I was interviewing a candidate for a position in my department. I asked her where she sees herself in the coming five years, and if she has a destination or goal in mind that she plans to reach in the coming years, and to my astonishment, she had it all figured out to the nitty gritty detail. I was impressed and amazed at how she had it all written down, from all aspects, as if she was describing the story of her future self to me during the interview. Now, she was smart and practical enough to know she might not get all that she is aiming for in the coming years or that her plan might change, but she does believe that aiming high, coupled with proper planning, will take her further than just living her life by the day.
That interview triggered an idea, a thought, in my head. If I was to go back in time to, say, when I was 30 years old, what advice would I give myself? With everything I went through in the past fourteen years, from being married to having kids to having my own thriving business, losing it all and hitting rock bottom, to getting up again, and knowing all that, what would I tell my thirty years old self?
In the movie from 2013 titled “About Time,” the hero character, Tim (played by Domhnall Gleeson), can travel in time and change what happened and had happened in his life. Imagine that whenever you do something wrong or don’t like the outcome of something you did, you can travel back in time and change it. Wouldn’t life be just perfect? The movie goes on with Tim redoing everything he wants to get the desired results, only to realize at the end that to live life at its potential and enjoy It, he must experience life with all its imperfections. The movie closes with Tim’s quote: “We are all traveling through time together every day of our lives. All we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable ride.” Well, I can’t fly back in time, although that would be really cool. But, if I were 30 years old, I would consider the following tips.
But first, let me share three essential rules:
- You don’t know everything, and you will never do. For some reason, hitting thirty gives us the feeling that we are on track, know where we are going, and know it all as if we have reached enlightenment. Sorry, it’s a myth, and you have so much to learn in life, and you will never know everything.
- It is ok not to know everything, but it is essential to know yourself well, and you must keep learning and growing your knowledge and experience. Only then will you have peace with whatever life gives you.
- Everyone is different, so don’t compare yourself to others, as that makes you focus your energy on the wrong things. The only person you need to compare yourself with is yourself yesterday, last week, and last year
By thirty, you should know a good deal about what career field you like to be in, building on your previous few years of work and, to some extent, your education field.
- THE PASSION – Whatever career you choose, make sure you love doing it daily; otherwise, you will not be happy at your job.
- KNOWLEDGE GROWTH – Strive to learn more to develop your personal knowledge, so you can grow at your job, focus on being good at it, and never settle for being average. As Jim Rohn beautifully said in his audiobook “Exceptional Living,” “Working hard on your job will make you a living, but working hard on yourself will make you a fortune.”
- PRIORITIES, PRIORITIES – Jobs and careers are like elastic balls, so if they fall, they will eventually bounce back up again, so never give them more priority over your personal life.
- THE ENTREPRENEURIAL WITHIN – Don’t believe that we all must have our side business; that is not something for everyone, and it’s not a sign or measurement of success. There are plenty of very wealthy and successful Individuals who have been employees throughout their careers. However, if you have an entrepreneur in you, then it’s time to take a shot at it. Remember that the older you get, the harder it is to leave your job and establish a personal business.
- MAKING MONEY – In short, learn to save, and the earlier in life you start, the better. There are plenty of resources on planning your financials and being smart with money, so find your favorite plan and stick to it. Some ideas below:
- Set aside a monthly amount to be invested. This amount goes out on the side once you get paid your salary and before paying your bills. Do this religiously. This amount should ideally be a percentage of the salary (10%-15% ideally).
- Set a target or goal. For example, you would want to have $5M in savings by age 45. So, explore options for different funds/projects where you can invest your monthly savings while working backward on hitting the target. While at it, consider retiring by age 45; and by retiring, I mean not working for money in a daily job. The idea is to have enough accumulated wealth that if you do not want to work another day and enjoy the rest of your life traveling, exploring, reading, or writing, you can live without financial worries. This way, you can work a few hours daily while focusing on the people and things you care for the most.
Your happiness is mainly in fulfilling your personal life, so pay good attention to this side of your life. As said above, work is like an elastic ball, while family and personal relationships are like a glass ball, less elastic, so be careful.
- YOUR OTHER HALF – If you are not married yet, choose your life’s companion wisely, with no rush, and once you find your other half, give that person the best of you, with no holding backs, no compromise, and no tradeoffs. It is like establishing a business with a partner; that business needs constant attention, effort, and teamwork from you and your partner, nonstop, and never take it for granted. The three main must-have’s pillars in any relationship are; love, trust & respect. If you have those three, everything else is solvable. In his book (The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work), Dr. John Gottman advises, “Marry your best friend. The simple truth is that happy marriages are based on deep friendship. By this, I mean a mutual respect for and enjoyment of each other’s company,”
- BUCKETLIST CREATION – If you don’t have one already, create one. You must have a list of places to visit, experiences to live, and memories to make. The last thing you want is to be at the age of 80 and feel regrets about wasted dreams you never perused. The extraordinary experiences will last with you for the remainder of your life, not the possessions you buy.
- YOUR HEALTH – It’s the only body in the world that you are guaranteed to spend the rest of your life with, so if you DON’T take care of it now in your youth, you will take care of it in illness when you are much older.
- VALUE OF TIME – The only asset you have no control over, and you keep spending from it by the second. So, spend it wisely. Remember that this is the real thing; there are no repeats, no rehearsals, no extra lives, and most of all, no fixed timing, as GAME OVER can come any minute.
- THE HIGHER YOU – It’s your personal time with your inner self when you pray or meditate. It’s purely a personal decision, but we all need that connection; regardless of our religious backgrounds, we all need that time to reflect, meditate, connect, or pray. Know who you are and what you want, but establish a rhythm. It is not about praying five times a day; that’s the actual physical practice, but you need to go deeper and realize who you are standing in front of five times a day, how you should stand, and what you should say to appreciate that post you are in, five times a day. It’s trying to connect with your inner self, find peace, and be content with your life and what you have to reach self-fulfillment. In the Hadeeth, Prophet Mohammed PBUP calls on Bilal and asks him to perform the prayer call, “Bilal, please call for prayers so we can stand before God, be humbled by his presence, and feel the peace and serenity of praying to him.”
And the final note to my 30-years old self would be to think of my eulogy and the most important people I care about in life and what they will say about me when I die—I.e., parents, spouse, kids, siblings, best friends, & coworkers. Imagine what you would want each of those to say about you when you are dead and how they would describe you as a person considering your relationship with them. Write down how you want each one above to represent you. In that document, you will tell the ideal life by which you want people to remember you. So far, you are not dead yet, so take your eulogy and make it your manual, your roadmap, for how to live the rest of your life.