August 10, 2020 | 12:18

30 Life Lessons Learned In 30 Years

Today’s article is a repost from Medium that I wrote 3 years ago. It is still relevant today, and I subscribe under each lesson. There are more lessons learned since I wrote the original piece, but I’ll leave those for a separate post. Enjoy!

Today is the day. The day that feels so unreal and distant, that you don’t even think about it.

Until you turn 29. Then, on that day, you realize the next year you’ll be 30.

I should say that it feels better than I expected, though. Some people experience the middle age crisis and feel terrible — but I think (and hope) that I have already overcome it earlier (I still think this at 33).

Anyway, how much time is 30 years? Enough to learn some lessons, make mistakes, go through some challenges, and achieve something in life.

While approaching this date, I put together a list of lessons that I have learned throughout these 30 years analyzed in retrospect. What I got is a mix of ideas backed up by science, psychology, and personal experience that guide me throughout life. Enjoy!

1. Knowledge ≠ Skills

You can read dozens of books on personal development, give advice to other people on personal development, and still be terrible at personal development.

That’s because knowledge is different than skill. As I have elaborated on in How People Learn — The Brain Basics, there is a straightforward and demonstrative exercise I came up to demonstrate this idea: write on a piece of paper the sentence “I can write fast and beautiful.” Then switch the pen to the other hand and write down the same sentence.

Unless you are used to writing with both hands, you will observe a slow and ugly writing process of something you know very well—you know the shapes of each letter, how they should be drawn, and connected, yet it is hard to draw beautiful letters.

Therefore, it is good to read books. Still, it is also essential to practice what you want to develop as a skill or behavior. Otherwise, you will get what you got the second time you wrote the sentence.

2. On Love And Effort

Love. One word, millions of senses.

As with almost anything in life, we learn what love is mainly from 2 sources: how we see it in our family and how it is being shaped by our interaction with the world (what we read, watch, etc.). On one hand, children in some families learn that love is when one spouse beats the other, or when there are constant screams and cries. On the other hand, books and movies show us idealized love when everything is excellent, and the partners are perfect.

I met my wife almost 11 years ago. She is beautiful, but she is not ideal, nor am I. People are not perfect. You have to keep that in mind. I love her more than anything else, but I can’t say that these eleven years were pure pleasure and joy, full of romantic feelings, although it seems so from aside. When you see a happy couple walking by, holding hands, it seems that everything is great for them. You look at them and think: “Well, they are so happy, why can’t I be the same?” But you don’t know how much effort did they put into their relationship.

If to characterize love, I would use the words of M. Scott Peck — a psychiatrist that wrote a fabulous book — “The Road Less Traveled:”

When we love someone, our love becomes demonstrable or real only through our exertion — through the fact that for that someone (or for ourselves), we take an extra step or walk an extra mile. Love is not effortless. On the contrary, love is effortful.

You have to put in the effort. Sometimes a lot of effort. Love is about growth and change, it’s about giving as well, not only receiving. If you are in a relationship and do not want to change, you will simply not succeed. And when you see a happy, loving couple holding hands, smiling and being happy, it’s not because they are lucky to find each other, but because they put in the effort to overcome hard times and grow, as love is effortful.

3. On Extremes

Nobody likes to be wrong, yet in any dispute, both parties are usually partially wrong, but no one wants to admit it.

Theoretically, people can avoid a lot of pain and stress if they approach any argument rationally and focus on the issue itself. In practice, though, it is rarely the case, as being right is more critical than getting things done for many people.

We are binary beings. Psychologists have proved that deep down, under many layers of abstraction and filters, our emotions resolve to one of two states: we either like something or dislike something, therefore adopting a “toward” or “away” attitude. We move “toward” something we like and walk “away” of something we dislike. This behavior can be observed in reptiles, birds, mammals… and humans.

Therefore, due to this implicit behavior, we tend to polarize things, concepts, and points of view. For instance, whenever a dispute arises, because of confronting views and the fact that we think our idea is correct, we automatically label the other one as wrong (otherwise, there wouldn’t be any sense in having an argument based on two correct points of view) and distance it farther away from our idea, thus polarizing the whole discussion into “my opinion is correct and your is wrong” extremes.

