30 Life-lessons learned before turning 30 [PMP #217]

Yesterday I turned 30. When you have a significant birthday like this it’s natural to look back on how you’ve grown over the years. Heading into my 30s, I’m pleased with where I’m at in life. When I turned 20, I was still at University and had the goal of running my own business. In my early 20s, I had a couple of great jobs which allowed me to learn a lot and develop as an individual. In 2014 I started my blog and began learning about how to make money online by selling my expertise. In 2016, when I was 25, I managed to take my side business full-time and went travelling with my wife. From there my business has grown to the point where I can comfortably support my wife and our son. So I’m pleased to say I’ve achieved what I wanted to in my 20s.

Looking back, I thought it would be fun to share 30 things I’ve learned over the years that have helped me along the way. Of course, I still have a lot to learn and am looking forward to seeing how I continue to grow in my 30s.

Don’t want to read this post? I go into more depth on the podcast:

So, let’s get into the key things I’ve learned before turning 30:


1. Prioritise sleep

There’s no substitute for getting a good nights sleep. Some people like to boast about working long hours and getting by on little sleep. But if you want to sustain a healthy and productive lifestyle, you have to get sufficient sleep, you just do.

2. Eat food, mostly plants, not too much

I love this quote by Michael Pollen as it so clearly articulates how to eat well. Eat good whole foods and stay away from processed ingredients. You can eat meat, that’s fine but make sure you eat a lot of plants and vegetables. And don’t eat too much. You don’t have to eat until you are ‘full’ for each meal.

3. Exercise doesn’t have to be boring

We live a very active lifestyle and I’d go crazy if I couldn’t exercise. And even if it wasn’t good for you, I’d still exercise because I enjoy it. Whether it’s pushing myself in a CrossFit class, golfing with my friends or going for a morning walk, I get a lot of enjoyment from exercise. If you’re someone that finds exercise to be a chore, or you get bored at the gym, try something else. The sweet spot is when you find something that helps you to keep fit while socialising and having fun at the same time!

4. Don’t forget to exercise your brain

Exercising your mind is just as important as exercising your body. Over the years I’ve benefited from a semi-regular meditation practise where I meditate for 10 minutes a morning, a few times a week. Starting last year, I also started to float once a month. Not only is this a great way to reset your brain, but it helps you to recognise when you’re getting distracted or obsessing too much about an idea or emotion throughout the day.

5. Walk every day

Walking is the perfect balance between physical exercise and mindfulness. I walk every single day, without fail. Even if I’m going to the gym in the evening, I still walk at lunch to break up the day and reset my mind so I can have a productive afternoon of work.


6. Good thing comes to those who persist

It takes time to start a business. And a lot of people give up before they’ve found traction. You have to try and fail with lots of ideas before you find the thing that works. If it were easy, everyone would probably prefer to work for themselves. But it takes time. So keep going and eventually you’ll find the thing that works for you.

7. Focus on ‘moving the needle’

And when you are starting your business, don't waste time on stuff that doesn't matter. It’s easy to distract ourselves and focus on creating the right company logo, or a nicely designed website. But what really matters when you start a business is finding customers and convincing them that the product or service you have to offer is worth spending their hard-earned money on. That’s it! Before you can prove your hypothesis about how your business delivers value, everything else is secondary.

8. Always challenge your assumptions

I made the mistake of thinking that my customers would never spend money on an online course about Asana. I told this to myself for years. Eventually, after seeing one of my own customers do this in their business, did I create a program that combined an online course with group and private consulting. This helped me to take my business to a whole new level without having to work longer hours. The mistake was not challenging my assumptions early enough.

9. Solve problems, not features

When we’re communicating what we do and the value we provide via a website or email, we make the mistake of focussing on features. Customers care about solving their problems. If they believe you can solve their problem, the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ aren’t nearly as important.

10. Simplify for success

Simplify your offer, don’t offer too many options. Make it easy for customers to decide. Simplify your tools and systems. Don’t use multiple tools when one can do the trick. Simplify your processes. How can you eliminate redundant steps, standardise the process and deliver the same result in less time? The simpler your business, the easier it is to scale and grow.

11. The more you grow, the more you need to be saying ‘no’

Saying ‘yes’ to ideas and opportunities is a great way of learning in the beginning. But as you grow, you’ll be approached with more opportunities and you’ll need to say ‘no’ more often so you can stay focused on what matters.


12. Live within your means

If you want to save money, it’s pretty simple really. Look at what you earn and make sure you spend less than this. Create a budget if you need to and don't borrow money to buy things you don’t need. If you need to go into debt to pay for anything (except a house), you probably don’t need that thing.

13. You can only save a finite amount but there’s no limit to what you can earn

This is one of the great realisations I had after reading Ramit Sethi’s book, I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Saving money is good and you shouldn’t buy stuff you don’t need. But there’s only so much you can save. From there, growing your wealth comes down to earning more, where there’s no limit.

