The smartest people in the world don’t know everything. They aren’t geniuses because they have all the answers. Rather, they recognize how much they don’t know, and are constantly asking questions.
After all, no one likes a know it all.
Growth requires forward momentum. A mindset of insatiable curiosity, and a thirst for discovery.
“In this world you’re either growing or you’re dying so get in motion and grow.” – Lou Holtz
While completing an MBA in 2011 was a significant milestone, the biggest benefit was it rekindled a desire to learn. Since then I haven’t stopped reading books and blogs, listening to podcasts, and watching TED talks.
After enduring a childhood without a cell phone, surviving high school without social media, and navigating ten years (so far) of marriage and fatherhood, I’ve learned a lot. Mostly through trial and error.
As I look back and reflect on 33 years of life, work, and relationships, here’s a list of 33 quick “life hacks” that I hope you’ll enjoy.
1. Re-rack the weights. Put away the dumbbells and plates you used unless you want someone to contemplate smothering you with a gym towel.
2. Buy your own clamps. Looking for a pair of clamps wastes the time you should be working out. Plus they “reserve” the equipment you’re using.
3. Rotate equipment. Don’t sit on the same bench or use the same rack for your entire workout. It’s not your personal gym. You gotta play nice and share.
4. Change it up. While consistent exercise is key, your muscles will get complacent with too much routine. Vary the exercise order, reps, weight, and intensity to get results.
5. Find a buddy. One reason we fail to lose weight and get in shape is we try to go it alone. Whether they workout with you or just ask you about it, get a friend to hold you accountable.
6. Go early. Hate waiting for an elliptical machine or a free bench? Most gyms are wide open before 6:00 a.m. Even if you’re eyes are not.
7. Read them. We’ve already established you don’t know everything. As my friend Jeff Brown says, “Readers lead and leaders read”.
8. Get a Kindle. Or the Kindle app on your mobile device. You can carry thousands of books with you everywhere and highlight to your heart’s content.
9. Stick with paper. One of the best features of good ol’ paper books is the lack of technology. No notifications or games to distract you from the content.
10. Broaden your horizons. If you read mostly non-fiction, pick up a thriller novel. If you only read sci-fi, pick up a personal development title. Flex the muscle between your ears.
11. Give them away. Buy both the digital and paper copy of titles you like so you can give the latter to a friend. Mark it up first so they can see what stood out to you.
12. Don’t finish bad books. Some people have a thing with closure, but if you really don’t like a book and it’s keeping you from reading, chuck it and grab a new one.
13. Use a timer. The amount of time a task will take expands to the time you let it. Try the pomodoro technique and see how fast you get through stuff.
14. Turn off notifications. Unless you’re an ER doctor or Wall Street stock trader, you probably don’t need to be pinged every time you get a text, email, comment, like, share mention, etc.
15. Pick one thing. Multitasking is a myth. Science says so. You’re actually task-switching and that wastes a lot of time. Dare you to prove me wrong.
16. Write it down. Whether you use a notebook, mobile app, or sticky notes, write down what you need to do so you can prioritize and check stuff off.
17. Avoid shiny app syndrome. If you Google “productivity apps” you get over 50,000,000 results. There is no silver bullet. Pick one (like Todoist) and get to work.
18. Ask for help. Just like you don’t know everything, you can’t do everything. Don’t be afraid to delegate or ask for assistance.
19. Do it daily. Just like exercise, you need to flex your creative “muscle” on a daily basis. Keep showing up and the muse will know where to find you.
20. Find a balance. Keep your tank of inspiration full by consuming great work, but make sure to flip the switch and actually make stuff on a regular basis.
21. Pay attention to atmosphere. Where are you most creative? What time of day? Around people or alone? At home or in a coffee shop? A consistent environment removes barriers to creative work.
22. Steal like an artist. Innovation doesn’t mean starting from scratch. Tackle something old in a new way or from a new perspective.
23. Show your work. Make something where everyone can see it. Great art is not crafted in isolation. Give people the chance to cheer you on.
24. Be yourself. Don’t be the next anybody, be the first you. You’re not Stephen King or Jackson Pollock. Learn from their methods, but make your art your own.
25. You and your spouse come first. The marriage relationship is central to the family unit. If you don’t intentionally care for it, the whole family breaks down.
26. Be quick to apologize. You will be wrong. Even if you don’t think so. Own up to your mistakes and sincerely say, “I’m sorry”.
27. Grow a backbone. You’re not always right, but you’re not always wrong either. You can have an opinion and stand up for yourself without being a jerk.
28. Step away from the screen. If your kids or spouse know the back of your phone or laptop better than your face, you’ve got a big problem. Put down the damn phone.
29. Laugh a lot. Marriage and parenting is work, but they are some of life’s greatest joys. Instigate fun (and a little mischief) whenever you can. Random NERF wars usually do the trick.
30. Eat dessert first. Eating right and forcing vegetables down our kids’ throats can be a chore. Go out to ice cream for dinner. Just make sure it’s early enough that the sugar high ends before bedtime.
31. The internet is forever. Despite security and privacy settings, something is always getting hacked or updated. If you would want your boss or your kids reading your posts live on TV, maybe keep it in your head.
32. It’s your fault. Don’t like what you see on Facebook? Tired of seeing political diatribes on Twitter? Sick of coffee photos on Instagram? Well, maybe you should stop following those people.
33. You don’t have to be everywhere. Which social media platform should you be on? Whichever one you like the most and is where your people hang out. And you don’t have to follow everyone everywhere either.
The average life expectancy of a man in the United States is 76 years. At this rate, I’ll die sometime around the year 2059. That means I’ve got more than my whole life so far ahead of me. In the meantime, I plan to continue learning everything I can and making a dent in the universe.
What’s your best advice? If you could go back 5 years, what would you tell yourself? Share in the comments below.
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Also published on Medium.