Today is my 25th birthday - a lot has changed in my life over the past year, so I thought it would be worth to write down some of the key lessons that I've learned during this time, in the hope that it will be helpful to others.
In no particular order:
- The value of autonomy and freedom: I started this year with a blank slate. I knew I enjoyed building products and solving problems, but I've gained a full appreciation for having the freedom to explore this year.
- Long-form content > short-form content, and books > podcasts: I've listened to a lot of podcasts and read a lot of tweets in the past. While I still do, I have consciously decreased this, in favour of reading more books. While podcasts felt educational in the moment, I found that my understanding rarely expanded by listening to them (although they were sometimes great ways to begin a topic, and subsequently dive deeper into some of the referenced material).
- When working on a project, momentum is the most important thing: I've found that the momentum of progress is a huge determining factor in the success of a project. Of course a first-order effect is that more work is done in a given time, but the second order effects are more important: shorter cyclet time for learnings, greater motivation as a result of seeing progress. Bias to action is crucial, and I've become much more focused on making quick decisions, rather than weighing the risks of something too heavily.
- The value of thinking from first principles: I've taken a lot of effort to think through specific problems from first principles this year - you start realise a lot of beliefs or processes in the world have obvious logical flaws. I've tried to make a habit of doing so consistently. I particularly like this blog post on the topic.
- Some of the best things cannot be planned for: I've always been someone who likes planning into the future. This year, some of the best things that have happened are things that I could not have expected; chance encounters or unexpected emails. For example, the motivation and decision to become commercially involved in theatre was triggered by a cold email I received from a producer towards the beginning of this year.
- Communicating truthfully 100% of the time makes things orders of magnitude easier than communicating truthfully 99% of the time: I've always been someone who is honest with feedback and communication, particularly in work scenarios. If you were to plot ease of life and % of honest communication on a graph, I think the relationship would approximate to exponential. In other words, there is a big difference between being honest 95% of the time, and honest 100% of the time - particularly in building trust and relationships.
- You can learn a lot from successful people who have gone before you, but it's vital to define success for yourself first: I see a lot of people look towards people they know (either notable figures or those around them) to emulate success. People aren't nearly specific enough when doing this, and there is a massive difference in potential outcomes depending on who you look to, to emulate. I've begun to define success for myself this year, and it's certainly altered the way that I've gone about things. Related to this, I believe you should only take advice from someone who you are looking to emulate, in the domain that the advice is being given.
- Compare yourself today with yourself yesterday - not other people: comparing yourself to other people can either be demoralising or make you less likely to always push for growth. I focus on taking small steps every day, building on what I did the day before to compound progress. Steph Smith has a great article going into this in more detail.
This year has been a year of exploration and learning. Next year, I plan to double down on a small number of areas and projects that I'm most excited about, and plan to build, grow and scale. If you want to be kept in the loop, subscribe to receive my weekly Build Log series.