At the same time, we tend to dismiss lots of details: at our side, we reject those that might support the opposing opinion. On the other side, we focus on those that demonstrate why their opinion is wrong, ignoring everything else.

But the world is not binary, and “the truth” rarely (if ever) resides on an extreme. “The truth” is in quotation marks, because it depends on the context, that is individual and that we need to take into account. Therefore we have two truths in two different settings. However, the truth, even in different contexts is somewhere in the middle (some very notable examples: heavy meat eaters vs. vegans, accepting all refugees in a country vs. not accepting refugees at all, liberals vs. conservatives, etc.; but subtle examples are all over the place in our daily lives).

Therefore, the idea here is (1) to understand the context of the opposite opinion, and (2) move away from extremes toward “common ground” whenever possible. Usually, when doing so, I find myself that I actually agree with the person I’m arguing with, because in the context that s/he talks about, his/her opinion makes sense. Then, once we moved away from extremes, it’s psychologically more comfortable to listen and find flaws in each others' views, as they are “closer” to each other than they were in the beginning.

However, all this is futile if you don’t have the willingness to change your own opinion (which implies listening and analyzing facts of the other person). As uncomforting as it may sound, sometimes you’re on the wrong side. And it takes a great deal of courage and honesty to first admit it to yourself and then to acknowledge it to your “opponent.”

4. Today Is Tomorrow’s Yesterday

We remember parts of our past with so much nostalgia, but we fail to realize that sometime in the future, we will have similar feelings about today.

There’s not much I can add here, and I’m working hard on fully understanding and embracing this approach.

If you manage to do this, tell me how.

5. Learn Every Day

If people stopped eating the way they stop learning at some age, the Earth would be very sparsely populated.

I have a strong passion for education and learning. I believe that education is the key to a better, happier, more peaceful world. Also, education is a lifelong journey. Unfortunately, few people realize this.

Today, learning is especially important, as the speed of change in the world is continuously increasing. Everyone’s talking about the fourth industrial revolution and how soon their jobs will get automated by AI.

The sad (or happy?) truth about it is that some jobs will indeed get automated. If people do not prepare for that (both morally and in terms of skills), they will have a tough time.

By continually learning, you can go either deeper in your domain and become an expert, as described in The Path Toward Mastery—How To Become An Expert In Your Field, or go broader to cover several areas. Either way, you increase the gap between having your job automated and being a needed professional that brings added value (see lesson #16).

But you can also just learn cool things about the world. Today you don’t just have access to information—you have access to top quality information that went through many different filters, which millions of people have seen, proving that it is indeed useful (or fun). There are TED talks, various youtube channels, like Vsauce, minute physics, 2minute papers, and many more. Just search your domain of interest, and you will find great content done by amazing people who put effort and love into what they are doing.

6. On Our Bodies

Our bodies are incredibly complex, self-regulatory systems that sustain life over the years, designed by the Time itself (and natural selection) to be able to function under various conditions. Yet, we want to see -10kg on our scales, or better-outlined muscles and rounder butts, or just to feel better, in just a couple of days. And preferably without much effort in the process.

How many failed attempts of people getting in shape or losing weight do you know?

Our bodies require time to make lasting changes. Sometimes it is months, sometimes it’s even more. Fast changes are produced only in critical situations (illnesses, injuries), which are never a positive thing for the body. Therefore, do not believe the next commercial that promises you that you’ll lose 10kg in 2 weeks.

Instead, develop a belief and actively practice perseverance and discipline. The former is for doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success, while the latter is for continuing to do it on a regular basis.

7. Respect

We are taught to respect the elder, yet pretty often, I see the elder have little respect for the younger, which is not fair.

Also, respect is said to be universal. Yet, there is little respect for many women, people from all groups of minorities and religions globally.

Sadly, there is so little respect in the world today. I mean genuine respect, not selective respect between individuals of specific groups based on economic or other kinds of benefit.

