Life Lessons to Live By

by RJ

in Self Improvement

Today, November 5th, I’m 26 years old. Here are the life lessons to live by, that I’ve learned in my 26 years.

# 1 – Fate…it exists

What is fate?

Fate is when you’re 16 years old; it’s the first day of high school, class has begun, and in late walks the prettiest girl you have ever seen. Fate is when the only open seat of about 30, is next to you. Fate is when you’re too shy to say a word to her, until you’re forced to because after class, you find out your lockers in a class of 600 people, are next to each other.

Fate is when ten years later, you post a picture of you and that girl on your blog, as a happily married couple.

Fate…it exists.

# 2 – If I  list out my priorities and family and friends are not first or second, something isn’t right

In February, after 7 days of below zero temperatures, I start to ask myself why I live in Chicago. The thought of moving to somewhere like Florida for the warmth or Colorado, where I could at least enjoy the snow, is very tempting.

But then, I think about the people I would leave behind. It’s not worth it.

The more time I spend with family and friends, who I have a deep connection with, the better I feel.

# 3 – A strong network, isn’t just important, but required to achieve anything great

Naturally, I’m an introvert. I’m fine with being alone for days at a time. Plus, I assumed that networking meant going to local chamber events and handing out business cards to other salesman. Not exactly what I want to do on a Thursday night.

So I stopped networking.

It wasn’t until I started going through the Empire Builder Kit, when I realized how wrong I was. Chris Guillebeau, who wrote the kit and is still sending me emails to this day to help grow my business, told me that I should build my network by 5 people each day.

Even though I haven’t been doing this for more than a few months, I can say that this advice is some of the best I have ever received.

# 4 – Life is too short to eat bad, unhealthy food

I’m a proud food snob. One of the best Christmas presents my wife gave me were cans of imported tomatoes from the San Marzano region of Italy. This was in college, where good tomatoes were not inside a 50 mile radius.

As for the healthy part, I’m no expert.  I can tell you that the healthier I eat the better I feel. The better I feel, the better quality work I get done.

# 5 – Money is important…but not that important

Money is important. Although, it’s not meant to be obsessed over. The quote below sums up my thoughts:

“Money is like gasoline during a road trip. You don’t want to run out of gas on your trip, but you’re not doing a tour of gas stations. You have to pay attention to money, but it shouldn’t be about the money.” – Tim O’Reilly

# 6 – There’s no such thing as good debt

I didn’t know any better but at 24, I bought a house. I don’t mind owning a house.  The real problem is the lack of freedom that comes with a mortgage.

# 7 – Reading is one hobby that I will never regret starting

Before I graduated college at 22, I read as much as the average American – a book a year.

Since I graduated college, I read on average a book per week.

Before I started reading, my thoughts and actions were small. The thought that I could achieve something great, never occurred to me.

After I started reading, I was open to a whole new world. A world with endless opportunities. A world that I’m looking forward to live in for many more decades.

# 8 – Most fears are not as bad as I make them out to be

I thought of every worst case scenario that would happen if I cancelled my cable. The scenario I thought of was, “What if the Chicago Blackhawks made the Stanley Cup and I can’t watch the game.”

Turns out they did make the Stanley Cup. Turns out, with the money I saved by cancelling our cable, my wife and I went to game # 1. Even better, when they won the Cup, I was at my parent’s house with my dad. The same dad, who when he had two  tickets the last time the time the Hawks were in the Stanley Cup in 1992, and could take anyone in the world,  he took his 7-year-old son.

# 9 – There’s something special that I can’t explain, when I’m surrounded by nature

I have been very fortunate to travel to many different places all over the world. But my favorite vacation to this day was a road trip to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone Park.

I had seen my share of Ansel Adams calendars in the past, but this was the first time I really was surrounded by nature. I wish I could explain how amazing it was, but I can’t.

Since that trip, I make a constant effort to get outside in nature. It just makes me feel good.

# 10 – It’s easier to be my own guru, than to follow someone else

I have to thank Jonathan Fields, author of Career Renegade, for this bit of knowledge.

For a long time, I was always trying to follow in others footsteps. It wasn’t until I read the last chapter of Career Renegade, where I shifted my actions to those of a follower, to that of a leader. Not necessarily a leader of others, but the leader of my own life.

# 11 – I really don’t need that much money, to experience everything I want to experience over my lifetime

One small shift in my thoughts, has had a profound impact on how much I have and plan to experience.  The shift came when I started saying, “How can I afford that” instead of “I can’t afford that”.

A perfect example of this is traveling. For a long time, I put off the dream vacations because of cost. It wasn’t until recently, that I have begun to see with a little travel hacking, how little it costs to travel.

# 12 – People are willing to help; as long as I ask them to

I waited and waited for big bloggers to link to me. Every week, I would look at top blogger round ups to see if they had linked to one of my posts I worked hours on.

Week after week…nothing.

It turns out; all I had to do was ask. Once I started asking, they started linking.

Another example, I just asked a Certified Financial Planner® for a little help as I enter the field. He not only helped me, but forwarded me to three of his friends. All I did was ask.

# 13 – The law, “You’re an average of the 5 closest people you hang around with” is overused but true.

When I think of the people who I have the utmost respect for, who I look up to, whose footsteps deserved to be followed and apply this law, it never fails.

# 14 – The road is better than the inn

I spent 499 days, with one goal – pass the Certified Financial Planner® exam. After I passed, I spent one day in celebration mode.