14. Decide what you’re going to cut spending on so you can splurge elsewhere

This is another great takeaway from Ramit’s book. It’s okay to splurge on stuff you care about as long as you’re saving elsewhere. Some people love buying fancy clothes. Me, I couldn’t care less. But I’m happy to pay for a CrossFit membership which is a lot more than a regular gym because I get so much enjoyment from it.

15. Buy Bitcoin

I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m very optimistic about the future of Bitcoin and I could spend a long time talking about this. For now, my advice is to buy a little bit of Bitcoin each week. Don’t worry about any other cryptocurrencies. Don’t worry about the price. Simply buy and hold for the long-term. I’ve been doing this for years, I’ve never purchased any other crypto and it’s worked out well for me.

16. Diversify your income

Never have just one source of income. Whether you operate a business or earn a salary, always look at how you can diversify your income and set up multiple revenue streams. This is the best way to protect yourself from external events like COVID wiping out your income. There are loads of things you can do to earn a few extra bucks; start a side-business, invest, drive for Uber or monetise your skills on Fiverr.


17. Learn to communicate as clearly as you can

Being able to communicate clearly is one of the most valuable skills you can have. Whether you’re taking in person or writing an email, the clearer you can present your ideas, the great your ability to convince other people of your way of thinking. Starting a blog or podcast is a great way of practising this skill.

18. Your brain is for processing, not storing information

Don’t rely on your brain to remember things. If you need to remember to do something, use a task manager. If you want to remember information, use a notebook or journal. By offloading as much information from your brain as you can, you naturally start to feel more organised and on top of things.

19. It’s okay to not have goals

Goals are great. They give you a sense of direction and help you prioritise. But if you’re too goal-focused, once you reach one goal, you quickly move on to the next without stopping to celebrate your achievements. You become insatiable. It’s okay to not have goals. This helps you to enjoy the journey instead of getting obsessed with the destination. Right now, I’m enjoying working on and in my business and I honestly don't care if the business grows anymore.

20. Don't worry about things you can’t control

Having spent time in my 20s learning about Stoicism, one of the big takeaways is to only focus on what you can control. If you can’t control something, especially the opinions of others, why waste time and energy worrying about it?

21. Enjoy the opportunity to learn from adversity

If something bad happens, use this as an opportunity to learn and improve. It may even be as simple as having an opportunity to practice patience and self-control. But every negative experience presents an opportunity to be better.

22. It’s okay to change your opinion

Changing your opinion it’s a bad thing. We worry that other people will judge us as being flakey or uneducated. But changing your opinion could simply mean that your view on something has changed. Just like our tastebuds change over time and things we used to detest are now delicious. The same happens with our opinions. And that’s fine.

23. Own your mistakes

The truth will come out anyway, so rather than try and hide from the mistake and people seeing this, own it! By preemptively taking responsibility, you take ammunition away from anyone who might criticise you. By owning the mistake, you can save face and move on.


24. Cultivate discipline

Cultivating discipline is a precursor to productivity. A lack of discipline leads to procrastination, less focus and results in us jumping from one thing to the next. If you can be more disciplined with how you use your time, how you use your tools and following a consistent routine, you will be more productive.

25. Focus on making a little bit of progress each day

Always ask yourself ‘what’s the next thing I need to do on this to make progress?’. The smaller and easier that thing, the better. By making just a little bit of progress on a project each day, you’ll quickly build momentum and progress.

26. Good enough is better than not at all

Perfection is the enemy of progress. My early YouTube videos had embarrassingly low production quality. But the content was good. And that’s all that mattered. The point is, you have to suck at something for a while before you can get better.

27. Learn to catch yourself

One of the benefits of a regular mindfulness practice is that it teaches you how to catch yourself from doing time-wasting activities. For instance, you’re working away and a friend sends you a link to a video. If you’re disciplined and being mindful, you’ll be able to leave the video until later instead of letting it derail your productive work.

28. If it’s not on the calendar, it doesn’t get done

My readers have listened to me talk about time blocking many times over the years. But it’s true if you want to do something, you need to put it on your calendar.

29. Tools are only as good as how you use them

As someone who spends his days helping people use tools like Asana and Pipedrive, I can tell you that how you use your tools is far more important than the tool itself. And yet, a lot of people get carried away trying every task management app and email client thinking the next one will help solve their problems. Principles trump features every time.

30. Remember, you could die next week so don’t put things off

Ending on another lesson from Stoic philosophy, remember that life is short and could end sooner than you think. I don't mean to be morbid. As Steve Jobs once said: “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important”. This is one of the best kept productivity secrets. If you ever find yourself procrastinating and putting things off, remember, you’re going to die so you better get to work putting your time to good use.