Some children are bullied by others in the kindergarten and schools, women are poorly treated at the workplace in so many ways, people of color are treated differently. Why is it like this? Sadly, I don’t have an answer.

However, with more respect for each other, people would be happier, families would last longer, societies would flourish, and the world would be a better place. This sounds very banal and cliche, but, as you’ll read in my 30th lesson, we tend to overlook things.

Contrary to the current reality, respect should not be based on one’s status, as today, one’s status can be easily manipulated and crafted, nor should it be based on one’s age. Instead, respect should be based on one’s actions, as they convey real intentions and define the person.

8. On Our Limited Worldview

“Everyone takes the limits of his own vision for the limits of the world.” — Arthur Schopenhauer

That one’s not mine, but it helps me broaden my own worldview.

You’ve probably heard the classic parable of “Blind men and an elephant,” where several blind men who have never seen an elephant, after inspection of different parts of it, arrived at different conclusions.

We all live in our own bubbles made of opinions, information, and knowledge grabbed from other people and the media. Therefore, it is hard not to fall prey to the confirmation bias when you choose to ignore information that does not align with your own worldview and beliefs. But we need to stay vigilant and to be open to test our assumptions.

Just keep that in mind when next time your friend will tell you something you will not believe.

9. Treat Your Spouse As You Treat Yourself

Choosing your life partner is hard. Sustaining a healthy relationship requires even more effort.

When you grow up and create your own family, your spouse is one of the closest and dearest persons you have. S/he should be somebody you can trust and who supports you (if s/he is not, probably you’ve made a wrong choice).

However, sometimes you might quarrel with your spouse, take offense, and do not talk with s/he for some time. This time is basically time spent in vain, it is wasted time that won’t be ever returned.

That’s why, as a personal rule, if during the day we quarrel, I will never go to sleep while still being in offense at her. Never (since the last 8 years). Sometimes it is hard (sometimes she’s right, and I’m wrong), but we will always speak to each other and discuss our thoughts and feelings.

Communication. That’s something we agreed upon to do. Whenever we don’t like something in each other’s behavior, we discuss it. I don’t understand people who keep everything in them until it reaches their boiling point, and then they explode with offenses that are weeks and months old, which very often has terrible consequences.

If to look at it from a somehow abstract perspective, spouses are just another type of relationship. And for any relationship to blossom, you have to work on it, even if sometimes it may be challenging (affecting your ego).

PS: There may be quarrels based on some severe things like cheating, violence, etc. In this case, I still believe you have to discuss the situation, make the corresponding conclusions, and take relevant actions.

10. On Evolution And Emotional Heritage

We are pretty much the same cave people from tens of thousands of years ago, but with a vibrant culture, and some advanced technology.

Don’t agree? Explain then why there are so many cases of violence at home, where nobody’s watching you, and why people believe politicians that tell “scary tales?”

Just look around: there are still myriads of men that frantically search for power and supremacy over others, and there are still myriads of women that are ready to obey to men in exchange for wealth and power as well. I know plenty of people from both categories. If you don’t know such people—you are lucky.

It is in the last 5–10 years that there have been observed significant changes in the mentality of the masses (there were lots of individuals that stood out for various causes in the past though) of different groups of people.

Genetically, we almost did not evolve since the appearance of Homo Sapiens, because in terms of evolution, little time has passed, but we developed a lot in Culture.

Cultural evolution happens on a smaller scale, but it is faster than genetic evolution, and its heritage affects whole nations. For instance, you have some specific opinions about people from different countries: Germans, Spanish, Italians, Russians, etc. It is Culture that has a significant role in these definitions, and that affects how these people are.

Yet there is another evolution happening on a tiny scale, but with a very high agility relative to the previous two: the Family Evolution. It’s basically the upbringing that each of us receives throughout our first 12–15 years, which significantly affects our personality, sanity, and well-being.

It’s nature that evolved us into rational beings, history, and numerous generations that enriched our cultures, but it is only our responsibility to invest and improve our families, who, in turn, will be able to positively affect and enhance our Culture. Invest and strengthen your family every day.

11. On Expectations

The higher your expectations are, the greater the disappointment when these expectations aren’t met.

