32 Years, 32 Lessons Learned

by

Today I turn 32 and Colipera turns 1. I guess it’s a good way for me to always remember both!

I’ve always tried to live my life at full effort and with full appreciation. In return, life has been good to me so I wanted to take a chance to reflect on the 32 most important lessons I’ve learned over my first 32 years. The last one is a birthday request I am hoping you can help me with.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with the road ahead for Colipera in year 2. Enjoy!

  1. Be More Proud. Be More Accountable

Far too often we ride the middle chunk of the accountability bell curve. We are embarrassed when any bit of praise comes our way or we don’t know how to share our successes with those around us. Additionally, we never take full responsibility for our mistakes or errors. We tend to blame other people first or we remain in the safety of numbers by making sure that if we are going to be part of a mistake, we won’t be the only one under the spotlight.

We should be more proud of the things we accomplish and more responsible for the things we messed up on. Live on the outsides of the bell curve of accountability. The middle ground is where fake smiles, finger pointing, fear and judgement sit.

Get out of there. Run for the edges. Be accountable for you.

 

  1. Your Inbox Is Not Your To-do List

Learning this fact changed my life. There is always something else to do. There is always another email to answer. There is always someone who wants something. But if you make someone else’s to do list (the email they sent to you) your to-do list, you’ll never get anywhere and you’ll never feel like you accomplished anything.

 

  1. Autonomy Has To Be Balanced With Input; Together. Be Better

Sometimes you can’t get anything done until you buckle down, turn off your phone and go one-on-one with whatever it is you have to do. The danger in that is becoming too solitary, too autonomous, where you live in your own head, drowning in your own positive illusions. Be diligent with the things you want to do, but create time and space for interaction and input from those around you. That’s where breakthroughs happen. We are who we surround ourselves with.

 

  1. There Are Better Stories In Failing

Your life would be a boring story if everything you did worked out just as you had planned. When you fail at something, you learn. We tend to work hardest and feel most happy when we are working on something that is just out of our reach. Just out of our reach means that in simply getting there, we are trying things that might not work. That is where the fun lies. A muscle can’t increase in size unless the muscle fibers tear via hard work. Growing is to tearing as learning is to failing.

Your story is forged through the canyons of choices that didn’t go the way you wanted them to. That’s why we want to hear you speak. That’s why we want to read your book. That’s what makes you human. That’s what makes you like everyone else. That’s what inspires us.

 

  1. “Should” Is The Worst Word In The English Language

Get the word “should” out of your vocabulary. All there is in life is did or didn’t. That’s it. “Should” is a half commitment. It’s a cheeseburger with no cheese. It’s untied shoes. It’s a flat tire on a perfectly able bike. It’s potential wasted. It’s your quick fix to feel good about yourself because you are admitting what the right thing to do is. Just because you know what the right thing to do is, doesn’t mean you get to bask in the feeling of having done it. You should never say “should” again. Either do or don’t.

 

  1. No One Cares More About Your Goals Than You Do

I used to think that people (friends, family, girls, whomever) would spend the same amount of time thinking about me, my life and what I was struggling with or working on as much as I was. New Flash: They don’t care. They are fighting their own fight. They are too tangled with their own journey to be able spend a second to think about mine.Stop wondering what everyone is thinking and instead, get after what ever it is you want to get after. You’ll get support when you’ve earned it.

 

  1. Being Alive Is The Most Amazing Thing That Can Ever Be

Seriously. If you’re struggling with something one day, just take it all the way back to the fact that you’re inhaling and exhaling. You’re here now. Your chance still exists. It didn’t for billions of years before you and it won’t exist billions of year after you. But it exists now, in this flicker of chance. Let that be your limitless source of renewable energy. If you’re only focused on getting to some destination, you’ll miss the entire journey.

