extreme emotion, and I become kinder.

People think I’m nuts for not buying Lambos. I think they’re nuts for buying luxury when the greatest luxury is family. I’m not sure how I learned this lesson but I’m glad I did.

Family = Wealth

8. If your growth in any area of life has plateaued, then it’s time to get outside professional help
Doing the same thing over and over and expecting better results is the definition of insanity. Yet this is how most people live. I’ve learned when plateaus occur it’s a flashing red siren telling me to get outside help.

We often can’t see our own problems.

I recently hired two new coaches. Both of them have helped me unlock new ideas I would never have found myself.

Not getting out of your bubble and living in an echo chamber is the fastest way to go bankrupt in any area of life.

Lower your ego. Pay for help.

9. Proactively spend less time on the phone
I’m not in control of my phone.

As soon as I unlock it a firehose of temptations are fired at me. I often can’t even remember why I grabbed my phone in the first place. Hours can disappear. And I never feel better afterward.

Life is so much better without a phone.

10. You don’t need most of the material possessions you desire
I desire a Tesla.

I’ve thought about it for a year but haven’t bought one. Material possessions are such a trap. We justify these expenses by thinking they’ll make our lives better.

Material possessions never make life better.

Life gets better when we get better. Life is better when we have free time and can think. Life is better with more creativity and imagination. I’m so glad I’ve learned to ignore luxury desires and just settle for basic stuff.

If a car made you feel better, we’d have eliminated mental health issues in the Western world. Yet our health is the worst it’s ever been.

11. Some fights aren’t worth it
I started a legal battle with a bad neighbor a year ago.

It hasn’t been worth it. The mental peace I’ve lost I’ll never get back, even if I did win. Walking away from fights is an underrated life hack.

12. Business is just extreme self-improvement in disguise
Business isn’t complex.

Customers, business models, marketing, operations… are all dumb stuff that is made out to be hard. Business boils down to two things:

Self-improvement

An understanding of human psychology

Once you understand these two big ideas, it’s possible to start almost any business and be successful.

Business isn’t about the how it’s about the who. First it’s about you, then as you scale, it’s about how good you are at attracting the right people.

13. “Never meet your heroes” is just stupidly high expectations in disguise
Heroes will 100% disappoint you.

It’s not them, it’s you. Your expectations of strangers are too high. When you meet your so-called hero and they disappoint you, it’s because you expected them to be flawless.

And worse, you expected them to be less driven by money and their ego than 99% of people are.

Of course if you ask a hero to do a bunch of stuff for you (like be your free mentor) and they’re rude, it’s gonna hurt. But it says more about you than it does your hero. Stop idolizing random people.

Barack Obama is as much of an a-hole in real life as your next-door neighbor who plays their music too loud at 12 AM.

We’re all more selfish in real life than we look.

14. Your success on the internet is a mirror
The internet is now a crucial part of modern life.

You either use the internet to become successful in your field or it uses you. There’s no middle ground. If the internet feels like a crapfest full or morons, spam, and ads… then the problem is you.

You manifested it.

You hit the keys on your keyboard that led you to the bad side of the internet instead of the good side. The internet isn’t evil or bad. You’re just using it wrong. The good news is you can change it.

Think of the internet as a mirror. It shows you who you’ve become.
If you don’t like what you see then change is an option at any time. But if you refuse then you get what you deserve. And no amount of hating on others online is going to make up for that terrible feeling.

15. Getting absolutely fed up is one of the best experiences in the world
It leads to frustration.

If used properly… frustration is enormous energy in disguise. The breakthroughs happen when you’re at breaking point, not in your swimmers by the pool with $5M in your bank account and zero stress.

I’ve learned at 38 to crave being fed up.

I want frustration to find me so I can break through and get to the next level of the video game that is life.

The last time I got frustrated I built a multi-million dollar business. The time before that I started writing online. And the time before that I cured myself from decades of mental illness.

Breakthroughs happen in darkness. Embrace dark mode.