But it works the other way around as well: the smaller your expectations are, the greater is the joy of surpassing them.

There is a scientific explanation for this phenomenon related to the physiology of our brains and the chemicals that affect our brains (dopamine neurotransmitter plays a critical role here).

Recall when was the last time and how did you feel when you went to a restaurant/bar, and the waiter said they will bring your order in 20 minutes, but they actually brought it in 30 minutes. Compare that with the case when you prepared to wait 20 minutes, but it was delivered in 10 minutes.

This principle applies to any situation when we expect something. Now, this doesn’t mean we should have no expectations at all (this would be just another extreme). Just don’t raise your expectations without any reason.

12. On Beauty

People learned to give too much importance to the wrapper, rather than to what’s inside.

The beauty-meter of the majority of people is so spoiled today that I wanna puke. And I’m not talking about people’s style. It’s about their bodies and their notions of beauty that are infused by the media.

First of all, beauty is much more than appearance. It how a person laughs and thinks, how one gesticulates, expresses emotions, what their interests are, and how beautiful their inner world is.

And when you look for these things, when you learn to see through the thick opaque glasses put on you by the social media, suddenly, the world and people around you become more beautiful.

Secondly, don’t judge yourself on how you look. If you think you need bigger lips/boobs/torso/butt/whatever, or that “you are fat,” because your partner doesn’t like you the way you are — change your partner.

I should note, though, that taking care of your body is always a good idea. If you practice some sports and eat healthily, you will even look younger and will be happier. You should do it first and foremost for yourself, as your future You will be grateful. This applies to anybody.

13. Volunteer

Newton’s third law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. It applies to life as well — the more you give, the more you will receive.

I would recommend any person to volunteer. Aside from the fact that I have contributed to the society, volunteering helped find my first job, learn tons of interesting and useful things that I wouldn’t learn at the university and get to know amazing people, with whom I’ve become friends, and with whom I worked together and done business together.

Unless you’re an arrogant person, volunteering helps you discover yourself on a human level, live happier and connect on a deeper level with other people and the society you live in.

14. On Human Behavior

If a person says something — there is a reason.

If a person doesn’t say something — there is a reason.

Human behavior is very complex and unpredictable, yet there are some principles upon which it is based — the words that we say and the actions we make have a reason behind them, a motivation to say or do something at some specific moment in a particular context. Learn to spot these reasons and analyze people’s behavior, and you will understand them better.

And what is more important, you will understand yourself better.

15. Read A Lot

If the human brain’s size changed upon exercise similar to muscles, it would be clear from afar who is the person who walks to you.

This point goes hand in hand with #5 (Learn every day).

One of the critical factors that contributed to our evolution as a species was that our ancestors learned to pass the valuable knowledge gained during their short lives to the next generations. Primarily this was done by language (and some cave drawings) and later on through written language (a.k.a. texts and manuscripts).

For millennia, written text was used very effectively to pass on the knowledge gained by many generations to their followers, to avoid mistakes and improve their lives.

Today, the enormous amount of books and websites allows you to learn from almost any person on the planet. Thousands of books are being published each day, and you have never had access to a more considerable amount of information. Of course, some aren’t worthy reads, but others can widen your worldview in a remarkable way.

16. Great Professionals Generate Value

Fighting the robots is futile. You cannot work 24/7 with the speed and accuracy of a computer.

But you don’t need to.

Whether you want it or not, today, you don’t compete with people from your community or city anymore. You compete with 7+ billion people worldwide + an army of robots/algorithms that recently joined the ranks of your adversaries.

However, companies basically need only two things:

  • Maximize profit
  • Minimize costs

Robots and computers dismiss some professions as obsolete because they do both of these. They minimize profit by not requiring a monthly wage, not needing to sleep, eat, and being always healthy. At the same time, they maximize profit by their implicit high speed and precision with which they function.

But this is what some great employees also do: they maximize profit by working more intelligent/improving things and minimize costs by optimizing processes. Experts in their fields will not go away anytime soon because they have the experience and a deep understanding of their domain. Check out The Path Toward Mastery—How To Become An Expert In Your Field for an in-depth analysis of what it takes to become an expert in any field.

