39 things I know at 39

1. Manage your testosterone

Testosterone for men is essential and the defining hormone that makes a man a man. High levels make you feel confident and rambunctious and aggressive. It makes you lean and muscular and gives you a strong sex drive. What’s not to like? In terms of testosterone, we’re supposed to be half the men our fathers and grandfathers were. Testosterone is produced at night and your body needs sleep and dietary fat to produce it. So eat red meat, nuts, butter and oil and get your sleep. And stay away from stress as well as stress produces cortisol, the stress hormone, and the testosterone killer.

2. The mind and body are inextricably linked

When you have problems with your body, you will have problems with your mind. When you’re ill with the flu, you have nothing to give with your mind. When you’re sad and depressed, your energy levels plummet. Don’t just focus on either your mind or your body. Focus on both. Eat well, sleep well, exercise well. Relax well, think well and read well.

3. Strive for there to be no disconnect between what you think and feel and what you present to the outside world

If you’re always filtering what you say to other people and not articulating what you really think, then there’s literally no integrity between your inner life and your outer life. You’re presenting a different person. If the real you is your inner world, then the one you presenting to the outside world is not real. Fake. How exhausting that must be. To constantly filter and watch what you say. Tell people what you really think What’s the worst that could happen? What’s the best that could happen in terms of feeling congruous between your inner world and your outer world? Strive for self-integrity and congruence.

4. Work your levers

When you’re feeling low or depressed, I always say to watch your levers. The levers are my words for the foundations of a good mental state. If you’re not sleeping well and enough, if you’re not eating well, then you’re going to be much more susceptible to being stressed and anxious. So work those levers. Do the foundations well. Eat decent food. Get sufficient sleep. Exercise well. Get some sunshine. Look after yourself.

5. Don’t put women on pedestals

I made this mistake for most of my post-pubescent life. At least until I was 30. Treat women like equals or even better, as bros, and see how much better you do with women.

6. Saving is a good thing

If I had saved just 5% of my paychecks each month, I’d have £50,000 more in savings by now. And that’s without investing that further. 5% of £2,000 per month is £100 per month. We could all definitely save that. In fact, the advice from The Richest Man in Babylon is to save 10% of your income before anything else. Like the book says, “Pay yourself first”.

7. Most conventional wisdom should be taken with a pinch of salt

Think about it. Most people know and follow conventional wisdom, and with that, most people do averagely.

8. Being positive is a superpower

When you’re young, people try very hard to appear world-weary and jaded. This just hurts them. Go against the grain and be relentlessly positive and optimistic.

9. We know very little for sure

A priori truths such as 2+2=4 is a certainty but democracy being superior than autocracy is much less certain, as is whether abortion or euthanasia is wrong. Yet people fight and protest about these things. As the Oracle said to Socrates, “Wisest is he who knows that he does not know”.

10. Exercise daily

Walk everywhere. Run when you can. Lift weights. Do pull-ups and push-ups. Feeling physically fit and strong will enhance your life every single day.

11. Seek adventure

I will never forget cycling from Land’s End to London or canoeing the length of The Thames or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or backpacking around the world or doing the Three Peaks Challenge. Although I’ve not done any challenges for a few years now, it’s time to get back on that horse.

12. Read more great books

Victor Niederhoffer said that he never reads books less than 100 years old. You don’t have to go that far, but surely there’s more in it for you to be acquainted with War and Peace, The Fountainhead, The Odyssey and The Iliad than in Booker Prize winners like Wolf Hall.

13. Invest in your friendships

I’m lucky to have circles of very good friends. Look after your friendships and nurture them. Because of my friends and the quality of those friendships, I count myself a very lucky man.

14. Tell the truth

Lying is bad for the soul. Even little lies hurt you. If you lie to others, then there is a disconnect between you and them. Why would you want to put a barrier between yourself and others around you. That’s the opposite of integrity. Don’t we all strive for integrity and authenticity? Well then, stop lying.

15. Be kind to people

You know how good it feels when someone is kind to you? That warm, fuzzy feeling? Feels good doesn’t it? Why not be the person who gives that feeling to someone else? Giving other people that feeling feels pretty good too. Make others feel good and make yourself feel good as well in the process.

16. Don’t be too nice a guy

You’re too nice if you put someone else’s self-interest above your own self-interest. Why would you do that? You’re at least as important as other people. At least. And probably more. So don’t be too nice and subsume yourself to other people.

