So I turned thirty this past week. It was bitter sweet as it now officially means I am a quarter of the way through my life. However, looking back on the past thirty years I realize I have grown and changed in ways I never expected. So much like the great master Yoda, himself I feel a bit more qualified at my advanced age to dole out some sage wisdom. "When 30 years old you reach, look this good you will not." 

1. Distraction is not a dirty word.I am not saying that you should procrastinate yourself into a problem, but (as long as you are not in a critical position, such as the front line of a battlefield,) allowing yourself to get distracted every now and then is now a bad thing. Distraction can calm nerves, rest tired brain cells, and even open up worlds to new possibilities. After all, if we all focused on what was in front of us the whole time, no one would ever stop to look around and see the beauty of the world or the humorous memes on Facebook.

2. Exercise your body and mind. Keeping your body in shape is incredibly important as you get older, but it is just as important to keep your mind in shape. You would be surprised how quickly both atrophy after you leave the comforts of school for the monotony of the work world. Much as you take for granted the regular exercise of gym class, you also take for granted the regular mind exercising benefits of academic classes. You need something to challenge you, both mentally and physically, because if either goes you will find yourself facing a slew of health risks as you get older. Also, you just feel better.

3. Always have goals set for yourself. When you're in school, regardless of what else is going on, you always have that overarching goal of graduation ahead of you. Whether you found reaching that goal to be difficult or easy is irrelevant. The goal itself gave your life structure. You always felt as if you were heading somewhere. Always set a new goal for yourself, even if it is mundane. Maybe you want that next promotion or that bigger house. Maybe you want to finish that novel or even finish that video game. Goals are like wind in your sails. Even if they are small, they still push you in a direction.

4. Do something extremely difficult. Along those same lines, remember to challenge yourself. Pick a task you would otherwise consider crazy challenging to achieve. I am not talking about unrealistic life goals, like becoming a professional actor or pop star. I mean challenge yourself to do something difficult you would not normally do. This could be as simple as running a marathon or learning German. You may not succeed, but that's not the point. I promise you there is a lot of merit in hard work, and if you are willing to make the effort you will be rewarded in ways you cannot foresee.

5. See the world. When we get stuck in the same geographical location we grew up in, we tend to fix our opinions and goals to fit that small little box in which we are so comfortable. Seeing that there is a world and a life outside your day to day routine is the easiest and best a mind-expanding experience you can have. Even if it's just escaping your part of the state for a while, I promise you, your POV will change. As an experiment, open Google Maps, zoom in on a foreign city, turn on street view, and imagine what it would be like to be a person on that street. Now picture doing that for real.

6. You are never too old for cartoons. Cartoons are awesome. They are animated bits of nostalgia that not only entertain but help bring you back to a simpler time in your life. Sometimes it is important to remember what it was like to be a kid and the wonder you felt at the world. If you can recapture that, (or even better keep it with you as an adult,) I promise it will do wonders for your life. Always grow older, but try not to grow up.

7. Being a leader sucks. Seriously, it does. Abraham Lincoln was a great leader, but when you look at what he had to go through to achieve it, it sucked. He went through hell to do the right thing and still got shot for it. Leadership is not a privileged it's a burden. You work three times as hard as the people underneath you, you take all the crap for any mistakes they make, and you take none of the credit for their accomplishments, and that's just if you are doing it right. If you're doing it wrong, there will be even more disasters waiting for you down the line. No sane person should ever want to be a leader.

8. Be a leader. Leadership, despite all the hardship, is one of the most rewarding tasks a person can accomplish. Yet, don't do it for fame, or fortune, or glory, or power. Do it because you care about the goal and the people you are leading. Don't shy away from the opportunity when it arises. It will be hard, and you will want to quit at times, or throw things at those who are under you, but when you get your subordinates across that finish line you will finally understand what the rewards of true leadership are about.

9. Leave better than when you arrived, both externally and internally. Pick up the trash from the floor and put it in the trash can, turn off a running faucet, fix a tilted picture, but don't forget about yourself. You should walk away from experiences and try to take the positive from them, even if they are traumatic and horrible. Take it as a compliment, or a lesson, or whatever, but become a better person because of the experience you just underwent. It's one of the hardest bits of advice I have to offer, and one I still struggle with myself.