There are plenty of things that a computer (and even other people) can’t do (yet), and you need to focus on such matters. You will need to work with your head, even if your job is a routine.

Take a moment and think when the last time when you suggested an idea to your boss on how to improve things in the company was? Or how to simplify some process, or to cut off some expenses?

If you didn’t do this in the past month, then you have a problem.

17. Exercise

Movement is life.

There are so many benefits for our body and brain from physical exercises that you can write a series of books on this subject.

It helps lower the risk of strokes, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, depression, several types of cancer, arthritis, coronary heart disease, heart attack, it strengthens your heart and improves lung function, improves mood, help prevent excess weight, boost your endurance and energy levels and even can help you perform better academically. You just need to stop finding an excuse for not practicing sports.

18. Take Care Of Yourself

We think we are invulnerable unless one day our back starts to hurt.

And only then we become conscious about what we eat, how much we drink, how stressed we are, and how much physical activity we do.

I am a software engineer. When I sometimes teach programming, I use to say that a programming language is honest with you. Comparing to a person, when you did something wrong, a piece of code doesn’t take offense at you, but it will stop its execution and tell you exactly where you were wrong and what you did wrong.

Our bodies are very complex systems, but they don’t give you instant feedback when you do something wrong. They have advanced security measures, and they try to fix any “errors” automatically. Unfortunately, sometimes our bodies don’t fully succeed, having these errors accumulate.

When you take care of yourself by exercising, eating healthy, controlling stress levels, etc., you reduce the number of errors that accumulate in your body, resulting in a happier and healthier life later on. But for this, you have to think long-term (see lesson #29)

19. Be Open To Learn From Others

The gift of learning from other’s experience is one of the most valuable assets we have ever had. That’s why we attempt to create Artificial General Intelligence now instead of still drawing cave paintings.

As you have your own unique and sometimes valuable experience, so does everyone else. But instead of learning from others, we want to teach them.

I come from a former Soviet Union country, where people’s mentality has yet to catch up with reality and technological progress in the world. Sadly, some people fear that they could lose their job and surround themselves with people who are less smarter than they are.

By learning from others, we can save time, as we already know the direction and won’t spend too much time moving in the wrong direction — people who share their experience have done it for us.

But this doesn’t apply only to job-related concepts and learning. We all can learn from children how to be a little bit less stressed and enjoy life more with what we already have.

20. Travel Often

Unless you travel to see the world and talk to other people, you are similar to a domestic cat that lives in a flat on the 10th floor—you think your house is THE WORLD. You don’t even realize how much you miss out on.

And then, when you take the cat out for a walk, it scares the sh*t out of it.

As mentioned in lesson #8 (On Our Limited Worldview), traveling can widen your worldview and teach you many valuable lessons. It makes you more tolerant, less judgemental, and it enriches your life with great memories. Just travel more often.

21. Listen To People

One of the most valuable things you can give to a person is your attention.

This one works like a charm: if you ever want to make a good impression on somebody—listen to them. Not only by shutting your mouth, but by shutting your brain parts that immediately start thinking of a response while the person is still speaking.

People love to speak about themselves (especially when someone listens to them). So, ask people questions about themselves and then just listen. In the process, you will find out interesting things about them, broaden your worldview and even learn new things.

This is actually one of the easiest and, at the same time, the hardest things to do, as naturally, we want to speak about ourselves and show how smart/funny/caring/put-a-nice-word-here we are.

Now, this doesn’t mean you need to agree to everything that person is saying, nor does it mean that you must stay silent at all times. But by simply listening to the person without interruption can make a huge difference between a good and a bad impression.

22. On Reasoning, Opinions And Common Sense

Sometimes, people do not believe professionals who have spent decades sharpening their skills, yet unthinkingly believe any politician or stupid advertisement.

Have. Your. Opinion.

It is hard to reason when emotions take over. That’s why politicians and advertisements are very good at triggering the right emotions that would blur people’s reasoning.

