25 at 25, Part 5

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All right, here we are: Part 5. It’s been fun writing these little tips and observations over the past twenty-five days. If you’ve been reading them, I hope you’ve enjoyed them so far. If not, here are the links to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Without any further ado, let’s wrap this mini-series up with Part 5.

25 at 25 #21: Unmaintained, things go from order to chaos.

This one really shouldn’t be a surprise, but I think it’s so obvious that a lot of people miss it.

If you don’t maintain your car, it eventually breaks down. If you don’t maintain your relationships, they eventually break down. And if you don’t maintain your health, you eventually break down.

The only way to prevent the natural decay of things is to put time and energy into keeping them in order. Sometimes, like with your car, you can pay money and have someone else put in the time and energy to maintain something.

But most of the time, and especially for the most important things in life, you have to do it yourself.

You can’t outsource things like relationships or health. You are the one responsible for keeping things in check. (And good luck paying someone else to spend time with your kids or significant other.)

Ben Franklin’s old saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is as true as it ever was. If you want to avoid the pain and frustration of dealing with something that’s fallen apart, you must work to prevent it. And it’s worth it.

So keep your oil changed, spend quality time with your loved ones, and get your body moving. Years down the road, you and your wallet will both be thankful you did.

25 at 25 #22: When you’re stuck on a problem, the best thing to do is walk away for a while.

As I wrote this, I was actually following my own advice. I was troubleshooting a client’s ad campaign that had stopped converting—and was trying to figure out why.

If you remember back to my advice about carrying something for writing ideas (25 at 25 #5), this is where that comes into play. Getting away from a problem allows your mind to process it in the background, and sometimes you will find a solution just by getting away from the task at hand.

This is one reason why I take frequent breaks when working. I’ve found that 90 minutes is about the max time that I can spend on something without giving my mind a rest.

It’s also a great excuse to indulge in something mindless for a while, like a TV show or a video game. This can also be a mini-reward for accomplishing a small part of a big task (25 at 25 #11). The mini-reward triggers a dopamine release that, in my experience, boosts your motivation and creativity.

The key, of course, is not to over-indulge in whatever your reward is. This defeats the whole purpose of using a reward to recharge before revisiting a problem. And, too much dopamine can lead to addiction (which is probably why there’s the old saying about too much of a good thing being bad for you).

So, next time your brain hits a wall, give it some time to revitalize with a fun, rewarding activity. All work and no play makes you a dull person… and it doesn’t help with your productivity, either.

25 and 25 #23: You are either consuming or producing (or both) at all times.

This sounds very mechanical and systematic, but when you think about people as systems… it makes sense.

We must consume in order to produce, and we must produce in order to consume.

If you think about an engine, it must consume fuel and air in order to produce energy. And what keeps an engine going is the energy it produces, which cycles the pistons up and down the cylinders so it can consume more air and fuel for the next cycle.

(Okay, enough automotive analogies….)

People are really not much different. In order to produce at work, we must consume things like food and sleep in order to perform. In order to consume Netflix after a long day at work, we must first produce something good at work so we can pay the bills.

The same is true with anything.Great artists consume art by studying their predecessors’ works, then in turn channel what they’ve learned into producing a new work.

Great scientists and engineers consume information by analyzing the innovations and research that have come before them, then apply that knowledge to making new discoveries and producing new designs.

Great athletes consume content by studying what their role models before them have done, then go “produce” results by training and competing.You get the idea.

It’s important to keep the consumption/production ratio optimal. If you are consuming too much and not producing enough, you’ll get fat and lazy (physically as well as mentally). If you are producing more than you are consuming, pretty soon you’re going to burn out and be useless (until you can consume what you need to get going again).

But, if you ever want to do anything great, if you ever want to make any of your dreams into a reality, you have to get consumption/production right for your goal. Spend forever consuming (researching and planning), and you’ll never get into production. Jump into production too fast and your venture is almost certainly doomed to failure (or at least lots of road bumps that you might otherwise avoid).

So… keep these things in balance and monitor your energy levels. Make consuming and producing a virtuous cycle that turns you into a more positive, productive, and capable person who goes out and does great things.

25 at 25 #24: Establish your boundaries and defend them relentlessly.

It’s can be really easy to give in or compromise on something you believe in, especially when “everyone else is doing it”. It’s hard to go against the grain and risk people having negative opinions about you.

But to be blunt, if you don’t look out for yourself and your best interest, it’s highly unlikely that anyone else will.

One of the boundaries I’ve set for myself is that I will not work on Sundays. Period. End of story. I’ve set that day aside to rest, reflect, and do other things.

Maybe it means I earn less money over time, or make someone unhappy because I don’t help them out until Monday. Both are fine with me—and if a client doesn’t understand my need for a day off, then I don’t really want to work with them anyway. And if I lose a client, gig, or job over this—then that’s not a situation I would be happy staying in, regardless.

Your principles are what anchor you in the tumultuous sea of everything that goes on around you. If you compromise, you’re drifting who-knows-where and don’t really have principles to begin with.

Look out for “number one”. Don’t let people push you around or convince you to do things you don’t want to do, or that go against your beliefs. If you give up an inch, you’ll give up a mile—and then you’ll risk losing your integrity and finding yourself in situations that fill you with dread.

Secure your borders and don’t compromise!

25 at 25 #25: The meaning of life is…

I don’t think anyone will (or should) ever claim to have the “meaning of life” figured out. Life is a complex thing, and it’s different for everyone.

But I think we can all agree that a life lived with passion, purpose, and drive is much more fulfilling than a life without.

Maybe a better way to think about it is not the meaning of life, but rather the meaning of your life.

I’ll be honest, on my 25th birthday I’m still trying to figure out my purpose in life. I’ve never really aspired to be or do one great big thing. And this is often a very tough place to be, especially when people around you seem to have their lives all figured out (even though they probably don’t).

But even though I’m still seeking my “ultimate” mission or calling, I have found meaning in the interim:

  • The fact that I can be a light and encourager to those who need lifting up.
  • The fact that there are people who need my exact set of skills, and no one else could fill the gap.
  • The fact that I am able to serve and bless others through my God-given talents and abilities.
  • The hope that I will eventually achieve the things I want to achieve in life.
  • And the faith that I will eventually figure out what my mission is.

I guess at the end of the day, the meaning of my life boils down to serving God, serving others, and pursuing excellence in everything I do.

What about you?

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