Recently I was awarded Forbes 30 Under 30 which made me reflect on this exact question: what practical advice would I give to someone under 30?
Of course there’s a whole list of important advice that I’d give surrounding personal life, relationships, career, spirituality, fitness and more. However, if I had to just sum it all up into the one thing it would be…
If I trace much of my success back to just one thing, it would be the fact that I have sustainable and positive habits.
Let’s look at a few examples over the past ten years that shaped who I am today and that I can attribute my success to.
After a bad stint in high school where I played video games religiously and let my grades slip, I decided I wanted to excel academically. I began to study hard and develop strong habits around focus and work ethic.
I forced myself to go to the library or coffee shop and work until I not only completed everything I set out to do, but overachieve by 10%. Over time, I no longer had to “force myself” to go to the library and work hard, instead I simply included it into my routine and wanted to go. I had created a habit loop of getting stuff done, not procrastinating, excelling in my academics, and constantly pushing the limits.
To this day, the habits I created ten years ago are still paying dividends. If I did not have these habits ingrained in me, I wouldn’t have had the work ethic to build and grow a highly successful business as an entrepreneur because I wouldn’t have had the motivation to wake up at 7AM and be doing things like writing this post right now.
Over ten years ago, I was a skinny, 120 pound, 5’11” dweeb covered in acne. I had a good life playing video games and hanging out with friends, but I wanted more. I wanted to rid myself of some insecurities and maybe, one day, even have a…. girlfriend!
Well I realized pretty quickly that in order to appeal to the opposite sex as well as become more confident with who I am, I’d better start taking care of myself. Unfortunately playing video games 12 hours a day, stuffing my face with pizza and letting my acne go out of control wasn’t going to be a long term, sustainable solution.
I decided I would begin to go to the gym and join some sports teams in high school. I still remember the first time I walked into the YMCA gym and tried to emulate what the muscular guys were doing with the weights. I began browsing forums like Bodybuilding.com and joined the high school swim team.
Within no time, I noticed my body start to transform, and with this positive reinforcement, I began to work out more frequently, harder, and smarter. Ten years later, I am still consistently going to the gym, pushing my physical limits with CrossFit, Yoga, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and more.
The best part about creating this habit loop of going to the gym was that it no longer became a chore, instead it became an addiction. Today, when other people struggle to motivate themselves to go to the gym, I literally can’t get enough of the gym and start to get anxious when I’m not consistently working out, sweating, and pushing my physical limits. I love the soreness, I love the struggle, and I love the results.
On a side note, notice that I mentioned sustainable solution. Too many people today go on diets which work in the short term, but most often the same people revert back to their old selves because they did something extreme that was not sustainable. Diets do work, but you must be able to live that lifestyle for the rest of your life, not just some extreme “never eat another sweet” diet which may last you a month or even a year, but as soon as you crack – what do you think is going to happen?
Working out a few times a week and other positive life decisions such as not drinking 6 beers a night are in fact very sustainable over a lifetime. Build those habits.
Life has ups and downs. You’ve been there and so have I.
From a young age, whenever something bad happened, I realized I had two choices:
It wasn’t rocket science, one made me worse off, one made me better off. I chose option #2.
Today, I’ve accepted that shit will happen and I don’t want to be negative and unhappy all the time because of it. Instead, I accept the situation for what it is, take a deep breath and start rationally finding the best possible solution(s). This habit loop has allowed me to get through very tough times in my personal life as well as in my career. If you can constantly be searching for the best possible outcomes even in bad situations, your life will be net positive.
In summary, the most practical piece of advice for people under 30 is to simply assess the habits you have today and be honest with yourself: are these the habits you want for the rest of your life? Are they positive, and are they healthy?
If not, then start making real changes to your lifestyle.
If you don’t work out at all today, don’t make a goal of working out 7 days a week – like I said, make it sustainable and start with just 3.
If you spend your weekdays and weekends hanging out with friends and not working on yourself, your career and personal goals, then block off days where it is just “you” time and join a coworking space or find a great cafe that you can frequent.
Also for a bit of urgency…
Steve Jobs at his Stanford Commencement Speech said a famous quote that always stuck with me: