As my 25th bday was approaching I was watching some clickbait video on youtube about what old people tell their younger selves. It got me thinking about what I'd want my 25 yr old self to tell any previous version of me.
So here it is... below are the top 25 most impactful pieces of advice/insights I've encountered, who was behind it, and how old I was at the time.
You guys shouldn't swing golf clubs at each-other, one of you will end up in the hospital
(my childhood friend Aj's dad 1 hr before I was rushed to hospital /w cracked skull)
Attitude is altitude
(My elementary school gym teacher. David Markam)
If you want to be hateful you can be hateful; but it sounds like you want to love and be loved. You can't always change what's happening around you, but you can always change your perspective. You can choose to hate or love, yourself or others.
(Dr.Atkinson, childhood therapist)
When someone asks how much to pay you for your work, ask for what you believe you deserve, not what you think they'll pay you. If you think cleaning the garage was worth $60, ask for $60, not $10. If you shoot low you may get what you ask for but never what you want.
(my Grandfather Terry Morris, while working at his business to gain experience)
girls are actually kinda cute huh
(me, entering junior high)
You should come to the computer lab, we're preparing for a programming contest, its probably more fun than going to the office again
(Jared Thorlakson, my junior high math teacher, introduced me to computer programming)
Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but the moments that take our breath away
(a quote I found on the internet. I literally googled "deep quotes". I was 13 and this was deep enough that I'm still thinkin 'bout it.)
[If you were a child born in the middle east, do you think you would you still believe in Christianity? If a child from the middle east was born in America would they still believe in Allah?] A child is not a Christian child, not a Muslim child, but a child of Christian parents or a child of Muslim parents.
(from The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, rattled my brain as I was actively preparing to become a pastor, inspired me to explore different religions/spiritual beliefs. I think exploring perspectives out of your comfort zone is generally a healthy practice)
Decide what matters to you, and work damn hard at whatever that is, harder than anyone thinks is possible, harder than you think is possible. If you hate how you are living, and you hate being lazy, stop being lazy and stop being someone you hate. You won't regret going your hardest, you will regret wasting your life not going all-in.
(me, from my diary entry June 11th end of grade 10 in highschool. this was the beginning of me taking charge of my future, from here grades changed, diet changed, started exercising, become a pillar of a whole lifestyle change)
Kick logic to the curb, and do the impossible!
(Kamina from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, one of my fave anime)
Your identity isn't just who you think you are. It's also who others think you are, it's who you think others think you are, and it's who you truly are, independent of what anyone thinks.
(the Jahari Window, by psychologists Joseph Luft, Harrington Ingham. found this by accident while browsing the web looking for evangelion character analyses, been a core mental model of mine ever since)
dude if you are thinking about joining the AA robotics lab, just walk in there and join the lab, ok know what it doesn't matter what year you're in i'm taking you there right now you're going to stop thinking about it and you're going to walk straight in there ok let's go
(Jason Martin, introduced me to the AALab at the University of Manitoba, catalyst for my undergraduate research experience and transition into robotics)
Instead of having the attitude of trying to say you want to do the minimum amount of work to prove your system sort-of works you must try to make your system fail. If you try really hard to break your system, and you can, then you have something interesting.
(Jacky Baltes (robotics Professor), giving TedX talk as I frantically try to get our robot to perform a live demo on stage. This has since been a core pillar of my work when programming autonomous cars, launching startup products, and identifying areas to improve my own life by treating myself as a system)
Drinking alcohol doesn't make someone an alcoholic, or abusive, that's just how you see the world because you grew up seeing a lot of negative examples. Instead of closing off the world and reinforcing your beliefs, find data that contradicts your beliefs and broadens your perspective. This lets you to have relationships with more people than if you bucket them and stereotype based on your tiny model of the world.
(me, journalling while living in Munich, Germany for Robocup2016. up until now I'd avoid any gatherings where there was alcohol which greatly limited my social capacity.)
if someone asks if you're on the spectrum, or comments on behaviours that peak their interest, they probably just want to know you better. It's like seeing a tall person and saying "wow, you're really tall, that's cool!". They aren't trying to hurt you. It is you hurting yourself because you aren't accepting of yourself. Sure, don't associate with clinical labels, but you should still recognize behavioral patterns that deviate from the norm. If behaviour is dysfunctional, fix it. If it's functional, appreciate it; but always respect it because when you feel shitty you need to be your own friend.