17. Make the first move

Most people are afraid to make the move. Whether that’s saying something in a meeting, or asking for someone’s number or going first in a large training exercise. Show the way and go first. You’ll feel good for doing so and you’ll get more respect for doing so. Win win. Make the first move.

18. Keep going. The mind is often weak whilst the body is willing.

You know when you’re on a 5 mile run and you go for a fast finish from a mile out from the end. On a day when you’re not feeling it, you might get really tired with half a mile left to go. You don’t think you can go on, so you slow down and stop. You quit. However, the body could have kept going. It was your mind that was weak.

19. The power of 80/20

There’s so many applications of this principle. For example, 80% of a result comes from just 20% of the inputs. This means that we should focus on the 20% of inputs that really matter and that have an outsized bang for buck. It also means that it takes 20% of the total time to do something to get to 80% complete, and it will take you 80% of the time to finish the final 20%. So in lots of situations, just try to get to 80% done and move on.

20. You have the ability to always change your state of mind

Say you wake up in a bad mood and you let this bad mood pervade your whole day. What was the point of letting it ruin your whole day? Instead, take a deep breath, breathe out slowly, take another deep breath, exhale slowly. Put on your headphones and listen to your favourite tune, something uplifting to you. Try a few power poses like Amy Cuddy talks about and reset yourself. You are not a slave to your emotions. You control your mind and your mental state.

21. Know that what you consume is who you are

If you read comics all day long or binge watch zombie box sets on Netflix, know that this is who you are. You’re not developing skills, learning new things, gaining interesting new experiences, you’re a comic reader and a TV watcher. On the other hand, if you’re reading Milton and listening to jazz and opera, then you’re a poetry fan and an opera buff. Which would you rather be?

22. Create content every single day

Don’t just be a consumer all day. Whether that’s reading news in print or online, or scrolling through social media for hours on end. Consuming all the time doesn’t let you grow. Instead produce some content, whether that’s writing a blog (easy to do and set up), taking photos and uploading to Instagram with some interesting caption, making a vlog or even just doing a daily Facebook Live. Even if it’s just in a small, small way, be a creator and producer.

23. Keep learning every single day

Ancora Imparo or I am still learning. You leave school at 18 and you probably die around 75 or 80. That’s about 60 years that you have outside of formal education. Do you still carry on learning or do you remain static in learning from 18 onwards? For most people, the latter is the case. Don’t be like that. Everyday, try to learn something new. Google the blockchain, enroll on a free computer science course from Harvard or MIT, pick up a book on MBA skills, read some classic philosophy or poetry. Keep on learning, a bit every day.

24. Don’t read most newspapers. Most news is pointless to consume

It might be about celebrity gossip, sports, immigration, Brexit. It’s mostly pointless. Do you need to consume this? Even if you did need to consume this, can you trust the source? What is the spin that’s being put onto the story? Even newspapers of record like The Times of London have a spin or slant on their reporting of events. The only paper I trust is The Financial Times followed closely by The New York Times. Be careful with the news you consume.

25. Appearance matters

Dress well and look good. Think about a time you went in for a bank appointment and think about the bank staff who served you. Did they look like they’d just come out of school with a suit that didn’t fit them properly or dd they look like an experienced professional who should be taken seriously? We see interactions play out like this multiple times on a daily basis. Think about the flipside. What impressions are you throwing out there?

26. Find a woman who treats you well

Assuming you’re going to get married, you’re going to be married for a very long time. You’re going to be spending more time with them than anyone else, and for decades. This one then is a no-brainer.

27. Treat yourself kindly

Time and time again, I see people put huge burdens and expectations on themselves. They beat themselves up for not being productive and castigate themselves for not being perfect. Go easy on yourself. You wouldn’t let your kids or your friends and family be like this. Why do you do it to yourself? Treat yourself well and with kindness.

28. Negative self-talk is toxic

I hear people I know say on a daily basis stuff like, “I’m an idiot.” or “I could never understand that”. or “I’m fat” or “I’m the worst”. This is terrible self-talk. You’d never talk to your friends like that. Why would you talk to yourself like that? Language is so incredibly important. It leaves a psychological mark or impression as soon as you say it. If you say, “I’m worried about…”, even if you not worried about it, guess what? You’re going to feel slightly worried, just because you said the word ‘worried’. Watch the language you use to talk to yourself. It’s crucial. Replace it with power words, kind self-talk, and positivity.