99% of my time, is spent working towards a goal. The other 1% of time, I’m celebrating my accomplishments. If I didn’t enjoy the road, I wouldn’t have many positive memories. As Zig Ziglar says, “You do not pay the price of success; you enjoy the price of success.”

# 15 – Tracking precedes improvement

Improvement begins, when I start to track. My productivity improved, when I started tracking my time. My strength improved, when I started tracking how much I could lift. I started to wake up earlier, when I began tracking the number of times per week I got up at 6 AM. I stopped checking email 30 times a day, when I kept count of the number of times I was in my inbox. My finances improved, when I started tracking my net worth.

There’s a theme here.

# 16 – My education began once I got out of college

I learn best, when I immediately apply what I‘m learning. That doesn’t mean taking a test. It means going out in the real world and taking action.

I get a little nervous sometimes that I’m under prepared when trying something new. However, once I throw myself into the fire, I’m fine. 100% of the time my fears of not being ready, are unjustified.

# 17 – LinkedIn is Underrated

For networking, Facebook sucks. For keeping up with ex-classmates you never talk to in real life except the day before Thanksgiving at the local bars, and even then, you don’t get past the what are you up to now pointless drivel, Facebook rocks.

This took me a while to find out, but the social network for serious networkers, is LinkedIn.

Join it and use it. All the cool, successful people do.

# 18 – Salary is like a drug

It’s a quick burst of comfort. A false feeling of security. It causes you to make bad decisions. It’s addicting.

# 19 – Generation Y has the opportunity to achieve many great things, but it’s not going to be easy

Past generations handed us the tools to change the world.

What we hold in our hands is powerful. We can use technology to change the world for the better. Or else we can fail, by letting this technology be a distraction.

The choice is up to us.

What life lessons do you live by?

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nweissNo Gravatar November 5, 2010 at 1:33 pm

You truly know the real meaning of happiness. Happy Birthday!

Briana @ GBRNo Gravatar November 5, 2010 at 6:14 pm

#3: That’s a great tip (extend your network by 5 people). I’m going to implement that into my life plan. There’s really no negatives to it.

#4: Sigh, I’m really TRYING to eat healthy, but when I do, I crave the unhealthy. But you’re right. Life’s too short.

#6: Thank you! I’ve been saying this (mostly to myself). I rather have no student loans, no mortgage. Basically not have to worry about owing ANYBODY, but I’m a work in progress.

#7: You and me both. I stopped for a few years, and since I got my Kindle, I’m SO GLAD I started back. I have so many books ready to be read. I just wish I had more time.

#10: Are we twins or something? Yes yes yes! I want to be my own guru. Live up to my own expectations. Accomplish my own goals. I want to be someone else’s role model. I want to be proud of myself.

#14: I never took the time to realize that. Looking back at high school, I’m looking at the journey it took to get through it, then when I graduated, I’m thinking “wow, that’s it? that’s what I was anticipating?” It really is the journey.

#15: Tracking is a slight obsession of mine, because I love charts and analytics. Is it wrong to track EVERYTHING? (not that I’m doing it..yet)

#16: I’m still in the process of finishing my college education, but the months I put it on hold (from March until now) I think I learned so much more than when I WAS in school.

#17: The other night, my fiance was asking me what I was doing. I said “On LinkedIn.” He said “What’s that?” I was baffled! I’m thinking “Only the best place to network online!” haha It really is an amazing tool.

#19: Generation Y rocks! Which is why I’m creating a media company specifically for us!

Happy birthday RJ!

@shiraronitNo Gravatar November 6, 2010 at 10:55 am

Happy Birthday! Enjoy the great outdoors

Suba @ Wealth InformaticsNo Gravatar November 6, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Happy Birthday RJ!

I tweeted and stumbled. I will include this in my weekly roundup tomorrow as well.

Khaleef @ KNS FinancialNo Gravatar November 6, 2010 at 10:04 pm

Happy birthday, RJ!

I just tweeted this article!

Khaleef @ KNS FinancialNo Gravatar November 6, 2010 at 10:05 pm

I also Stumbled the article as well.

PatrickNo Gravatar November 7, 2010 at 6:45 am

For some reason I had never joined Linkin until yesterday, and I have been missing out. I had 4 people contact me within the first six hours of creating my account, people I know but who I haven’t talked to in a long while. I also had an officer who served with me in Iraq back in 2003 send me a message stating how nice it was to see a fellow Tusker who had found success outside the military.

Thanks RJ for continuing to expand my horizons and providing the last little bit of push for me to improve.

Mrs. AccountabilityNo Gravatar November 7, 2010 at 5:07 pm

I love this post and love hearing about what you’ve learned in your years on this earth. Your wife is gorgeous and how serendipitous you ended up together. Fate might exist, but one of you still had to make a move at some point in time so kudos to you, RJ. I tweeted about your giveaway and stumbled. Happy Birthday and here’s to many more!

RJNo Gravatar November 8, 2010 at 10:20 am

Thanks everyone for the awesome comments so far. Can’t wait to announce a winner.

JensenNo Gravatar November 9, 2010 at 9:38 am

great post rj, very inspiring.

Bret @ Hope to ProsperNo Gravatar November 9, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Great post RJ.

I think you are right on the money about all of these points, especially about friends and family being the top priority. I also spent way too much time worrying about things that never happened. I don’t do that very much now days. The bad things that happen, you rarely see coming any way.

Sometimes, it takes an event, like a birthday, to make us think about the direction of our lives. For me, that was the 20th anniversary I had last month. Happy birthday.

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