 

  1. Never Apologize For Being Passionate

I used to feel a little guilty for saying the things I wanted, for having the dreams I had or for having to follow up with someone. I would sit there and say, “Ahhh, that person probably doesn’t like my email/phone call. I guess I shouldn’t follow up with them.”Bullshit. Follow up. (See #6. That person isn’t thinking about you.) No one ever said, “Gosh, this person is too passionate about this thing. I don’t want to talk with him.”Respect others, but do you, and don’t apologize for it.

 

  1. Companies Will Choose Themselves Over You

According to the IRS, corporations are like human beings. So we can’t be surprised when a company’s self-preservation mode kicks in and they do what they think is best to protect their existence. That might mean getting rid of you without so much as a one-day notice. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t work hard for the company you work for, but always understand that they don’t need you for them to survive. Therefore, make sure you have it in your mind that you don’t need them for you to survive either.

 

  1. Travel; Going Outside Your Comfort Zone Is What Expands Your Character

Nothing has influenced me more than getting out of my bubble. I realize I am extremely fortunate for being able to travel and see the world, but if the chance is yours to be had, take it. Seeing how other cultures live, seeing that there are worlds far different from yours, seeing that your way isn’t the only way teaches you empathy, understanding, and varying points of view. Traveling teaches you that you are but one blade of grass in an endless meadow: oh so unique, yet oh so alike.

 

  1. A Smile Can Change Everything

As my mother once told me, “You never know when your smile might save someone’s life.” A genuine smile is always accepted. It’s contagious. It’s the acknowledgement that in that moment between you and another person, “I see you. I recognize you. I want to extend friendliness and joy to you, directly to you.” In that ever so brief of moment of a shared smile, you wholly matter. I see you, and what the heck…I hope this smile finds you well.

 

  1. You Can’t Rush Experience

How-to books, top 10 lists, and the sort are all the craze. We’re trying to warp worlds, we’re looking for alternate routes, we’re trying to get over to the HOV lane of life. Of course there are ways to work smarter, but in the end, experience comes from actually doing something, tinkering for a certain period of time. It takes baby steps. “I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger” is completely absurd. If you knew then what you know now, no one would hang out with you because you wouldn’t be making any sense whatsoever. What you know now you got through experience. Feet have callouses, life has experience. It can’t be any other way. Enjoy not knowing things. Enjoy questioning. Enjoy the process of learning and discovering.

 

  1. Comparisons Will Kill You; Define Your Own Success

Someone will always be faster, richer, younger, prettier or more talented than you. There was a wonder statement I heard recently: “The reason we struggle with self-confidence is that we compare everyone’s highlight reel with our behind the scenes.” Stop worrying about what you don’t have and instead, magnify and utilize the things you do have.

In the same vein, be sure to clarify to yourself what success would look like to you in any endeavor. Don’t let someone else’s expectations be the be the rung of the ladder that you are climbing to. If so, you might miss attainable contentment and fulfillment on your climb to prove something to someone.

 

  1. Prepare More, Plan Less

We try so hard to control the exact results of things we haven’t done or experienced yet that we are so hard on ourselves when they don’t turn out exactly as we imagined they would. Instead, go in a relative direction and create short term goals/checkpoints that you can more or less manage. The rest is wholly and unequivocally out of your control, both in a beautiful and sometimes cruel way.  You won’t see every door along your path of life, so sometimes you just have to walk through the door and then tangential opportunities will present themselves. Hinging your happiness on a make believe point beyond the horizon is a dangerous game to play. Instead, focus on the nearest landmark. For me, I have 3 things I need to do a day. The rest is the rest.

 

  1. Money Alone, Will Never Satisfy You

Understand that there is no amount of money that you can ever make where you will say, “Ok, now I’m happy.” Money comes and money goes. The question is, is the person experiencing these ebbs and flows happy with the person he is becoming? If money is your sole compass, then it will act like Homer’s Sirens, luring you into rocky waters.

 

  1. Write Things Down

There are still times when I tell myself, “I’ll never forget this!” Then two minutes later I have no idea what I wasn’t going to forget. I don’t know how many business ideas or tasks that didn’t get completed when they should have because I was too proud to write things down. You will forget. Don’t waste mental energy remembering things you want to get done. Write it down and let your brain then focus on things that need its energy the most.

