26 Lessons I've Learned in 26 Years

August 11, 2020

Today, I turned 26. It’s a milestone. Not feeling too young, not feeling too old either. I’m taking this opportunity to share 26 lessons I’ve learned in 26 years. The title’s got a nice ring to it. I love reading articles like these myself so making one. Okay, typing… 

  1. Burning the midnight oil, when taken out of context, is dangerous. Don’t compromise with sleep. Every minute counts. Many things happen when you’re asleep which affects your performance you’re awake. Quality of sleep is as important as how many hours of sleep you get.

  2. You can’t do it all in a day. Learn to step away. Tomorrow is a new day. Performance drops if you are at it for too long. Creativity is lost when the mind is not allowed to wander. Exhaustion leads to early burnout. You are playing the long race. Give yourself recovery time.

  3. Believe in the power of the compounding effect. Small work/habit builds up over time. Start small and be consistent. If you produce every day, regardless of the size of your work, you will leave behind a large body of work. Build on top of the previous day’s work.

  4. Create a digital home for everything you do in a day. Document all your activities. That way, every moment of your life will have a place where it can live forever and you can be more intentional with every second. All your activities can contribute to your current work.

  5. You don’t need to know everything. Collaboration has put humans on the Moon. Make teams and work in teams. Believe and rely on the capabilities of other people. Join forces. Behind every successful product is an effective team that knows well to combine their skills together.

  6. Communication, as is, is very inefficient. Meaning is lost in translation and interpretation. A good rule, therefore, is two-thirds listening and one-third talking. Don’t listen to reply, listen to understand. Fewer words have a greater impact. Practice word economy.

  7. You can engineer most things in life. You can engineer your social media to stay away from negative people. You can engineer your social circle to surround yourself with people who inspire. You can connect with a global community. Free yourself from geographical limitations.

  8. Invest in things that enable you to perform at your highest level. Besides gears that have a direct correlation, a good mattress ensures quality sleep, a bathroom with geyser helps you destress with long, hot showers, a clean workstation inspires creativity, and so on.

  9. Don’t rely on human memory for remembering things. It will fail you more often than not. Its function is not to act as a storehouse. Record everything digitally. The brain acts best if you leave it for creative purposes only. Check out Building a Second Brain by Tiago Forte.

  10. Believe that you’re worth much more than your work. Be careful of where you attach your self-worth. It holds the key to your happiness and ensures a healthy mental state. Don’t get tied to a single idea/cause/purpose. Protect yourself from high-low tides and external factors.

  11. If you understand that you have one life, try out everything under the Sun. Everything you’ve ever wanted to do. Leave no stones unturned. Specialization is for insects. You are under no obligation to be great at one thing, and one thing only. Strive to become a polymath.

  12. There is never a perfect time to publish your work. Start today. Start now. First-mover advantage takes precedence over getting it right in the first try. You can’t prepare for everything. Believe that improvement is an iterative process. You will learn things along the way.

  13. If things don’t work out between you and your partner, it doesn’t necessarily mean there is something wrong with them, or you. Humans are complex beings. Putting two of them in a box adds too many variables outside of your control. Relax and move on to your next heart-break.

  14. Start earning as soon as you can. The earlier you start, the better. Financial independence boosts your self-confidence and morale. Being valuable to the community gives you a sense of fulfillment and purpose. It pulls you out of the rut and helps to keep anxiety away.

  15. Most of us didn’t receive any sort of financial education in schools or from family. If you did, you are lucky. By the age of 25, aim to save 0.5 * your annual expense in your savings account. Learn about stocks, dividends, interest rates, value investing, compounding, etc.

  16. The older you get, mistakes cost you more. The stakes get higher. While you are still young, make mistakes left and right. The goal isn’t to make fewer mistakes but rather to not repeat them. Make new mistakes. An expert is somebody who has made all mistakes there is to make.

  17. When you are walking the less-trodden path, you can’t factor in what’s perceived as “normal” by the masses. Normal is an illusion Our future is going to be radically different than our previous generations. In our lifetime, we may even go on to live on Mars. You never know.

  18. Stop seeking validation in social media. It makes you prone to depression. The algorithm is designed to be addictive. Social media indicators are not good metrics to accurately assess the merit of your idea. Once you post, quit the app. Don’t look back. Go create more.

  19. If something is incredibly difficult to do, it means one of two things. 1) There is an easier way to do it that you don’t know and need to find. 2) There isn’t an easier way to do it and thus, you should create one to help yourself and the rest of the world. Be a doer.

  20. Writing well is one of the most underrated skills. If you can write well, you have a competitive advantage over others. You can negotiate higher pay in jobs/gigs. You can solve disputes via mails. You can manage teams more effectively. You can be a thought leader.

  21. Give importance to solitude, reflection, and recovery. Before you prepare yourself for the world, spend time alone to find your own voice. It’s hard to find. It gets mixed with all the noise. Understand who you really are. The world can wait. Get over FOMO and embrace JOMO.

  22. Be prepared to abandon cherished beliefs. Be prepared to be proven wrong. Question and doubt everything. Your natural position should be that of skepticism. Read more. The more you read, the more you realize how much more there is to know. Scrutinize every old and new ideas.

  23. Most people on the planet, at any given time, are factually incorrect. Most will be on the wrong side of history. This is precisely why we don’t remember 99% of the people who have ever lived throughout human history. Don’t be a crowd-pleaser. Strive to be in the 1%.

  24. Life is not a sprint. So long you take care of your physical and mental health, it’s a marathon. You’re playing the long races. If you have the right attitude, age is just a number. It’s never too late to start afresh. Don’t compare timelines. Determine and set your own pace.

  25. Do social media detox once a month. Delete the post/picture that received the most adulation across all socials. Online presence amounts to nothing if you can’t make real connections when you step outside. Social media heightens all sensations. Call people & use spoken words.

  26. Most valuable knowledge is tucked in long formats. Books, long essays/articles, podcasts, research papers, documentaries. It takes time to build a coherent argument and provide supporting evidence. Long formats more accurately capture nuance, & context of multifaceted issues

I think I have just the perfect song for my mood right now.

© Amitabha Dey. All rights reserved.