10. Have regrets. Regrets are part of life and love (and especially high school.) The trick is not about having "no regrets," but about not letting yourself be consumed by them. Take them as lessons. Build upon them so that you don't repeat them, and become a better person because of it. If you use your regrets as building blocks in the foundation of who you are, then they stop being regrets and start simply being experiences that help shape who you are.

11. Get into a fight at least once in your life. Get punched, punch someone else, and just get injured. I don't care if it happens in a dojo, in a boxing ring, or on the schoolyard. I am not suggesting you go out and start a fight, but when you have been in a physical altercation, all of a sudden they don't seem that scary and you get a little more confidence in yourself. Knowing how to fight (or at least knowing you can take a punch) will raise your confidence when interacting with others, because you realize that there is nothing they can physically do to you that you can't take. You also understand what it means to inflict harm on others, and you will probably be less likely to do it. After all, no one understands peace like a veteran of war.

12. Be poor at least once in your life. Nothing makes you respect money (or its responsible use) like having been poor for a time. If you spend a year living on nothing but peanut butter and bread you tend to appreciate what it means to have a steak. You will appreciate driving a brand new corvette if you know what it means to drive a broken down clunker. In a world where more and more people are racking up debt and not even batting an eyelash, learning to live within your means is a much needed skill set.

13. Be the change... Live your life as you want others to live theirs. Too often the good of a message gets lost in the hypocrisy of the speaker. Don't be a hypocrite but don't be a televangelist either. Live your life as if everyone is looking to you to set the example. You would be surprised how many people notice your actions even if they are not accompanied by words.

14. Friends are more important than things. You know what I want for my birthday every year? All I want is my friends to take me out to a nice restaurant or bar and buy me a beer or even a nice dinner. I don't want money, or watches, or stuff. I just want my friends to be around me and to show that I am an important person in their lives. Ultimately, stuff fades away, but it is the memory and the impact of the people around you that stay with you. A good conversation with friends is worth ten Xbox Ones.

15. Floss. Everything else on this list is opinion, but it is proven fact that flossing every day helps prevent tartar build-up, protects your gums, and saves you from expensive and painful dental procedures later in life. It even helps prevent all sorts of diseases, from bad breath to heart disease to diabetes. Floss every day, you will be glad you did.

16. Think before you open your mouth, then do it anyway. Think what impact your words will have on other people. Decide if what you are about to say will make sense, be intelligent, be funny, or even be considered relevant. Take all that into consideration, (reorder your thoughts if need be,) but never censor your speech because you are afraid. Do not waste your words on senseless bigotry, hate, or stupidity, but if you have a legitimate complaint, question, opinion, etc, speak it. Others may find it offensive or disagree, but as long as you took the time to present it in the a thoughtful and respectable (or funny) manner then you have the right to voice it. 

17. There is no right way to look at the world. Everyone is different and everyone sees the world in their own way. Buddhists, Catholics, Nerds, Europeans, Fish, Children, Women, Cyborgs, everyone has had experiences that have shaped who they are and how they interact with the world around them. As a fellow citizen of the planet it is your responsibility to take that into consideration when interacting with other people. Respect their world views and maybe even learn from them. However, just because you respect another person's opinion does
not mean you have to agree with them. 

18. Read the books you want to read. Reading is so incredibly important for everyone. It helps with comprehension, critical thinking, vocabulary, creativity, and so much more. It is vitally important that you read, even if it is something trashy. Books can be a great passion, so embrace them and have fun, and read as much as you can. As long as you are entertained by it and enjoy it, do not let anyone else tell you to what to read.

19. Read the books they want you to read. By they, I mean teachers. Make sure you also use reading as another way to challenge yourself. Every now and then, read something you would not normally pick up. Maybe try a "classic," by Shakespeare or Twain. I hated reading Catcher in the Rye, but at least I read it, (and now I can bash it from a knowledgeable standpoint.) Also, it challenged me to think in ways I would not normally have done. Books can be entertaining but also enriching. Pick up something new and accept the challenge it offers.