 

  1. Exercise Or Die

I talked about this in detail in: A Letter From Your Life but, treat your body right.Get your heart pumping. It is the easiest way to keep yourself balanced mentally and physically. Oh and, don’t skip meals. There’s nothing noble about being so busy that you forgot to eat. In fact, I’m sure your body hates it when you do that.

 

  1. You’ll Lose Friends Along The Way

Try as you may, but holding on to the idea that your friend from grade school will be your best friend for life, might not be the most productive thing you ever do. Understand that people change, circumstances change and friends will come and go.Always be a friend but don’t spend your life trying to stay friends with someone just to say you did. Everything has a natural cycle.

 

  1. Dream But Don’t Daydream

While daydreams are important when it comes to creativity, you can’t daydream thought into action. Have hopes and dreams but understand that to realize those dreams, something in reality will have to be undertaken. There are 24 hours in a day. You need to eat and you need to sleep. The rest of that time is on you. Today is the youngest you will be for the rest of your life. Let’s do this.

 

  1. Be Thankful, Don’t Feel Guilty

Why do I live in a 1st World country? Why do I get the chances to live an easier life? Why do I get clean water and the freedom to do as I wish? Don’t waste your time wondering why you have these random gifts, be thankful that you have them and try to live a life befitting of the gift. There is no time to feel guilty for it, only time to do something with it.

 

  1. 80% Contentment

Things aren’t going to be perfect in life. You aren’t going to live in the best neighborhood, with the best friends, having the best job, with the best social life, and the best relationship at every turn. When I was younger, I thought I had to be 100% content to be fulfilled. I’ve slowly learned that 80% contentment, 4-out-of-5, is pretty damn good and that’s a more realistic level to shoot for. Just because something isn’t perfect in your life, doesn’t mean you can’t be thoroughly happy. Perfection is exhausting. Be careful chasing the unblemished life.

 

  1. We All Want To Matter

One way or another, we want to matter to someone other than ourselves. When you’re younger you want to be like the people who have the biggest effect on the most people. As you get older you realize that there are people all around you, your spheres of influence, whom you can have a significant effect on. Focus on your spheres, no matter how small. Make them better. Your spheres will grow but what matters is not how many people you can influence but the quality of the influence you give.

 

  1. There’s Time If You Want There To Be Time

You do have time. You have so much of it. You just have to be aware of how your minutes get used up on a daily basis. You want to get something done? How bad? Bad enough to not watch TV, surf the internet, go to Happy Hour? That choice is on you.Shrink the change by setting alarms, creating mini goals and living intentionally otherwise the hamster wheel will be your transportation du jour, every “jour”.

 

  1. If You’re Not Scared, You’re Not Doing It Right

We can’t really progress unless we are pushing against the walls on the outer edges of our comfort zone. If we only did the things we already knew, we’d never get anywhere. Fear, apprehension and sweaty palms mean that you are probably about to learn something that you’ll never forget. Smile, and say hello to wisdom.

 

  1. Someone’s Title Doesn’t Mean That They’re Smarter Than You

Just because someone has a prestigious title doesn’t mean that their opinion is worth more than yours on everything. Sure, some very worthy people have titles that they deserve, but there are plenty of people who have titles for political reasons or for reasons I still can’t seem to figure out. Don’t let someone’s title intimidate you just because of the title. They breathe just like you and I do.

 

  1. Write Better E-mails

Learn how to write better emails and your life will change. Email is the communication tool of this day and age. Always remember that there is another human being on the other end of that “Send” button. Use her name. Say hello. Acknowledge that they are more than an electronic tool to answer your questions.

 

  1. Things Don’t Happen For A Reason

In regards to your life, random things occur outside of them needing to have a reason. Things just happen. The question is, what are you going to after these things happen? That’s where you create reason and purpose. Saying “things happen for a reason” takes away accountability on your part of what led up to that event (didn’t get a job offer) or the accountability for your reaction to an event completely out of your control (a meteor hits your house). Find meaning in the actions you choose, not in the situations that life presents you with.

