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Key Life Lessons I Learned in My 20s

by Say Zhi Hao, Jeremiah

My twenties are full of Downs & Ups. It is like taking a Silver Star Roller Coaster. It is scary, depressing, fun & kinda exciting all-in-one. I’ve had gone anywhere from suicidal thoughts, depression, hysterical moments, wild times & moments when I was riding on cloud nine.

There were so many valuable life lessons that I have had learnt along the way in my twenties and I think it is crucial that I pen them down in this post to remind my future self.

The Importance of Doing the Daily Mundane Things

What separates successful people and unsuccessful people is basically just one thing. Successful people are willing to do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do.

So many people neglect the important things like reading, praying, exercising, spending quality time with their loved ones – something that is beneficial – not because they are not smart enough to do these things, it is simply because they are not willing.

It is easy to do 20 push-ups each day but also very easy not to do. It is easy to read 10 pages a day but again it is very easy not to do.

Does doing 20 push-ups today makes me a fit and lean man tomorrow? Definitely not! But if I were to do it everyday for a year?

Does eating a hamburger today cause me to gain 10 kilos immediately? Definitely not! But if I were to eat a burger everyday for a year?

Don’t neglect doing the daily mundane things like simple exercises, reading, praying, practicing, fill-in-the-blank (whatever that is beneficial). The key word here is simple. I’m not even talking about going to a gym and exercising for 45 minutes each day. I’m talking about extremely simple stuff like doing just 20 push-ups. Is it easy to do? Yes. It is easy not to do? Yes.

Don’t give up doing the daily mundane things, SZH! Keep doing them, it is easy to do and easy not to do but you sure as hell know what to do.

Which brings me to my 2nd point.

Focus on Progress, Not Perfection

I am much happier in my late twenties because I was focusing on making progress albeit a very slow one. Progress = Improvement = Happiness. No matter how bad my day may be, I just focus on improving one tiny area of my life. It may seem insignificant but it all compounds and adds up. I’m happier because each day I know I have done something to improve my life a little.

If I have not done anything to improve myself physically for that day, I simply hit the floor and do 20 push-ups. Is not a big deal but it keeps me happy.

Same goes for reading the bible, praying, business, cultivating a relationship and any other aspects of life.

There are some days (okay, many days) that I don’t feel like reading the bible or praying. It is easy to read a chapter of the bible each day and easy not to read. It is easy to focus on a little growth each day and easy not to.

I don’t ever regret doing extra push-ups or reading extra chapters of the bible. In fact, it makes me happier after I have done it.

If I’m focusing on perfection, I would give up before I even try. Let’s take having 6 pack abs for example. To me, having 6 pack abs is the ultimate male body. Perfect! But the idea of striving for perfection will be at such cost:

  • Train 3-4x per week – 45 minutes session each – focusing just on the abdominal muscles
  • Perpetual cardio to burn off fats so the 6 packs will be more visible
  • Diet is an absolute must in order to maintain a visible 6 packs. That means no BBQ or Mushroom sauce in my western food, no simple carbs, no ice creams, no beer, no alcohol, no whatever that is nice.

Am I willing to pay such a price to gain abs that will be here today, gone tomorrow? No. Not unless I am a model or an athlete am I willing to pay such a price.

Get what I mean? Just the thought of it makes me don’t even want to try. Screw perfection.

How about growth? A mere 20 push-ups is growth. Heck, even a simple push-up is growth. Yeah, doing 20 push-ups per day would not garner me the ultimate male body but at least it gives me 2 or 4 visible packs. It beats having one big pack smack right in the middle any day.

Embrace Imperfection

I used to be a perfectionist who believe in the notion of doing things in absolute perfection. Every thing has to be perfect! Perfect website, perfect car, perfect soccer, perfect girlfriend, perfect family, perfect friends. Screw perfect! Nothing in this world is perfect.

If I strive for perfection the only person I’m fooling is myself.

Take girlfriend for example, no matter how freaking pretty a girl is, she isn’t perfect. Period (no pun intended). Some days she will stink just like any other human being will, some days she will talk nonsense, some days she will be insecure, some day her ‘perfect’ figure and/or pretty face will no longer be perfect any more.

My question is, what then? If she smells like rotten potato that day, I’m gonna break up with her and find a random girl on the street that smells like lavender? If her ‘perfect’ figure isn’t so perfect anymore, I am just gonna grab a younger girl that is more ‘perfect’ and bid my farewell to my once so-called ‘perfect’ girlfriend who isn’t so perfect anymore?

Seriously, screw perfection! Sometimes, good is good enough.

I’m not saying that I should not think big and work hard. In fact, I should. But thinking big is thinking big. Working hard is working hard. It has nothing to do with striving for perfection. Striving for perfection is stupid!

Here is an example, if I were to only mix with ‘perfect’ friends, I will be digging deeper than oil-drilling companies and still be wondering where the heck my perfect friends are.

Another example, if I were to join the perfect LG (life group), I would have changed LG more than 20 times by now and still wonder where the heck is the perfect LG.

Last example, if I were to publish this post only when this post is perfect. It will NEVER get published.

