I recently turned 28 years old 🥳
So I thought I’d do a roundup of the best life advice I’ve gathered during my 28 years on this planet. 🌍
☝️1. Set Intentional Defaults
Most of the time, we just do the same stuff we’ve always done. All day, every day.
In other words, your defaults govern your behaviour.
So, setting new defaults can be pretty powerful. I also find that ‘switching my defaults’ feels less like hard work than ‘building new habits’.
Here are some examples of setting intentional defaults:
- Deciding to keep your phone in another room during family meals, to be more in the moment.
- Stopping work at 6pm.
One intentional default I’ve been setting myself is to walk from my flat to the studio every day. I’m basically training myself to see this as the ‘new normal’ in my life.
😊 2. Lower the Bar
On to my next piece of life advice: lower the bar.
This is my best strategy for dealing with procrastination. Usually, if I’m procrastinating it’s because I’m setting my standards too high, being a perfectionist.
Here’s something Seth Godin says in his mini-article ‘Write something’:
There’s no such thing as writer’s block. There’s simply a fear of bad writing. Do enough bad writing and some good writing is bound to show up.– Seth Godin
If you think you have writer’s block and you can’t write anything good, show me all the bad writing you did. Chances are, you haven’t done any bad writing because your standards are so high. And that’s why you haven’t created anything yet.
When you find yourself unable to start, that’s your cue to lower the bar. Just try to embrace the thought that ‘this thing is going to suck’. And that’s okay. Because once you get started, it’s way easier to continue going. And you’ll usually find that whatever you created wasn’t actually that bad.
💩 3. Embrace Mediocrity
I also think we should straight-up embrace mediocrity in lots of areas of our life.
This idea comes from Oliver Burkeman’s fantastic book Four Thousand Weeks. In the world of productivity we tend to think we could do everything we want – if only we had the right tools and systems.
But in reality, there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything. We have to embrace mediocrity in some parts of our life, so we can actually focus on the handful of things that really matter to us.
I’ve embraced mediocrity in a couple of ways at work. I don’t take this website as seriously as I could, for example. Or TikTok. And I’m not very active on LinkedIn. Instead, I focus on writing my book, making videos, and teaching people how to be YouTubers.
It’s all about setting priorities, and accepting that you can’t do everything perfectly.
🎧 4. Work with Background Music
This makes studying, working, and household chores way more fun. And life in general starts feeling higher energy.
When I was living in Cambridge I had my Alexa smart speaker set up, and I’d roam the house blasting Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran. Something about having music on in the background just really, really energises me.
And when I turn on music at work, it’s like an injection of energy into the room that makes me feel way more creative. So I massively recommend blasting the tunes when you get a chance.
🌟 5. Quantity and Consistency = Quality
This next piece of life advice won’t be new to anyone who’s into personal development, or read books like Atomic Habits.
But it’s worth saying again: quantity and consistency generally lead to quality:
🖼️ If you want to get good at painting, do 100 paintings.
🎬 If you want to get good at making YouTube videos, make 100 videos.
The things you create might well suck, but you’ll get better at making them. Put in the reps.
I made this mistake when I was dabbling with songwriting. I’d be very precious about a single song, and try to perfect it. And to this day, I’ve written maybe 0.5 songs, because I never embraced this attitude of quantity leading to quality.
To get good at something, just show up consistently, and don’t worry too much about the outcome.
👨🎨 6. Quantity and Consistency = Creativity
Quantity and consistency also lead to creativity. For the last 25 years or so, Seth Godin has published a short article every single day on his blog. That’s just wild.
I think the more you consistently do creative things, the more creativity starts flows from inside you, and you get more inspired. Ed Sheeran says this about songwriting, and Neil Gaiman about writing: creativity is a bit like an old tap. You have to turn it on and let all of the crap flow out first (sometimes for a long time) before you get a flow of clean water. You have to get all the junk out of your system.
🙏 7. Send Thank You Notes
My seventh piece of life advice is quite simple, but massively underrated.
Basically, send thank you notes, especially physical ones. It’ll feel really good, not only for you, but also for the person you’ve just thanked. So I have a long stack of thank you cards with stamps and envelopes, and I try to post those off whenever the mood strikes. I haven’t yet found a postbox that’s close enough to my house that it’s super low friction… But there’s something about sending a handwritten note that feels amazing.
🛩️ 8. Planning ≠ Doing
Planning and doing are very different things. And it’s important to realise this. The metaphor I like to use (that my brother Taimur came up with) is ‘the pilot and the plane’.
At some moments of the day, we should be the pilot. We’re just planning what to do with our day. But then for the rest of the day, we should be the plane. Just executing on the orders of the pilot, without think too hard about why we’re doing this stuff.
Think about going to the gym and not having a plan. You’d just do a few random exercises, then sit on your phone and scroll, because it’s too much effort to plan and do at the same time. But, if you come up with a plan before going to the gym, you can just be the plane once you arrive, and execute on the pilot’s orders.
🧘 9. Choose to be Satisfied
Like a lot of other high-achieving productivity bros, I tend to finish the day feeling like I haven’t done enough. Wondering if I could have been more efficient, more productive, and spent less time scrolling through social media.
But this weird pattern of dissatisfaction just makes me feel bad and leads to negative spirals. It also ignores the reality that I usually get something done on any given day.
So, what I’ve realised is that I can make the choice to feel satisfied with the progress I’ve made. The situation won’t change, but I’ll have different, better feelings about it.
⚡ 10. Move Towards What Energises You
Whether it’s work, hobbies, or relationships, we should gravitate towards the things that energise, instead of us drain us. This is a useful mental model for almost every situation.
Let’s say I’ve been invited to a party and I’m thinking ‘meh, I don’t really feel like it’. The question I ask myself is ‘will going to this party energise me, or will it drain my energy?’ Sometimes, even if I don’t really feel like going, I’ll drag myself out of the house because I know it’ll be energising. And I’ll usually have a great time. But if I know the party will drain me, it’s easy to opt out.
It’s just one question, but pretty powerful: ‘will this energise me, or drain me?’