It is also hard to reason when an authoritative figure tells us something. Because “that person must know better than we know what should be known.”

Stop. Question everything. Inform yourself. Find arguments.

Do not search for evidence that supports your point of view—you will find it. Instead, search for evidence that supports the opposite point of view. If you have found it, review your position and change your mind accordingly. Do not slip onto the emotionally-irrational path. Stay on the rational side.

23. Life Has Many Colors

Without sad moments in your life, without pain and suffering, you would not understand happiness.

As I wrote in Understanding the Colors of Our Life, life is made of positive as well as negative experiences. The more colors you can distinguish between (the more various experiences you have been through), the richer is the picture of life you can savor.

24. On Responsibility

Instead of taking responsibility for their actions and lives, people choose to blame Fate, politicians, neighbors, and bad weather.

  • if you want to be a valuable employee,
  • if you want to do things that matter,
  • if you want to become a professional in your field,
  • if you want to live a meaningful life,

then assume responsibility for your actions. It’s that easy.

Generally speaking, many people are cowards that do not want to be responsible for what they do. This gives them the possibility to not perform their work well and blame everything and everyone but themselves when things go wrong.

As described in lesson #26 below, each day, you make choices that influence your future. When you approach these choices with responsibility, understanding, and awareness of the potential outcomes, you will make better decisions, which will result in a better life.

25. On Self-Deception

Of all the humans, it is the hardest to be sincere with yourself.

One of the best skills that we develop throughout life is to “lie to ourselves.” In fact, we are so good at it that we rarely even realize we are doing it.

Sometimes this lying is good for us. However, most of the time, this is one of the most destructive things we do to ourselves — we destroy our own dreams. Actually, we don’t kill them. We invent reasons that will interfere in our path so that we will fail, or, even worse, we pretend that we already have achieved what we want. This is some kind of masochism — we want something really hard, but continuously delay actions that will bring us closer to our goals. Instead, we think about all possible failure scenarios that can happen, or simply we interpret our reality as being what we want.

There are lots of examples: you don’t get along well with your spouse, you constantly quarrel, yet you pretend that you have a healthy relationship; you want another job, yet you can say 101 reasons why it’s not a good idea to make the switch now; you feel insecure in your relationship, but you think that it’s how it is supposed to be, etc.

The first step in getting rid of this behavior is deciding to be honest with yourself and be self-aware, to admit that there might be a problem. The second step is to go see a psychologist — there is nothing wrong with that.

26. Life Is A Series Of Choices

You are creating your life every day. The actions you make today will define your choices tomorrow.

When you take full responsibility for your life, you have more control over it. Even if fate exists, it isn’t responsible for you wasting hours watching TV or surfing the internet, watching memes, and videos with cats.

Want a better life? Ask yourself what are you doing each day to become better and bring more value to your spouse, family, kids, friends, and employer/company.

Already working your butt off every day to pay the bills and don’t have time to change your life? Well, it seems you’ve made some choices earlier in life that led you here. First of all — learn your lessons so that you won’t repeat your errors. Then — make a change in your life.

It will be damn hard, and it will hurt a lot, but if you don’t make it, everything will stay the same.

27. Successes and Failures

Success does not teach you much.

Failure does, if you are willing to learn.

It is great when you succeed on your first try, be it in sports, relationships, work, startups, or any other activity you might choose to do.

But usually, success comes after a series of failures:

  • in sports, until you win, you will lose many times;
  • in relationships, you might meet people you won’t get well along until you find a person you feel good with;
  • at work, you will make plenty of mistakes until you learn and gain more experience (even then, you will still make mistakes);
  • in startups, you might fail several startups, until you succeed;

Failure is a part of our lives, and we need to learn to deal with and overcome it. Yet from the early years, we are taught that failure is something terrible, which should be avoided at all costs. This causes people to feel insecure about themselves or paralyzes them to do nothing.

28. We Have More Similarities Than Differences

“The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.” — Neil deGrasse Tyson

In contrast with the next point on this list, I internalized and fully understood this idea only recently, in the previous 2–3 years.