29. Language and precision of language matters

We’ve seen how bad self-talk infects you. That is the power of language. We can use it for good and for our own well-being. Think about whether you’re over-exaggerating your illness, your stress-ness and ask yourself what would be a more accurate way of describing your circumstances. I bet it would be less over-egged than you intially described it as. And guess what, I bet you’d feel better too.

30. Don’t watch too much Netflix

One hour a day is 7 hours a week or 365 hours per year. 365 hours a year!! That’s the same as 15 solid full days of watching Netflix! 15 solid days. Think about what you could have done in that time. Watch the hours. How you spend your hours is how you spend your years.

31. Smile and laugh all the time

Life is too short to be miserable or even to be restrained and measured all the time. Smile whenever you find something funny or amusing. Watch comedies. Hang out with funny people. Don’t be a grump unless you have very good reason to be so, and even then, don’t stay grumpy for long.

32. Life is too short to hold grudges

Grudges shackle you to the past. You’re holding onto to something that other person in all likelihood does even know about. The negativity of a grudge is hurting you. No one ever said, give me more negativity, it’s awesome. Let it go, and move on. You’ll find you more space in your mind and your heart for other more positive and beneficial things.

33. Seek some balance

If you’re spending too much time in the city, go and find some peace in the countryside or the beach. If you’re partying too much, take a few weeks off the partying. If you’re eating too much junk food, eat clean for a few weeks. Don’t go to the other extreme, just find a balance.

34. Be generous

Be generous with your time, your praise, your money, your kindness, your energy and your zest for life. It’s good for you. It will make you feel good. For those of you who think that the above resources are finite and that therefore they should be preserved, you couldn’t be further from the truth. How can you give too much time, too much praise? Think from a position of abundance. Would you rather live in a world where people were mean and penny-pinching? Of course not. Don’t be that guy. Be generous.

35. Know that you can always change your mental state

If you’ve had an argument in the morning, does this negative mood continue for the whole day? If so, why do you let it do so? Park it, compartmentalise it, move on. It’s already ruined your morning, why let it ruin your afternoon too? Slow down, take a deep breath and focus on the next thing you have to do. Read more in this previous article on how to become more positive.

36. Realise just how fucking lucky you are

Every day I think about what a lucky bastard I am. I think about how lucky I am to have two legs, a good brain, all my senses intact, some skills and knowledge, how lucky I was to have great parents and a great sister who cared for me and gave me a great education or how lucky I am to have a great wife who looks after me and loves me, or to have great friends who I’ve known all my life, or have a good job or to have the ability to travel and to be free of mental and physical illness. Think about what you have gratitude for and smile about that every single day. Trust me, this shit works.

37. Have a growth mindset and not a fixed mindset

We’ve talked about growth mindset vs fixed mindsets before. A fixed mindset thinks that you can’t learn or develop new skills, and that your abilities and potential are fixed at birth. A growth mindset on the other hand believes that even if they can’t do something now, they can learn how to do that thing and make that happen. Which do you think you have right now? If it’s a fixed mindset, know that you can start cultivating a growth mindset right now.

38. Talk to strangers

We’re social creatures at our core. Talking to just a few people each day is anti-social and bad for you as you’re not scratching this essential itch. Talking to new people will scratch one of our fundamental needs: to be social. Get out of your anti-social comfort zone and talk to new people. Start small if this is uncomfortable. Say hi to your neighbours, to the person at the train station, the barista at the coffee shop, the bus driver, someone you recognise from your commute, anyone! Watch the positive impact that this has on your day.

39. Diminishing returns

This principle applies to much more than just economics. One example of it is that a £10 burger often tastes much better than a £5 burger, but the difference between the £10 burger and a £15 burger is often not as great as the difference between the £10 burger and the £5 burger. Apply this to cars, watches, clothes, eating out, wine, everything! It’ll make you think twice about buying a £60 bottle of wine. How much better really is it than a £20 bottle? Try to find the sweetspot of returns. Eg. do you really need to spend more than £300 on a good watch. Or £200 on a really good pair of shoes? Or £9 on a good burger (check out Bleeker Burger’s double cheese)

And one more for luck…..Stop complaining! There’s always someone alive in the world who is much worse off than you. There’s likely billions of people who have it worse than you. Imagine that guy in a Brazilian prison, or that person who has to walk 6 miles just to drink some water than may kill them, or that person who’s been homeless for 10 years with mental illness. Simply put, your situation doesn’t warrant complaining about. As Gary Vaynerchuck consistently says, you being alive was a 400 trillion to one shot. 400 trillion!! You’re ridiculously lucky to be alive. Stop whining!

What would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments below!

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