25 at 25, Part 4

For the last three days, I have been posting what I call “25 at 25″—twenty-five things I have learned in twenty-five years of living. I started writing these, one a day, on Facebook leading up to my birthday. I then started posting them in groups of five here on my website.

Today is Part 4 in this mini-series, with Part 5 tying it all up tomorrow. If you’ve missed the first few (or would like to go back and read them), here are Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Enough small talk. Here come the next five life lessons.

25 at 25 #16: Time is more valuable than money.

When it comes to money, there are really two types of people: those who budget where every dollar goes, and those who have no clue.

But regardless of which camp folks fall into, most do not track how they’re spending their time.

Here’s the thing about money: You can always earn more of it. You can quit a job (stop earning money) then get another job (start earning money again). You can sell stuff you own. You can invest what you have and watch it multiply.

But here’s the thing about time: You can never earn it back. Every second that ticks by moves into the past, and can never be brought back and relived.

And here’s another thing about time: You never know how much more you’ve got coming to you. Unlike money, where you just keep showing up to work and the paychecks keep coming in regularly, you don’t know if you’ll receive another day, hour, or minute.

I think a lot of people don’t realize this, or do realize it and don’t like to think about it because it’s “depressing”. But it shouldn’t be.

The limitations of time should inspire you to wake up every morning and vow to make the most of every minute God gives you. Work hard, pursue your crazy dreams, and enjoy time with the people you love.

I challenge you to start tracking how you’re investing your time every day. You could start by just writing out your typical daily schedule. You could also take notes throughout the day about how you’re spending your time at that moment.

Are you being as productive as you could be? Are you devoting time to what really matters? You might be surprised.

Live in the present… but keep an eye on the future.

25 at 25 #17: Your integrity is more valuable than money.

It only takes a quick look at the world to see that you can make millions by being dishonest.My business falls under the umbrella category of “digital marketing”, where there are a lot of folks who promise the moon. This tends to be true about marketing folks in general, across industries.

Not too far along into my entrepreneurial journey, I made the mistake of misrepresenting my services by over-selling the results I could deliver. I knew it was possible to get someone the results I promised (because my “competitors” were doing the same thing I was), but I didn’t know that I could actually get them those results. And every time I tried giving that “sales pitch,” I felt shame, guilt, and generally inauthentic inside.

Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to go through the worse experience of not meeting a client’s expectations, because no one I “pitched” to wanted to work with me. I consider that a blessing.

I consider honesty and authenticity two of the most valuable things in business and in life. I don’t promise anyone any results when I’m not in control of all the factors that yield those results. I can give estimates and predictions based on my knowledge, but I make sure they understand I’m not promising anything.

In Matthew 16:26, Jesus asked a question we should all ponder: “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” While there are possibly (and quite likely) a few different layers of meaning in this question, I believe one way to think about it is this: What does lying, cheating, and pursuing your version of fame, fortune, or success at any cost due to your soul?

It’s not worth it to misrepresent yourself or your work. You will do far better, and be far happier, in life if you act with honesty and integrity in everything you do. You may not “earn” as much money, but you will earn something far more valuable: the love, trust, and respect of others.

And that’s something you can’t put a price on.

25 at 25 #18: Remember who helped you become who you are today.

I don’t really have much to wax philosophical on this one. Instead, I just have list of a few people I am extremely grateful for…

