If there’s ONE THING that I’ve learned in my life over the 42 years that I’ve been on this earth, it’s that the older I get, the less I realize I actually know.
Over that time, though, I have accumulated some pretty important and significant lessons that have helped guide my life.
So to celebrate my birthday – and the birth of a new 7-year cycle in my life – I’d like to share some of those lessons.
I’ve divided these into categories – Health/Fitness, Productivity/Business, Parenting/Family and Life in General.
When you read the list and something sticks out for you, please leave a comment below…
AND if you think there’s a lesson that I’m missing that has really impacted your life, please let me know in the comments as well.
Here we go…
Health & Fitness
1. Meditate. There are waaaaay too many benefits to NOT be doing this. And all you really need is 12-minutes. No excuses. If you do one thing on this list, THIS would be it.
2. Get lean first. Life, training, achieving physical goals are a lot easier when you?ve got a ?blank canvas? to work with. And a lot of issues – hormonal, aesthetic, relative strength – tend to clean themselves up when you?re leaner.
3. Get strong first. Because strong makes everything better. This may probably seem contradictory to the above lesson – after all, how can you get both Lean First AND Strong First? But think of it this way? getting lean is about what you do in the kitchen. Getting strong is about what you do in the gym. So it is possible to get BOTH lean & strong at the same time. It?s just a matter of dialing-in your diet and your training.
4. Earn your carbs (a.k.a. ?Eat like a grown-up?). When you?re beyond the age of 35 and you?re NOT a professional athlete you are no longer ?entitled? to starchy carbs. You need to earn them. You earn them by training. So if you stick to the simple rule of eating carbs only on the days you strength train (immediately after and/or at dinner), you?ll be able to maintain a healthy body composition and hormonal profile. This lesson, by the way, falls more in-line with a balanced approach to eating. Some people like going keto (lotsa fat, some protein, almost zero carb), some like paleo (high protein, moderate fat, lower carb), some like high-carb (high-carb, high protein, low fat). All those approaches work? but I?m more inclined to using a combination with an ?earn your carbs? approach because it allows me to have a healthy relationship with food that I can model for my children.
5. Get comfortable with being hungry. Further to eating like a grown up? Just because you?re hungry doesn?t mean that you should eat. The best analogy I?ve heard is that of a toddler learning how to toilet train. When a toddler gets the urge to go to the bathroom, they just go. It?s not until they recognize the feeling that they know what?s coming and can control not crapping their pants. So when it comes to hunger, remember that you?re a grown-up and that you don?t need to eat every time you feel the urge. Control it and then eat when it?s time to eat. Don?t crap your pants just because you feel it?s coming on? so to speak.
6. Don’t combine fat & sugar/starch. Sugar will increase your insulin levels (your storage hormone) and when fat is prevalent while insulin is high you?ll eventually store that fat. This is why potato chips, donuts, french fries and ice cream are the worst if you?re trying to lose weight. I?m not saying that you should forever avoid these, but if you want to stay healthy, keep the fat/sugar combo to a minimum (once per week as a reward is fine).
7. More?on?Eating?Like?a?Grown-Up – Stop feeling entitled to comfort food just because something doesn’t go your way. You can opt for a healthier option instead of pizza & wings if you’re watching the game. You don’t have to eat dessert after every meal. And you don’t have to close down the buffet like you did in high school. Grow up.
8. Take one month every year (for me it’s January) and go “paleo”-ish. Give up sugar, junk food, starches/grains, dairy and gluten (coffee too, if you dare). You’ll be amazed what this does for your body composition and hormonal profile. Do not do this all at once if you’re married and want to maintain a sane & healthy relationship.
9. Work your way up to being able to hang on a chin-up bar for 2 minutes straight in the hollow position. A stronger grip and stronger abs will make you stronger overall. This accomplishes BOTH? it?s like a hanging plank.
