I should preface this with the fact that due to a rather unfortunate (and silly) accident, I’m currently writing this with only one hand.
On the plus side, it means I get plenty of time to reflect and choose my words carefully. It also means you won’t be bored to death as I’m forced to be succinct.
And yes, as you (hopefully) guessed by the title, I am about to do the cliche thing and reflect upon the past decade— in as few words as possible.
But first, how do you even begin to take stock of a decade?
Should I be in a state of reflection and thinking of what I should have done differently? Should I be listing my mistakes and learnings so that those about to embark upon their twenties can perhaps enter their formative decade a little more informed? Or perhaps I should say screw it, I have no regrets — and bring on the thirties!?
I’m inclined to go with the latter.
It sounds obvious and borderline silly that I’m mentioning it — but everything you have done in life has led you to this point right now: your outlook and approach to life, what you wake up every day and do for work, what consumes your thoughts, your love life, what apps you use on a daily basis, how healthy your body is, etc.
You are the product of what habits you adopt. Habits which are dictated by your dreams, your environment, and your vices. Once you understand this, life, for most of us, is pretty flexible. It’s yours to mould.
I constantly try to remind myself of this fact.
But…back to the decade we’re about to say goodbye too.
On the 1st Jan 2010, I was 20— turning 21 a few months later.
Rather than go through every detail, I’m just going to touch upon a few aspects of life and comment on how my approach has changed over the past ten years. A set of reminders to myself.
My hand is already getting sore…
Approach to life…
At the start of the decade I’d summarise my approach as ‘helpfully impatient’ — I wanted to put a dent in the universe and I wanted to do it yesterday. Perhaps another way of saying I was driven and had some self belief. A lot of people want to tell you something can’t be done. I refused to listen to them. As I started to deliver results, I began to trust my outlook and approach, rather than those of others.
Contradicting what I’ve just said, one thing worth noting is the notion of ‘compound interest’ and exponential growth — I can think of a few instances when impatience has been detrimental. Sometimes it would have paid to be patient and play the long game. I’ve learned to identify how to approach a challenge.
I’ve always been interested in personal development — attempting to be the best version of myself— or rather trying to establish habits that bring out the best. This hasn’t changed over the past ten years. I did learn that trying to take on too many, or expecting too much of myself meant that only a few stuck. I now pace yourself and take on bite-sized, achievable goals.
I’d say as I got older, I’ve become less selfish. I used to think life was a zero sum game. Believing that someone else’s success would reduce the chances of my success. Now I very much understand and respect the notion of ‘paying it forward’, always go into any interaction or situation with ‘how or who can I help’. Be happy for others success and remember it’s not a race or a competition.
In 2010, I had just started my first startup with a couple of other people; prior to this I’d launched and sold a few websites by myself. Fast forward to today, and after a decade in startups, and I’ve got out of the game for a while — at the moment I’m helping build AI-first products within asset management, for a large corporate. I’m not going to go into the specifics, you can check my about page or LinkedIn for more.
One thing I do want to note is that I’ve started to value my work-life balance more. Over the past decade I had worked myself into the ground — to that of burnout. Reflecting on it, there was no need to invest in 80 hour work weeks. I shouldn’t have neglected fitness, relationships, sleep, mental health, etc. for just one goal I had set myself. It came at the cost of quite a few other goals which should have been equal priority, if not greater.
Taking this a step further, I now know that you don’t need millions of dollars to be happy, or a ‘success’. Most of the wealthiest people I know, are the most depressed. I’ve now learned to focus on inner peace. Beforehand I wanted to make as much money as possible, in as short a time frame as possible. It’s hard in the ‘Instagram generation’ where everyone puts forward the best version of themselves— you can’t help but feel a failure. Just remember that there’s a lot of BS. Don’t believe everything on YouTube or Instagram. Also remember that people optimise for different things.
Finally, another thing that has helped me was focusing on a number of building blocks. By this I mean diversify. Write a book. Volunteer. Sit on a board. Learn a language. Once you accumulate a few of these, your story becomes much stronger. Associate and get to know successful people around you. They’ll open doors, as well as help you stick to your habits.
This is an interesting one, as in many aspects I’ve learned a lot of lessons, and matured over the past decade. However, I’ve noticed myself becoming more anxious. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that it’s all behind me — it’s something I’m still very much trying to understand and reduce.
As a result, I’ve started to pay more attention to stress, and the negative impact it has on my body. This means I’ve stopped putting huge expectations on myself. I’ve started to take mindfulness more seriously. And I’ve also started to talk to professionals to ensure I get and stay on top of my mental health.
I think mental health is also highly correlated to gut health. A decade in high stress jobs, meant I didn’t fill myself with the right fuel. Lots of takeaways and even more alcohol. This, I now know, was a recipe for disaster. And for sure plays into the anxiety I now have.
Fitness is something I’ve started to really focus on, again in an attempt to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as increase longevity. I want to live as long as possible, in good health. And if I continued to neglect, I’d almost certainly face a higher possibility of all the typical illnesses and diseases that people face as they get older.
Hopefully that provided a little context, and there was something you can take away from this post that will positively impact your life. To conclude, I wanted to write a succinct list of habits that have helped me become who I am now. If anything use it to help kickstart your thoughts and aspirations about who you want to be for the next decade.
- Wake up early — spend the first couple of hours of each day focused on you
- Drink plenty of water
- Make it easy to take risks
- Get good at sales
- Spend as much time with friends and family as possible
- Forgive people
- Be present
- Work hard
- Build a network
- Use the Pomodoro technique for focus
- Measure your body metics every 3-6 months
- Use an Apple Watch for everyday stats on heart and sleep
- Write as much as you can
- Create and express yourself
- Time is limited and goes by fast
- Do what makes you happy
- Read more books
- Don’t let yourself get pushed around
- Have clear goals for yourself every day, every year and every decade
- Be around those who are the best in the world at what they do
- Don’t stagnate, get comfortable or coast
- Say thank you and create opportunities for others
- Don’t lie — it takes too much cognitive overhead to keep track
- Keep your personal expenditure low
- Reduce the amount of time on Instagram — it provides literally no value
- Ask for what you want
- Eat well
- Get into nature
- Most things are okay in moderation
- Try to do new things as much as possible
- Use a calendar
- Time heals most things
- Pay attention to your mental health
- Listen more than you talk
- Think before acting
- Count to 10 if you’re angry
- Sleep on an important decision
Briefly, some of the books, music, films and artists that helped shape my worldview in the 2010s:
- The Untethered Soul
- Ludovico Einaudi
- Ben Howard
- Alan Watts
- The Martian
- Steve Jobs
- Bill Gates
- Farnham Street