30 Things I’ve Learned by 30

As a kid, I always imagined that I would have everything figured out as a 30 year-old. In many ways, I am far from the ideal that I had imagined I would be. But, I’ve also far surpassed who I thought I would become, the people I’d get to surround myself with, and the experiences and accomplishments I’d cherish. This past decade has been quite the epoch.

Inspired by one of my best friends and superstar blogger, Amy @ Homey Oh My, I felt like it’d be appropriate to reflect on what I’ve learned and the beliefs that have come to shape me. I’m still learning and reminding myself of many of the items in this list.

In no particular order..

1) Discipline is a muscle that you build over time.

Every so often, I’ll get really inspired and feel compelled to improve 100 aspects of myself and attempt to commit to a bunch of personal changes all at once. For many years, I bit off way more than I could chew, ended up burning out, and followed through with nothing.

For me, the key to sustainable growth has been to commit to small habits or changes, one at a time, until I feel like I’ve really mastered or followed through with a habit until it feels like I can take it on auto-pilot. It started with flossing every night for a week, a month, a year. That led to taking a photo, blogging, 100 inventions, meditating for 20 minutes everyday, to sharing a video every day. My capacity to commit to a habit has grown considerably, but there’s still a lot of room to level up.

2) If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.

Definitely still working on this. Don’t be afraid to speak up.

3) If you frequently and intensely visualize what you want to have occur in your life, it will often become reality

I feel like this alone transformed the past 8 or so years of my life. Here’s one example:

In college, I made a “Dream Girl” sheet with 40-50 traits that I wanted to have in a partner. Among those qualities was “someone I can take to the library”. Fast forward to July 30th, 2010: Kat and I were driving late at night from SF from LA for a UniCamp roadtrip. In the midst of the most electric conversations I’ve ever had, she said, “Have you ever been to the Santa Monica Library? It’s beautiful!”

I knew at that moment that she was Dream Girl I had wrote about.

Visualization has led to some pretty dope shit in my life. It hasn’t always worked for me, but it’s so incredible when it does.

4) Establish a holistic set of categories of your life that are important to you. Visualize what your life will be like when you’re at the peak of that category. Create and act on outrageous goals on a consistent basis that move you closer to that reality.

One of the things I learned from Tony Robbins. I’m still figuring out how to tweak this system so that it’s sustainable for me to do on a weekly basis, but whenever I’ve done this for an extended period of time, it’s led to some incredible growth, balanced across every area of my life that matters to me.

5) There is so much knowledge and inspiration in books.

6) Listen to your gut.

Your subconscious usually has it figured out way before you realize it. Still an ongoing exercise in learning to turn up the volume and listen to my intuition, but it’s been a pretty damn good compass.

7) A dog will add significant joy to your life

I never grew up with dogs, but having Bernie in our lives has been a huge and furry addition to our happiness.

8) When faced with a potential life-change or new idea, test it with a minimal amount of effort/money/time to see if you should spend more time on it.

This is something I’ve heard a lot in business and startups (Lean Startup, Design Thinking), but I think it’s just as applicable to life.

9) Your significant other (and people in general) don’t always need to hear solutions to their problems. Sometimes they want someone to explore their emotions with. It’s helpful to explicitly ask how you can help them in that moment in time.

Relationship hack: “Do you want me to help you come up with solutions? Do you want me to explore this with you? Do you want encouragement?”

10) “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust

One of my favorite quotes. Of all the things I feel like I’ll remember 70 years from now, the experiences I’ve had while traveling are guaranteed to be on that list.

As long as you’re not in debt and you’re saving for all the important stuff, spending money on new experiences (especially with people you love) will last you a lifetime.

11) Find a creative outlet.

I have learned so much about myself through sinking my passion into dance, and more recently, cinematography. Dance led me to ACA, where I found my home away from home, my first leadership experiences, my best friends, and countless memories and lessons. I still use my experiences on ACA as part of my compass for what I should focus my passion on for the rest of my life.

In the very least, doing something creative is therapeutic, an excuse to meet like-minded people, and an outlet for self-expression.

12) There is always something to be grateful for.

Easy to remember when I hang out with Kat all the time 🙂 Even when I feel shitty, and especially when I feel shitty, it’s a great exercise to remind myself of the infinite things to be grateful for.

13) You can’t control what the world throws at you, but you are ALWAYS in control of how you respond.

I think this practicing this can sometime requires a level of superhuman zen that I don’t yet have, but it’s always been constructive to focus on how I handle my emotions and my actions in the face of challenges.

More on this: “A Man’s Search For Meaning”, a book by Viktor Frankl detailing his experiences as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp and how he chose to stay positive and resolute in the face of genocide.

14) Love is an action, performed unconditionally.

In spite of how much of an asshole I’ve been at times, my parents have always decided to love me no matter what. It’s this type of love that I strive to emulate with people and things that I feel are truly worthwhile in my life and career.

15) Anything that’s ever been done by a human is possible, by definition, so there’s usually no reason why you can’t do it too.

This includes things that haven’t yet been done. A story that’s always stuck out in my mind:

“According to legend, experts said for years that the human body was simply not capable of a 4-minute mile. It wasn’t just dangerous; it was impossible.

Further legends hold that people had tried for over a thousand years to break the barrier, even tying bulls behind them to increase the incentive to do the impossible.

