Martin is a Nottingham-based front-end web developer, currently working with Kainos.

Passionate about learning, building and supporting services and user experiences that matter.

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On turning thirty-four; 34 lessons and ideas

Let's recognise there's little more trite than for twenty/thirty-somethings to think that on each advance in years it's incumbent upon them to impart some Definitely-new wisdom on the world; as if my years during a relatively prosperous moment in history have gifted me any measure of wisdom...

That said, I ask you humour me! Having turned 34 this week, and as good a time as any arbitrary date, I reflected on the things I'd written down; guard rails and maxims to got me here more or less in one piece, in a similar vein as Kevin Kelly's epic, 68 bits of unsolicited advice on turning 68 and Jamie Alderton's post at 34. By no means an exhaustive list, but are some key ideas I think about or have learned the hard (usually socially-fraught!) way.

Amid life's varied terrain, I have found solace and guidance through journaling and from writers and historical figures; Ryan Holiday, Marcus Aurelius, James Clear, Alain de Botton - on life's major project: of How to Live.

Let's get into it with my 34 pieces of unsolicited advice and learnings!...

  1. On habits, you create them, and they compound and make you.

  2. Habits are powerful; use them to your advantage and be mindful of bad ones; they will compound for you as well as against you.

  3. You'll always have detractors, no matter what your endeavour; watch out for others justifying their own bad habits to themselves by decrying yours.

  4. If what you're cultivating is against accepted advice, culturally-normalised behaviour, or 'wisdom', you can be sure you're on the right lines to success; if it was easy or clear, they'd all be doing it!

  5. We are what we (repeatedly) pay attention to. Having control over attention now is to control our future results.

  6. Life is frantic; and as long as it involves interaction with others, does not afford us the time we need to parse the input from others; to unpack the desires it awakens in us to understand ourselves better by our reflection in others; to ask just what did we think of that? Making time to do that reflective work then becomes important if we are to better understand ourselves. We shouldn't underestimate the degree to which we might not fully understand ourselves from our otherwise limited perspective.

  7. The 'Chimp' in us needs to be acknowledged if we are to tame it and temper its effect on our life and relationships. The Chimp will prevent us taking action on ambition, will insist on success and happiness in rigid terms. The Chimp will seek to reframe situations as personal attack, if we unknowingly allow it to respond first. Understand and arrest the Chimp!

  8. Taking responsibility means recognising when we need help, and seek this from the right source. We can select Advisors; those whose opinion we value and whom we trust. Remember people will seldom volunteer the advice we most need, and we are wise to listen to advice from our Advisors!

  9. Most people don't have any more of an idea in any given situation than you do. Recognising this for the first time is frightening and marks becoming an adult. We must develop our moral code and bravery to guide our own judgements and decisions, else we can't be at peace.

  10. Related, is the idea that we delegate personal authority and permission to others at the peril of our own agency and ownership of our own decisions. We should seek advice (see #6), but the more we rely on others, the more we disempower ourselves and our ability to stand by our value system.

  11. Be nice to everyone on the way up; you'll see them on the way down. You will come down.

  12. What you eat is one of the most powerful levers we have on almost every other aspect of your goals in life. Habituate it to automate it towards what will support you.

  13. We worry inordinately about what other people think of us, until we realise how seldom we enter into their thoughts; less actively invite ill will. This is freeing to realise. We are each already about as much as we can handle. Those who matter don't care...

  14. Reflect often on what matters to you and check you're living in alignment with your values. Things get lost in life, so we need to check in frequently to avoid longer term resentment, or worse, willful ignorance.

  15. Time is our most valuable, non-renewable resource, yet is the first we give away. Each thing we say yes to, is to say no to something else.

  16. The most powerful way to connect with someone is to go first. Most people are guarded, which stands in the way of true connection. Give them permission, show vulnerability, and go first.

  17. We each seek a troop; a tribe. Be deliberate in choosing and reviewing who makes it into this circle, and that they are there to support you. We we develop it will become necessary to change who your tribe is.

  18. Undertake voluntary hardship said stoic Epictetus; fasting, sleeping on the floor, a walk in the cold, a cold shower. This prevents us holding on to and regarding comfort.
    Seneca too speaks about negative visualisation; to imagine at frequent intervals that things will soon not be as they are and that we will one day have to be courageous. This allows us to enjoy the temporary things we have, but know in ourselves we do not require them.

  19. In minimalism, the goal is to not have the most or least number of things, but the optimal number of things.

  20. Don't expect all of the information for most of life's decisions. It's generally the exception. Learn instead the courage to act and make mistakes, as inaction itself has a cost.

  21. We don't rise to the level of our goals. We fall to the level of our systems - James Clear.
    In trying to anything, don't focus on the outcome; it's the system that will get us there, because we sure as hell are not relying on ever-present motivation alone to get us there.

  22. Unplug frequently. Spend quality time with yourself to understand yourself more fully.

  23. Most accepted wisdom on diet and exercise is outdated, inefficient or ineffective. Illness itself is big business. See #4 - if it's accepted wisdom, it's probably wrong.

  24. Life can be win-win, yet we are conditioned in the win-lose mindset: "we can only win if someone else loses" or "life is zero sum". We must overcome this conditioning to recognise and create new value in situations, and with others.

  25. Ask always, "what am I chosing not to see", and in all things consider the opposite to your initial impressions. I'm still surprised by how often my first intuition is shown to be incorrect.

  26. Your current habits are perfectly design to deliver your current results

  27. Approach everything with a student mindset.

  28. Our ego remains the biggest enemy to whatever we are trying to achieve. We should cultivate an awareness of its presence in everything we do.

  29. The world and others' response to you is in turn a reflection of your worldview and mindset. We see our expectation reflected in others and in reality; if we expect malevolence and abuse - indeed abuse ourselves, we are sure to feel adversarial with life. But if we accord ourselves respect and exude kindness, we will receive this back from others.

  30. Be aware at all times of the bias we carry from our upbringing and conditioning. This constructs our reality tunnel; our implicit assumptions in order to make decisions. But we should work constantly to challenge and update these assumptions as we learn about the world and reality as adults.

  31. We need self-compassion before we can be compassionate to others. We will in-turn accept the same level of abuse from others as we accept from ourselves.

  32. Recognise that we only have ultimate control over our own mind and our response to outside events, not in the events themselves. Reflecting on this gives us strength to act only on what we can control.

  33. Let's not discuss endlessly what a good man should be. Be one.

  34. We don't need to beat ourselves up more than is necessary to learn the lesson.

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