As I celebrate my 29th birthday today, I would like to share with you the 29 things which I have learnt along the way.
Life is such a complex entity – full of suspence, unexpected twists and turns, challenges, setbacks and screw-ups, together with its fair share of successes, breakthroughs, discoveries and lessons.
I have the privilege of learning countless lessons from life and the people around me, and here are 29 of them. This is my gift back to you and I hope that you will be blessed by them.
1. If you never try, you will never know.
Life is full of opportunities which are desperately waiting for someone like you to seize. You may never get your first goal on your first attempt, but keep going at it, and you will eventually hit your pot of gold.
Like what Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
2. Dare to take risks and face your fears.
If you don’t risk anything, you may be risking everything else instead.
Take calculated risks and face your fears.
Fears are all about perception. The more we are afraid of them, the more power we ascribe to them over our lives. Face them straight on and you will realise that most of them are irrational and not as scary as they seem to be.
3. Prove them wrong.
For every one supporter you have, you’ll probably have 5 cynics, skeptics and naysayers.
They will have their own opinions about you and your dreams. “You can’t do this!” “This has not been done before.” “Are you out of your mind?!” “Who do you think you are?” “What are you trying to do??”
You have a choice.
You can either submit and cave in to their expectations over you. Or you can stand your ground and prove them wrong.
It’s not really up to them. It’s up to you.
4. If you don’t do anything, nothing will happen.
I learnt this from my dad.
Accidentally dropping a glass of milk and staring blankly at the spill and shattered bits on the kitchen floor isn’t going to make anything happen.
If you want something, you’ve got to strive for it.
The world has its fair share of talkers – people who merely speak about their dreams, goals and ambitions.
I believe that the world yearns for doers – those who put their words into action.
Go for it!
5. You have a voice. Use it.
If your teacher told you to “shut up” previously, don’t you dare think that your voice and opinions are worthless.
Use your voice to stand up and speak out for what you believe in.
Use it to encourage those who are disappointed.
Use it to empower those who are struggling.
Use it to appreciate those around you.
You have a voice and you deserve to use it.
6. Keep reinventing yourself.
What would the healthier, fitter, happier, more passionate and more excited-about-life version of you look like?
Have you looked at a friend/classmate/colleague who seemed to be doing so well in what he/she does and then you wondered to yourself if you could do the same as well?
Reinvent yourself. The world is looking forward to the new you.
7. Hold your dreams close, hold your loved ones even closer.
Your dreams are precious to you. Hold them close and pursue them wholeheartedly. Don’t let go of them when the going gets tough and remind yourself why you’re doing this when you feel like giving up.
Hold your dear ones even closer. They stand by our side and pick us up when we fall down. They comfort us when we fail and celebrate with us when we succeed. Cherish them because even when the odds are stacked against us, they choose to not give up on us.
8. If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to achieve something quickly, go by yourself.
You will save time by having to not deliberate the idea with others and sift through the whole lot of varying opinions on its viability.
9. If you want to go far, go together.
But if you want to go the distance, go with a team. Having like-minded people in the journey makes the trip more worthwhile and enjoyable.
10. Embrace change.
Life is full of unexpected twists and turns. Plans can go haywire. People can fail and disappoint you. Projects can miss the mark.
Change management is good: being able to manage adjustments and transitions, and adapt to varying situations.
Change leadership is even better: being the one who leads the change and makes the change happen in the first place.
11. Embrace and appreciate differences.
Everyone is different. Seldom do you find people who think exactly the same way you do. In fact, if 3 people think the same way, then 2 of them are redundant.
Expect and be prepared for differences – in values, opinions, expectations, abilities, etc.
Learn to manage and appreciate these differences and make the best out of them. The best teams are made up of members with differing, but complementary strengths.
12. Let the past refine, not define you.
Sometimes we reminisce and talk a stroll down memory lane.
That’s good because you get to be grateful for what you have gotten and learnt along the way.
But too many people still live in the “good old days” – thinking that if only they did this or that, then it’ll be perfect.
Don’t be obsessed about reading the past that you forget to write the future.
13. Let the future be defined by you.
It’s alright to let go of the “good old days” because the greater days are coming.
What’s done is done but what is coming can be defined by you.
What’s your next move?
14. Appreciate what you have, while you still have them.
Don’t take things and people for granted.
Appreciate and be grateful for them while they are still around.
Society seems to be obsessed in chasing after the “next big thing” that it’s blinded to seeing the value of the simple things in life.