 

  1. Your First Draft Is Never Very Good; He Who Iterates, Wins

First drafts are absurdly bad. Scripts aren’t written, they’re rewritten. If writing or creating, just get to a finish line, any finish line, no matter how decrepit, haggard, or in what direction it may be. You can go back and edit later. That book, article or TED talk you are enamored with didn’t look like that at its first go ‘round. Trust me.

 

  1. When In Doubt, Ask

If you don’t know the answer to something and you can’t find it, ask someone. If you wonder what someone thinks or if you want to grab a coffee with someone, ask. It’s literally that simple. Don’t expect them to reach out to you just because you want them to. If the answer is no, then you find yourself in the exact same position as before you posed the question. Asking is a positive sum game.

 

  1. Be Relatable

Degrees, skills, certifications, accolades and ability are obviously important in earning a living but I can tell you that from my own crazy path that understanding people, being present and empathetic has allowed me to connect, bond and relate in situations where I’ve been the outsider. Life is a shared existence. If people like being around you, they’ll want to have you around them more often. This goes for friends, lovers and employers.

 

  1. Always Be Reading

Always be reading a book, even if you’re only reading 5-10 minutes a day. 10 minutes a day is an hour and ten minutes a week. At 300 words per minute, you’re reading 20,000 words a week. The average book is 70,000-150,000 words so you can read a book in 3-7 weeks by reading 10 minutes a day. Try to average a book a month. It will change your life.

 

32. Be Brave (And A Birthday Request)

Be brave. The world needs to you to be.

Recently I was asked by Michelle Welsch to join her, Ishita Gupta and Rhonda Britten  to bring a one-day event to NYC where we inspire one week of fearless living. We need your support to make it a reality. Check it out here:http://www.indiegogo.com/fearlessnyc If you want to get me anything for my birthday, supporting this and sharing this with your friends would be the greatest gift of all. I would love to see you there!

 

Colipera Turns 1

Over the past year, I’ve written 86 blog posts totaling over 36,000 words. (Hey now!) It’s been an amazing year for the company as I’ve started teaching classes, coaching clients and have also written a book, The Accountability Effect. I’m thrilled about the last 365 days and I’m feverishly excited for the next 365 and beyond. What kind of things am I planning/thinking about?

  • Creating a $99 goal setting downloadable class. This will be based off of my 4-hour workshop that I teach in NYC
  • Bringing The Accountability Effect: Part 2; Who? Us to the world this summer. Tentative chapter titles:
    • Who’s Watching?
    • Who Do You Look Up To?
    • Who Can Lend A Hand?
    • Who Can You Trust?
    • Who’s Coming With Me?
    • Who’s Next?
  • Creating a hardcover version of The Accountability Effect (Parts 1 and 2) for those interested in buying it
  • Writing my next e-book, tentatively called: Taste The Rainbow
  • Creating a Meet-up group in NYC for people thinking about being part of a 4-week Colipera session but who maybe can’t find the people to do it with
  • Creating an adventurous  getaway for a select group of people and tying that into goal setting classes and commitments. See: Trekking Mt. Kilimanjaro with 7 other people while also verbalizing your goals and the impediments keeping you from reaching them. It will be physical  and emotional growth at the same time
  • Teaching more classes through Skillshare, General Assembly and Eventbrite. Right now I have two coming up: 7/24 and 7/31
  • Attending World Domination Summit on July 6-8 in Portland, OR
  • Teaching at Bold Academy in Boulder, CO on July 9

Thanks for being a part of Colipera. Thanks for reading, and thanks for sharing your insights and thoughts. It is the fuel that keeps my fingers dancing on the keyboard and my energy always at a high. I know there are a zillion and one things grabbing for your attention each day so for you to let me sneak in and steal a few moments of yours, humbles me.

One love. Never ever stop.

Bassam