  • My mom, for teaching me how to read when I asked to learn (age 4), homeschooling me for 10 years, and just generally doing a great job at all the “mom” stuff.
  • My dad, for teaching me the value of hard work, being a good father figure/role model, and always being up for a project or adventure.
  • My brother, for being the ultimate extrovert to my ultimate introvert, my music/travel/brainstorming buddy, and keeping me in tune with what’s what in pop culture (since I don’t pay attention to it very much).
  • Brian, my guitar instructor who was the happiest person I’d ever met, who inspired my creativity, and taught me that you can have fun and have a career, too. RIP, friend.
  • Clay, my former boss and current business mentor of sorts, who saw way more in me than I saw in myself, placed me in challenging situations that helped me grow as a person, and taught me way more about business and life than college ever could have.
  • Neil Peart, a man I never knew, but whose music, lyrics, and ethos resonated with me in a way that nothing else has. RIP, Professor.
  • All the Sunday school teachers, school teachers, college professors, sports coaches, Bible study leaders, e-penpals, school counselors and advisors, business associates, and friends I have ever had the pleasure to know. I can’t list you all by name here, but I appreciate you taking interest in me and my humble aspirations and helping me better find my way.

25 at 25 #19: Always remember to pay it forward.

Last weel I had the pleasure to talk to a Boy Scout troop about careers in IT and computer science. It only took about 20 minutes, but those were some of the most fun and filling 20 minutes of my life.

It seems weird for an introvert, but one of the things I actually enjoy doing (and feel I’m reasonably good at) is “public speaking”. I don’t do it very often, just because I don’t actively look for opportunities. But when someone asks me to, I usually say yes.

The way I look at it is this: Someone (many people, in fact) invested themselves in me, and I am who I am today as a result of their investments (25 at 25 #18, above). I may never be able to pay them back for what they’ve done for me—most of them wouldn’t want me to, anyway—but I can pay it forward to others by investing myself in them.

It feels good to be an inspiration or role model for someone who might be walking the same path you’ve already walked. It’s also cool to know that, no matter your age, you can already start being an influencer or leaving behind some kind of legacy.

Even if you don’t think you have any expertise, you know just a little bit more about something than somebody else does. That means you can start passing on your knowledge and wisdom to the folks behind you.

And in my experience, the returns you receive from investing in other people are incalculable: relationships, good will, and a satisfaction and inner peace that come only from sharing with others.

So always remember to pay it forward.

25 at 25 #20: When exploring any kind of relationship—romantic, business partnership, or otherwise—always seek a second (and third) opinion.

I’m sad to say I’ve seen many partnerships that seemed to start out great fall apart in the end. I’ve sort of been part of one—well, maybe more, now that I think about it. Any kind of breakup is painful.I think there are two main reasons this happens.

The first reason is the “heat of the moment”. A lot of ideas seem really great at first: starting a relationship with a new flame, exploring a business venture with a partner, or even just planning a trip with a friend. Everything is rosy, and nothing could go wrong.But six months down the road, when that “honeymoon” period is over and reality hits you in the face, things can easily start falling apart.

As humans, we tend to act on emotion and not reason. We are drawn to what is new and exciting, and often succumb to the “halo effect”. That in turn blinds us to often harsh realities about the relationships we are putting ourselves in.

That’s when we start wondering what we got ourselves into, feeling inner discomfort, and looking for a way out.

The second reason is our own selfishness. Most of the time, we go into a relationship or deal with only our own desires in mind. We don’t take time to truly understand what the other person’s desires are—especially if they aren’t emotionally-intelligent enough to try understanding ours.

And so, sooner or later, we start wondering why our counterparts aren’t acting like we think they should be. Why they aren’t responding to us. Why they don’t pay attention to us or put us down.

And, of course, that leads to conflict, when can burn down the relationships we’ve built.

I’ve found that one of the best ways to thwart this is to simply ask someone else who’s “in the know” what they think about a relationship. Do they see harmony or discord? Do they see the potential for success or failure?

Of course, it does matter who you ask (a four-year old is not a good choice). It has to be someone with experience and insight. And, above all else, they must be brutally honest.

If it were a romantic relationship, I’d ask family and friends. If it were a business partnership, I’d ask people I do business with or a professional.

Point being: To save yourself a lot of time, stress, and heartache in any kind of relationship, get advice early on from people you trust.

That wraps this post up. Ready to read the final five and finish off this series? 25 at 25, Part 5 is here.


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