The 25 Lessons I Had To Consider Before Turning 25

I love writing these introductions.

This is the fourth year now that I’ve sat down to note the lessons learnt throughout the year (here are the ones I learned on the way to 24, 23, and 22).

And sure, putting together the final set is fun. I get to become a memory detective after all. I scour through old notebooks. Stumble across half-written coded messages in my phone. All in a quest to spot the small clues that might lead to larger, more presentable ideas.

But what I love most about writing these is crafting the context. This is where I compose the opening credits music. Those. First. Few. Powerful. Notes. Setting the tone for what’s to follow. The introduction is an opportunity to tie all the subsequent lessons together with a larger, overarching lesson.

But what is this excitement? Why am I so compelled to draw the bow that will pierce an arrow through my collection of considerations? It seems, to me, that this is in fact a reflection of a very human desire.

The need to create order, from chaos.

All of my work reflects this desire. I design digital products to organise information. I write essays to neatly communicate my thoughts. Even my interest in psychology stems from a want to elegantly explain away the wide breadth of seemingly random human behaviours we all display.

And yet, perhaps there is something beautiful to appreciate in the disordered flow - for the dance that makes you smile most is one, not of studied technique, but of someone who is simply following the music.

So this is me, giving room for each of these lessons to speak for themselves. To sit apart from each other. To be there on their own, as they all were when I stumbled into them. Without further ado, here are the lessons that need no introduction… but ironically got one anyway.

1 - Pick a restaurant, bar, or cafe you love, and become a regular. Be a great customer, bring a variety of company with you, and befriend the people who work there. Having a place be a calm, second home admits the city’s cacophony will pay unimaginable dividends.

2 - One of the most attractive qualities in both men and women, is vigour. (Look alive!)

3 - As often as possible, assume that if you don’t do the thing that you’ve noticed needs to be done - no one will. Be a person of responsibility and fill the gaps yourself.

4 - Even the things that are truest to you - will be tested. See these test as opportunities to strengthen and rediscover those values that you know you must have held so dearly for a reason.

5 - Exploring art galleries is tough because of the moments of grandeur, insight, and beauty we expect to encounter. We think we must also see it all, or naively think the most famous pieces are likely to be the most moving ones. Instead, approach art gallery exploration in a different manner: seek to find only one piece that you can walk away from that day and say, “that was the most interesting to me.” Not a favourite. Not an emotional piece. Simply observe what grabs a hold of your curiousity for the longest. Then, search for why - either in the piece, or within yourself.

6 - The difference between loving wine and simply liking it… is the difference between meditating until reaching a transcendent state of bliss, and taking a brief nap. Both are good, but one can enrich your life.

7 - Contrast is a wonderful pattern to observe, for it is an expression of the antithetical nature of life. Crunchy bread croutons sprinkled over silky tomato soup. Plunging your bare feet into the clear, cold water after running across sharp, hot sand. A light conversation interrupted by sudden depth. A deep conversation interrupted by sudden laughter. Feeling as though you need something greatly, then not needing it at all. Contrast, in every form, is beautiful.

8 - Ever wish you could hear your favourite song for the first time again? Listen to extended mixes of songs that fans upload to YouTube. (Take this beautiful “Otis Extended” Mix for example). Often seamlessly transitioning from the original classic, to the later musical hit that used that sample to create something new - these mixes are the closest thing you’ll experience to hearing both for the first time again.

9 - Fill your spaces with plants. Lots of them too. You can never have too many.

10 - Whenever you say “yes” to something, consider what you may be saying “no” to. For although it is wise to remain open to all kinds of opportunities and experiences; remember that your time, energy, and resources are finite. Frequently ask yourself: is this essential and/or desirable?

11 - If you are ever bored, tired, or annoyed by something and feel a great urge to leave: assume you’ve already left in your mind. Then, stay a little longer, knowing that you now need nothing. And then, watch the experience more clearly to discover the things that are important to you, that have clearly been compromised. You always have much more to learn by staying a little while longer, than you have from leaving.

12 - “Don’t try to live your life too soon. By listening too much to gurus, you try to jump over the whole darn thing and back off and become wise before you’ve experienced that in relation to which there is some point to being wise. This thing, wisdom, has to come gradually.” - Joseph Campbell

13 - The young man knows all the rules; the old man knows all the exceptions.

14 - It seems to me that there are simply too many things for one to care about. Focusing on one or two things and putting all your attention and efforts behind those seems to yield a much greater effect than vaguely speaking on a wide range of topics does.

15 - Learn to speak more intentionally and deliberately. Close your mouth when you are thinking, remove those umms and errs. Be as brief and succinct as possible. (Deliberate speakers hold more attention in the long run than any rambler).

16 - Every time you do something impressive whilst high or drunk, you put a vote in for a version of you that doesn’t exist when you’re sober. Do more, sober. Better still, find a way for your sober self to be the self that experiences life liberated, fearless, and high.

17 - If you experience a loss of confidence, avoid rushing to extremes in an attempt to kickstart it back again. Instead, adopt a gradual, more considered approach at putting back each of the pieces that made the whole. This will yield for a longer and more sustainable chapter of confidence.

18 - If you feel stuck, write 3 pages in stream of consciousness. Write down every bad thought. Write down every good thought. Assume no one will ever read it, and perhaps even destroy the paper afterwards to ensure that - for there is nothing quite like seeing your most intimate thoughts revealed on paper to inspire clarity from your frustrations and anxieties.

19 - The significance of a simple execution can be easily missed unless you are holding onto the original problem in your mind. To see this in full effect, watch Steve Jobs present the pinch and zoom interaction on the original iPhone. Remember that there was a time where the design and engineering team at Apple had to manually arrive at this execution for solving the problem of what could be the most natural means of zooming on a touchscreen device. Put in another way: without proper context as to the struggle that went into them, innovations of the past feel too natural and obvious to appreciate.

20 - Simply being aware is often enough.

21 - The adoption of plausible deniability as a strategy to feel better about one’s own decisions is prevalent. People who take a true and honest exploration of their own motivations to hold themselves accountable are a rare breed. Note whenever someone does so.

22 - Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. Go for what is meaningful.

23 - Yes, you should still talk to more strangers.

24 - Our primary prerogative should be to give the world our “gifts”… but that we should do so with our eyes open. Whilst all deserve a chance to a warm welcome and embrace: not everyone deserves the time, effort, and attention required for you to give in a prolonged manner. To determine where this attention should ideally go, one method is to ask yourself: who receives my gifts as gracefully as I seek to give them?

25 - You’ve got to be heaven, to see heaven.

***

A huge thank you to Connor, Faz, Manu, Luke, Mum, and Dad for reading and advising me through the first few drafts and ideas. I always lean heavily on your wisdom and perspective.

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