Focus on One Thing at a Time

I wrote about the Power of Focus in my previous post, 5 Powerful Life Lessons I Learn Through Playing Soccer. Focus is not just important in sports, it is equally – if not, more important – in life.

If I go out with a friend, I will make sure to put my phone aside. Many times, I deliberately place my phone downwards and set it on silent-mode so I don’t get distracted when having a conversation with him/her. I am sure many of us have met people who are so glued to their phones that they can’t seem to put it away even when going out on a date. If I ever date a girl like this, I will warn her sternly. If it still persists, God forgive me if I walk away.

I cannot comprehend how some people can message on their phone or worst playing a game while conversing with someone. They call it multitasking, I call it bullshit.

There is no such thing as multitasking when it comes to spending quality time with someone. It is either you focus on the person in front of you or you don’t. There’s no meh, in between or sort of.

Effective multitasking is an oxymoron.

Same applies when it comes to business. It is so much easier and profitable to focus on being the best at one particular niche or field than be a jack-of-all-trades who is obviously master-at-none.

Take reading as an example because I love to read. It is so much easier to enjoy reading when I focus on just reading. I definitely will not enjoy reading as much if I were to talk on the phone and read.

Same can be said for almost everything else I do.

I have totally nothing against messaging, games or phone per se but I have everything against not being focus.

If I want to play a game, I focus on playing the game and have fun!

I Cannot Please Everyone

Not everyone will like me and I will not like everyone. This is just the way of life. I cannot force a person to like me and vice versa.

I shivered at the thought of offending a person especially a friend. I struggled to do my best not to offend anyone by saying or doing the ‘right thing’ all the time. Screw this shit, it is tiring as hell!

If I try to please everyone; I will end up pleasing no one!

It is absolutely okay that some people feel hurt or offended by my remark, the way I dress, the way I talk etc., it is inevitable.

Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

I was not born into this world to please every tom, dick and harry I meet. I only live to please God and if you don’t mind me saying… myself too. These are the only 2 people I care about pleasing.

I will learn to love everyone but that doesn’t mean I will please everyone.

For instance, it is better to offend a person and say something that is true rather than to please someone by saying something nice and lie. Many people will disagree because many people believes in white lies. I beg to differ. If a friend sees the value in honesty; the friendship will develop stronger. If not, it is fine.

Make Stress Your Ally

I thrive best when I am under pressure or when my back is against the wall. I can’t learn as efficiently if I were to live comfortably every day.

I hate pressure, suffering and stressful moments as much as the next person but I can’t argue that these are the best moments to learn, grow and mature.

The best way to improve as a defender is the play against the best or fastest attackers. The best way to overcome shyness is to talk to girls and get rejected. The best way to grow, innovate and think of creative ways to grow a business is when I have no money in the bank.

Don’t run away from suffering. Sometimes, the only option is to go through it… and going through it isn’t a bad thing per se. To the contrary, it can be very beneficial. Learn to see stress as an ally instead of avoiding it altogether.

Quality of Friends over Quantity

I have more friends than I can count. Many times when I go out, I would encounter different friends from different groups at different places. I remember there was once where I went clubbing at Clark quay in my early twenties and I met 4 different groups of friends in a single night.

The question is, does having a lot of friends matter?

I thought it was important to know more friends because I would have more connections. It is true in a way but nothing beats quality when it comes to friendship. Quantity doesn’t mean a freaking thing when I don’t have a quality relationship with anyone.

Today, I am more than grateful that I have 2 best friends and a LG whom I can rely on.

In case if you do not know, 2 best friends beat a thousand of mediocre and/or superficial friends.

I’m not saying it is wrong to have many friends… what is even more important, though, is to cultivate a genuine friendship.

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. The grass is greener where you water it.

Be the Best at Something

There are a lot of things that I am terrible at and only a few that I excel in. It doesn’t matter how many things I suck at but if I were to just focus on being the best at a few things or one thing every day, I find myself feeling much happier.

When I say Be the Best, I don’t mean to compare myself with others. I’m comparing myself with myself.

When it comes to soccer I should focus on being the best defender and nothing else. Don’t try to be a Ramos, Verratti and Dybala all in one. I would be a joke. Just focus on doing what the top defenders should do.

When it comes to social life and interaction, always aim to go for the deep talks. This is where I excel in. Penetrate deeper. Don’t shallow or do small talks too much. Don’t try to be too funny either, I’m not a natural joker. Read books and go for classes on how to be a better listener and communicator.

Note: I know that in order to go deep, I need to learn to do small talk first. In this regard, I’ll learn to be better at small talks too. Key thing here is I’ll be better but I wouldn’t be the best at small talk because small-talk isn’t me. 

When it comes to business… focus on doing reviews and be the best at that. Focus on doing on-site seo too. I can outsource and hire the rest that I’m weak at, such as, email and social media marketing etc.

There are so many more examples to give but I will stop here.

In short, keep improving and be the best at something. When you are already the best at something; don’t stop improving.

Note: This isn’t a complete post, I’ll update it throughout 2019 which is my last year of being in the 20s

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