A Letter To My 20 Year Old Self, On My 30th Birthday.

Dear 20 Year Old Max,

Today is your 30th birthday. I’m you, ten years in the future, here with some good news: you’re legitimately happy when you turn thirty. You’re grateful for your life, and pleased with the man you’ve become. For your benefit, here is a list of thirty things which I know, but you don’t yet. You’ll learn all of these things the hard way throughout your twenties:

  1. There are only two kinds of people in the world: people who believe their lives are the result of things that happen to them, and people who believe their lives are the result of choices they did or didn’t make. For better or worse, you are the second kind of person.
  2. Your “life” is the summation of a series of individual “moments”. Every moment is an opportunity to make the best choice available, or a less-than-best choice.
  3. Some emotions are more useful than others at different times, so it’s important to understand them all and communicate them clearly. For example, anger is productive, but unsustainable. It can help you quickly accomplish important things, but with rapidly diminishing returns.
  4. Passion and apathy are both literally infectious.
  5. You can’t control other people’s happiness. That’s not your job. That’s their job.
  6. Your personality in part rests in the middle of the five people you’re with the most frequently. Let this motivate you raising your social standards.
  7. You should always treat your love life like it’s supposed to be the cherry on top of your already happy life.
  8. Take the high road as often as possible. The view is much better, and worth the longer trip.
  9. If someone throws you a surprise party, even a really great one, that person just proved beyond doubt that they know how to deceive you.
  10. Like a candle, you are capable of illuminating those around you, but like a candle, this means you have to burn yourself the entire time to do it.
  11. A good day starts the night before. Lack of sleep will always beat you.
  12. Shoes, and surprisingly little else, determine if a man’s outfit is “dressy” or not.
  13. One time, you’ll walk in front of a 500 person audience which you think is silently judging you for several awkward minutes. It will turn out they are just a group of prop mannequins placed in seats for a TV shoot. Don’t worry about what dummies think of you.
  14. Give hecklers enough rope to hang themselves, and they’ll oblige you.
  15. Even though you realize that being an artist isn’t always easy, you should also realize that it isn’t always glamorous.
  16. Art and business aren’t at odds with each other. Art is information, and business is the movement of information.
  17. Take your social network seriously. Your strong ties will champion you now, and your weak ties will help you grow.
  18. Bad news doesn’t get better with age. Share bad news even faster than good news.
  19. You are terrible at lying. Tell the truth at all times.
  20. Done is better than perfect. An okay Christmas album on December 24th will always beat a perfect Christmas album on January 1st.
  21. Under-promise, and over-deliver. This reduces people’s ability to be disappointed with you, and increases the chances they’ll be impressed with you.
  22. Drinking a glass of water will usually, but not always, help a situation.
  23. If a robot can help you, let it. Automate as many repetitive things in your life as you reasonably can.
  24. The best way to learn a skill is directly in person from an expert mentor. When you find one, protect the relationship.
  25. Even at your most lean and frugal, there is ultimately a bottom limit to how low you can minimize your own costs.
  26. Having a bad job is superior to having no job. It is irresponsible to not have a constant income.
  27. Debt is a psychological, not just financial, challenge. Treat it with respect.
  28. Rich or poor, it’s good to have money. Profit is good.
  29. Pressure is a privilege, and champions adjust.
  30. You are owed nothing.

With love,

– 30 Year Old Max


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