15. Be serious about life, but don’t take things too seriously.
It’s important to be serious about how you live your life – making your days and moments count – but don’t be too hard and harsh on yourself when things don’t go the way you want.
Learn to laugh at yourself when you stuff up because life is not something to be endured, but enjoyed.
16. Pause and reflect.
Life does get hectic at times, with our days passing by at breakneck speeds.
With this, don’t forget to slow down, take a breather, give yourself a treat and to reflect on how far you’ve come.
17. Get mentored.
Seek the wisdom and counsel of those who have been there and done that. Their many years of insight and experience will be able to save you the trouble of making the mistakes which they made.
18. Mentor someone else.
Consider this a way of giving back.
There are many who will follow in your footsteps. So why not help them in their journeys as well? You know how it feels, what to expect and what challenges you’ve experienced along the way. And by mentoring others, you are essentially investing in them and shaping the future generation of leaders.
19. Believe in yourself.
Just like what Michael Jackson sang, it all starts with the man in the mirror.
Thing is, if we don’t believe in ourselves, how can we expect others to do so in us?
Believe in yourself. Trust in your abilities. You have no idea what you are capable of.
20. Believe in others.
Just as how you struggle with self-confidence and self-competence at times, others will be in the same boat as you.
Sometimes, all it takes is just for you to say, “You can do this. I know you can do it and I believe in you.”
Such words are like seeds which will germinate in their soil of their hearts.
21. Believe in something worth fighting for.
Life isn’t just about you and you achieving your dreams. It can be, but life will be more vibrant when we start to look beyond our own needs and wants.
If you are concerned about the silenced and marginalised, stand up and speak for them.
If you are passionate for those struggling to get education, do something within your capacity to help them.
Having a purpose is to the soul what having food is to the body.
22. Dream big.
If you can do anything but not fail, what would you do?
Too many people are just cruising around in life, mindlessly doing the same things day in and day out, and having no idea where they are heading towards.
There’s nothing wrong being contented, but the danger comes when contentment turns into complacency.
Truth is, we only have one life and time is moving in one direction. We aren’t getting any younger, so let’s make the best out of it. Do something great now, so that at the end of the day, you won’t have any regrets when you look back.
23. Start small.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.
So if you have a dream, what’s your first or next step?
How will your day-to-day routine and schedule look like to make that dream a reality?
24. “You can’t soar like eagles when you hang around with a bunch of turkeys.”
The first time I saw this quote was when I was 7 or 8 years old.
As I grew older, it made more sense.
Your company matters.
If you want to grow in a certain way, seek out and join groups and hang out with people who are passionate about that. Likewise, if you hang out with peopl who just bring you down, I think you can figure out the outcome for yourself.
25. Enlarge your worldview and perspective.
It’s so easy to complain about this and that and about the patty things which happen to us.
Sometimes I get edgy when someone else cuts my place in the queue, when the weather is gloomy or when the chef takes too long to prepare my meal.
It’s true that our worldview shrinks when we just focus on what happens to us.
I mean, we all have our fair share of problems, but life is about having the right perspective. When I heard of a friend who struggled with cancer, I suddenly realised that my problems aren’t as daunting as they seem, and that I also felt more appreciative of the things I have.
So get out there and enlarge your perspective. Travel, talk to people and try new experiences. Your worldview will enlarge and so will your appreciation of life.
26. Get out of your comfort zone.
The irony is that the most dangerous place lies in the safety of our comfort zones.
The best way to grow yourself in terms of your character, abilities and experiences, is to step out and face your fears straight on. And amazing things happen when you take that first step.
27. Leave a mark, a footprint, a legacy.
Everyone will leave something behind. When you move to a foreign land, you leave something behind with your friends and family in your home country. When a person passes on, he/she leaves something behind as well.
The question is not whether you will leave a legacy or not, but what kind of legacy you are going to leave behind.
Inheritence in the form of money and material possessions will one day run dry. But the legacy of changed lives and experiences will keep going.
28. Either way, you earn or you learn.
If you succeed, you earn from the experience. If not, you can always learn from it.
Don’t see failures as stumbling blocks, but as stepping stones on your way to success.
29. It’s not how hard you fall, but how fast you get back up.
There will be many times in our lives when we stuff up and make mistakes. Our ideas might crash to the ground and we feel like we are taking 2 steps back for every step we take forward.
However, don’t be discouraged. Many successful people got where they are because they took their failures in their strides. They fall many times, but they get back up many times more.
Thanks for coming thus far. I hope you have been enriched by these little nuggets in one way or another. Feel free to share in the comments below on what you have learnt along the way. I look forward to hearing from you!