20. Don't ask for help, (unless you really need it.) Too often I see people get frustrated with a problem or a device (or whatever) and their first impulse is to ask for help. There is great benefit in asking someone else for help with a problem, but only after you have exhausted your own brain power. Step back, take a look at the problem, assess it, and take five minutes and try to figure it out. Worst comes to worst, you still have to ask for help or Google the problem away, but I think you will surprise yourself how intuitive and creative you can be when you are willing to put in the effort to try.

21. Accept kindness when it is offered. Self-reliance can be an asset, but you should never turn away an offered hand. If someone is willing to help you or offer you a piece of advice or even a kind word, don't reject it off-hand. Small acts of compassion are the minor miracles that life sometimes offers us. Additionally, these small kindnesses are often as much about the giver as the receiver. If you reject someone's offer you risk rejecting part of them or the chance to get to know them better.

22. Study science. Science is the laws of the world we live in. Studying those laws not only tells us more about our world and about how we came to be, but it also gives us a glimpse into the true wonderment of life. Physics, biology, chemistry, astronomy, and all the rest offer surprising insights into the world around us, and surprising beauty.

23. Study religion, or at least mythology. Religion is more than just the stories we tell ourselves to explain how the world works. It is a collection of beliefs that informs the opinions of billions of people around the world. Christianity, Islam, Taoism, and all the rest offer insights into the minds of people and the world at large, and gives thousands of ideas and stories of surprising beauty and grace.

24. Listening is better than talking. You learn so much from people when you just shut your mouth every now and then. I am not saying that you should embrace the role of passive observer, but whatever you are, be an observer as well. Also, when someone you know is having a bad day, sometimes the best you can do is listen. People don't always need advice or to have their words matched with more words. They just want a sympathetic ear, and to know that someone cares enough to pay attention. Sometimes the best thing you can do in life is just pay attention.

25. Gluttony is a sin for a reason. Too much of anything is bad, but as you grow older you will realize that too much food or drink is not as fun as it used to be. Metabolism slows, livers fail, and what once took you hours to recover from now turns into days. I promise, there will come a time when a carrot seems more appealing than a chocolate bar. Moderation is the key to balance, both in health and in happiness. Basically avoid any word that starts with "over" or "binge" and your body will thank you for it.

26. Love is more important than lust. There is so much more to love and beauty than just appearance, and as easy as this advice sounds, it takes many many years before you even begin to fully realize the truth of it. Sometimes in life our opinions and judgements get so clouded by physical beauty (both in relationships and in other aspects of life,) that we ignore other factors or warnings. Things like compassion, friendship, kindness, and real love stay well after beauty has faded. Most importantly, never throw away something special for momentary temptation.

27. If it scares you, do it. I am not talking about jumping out of a plane without a parachute or wrestling a tiger, (but then again...) When opportunities arise that initially scare you, (maybe they are too hard or require too much effort,) those are the things you should pursue the hardest. You need to step outside of your comfort zone and take on tasks that challenge you and force you to grow as a person. if you grow your comfort zone, you grow your confidence. The fears you conquer will be the things that you will be most proud of when you look back on your life.

28. Don't be a what, be a who. People should never ask children, "what do you want to be when grow up. Instead we should ask, "who do you want to be when you grow up." The more you experience in the life, the more you realize that the "what" is crap. If your life is so empty that you have to define it by your job title, then you missed the point. The best advice I can offer is to be the kind of person you want to be, the rest will follow. Ultimately, it doesn't matter if I am a mailmen or rocket scientist, I would still rather be a good person.

29. Have opinions on things that matter. It is fine if you have no opinion on where to eat or what to watch, or even if Greedo shot first. However, make sure you have opinions on subjects that affect your world, your life, and those around. Even more important, makesure that your opinions are researched. Do not take what other people say at face value. Do your own research and your own fact checking. Get varying opinions and both sides of the story. Use the Internet for more than cat videos.

30. Don't take advice from blog posts. Most people who post "advice" for other people are usually pretentious morons with over inflated egos and advanced BS degrees in things like "Comparative Literature." Everyone's life is different and their experiences are unique. Take what you read with a grain of salt, save the good, and ignore the bad/stupid. Live your life as you need to live it and don't change it unless you want to. Now... A cat video...


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Comment by Carmo Steon on November 21, 2013 at 9:02am
You have a lot of good points (taken with a grain of salt of course). Sounds like wise words from a Jedi master.

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