I’m celebrating a birthday this week. Personally I don’t find them big occasions – I’ve forgotten my birthday sometimes, and to be honest, I had to just use a calculator to figure out how old I am this year.  (Yes, really.)  Moving and a number of other personal events have led me to a lot of internal reflection.

At the same time, it seems a daily occurrence now to see an email in my inbox from someone wanting to break out of their current rut and break into an awesome travel job, like how to become a travel photographer or start their own travel blog.  I’ll be frank:  I don’t have all the answers.  But I thought I’d share with you a few of the lessons I’ve learned about life and business over these years.

22 Years of Growing Up

Strangely enough, despite this being the longest portion of my life, I learned the least. Well, I learned a lot – but not that much worth sharing. 🙂

  • Sometimes have to stick your finger in a light socket to know why you shouldn’t. Yes, everyone tells you things that you shouldn’t do. Don’t do this, don’t do that, blah blah. Sometimes, though, you need to learn the lesson for yourself. I was young, and I didn’t really what was the big deal with electricity. So, I stuck my finger in the light socket. Thankfully it didn’t kill me, but I did have a headache for about a week. And no, I wouldn’t do it again.
  • There is strength in numbers. During university, I had an enormous professional and social network, second only until the one that I have now.  Having a wide circle of people is good for business, and it’s good for you too.  We may not be tribal hunters and gatherers anymore, but camaraderie and companionship are still essentials. Find your “tribe” and if you can’t find a group of those special, like-minded people, then make your own; Pace and Kyeli said to hell with everyone else and created their own band of freaks. (Disclosure: I’m a freak too.)
  • Life is supposed to be fun. Many say that our current educational system beats out of us the idea that life should be fun, and I agree with them.  But life is fun!  If you aren’t having fun, then you aren’t doing something right.

9 Years of Adulthood in Corporate Life

When we stop being children and start being adults, life can be a bit of a shock. Responsibility sets in and we scramble to figure out what we’re doing and where we’re going.  My years as a corporate consultant (mostly in the world of web-based software) have had incredible highs and incredible lows.  And many lessons…

  • People are selfish. Another obvious point, and you might think I’m being a bit cynical, but in fact that is an important lesson. Why? Because as a business owner, you need to understand that nobody cares about your product or service as much as you do. And in life, you need to remember that nobody else knows what is best for you except you.
  • You make do with what you have. That old chestnut about making lemonade with lemons has a lot of truth.  But isn’t it obvious:  if you don’t have what you need (or what you want, in some cases), then you don’t have any choice but to use what you’ve got.  It’s like worrying about things you can’t change or affect – it is a waste of time otherwise.
  • When doors open, go through them. You make your own luck opportunities.  I share this philosophy with my friend Chris Guillebeau, who I think would agree when I say the best policy is the policy of yes.  Always say yes and worry about the rest of it later.
  • Your gut is always right, but hearing what it says is hard. They say listen to your gut, and I’ve always found in highsight it is right.  But it isn’t easy to understand what it says to you.  You can definitely train yourself to be more in tune with it, but its never easy.
  • So many things you just won’t appreciate until you’re “grown up.” Why is it that we read classic literature and watch iconic cult films, yet it isn’t until we’re older and we revisit these things that we start to appreciate them?

2 Years of Entrepreneurship

The level of personal and professional development I’ve experienced the last two (give or take) years as a solopreneur is nothing short of incredible. My world view has totally changed, and I’ve never been more happy, excited, and full of joy.

  • Entrepreneurship is the hardest job you’ll ever hire yourself for. I don’t like to brag but in school, I found everything so easy – I never did homework as I never found a need to.  Studying was effortless.  Same in university – I graduated with honours and yet spent the entire time partying.  But running my own mini travel empire?  Hardest (and most rewarding) thing I’ve ever done.
  • Less is more. This applies to your home, your life, your work.  Consume less, be less, expect less and get more. As Adam Baker says, take back control over your life.
  • The line between passion and money is diagonal at best, and very curvy at worst. You can do what you love, and I say you must.  Just don’t expect it to be simple, or easy, to make it work.
  • You don’t know what you don’t know. Obvious, yes, but unfortunately overlooked by most.  Lower your expectations and aim higher.
  • People who do something succeed. Many people talk about success and about changing their lives and about doing amazing things.  But so few people actually do it.  Thinking and doing are a lot different.  Marissa Bracke calls it Can-Do-Ology – but whatever the label, do something!
  • Knowing what you want to do when you grow up is totally overrated. I think I’ve grown up but I still don’t know what I want to do.  I think I might be content with doing a little bit of everything for the rest of my life.
  • Learn to ask better questions. A lot of people look up to me for inspiration, and for that I am forever grateful.  But so many people ask terrible questions.  Most common is what are the keys to overnight success (short answer: stop thinking it is overnight), where are you from (seriously – do you have time for the real answer? and what’s the secret to the universe (short answer: it’s not a secret). If you really want helpful tips in life, learn to ask better questions.
  • Stuff goes wrong. Last week I had the biggest launch of my entrepreneurial career. It was our new simple guide to website usability, if you’re curious.  It was successful – our banner ads are hysterical (there’s one in the footer on this page), but the entire project was riddled with problems. Stuff goes wrong – you just have to deal with it.
  • Everyone has advice. The trouble is figuring out what to listen to and what to ignore. That includes this advice here.  Take what you find helpful, and leave the rest behind.

Everybody’s Free

I leave you to reflect with this lovely video. It’s a beautiful song and an inspirational video to go along with it.  Listen to the lyrics.

P.S. – I’m brewing up something really interesting with regards to my business.  Something really old school.  Kind of like a revolt.  Stay tuned (why not subscribe? there’s a box just over there to your right) – I think you might be interested to hear about it.