29 Nov

10 Things I’ve Learned in 21 Years

Some of these lessons took longer to learn than others, but all of them are important enough to me to be worth sharing with you.

The most important thing you gain from travel is perspective.

Perspective on other cultures, languages, and ways of living. Staying within your home country or culture you can only learn so much. Spend a few weeks (or longer) in a place like South Africa and you will marvel over how many people speak 4, 5 or 6 languages fluently. Visiting mountain villages in Lesotho will change your perspective on how many people can fit inside a mini-van for a 4 hour drive (24 in case you were wondering).


Time is the most valuable thing you have.

Spend your time with the same care you use when spending money. That doesn’t mean you should only spend time working or on practical things. Spend it on whatever you want, just spend purposefully.


Ideas aren’t worth as much as you think.

It is the execution of the idea that truly matters. Follow-through is everything.
Finish what you start.


Traveling will make you appreciate your home even more.

A friend who has always wanted to travel to Europe asked me an interesting question after my last trip to France: “If you enjoyed the trip so much wouldn’t you just want to stay?” She feared that she would love these places so much it would make her want to give up her obligations at home and live abroad. Which is the opposite of my experience. The more I travel, even to places I love, the more I value and appreciate my home town.



Women figured out to use a mesh sponge (or something similar) a long time ago. I’m not sure why men still don’t get it. Your skin just feels so much better.


When you get someone to help you with a problem, always get them to explain the solution.

I am learning to program and every time I have a question I try to fully understand the code required to create the solution. Otherwise you make progress on your project, but don’t really learn.

The same thing goes for kids (though you sometimes have to force it on them). Rather than fixing a problem for someone, you can guide them to solve it themselves. A book I read recently told a story of a child trying to get his bicycle out of the back of a truck. It was tangled with another bike and he couldn’t just pull it out. His mother had two options. Her natural instinct was to untangle the bike and lift it out of the truck. Or she could help her son to do it himself. She talked him through diagnosing the problem and got him to walk through the steps of untangling the bike on his own.

Teach a man to fish. Or teach a child to untangle a bike. Same concept.


Stop talking and start doing.

Don’t be known as the person who is all talk and lacks follow-through. If you talk about that exciting vacation for years, but never take the steps to do it you will start to lose credibility. Think about what you talk and dream about. It is time to finally start taking steps to meet those goals.


Becoming a parent changes everything.

Time slows down. Priorities change. Everything I thought was important can wait while I make silly noises and faces to entertain my son. I now am starting to see everything in the context of how I want to teach it to him.


Stop saying “honestly and “to tell the truth”.

It implies you are lying the rest of the time.


Never stop learning.

Adopting this attitude will change your life.



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One Response to “10 Things I’ve Learned in 21 Years”

  1. Nathan,

    I beg to differ on one small point of your beautiful post, I do not believe you have to “force it on them” this in reference to your insight that parents/adults have to force a child to take the time to learn the how and why of a solution. By nature children want to know how things work, it is the most beautiful gift children are giving, as Seth Godin puts it (http://www.amazon.com/Poke-Box-Seth-Godin/dp/1936719002), children poke the box by nature. We could learn a lot as a society if we acknowledged this fact. However, that said, we have sadly taught children, by force, to want the quick and easy solutions with no regard for understanding how it was achieved. I like to call it the MacDonald effect, everything needs to happen in an instant, we don’t have the “time” to understand. Which is a tragedy, considering our limited time is so often wasted on tv, cheap meals and consuming underpriced junk.

    I enjoy your insights my friend, and am inspired to see that your time is valued and used wisely. Keep up the learning!


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