10. Go surfing at least once in your life. I’m convinced – with the salt water, vitamin D and being barefoot – that surfing could be the healthiest activity ever. I haven’t met many stressed out, fat, out of shape, unhappy surfers. Have you?
11. If you drive to the gym, park at the closest spot to the entrance and then run on the treadmill, you’ve missed the point.
12. The best warm up to Kettlebell training is carrying them from your house to the park.
13. Whenever possible, train outside?yes, even in the winter.
14. Drink 1/2 your bodyweight in oz of water. Water is probably to most underrated fat loss supplement.
15. Get 8 hours of sleep… Netflix will always be there. Sleep and Water are the ?1 and 1a? for fat loss supplements. If you?re struggling with losing weight and you can?t get to sleep because you have a Netflix habit, don?t talk to me about losing weight.
16. The darker your skin, the MORE time you need in the sun. I come from a culture where light skin is considered higher class and dark skin is consider ?peasant?. It?s unfortunate and hopefully things are changing. Darker pigments require more sun exposure to absorb Vitamin D (this is part of the reason why you see such a high rate of Vitamin D deficiency and related diseases in dark skinned populations that live outside of their native habitat? like cities in the Northern Hemisphere). Vitamin D deficiency is REAL
17. This is the best ab exercise? PERIOD. You should be doing it everyday.
Business & Money
18. Pay yourself first. Taking care of yourself and your family is priority #1. So as soon as that pay check comes in, put some away immediately.
19. Get out of debt. The system is designed to keep you in debt so that you can be a slave to it. Getting out of debt throws a wrench in that system and gives you an inexplicable sense of freedom (and by debt I do also mean mortgages & car payments).
20. Starting a business – becoming an entrepreneur – is not for everyone. There are days when I wish I had a 9-5 (because it would be easy)? but my vision and mission won?t allow me to. Plus, I don?t take well to authority. But there are days when I wish I could just punch the clock and then just go home and play with the kids, watch the game and not think about work.
21. But if you are an entrepreneur, understand that your customers are the LIFE BLOOD of your business and that it?s a lot harder to get a new customer than it is to service and sell to a happy existing customer. So in my business, I work damn hard to over-deliver and give value to the people that have already said ?I believe in what you do? (ie. they?ve bought one of my products or are a member of The Strength Club). If you run a business, you should do the same.
22. Habits are more important than goals. (ie Create good habits and personal systems and you will achieve your goals – as long as your habits are in-line with them). Goals are just wishes and you need a plan to execute to be able to achieve them. That?s what habits are.
23. Eat the same few meals every week. When I?m eating (I fast for 24h 1-2 times per week), I eat the same breakfast everyday. And every night for dinner I make enough so that we have leftovers for lunch. We eat a variety of protein every week – one night each for chicken, fish, beef, pork & vegetarian (like beans/chick peas). Then on the weekend it?s pretty free (ie pizza). But the more structure you put into the meal planning, then less decision fatigue and the less fuss (since the kids always know what to expect).
24. Read/learn for 1-hour everyday. This also known as “the 5-hour Rule”. Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Steve Jobs all did this. You should probably do it too.
25. Don?t obsess over consuming more information (books). Instead, make a list of 10-12 foundational books and read them over 1-2 times per year IMPLEMENTING the lessons & strategies in the book each time you re-read them. This is much more effective than thinking that you?re actually doing something by just reading a book and moving onto the next one.
26. Be flexible with your schedule (I believe this is called being ?AntiFragile?). You?ll never be able to accommodate for a puking kid or a family emergency, so the more rigid you are, the more likely you?ll get thrown off your game. Instead, have a list of 3 things that you must do (#1 being the most important). Adopt the mentality that if you get that ONE THING done, you?ll feel accomplished for the day. And then just work down the list making sure you COMPLETE #1. I teach my system for this HERE.
Family, Marriage & Parenting
26. Don’t tell your kids, show them. You can talk & explain to them until you?re blue in the face, but it?s the behaviour you model that will teach them how to live.