But before moving on, think about five things that are common between Emma Watson (actress, activist), Jack Ma (businessman, Alibaba CEO), a chemistry teacher from Uganda, and you.

Emma Watson, Jack Ma, Teacher from Uganda Sources: The Guardian, QuotesGRAM,

Did you manage to get your 5 things in common? What about 5 differences? I bet it is easier to come up with contrasts than with similarities.

Nevertheless, there are lots of similar things between people, all people.

But let’s actually enumerate some differences first:

  • gender
  • skin color
  • income

These are the three main differences that I came up with off the top of my mind. But these are also the differences between all your known friends.

It’s the same with similarities. All those people have:

  • interests
  • problems
  • emotions

Some time ago, I was part of the organizing committee of the TEDxChisinau event as the speakers' coach. We had great speakers, with whom I had some fantastic discussions. However, it isn’t (only) their achievements that made these discussions so enjoyable, but rather the fact that you talk to them on some random topics and realize that they are human, just as you and your friends are — with their own interests, emotions and problems they have to deal with.

Probably this seems insignificant, but when I realized that I am the same person, in terms of needs and possibilities, as a celebrity (not better or worse, but the same), or as a homeless person (not better or worse), it helped me realize how similar we all are.

29. Be Long-Term Oriented

There are two types of people: those who eat the most delicious part of a dish first and those who savor it at the end.

People can benefit in so many cases by delaying gratification and focusing on the mid- and long-term goals, yet there are plenty of those who choose instant but smaller rewards instead of a delayed, but larger one.

Probably you have heard about the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment:

I first learned the benefits of delaying gratification and focusing on the long-term objectives while being of the same age as the children in the above video, but in a real-world setup — in the kindergarten.

After lunch, all children went to bed to sleep for about 1 hour (which for me went like 2 or 3 hours — the time flew so slow!), but not all actually slept. As the educator was occasionally leaving the room, nasty kids were jumping on their beds, making noise while playing around.

This, of course, disturbed the educator upon returning from wherever they came from. And then, somehow, I realized that if I am quiet during the sleeping time, I can turn this into my advantage later on, when after sleep, all children were sitting and waiting when the educator will give permission to go to play with the toys in the room.

When later all my kindergarten mates, me included, were eagerly waiting for the “play time” to start, I would approach our educator and say something like:

Mrs. name, I was quiet during sleep time. Can I go and play now, as the play time has almost started? (In my kindergarten, everything had its own time).

I have never received a “No” (as far as I remember).

Then I would choose the best toys there were out there, feeling proud that I managed to stay quiet during sleep time.

Long-term objectives are so hard to pursue because there is no reinforcement, no immediate feedback for our actions. The reward is so far away that our minds struggle to connect our efforts now to the award we will receive later.

But the reward is out there, waiting for those who can reach it. And very often, it is bigger than the instant gratification pleasure someone receives.

On the other side, you bite a piece of cake, and you instantly feel the pleasure and delicious taste. It’s so tempting to get the reward now, because you see your action results, instead of receiving nothing now and waiting for some time to get something in the future.

30. On Happiness

We search for the extraordinary when the ordinary is more than enough to live a happy life.

Congratulations! You reached the last one.

If you’ve read through all lessons, you’ve probably observed that some points aren’t all that “new” as ideas. Conversely, some of them are as old as the hills. That’s because you don’t need computers to contemplate the meaning of life — people have done it for thousands of years. And people were living happily for thousands of years.

The Internet is full of extraordinary people, photos, news, etc. More than half of them are fake or artificial, just to look or be cool. But each picture is just a snapshot, an instant in the person’s continuous existence, that might, or might not reflect their real state, as happiness is much more than a smile on a photo on a fancy background. After all, people lived happily for thousands of years; therefore, there must be precious lessons we can learn from past generations. But I believe each person should address this topic individually, as we all have unique experiences and expectations from life.

Instead Of Conclusion

Thank you for reading, and I hope some points have resonated with you. If some ideas strike a chord with you, feel free to share it with others — that would be the best gift for my birthday! Also, you can follow me on twitter (@iuliangulea) and subscribe below to receive more updates.

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