16. If you’re not stacking more micro skills, your value is declining
One main skill isn’t enough in the digital world.

We now need to build a skill stack that is more diverse to deal with the added complexities that technology and AI have given us. Micro skills are what have helped me.

They’re skills that can be learned in under 10 hours. When you stack many micro skills, you start to eliminate any competition in your field.

Fewer MBAs, more micro skills.

17. Fixing your life is as simple as finding your version of Tony Robbins
This year I wrote a bizarre X thread about finding Tony Robbins.

It’s been more than a decade since I found Tony Robbins, walked on fire, and unlocked a limitless mindset. While writing the thread I went back over all the old workbooks and photos from this time in my life.

It was damn powerful.

We all have our version of a Tony Robbins, that is, someone who can change how we think and force us to see things better than they are. Your mission is to find this catalyst of a person & implement their frameworks.

18. The world works if you work
Do the f*cking work. Stop falling for your clever excuses about why you can’t achieve your goals.

19. A lack of purpose in life makes everything harder
If there’s no why behind what you do, it’s near-impossible to find the energy or motivation to do important things.

A purpose is a vision, a compass. It automates your to-do list and tells you what to pay attention to. It’s a big idea that most people don’t care about.

Without a purpose you’ll feel lost in life.

Choose a purpose or you’ll be assigned a lifeless corporation one, that’ll slowly murder you inside until you’re 65.

20. Relaxation outlets are fine but they’re designed to slowly suck more and more time
I have nothing against Netflix, gaming, travel, or TikTok.

They’re ways to relax. The trouble is the modern ways to relax are cleverly designed to slowly take up more of your time.

Instead of short bursts of relaxation, the modern relaxation devices seek to monetize your attention by giving you a dopamine addiction.

What starts outs as innocent relaxation becomes an addiction if kept unchecked. It’s why you’re best to avoid most forms of relaxation that happen on a screen.

21. No point wondering or guessing. Do the thing then see for yourself.
The fantasy world is based on asking for advice, lessons learned from books, stories that may or may not be true (or exaggerated), and millions of conflicting opinions on social media.

Reality is based on experience.

It’s better to live in reality. Plans often contain blind spots. They’re perfectionism and procrastination in disguise.

As Steve Jobs said, experiences are the real competitive advantage. Unless you’ve lived it, it’s probably a B.S. theory.

22. Unless you’re going to go over and fight in the war, stay out of it
Foreign wars are none of your business. Pretending to care isn’t fooling anybody.

23. People that ghost just can’t bare to tell you “no”
Ghosters are some of the weakest people you’ll meet.

If you get ghosted after multiple follow ups, then just assume the person was going to murder you and now they’ve saved your life. Because this extreme view isn’t far off.

Being ghosted is a dumb way of being told no. Take the no and move on.

24. If you don’t build an after hours side hustle, you’ll always be at the mercy of layoffs
Layoff culture is in fashion.

Humans are more disposable than ever… and most haven’t realized. Unless you build a side hustle or have multiple income streams, you’ll always be at the mercy of layoffs.

I learned the hard way in 2019. My savings didn’t last nearly as long as I thought they would.

Spend your off hours building something you own online. Build it so hard and fast, that it has the potential to become your main income source.

25. Spending more time with your family is never a bad investment
I’ve never once regretted spending more time with my family. It’s the default decision when I’ve got conflicting priorities.

Time with family is precious because many of them will die, either too soon, or before you’re ready for them to pass.

26. Stop living in the past
Who cares what you could do 20 years ago. What are you going to do now?

Those who live in the past become has-beens and keep telling stories about what they used to do instead of what they’re doing right now. Embrace the power of now. Make today the best it can be.

27. People will always screw you over. Make a comeback and prove them wrong.
Critics are some of the best people.

They unlock a level inside of you that you probably wouldn’t have found on your own. Too many people are far too cautious. They’re afraid to get screwed over when they should just expect it will happen.

The best part about being screwed is you get to make a comeback. You get to show the enemy or critic what you can do.
When I got fired by a bad boss in 2019, it nearly ruined me. Now that boss has to see me succeed every day on LinkedIn. It must hurt them inside. Good. The best revenge is being successful in spite of a-holes.