27. Parenting is a fine balance between knowing when to push your kids and when to back off. Example: I am very much against early-specialization in sport. I?ve been a coach for over 20 years and I?ve seen 15 year olds get burnt out because their parents had them doing the same sport 52-weeks in a year. I?ve also been on the opposite side where I forced my daughter to play soccer because she was too deep into volleyball. The fine balance between the two is knowing that you what?s best for your kid – even more so than what your child thinks is best for them – for the sole reason that you?ve accumulated more life experience. So use your true instincts when it comes to parenting and recognize the difference between knowing what?s really best for your child or if you?re just experiencing FOMO and want to keep up with the Jones?. If your kid has soccer 3 nights per week, violin 2 nights per week, plays in tournaments on the weekend and is up doing homework until 11 every night? it?s too f?n much.
28. Kiss your son everyday and tell him you love him. Be confident in displaying and expressing emotions and you?ll set him up to be a confident man in the future. If this makes you uneasy, then you need to do some self-work and redefine masculinity.
29. Teach your daughter how to throw a ball properly. This is a problem, seriously.
30. Wake up BEFORE the kids. When you do this consistently you?ll find that quiet time sacred. Do this with your partner and it will improve your relationship.
31. Be the person you want to be married to.
32. You know you’re in a good place in your marriage when you can honestly answer YES to ?Does it look like I’m gaining weight??
33. Nothing else in life that?s worth doing happens without effort. Starting a business isn?t easy. Getting a job isn?t easy. Succeeding in a career isn?t easy. Becoming a good parent isn?t easy. Marriage isn?t easy. These all take mindfulness, energy, and resilience, and there are learning curves to each new stage of life. So put the work in and you?ll reap the benefits.
34. Find out why they need the drill bit. I got this from Seth Godin. A guys walks into the hardware store and asks for a 1/4 inch drill bit. He says it will strengthen his marriage. The clerk asks how. The guys says? The drill bit is to put a hole in the wall, to hang a shelf, for copious amount of books that I have on my desk, so that I can take those books off the desk because it?s my wife?s passion to have a clutter free home. Find out what drill bit you?ll need and your marriage will get stronger? because it?s about the little things.
35. Learn your wife?s Love Language(s) and focus on ?speaking? that language to her daily. This takes ?treat her like you would like to be treated? to the next level because, chances are, her Love Language is not the same as yours. For more on “Love Languages” read “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman
Life in General
36. Fill up your gas tank whenever it comes to half-full. When you have half a tank of gas, there is always a gas station. There is no line at the gas station either. When the ?Gas Empty? warning light comes on, you?ll be in a desert with a woman giving birth. So, be proactive and always fill up before you need to fill up.
37. Learn how to drive ?stick?. EVERYWHERE in the world still has standard transmission cars (you can rent automatic at a premium), so if you want to (or do) travel, this is essential.
38. Ask for help. A ?real man? is secure enough with his masculinity to ask for help (or directions) when he?s lost.
39. Forgive… carrying that grudge is like you taking poison and expecting the other person to die. You don?t have to be the person?s best friend, but you can still see that person as human.
40. Don’t check your phone first thing in the morning. Start your day on your terms, not someone else?s. Checking your phone – email, text messages, instagram, facebook – makes you reactive to other people. Instead, buy an alarm clock and/or wear a watch – NOT an Apple Watch, and start your day doing something that?s good for you.
41. Write in a journal everyday. In it, say thank you, write down your dreams and/or just ?vomit?/pour out every thought, idea, plan that comes to mind. For more on this check out this post.
42. If it scares you, you should probably do it. Moving to Costa Rica scared the shit out of me. Selling 90% of my stuff and getting over the ?just in case? syndrome did too. Starting my own business and taking on self-responsibility for taking care of my family scared me. Homeschooling our kids scares me. Becoming a father at 21 scared me as well. Basically every major decision we made in our life scared the crap out of me? but in the end, it all worked out. And in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn?t matter. So live your f?n life and take some risks!