In the 1940’s, the mile record was pushed to 4:01, where it stood for nine years, as runners struggled with the idea that, just maybe, the experts had it right. Perhaps the human body had reached its limit.

On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute barrier, running the distance in 3:59.4. As part of his training, he relentlessly visualized the achievement in order to create a sense of certainty in his mind and body.

Barely a year after Bannister’s accomplishment, someone else ran a mile in under 4 minutes. Then some more runners did. Now, it’s almost routine. Even strong high-schoolers today run 4-minute miles.”

16) Self-awareness gives you certainty through uncertain times.

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on who I am, what my values are, what I truly want, my purpose, and etc.

One of my most formative moments was during my quarter-life crisis in college. I freaked out because I realized that everything I wanted up to that point was something that someone else expected of me. I examined even the most basic questions (“What are friends for?”, “What is the point of family?”). Even though I knew there were obviously positive answers to those questions, I searched until I found answers that didn’t feel like a regurgitation, an answer that resonated with me. I emerged with a deeper understanding of what I wanted, a life that I could take off someone else’s auto-pilot and into my own hands.

I think putting myself under a microscope ultimately gave me the courage to veer off the cookie-cutter path that my parents and Asian culture said I should follow. It gave my the courage to quit my job, to backpack around Asia, to start my own ventures.

17) There’s usually a point in which working longer and harder is detrimental.

I’ll probably continue learning this lesson a few more times, but there have been many instances where working long hours led to problems in all areas of my life, including the thing I was working on.

Balance is key. Work smarter, not harder.

18) 8 hours of sleep is the shit.

There is so much research on this. There’s no reason not to get all the sleep your body needs on a regular basis.

19) Meditate. Regularly.

For me, it helped me become more self-assured. When I started meditating, I would constantly question whether or not I was doing it correctly, whether I should be thinking, whether my posture was correct, etc etc etc. Eventually I just learned to just… be.

20) Surround yourself with people who inspire you and who lift you up.

21) Do little things that keep your relationship fun.

Kat and I have a decent arsenal of inside jokes and ongoing games (like the Out of State license plate game) that we play to have fun. We also recently bought this deck of cards with cute compliments to each other, and we’ve been hiding them around the house for each other to discover.

22) Do big things that keep your relationship fun.

I think it’s important to have novel experiences with your partner. They shape and solidify your bond, and give you something to look back fondly upon.

For the past 5 years, Kat and I have done an annual couple’s retreat where we go somewhere for the weekend (typically on Memorial Day, in Santa Cruz) to reflect on our past year, envision the next year, and celebrate each other. It’s something that we both really look forward to.

23) Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself.

If money is the only thing between you and something that would make a lasting impact on your well-being or help you grow immensely, spend it!

When I was working on my 100 inventions for Quirky, I spent a few thousand hiring a team of freelance designers to produce 3D renders of my ideas, and I designed and printed out a physical book that I mailed to their HQ. This eventually led to them selecting one of my ideas to be a part of their product line, but not before they went bankrupt 😦

Ultimately, I never made a penny back from the money that I spent on my Quirky endeavors. BUT, in the process, I learned about Photoshop and InDesign, copywriting, design, typography, marketing, hiring/firing. I will carry those skills with me for the rest of my life (and I’ve definitely made that money back by employing those experiences across many other projects).

24) Record your life.

Multimedia, journals, goals, keepsakes – all fun to look back at and see where you were and what you experienced many years ago.

Also, journaling is therapeutic during tough times. In the moment, it helps you ground your thoughts and prevents you from thinking in circles. Years later, it’s a great laugh.

25) Spend quality time with your parents.

For awhile, I told myself that I’d always deeply regret not getting to know who my parents were. I’ve always had a language barrier with my dad, and for various reasons, I never really took it upon myself to get to know who he was. In 2015, I decided that I would take my dad to China for a month for some father-son bonding. Best decision ever.

It’s not like I’m done getting to know my parents, but I feel like I’ve relinquished that regret in my mind. I got to see so much of my dad’s past life in China: his old village, his childhood house, his best friends, where he got married. One of my favorite memories of all time was just sitting with him by a lake, having tea, and talking about life.

26) There is always at least some sliver of success in failure. Learn, be proud, and keep going.

I feel like I’m going to keep reminding myself of this one throughout my life.

27) The longevity of your relationship solely depends on your ability to overcome problems together.

Out of everything I’ve ever done or experienced, my relationship with Kat is one of the things I am most proud of. We have weathered a lot of storms together, and I think a lot of it has to do with how we’ve grown in communicating with one other and our commitment to breaking obstacles.

28) Your personality and skills are malleable.

Over the years, I’ve developed faith that I can learn or grow into anything that I want to become. I’m surprised by how much I’ve changed and grown in areas that I used to think were immutable.

29) Your body and health are the foundation of everything that you do.

Something I’ve been taking more seriously in recent years. When you’re flourishing physically, that touches just about every other aspect of your life. Conversely, when you’re sick, that prevents you from progressing in just about about every other aspect of your life.

Take care of your health!

30) Age is a number. Youth is a state of mind.

I’m actually really excited to live out my 30s. I’m a little bit wiser, and not as broke. I’m looking forward to seeing where my life is at when I’m 40.


Onwards! Cheers to the next decade. 🥂


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