28. Underdogs are some of the coolest people you’ll ever meet
I love my wife and kid. But I love an underdog just as much.

Underdogs are better than heroes. They have more humility. They’re these special people who get punched in the face, then find a way to come back against the odds and inspire people.

They’re all around us if you pay attention.

The best part about an underdog is their mindset. It’s the reason they can make unlikely comebacks when normal people can’t. Once you come in contact with their mindset it’s infectious.

29. Seek out rare people who operate at a higher state of consciousness
There are a few rare people who operate at a higher state of consciousness.

Part of it is because they’ve found their version of spirituality. Another part is they live in the present. My friend Gavin is like this.

He can see any problem at a 10,000-foot view. He can make links between seemingly unrelated things. He sees patterns in everything — an eCommerce sales funnel has the same attributes as planting a veggie patch.

Find people who operate at a higher state of consciousness to lift your own consciousness.

30. Take a middle position in a debate more often
Most issues aren’t black and white.

The wisdom of an argument is found in the middle, not at the extreme. Only dumb-dumbs can see an issue from one viewpoint and will argue until the death.

31. Being weird is the only way to be successful
Because being average is a nightmare.

The modern man or woman is unhealthy, taking a handful of pills, working a job they hate, wasting time, being busy, glued to a phone, avoiding exercise, and trapped in a mountain of debt.

Doing the opposite of the majority is the only way out. That’ll make you weird but it’ll also save your life.

Why the heck do we idolize being normal?

32. Adulthood is just accepting life is hard. Maturity is learning to love hard things.
Wanting life to be easy is the real disaster.

(Oops, sorry, I forgot to write a trigger warning.) Grown adults accept life is hard. Mature adults embrace hard things because they understand that’s where the growth that leads to fulfillment resides.

Choose hard.

33. “Someday I’ll be a millionaire.”

Image Credit-Zach Pogrob via Instagram
This is my favourite picture of the last year.

Surface-level people think it’s about money. It’s not. It’s an idea that comes with a level of belief that makes you unstoppable. It’s the idea there are no constraints, only the ones we place on ourselves.

It’s embracing uncertainty knowing it’ll lead to somewhere freaking awesome. I hate tattoos but I may get this tattooed on my arm.

The best type of millionaire is a time millionaire who has the hours to do whatever they want whenever they want.

Someday you should become a millionaire.

34. Forget building a business. Build a movement.
Businesses are transactional vehicles that lead to boredom.

I never want to build a boring business again. A movement is way more powerful. The measure of success in a movement extends beyond the stupidity of revenue and KPIs.

Movements are hard to copy. They’re full of energy, people, and emotion. Choose a mission. Bring people in. Build a movement. Watch the making-money-part become the easiest part that soon becomes irrelevant.

35. The gym is for the mind more than the body
Working out to have a nice-looking body is overrated. Vanity is such a stupid goal to chase.

I go to the gym now to workout my mind. It’s the place where pain makes me experience an insane amount of creativity. My mind gets stronger after every visit. It makes my mind into a fortress that’s hard for weak minds to penetrate with their even weaker comments.

If haters or critics upset you, then spend more time in the gym.

36. At a moment’s notice everything can be taken away
A friend of mine recently found out his wife is cheating on him. Happy family one day, divorce the next. No one could’ve predicted it. It pays to be more humble than is normal.

Everything can change in a heartbeat.

37. If it’s not a priority today, it’s never gonna happen
What matters is scheduled today.

Everything else is a fantasy. I don’t care about what I say I’m going to do anymore. My calendar reveals the truth.

The harsh reality is most of us can’t handle more than one big priority at a time. So why do we try to manage conflicting priorities?

Remember: it’s today or never. Stop fooling yourself.

38. The only limitations are the ones you place on yourself
The world loves to tell you what you can’t do.

If you believe it then the gatekeepers win. Limitations are often forced constraints that become the hidden focus you so desperately need. The world is limitless for those who dare to take the unconventional path.

Take perceived limits and see beyond them.


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