(me, from a diary entry journalling about my relationships)
at Dave-n-busters (an arcade & bar) in Hollywood California, they have a deal where you get unlimited chicken wings/coca-cola + $15 of dance-dance-revolution credits for $19.99 USD. Order wings, drink 500ml cocacola + play a game of DDR, you can do this 15 times throughout the day while still having time for weekly review (8am-10pm time range) which equates to 150 chicken wings, 7.5 litres of coke, and 15 games of DDR for $19.99USD. This sets wings at 13 cents (way below market price) and doesn't include the utility from cocacola, and the exercise from DDR. Staff change shift 3 times/day and they tend to forget about you so you can have a table for the whole time.
(me, discovered this while living in LA, probably saved like $500 on chicken wings in 3 mo)
If you're building a product make sure its valuable to people, i.e don't give something to people they don't want, but also make sure its sustainable. If you're giving away $10 for $5 and making money, this isn't a business its a donation. Identifying a real problem you're solving, who has the problem, how to solve the problem at scale, and how to drop costs so you make $, then you have a business. Anything else is a charity or a side project
(me, from post-mortem notes after shutting down my startup Repstem)
Learn to be comfortable without structure and without imposing rigid systems on everything. The world isn't always as structured as school. You've spend >90% of your conscious life in school and so your model of the world captures it. Outside of school, your rigid systems will collapse.
(me, while journalling)
I think books are an inefficient way to learn and I hate reading. It takes hours or days to complete a self-help book, yet you can summarize it in just a few lines and get 80% of the value. Over thousands of years reading became socially the ultimate source of wisdom. If you're smart, you read. If you read, you're smart. I think people read full books and collect books on their bookshelves as a way to status signal their intelligence rather than as a way to actually learn and apply what they learned efficiently.
(Eric Jung, my cofounder. He brought this up in an early discussion we had, and I disliked the perspective initially but found this to be one of the most unorthodox yet reasonable perspectives I've heard. Now when I meet other people I try to figure out what their most unorthodox (yet reasonable) perspective is. It leads to great conversations + is a genuine way to assess how deep of a thinker they are)
Having different ways of thinking and applying patterns when they make sense... The fact you can't just apply one thing everywhere and have it work. That's the spice of life: finding the middle ground
(Paymahn (friend of mine & cofounder), while chatting with him about how shitty I felt after a breakup. This concept challenged some of my core views on life: instead of thinking "is it better to think X, or to think Y?", ask "When is it beneficial to think X, and when is it beneficial to think Y, and to what degree of confidence?)
The map is not terrain. i.e., higher level abstractions have a cost. Abstractions introduce a level of indirection to the world. Abstractions (when correct) make it easier to generalize and act without thinking about every detail, but if the abstraction is incorrect this is often worse than not having an abstraction at all.
(me, browsing internet. this just really caught my interest. Up until now I make systems for pretty much everything. How to dress, what to eat, how to workout, how to sleep, I have dozens of spreadsheets and spend >10 hours a week planning out my life and making systems, yet I never really asked myself "what is this system being used for? Like, why do I need a 10 step checklist for how to dress myself + organize myself in the morning and why do I need a 2 page document explaining it with metrics I checkin on weekly to track progress?". Once I realized I was making systems as a therapeutic compulsive behaviour instead of to actually create value in my life it lead to me drastically restructuring my time)
Sleep is really damn important, like, sure you can look hardcore by pulling an all nighter once in a while, but it immediately damages health. Avoid associating your identity as being someone who "doesn't sleep" because you're working so hard. Prioritize your health & you'll output more longterm. It actually seems to take more discipline to get to bed early than it does to stay up late, be brain dead the next day, and output 20% of your potential capacity because you're tired.
(me, journalling to myself after another all-nighter. With major influence from Eric Jung (cofounder), and Eric Lujan (my manager@Cruise Automation))
If you want to know whats on someones mind, just ask them. Seriously, just ask, this reduces so much uncertainty.
(Lily (my girlfriend) as I was talking about how difficult it can be to read emotions. This was some of the most obvious, simple, yet practical & impactful advice I've heard. Began applying immediately when communicating with friends, employees, etc)
Avoid premature optimization. Get comfortable executing when things aren't fully polished (assuming no major, irreversible consequences for mistakes), you'll save a lot of time. For example with side project's, you don't need to spend hours creating diagrams of the software architecture using 3 different tools, just sketch something out, begin, iterate on the core idea. You over-plan because you have this delusion that you can control all the outcomes ahead of time. In reality things will change as you go and you probably know <1% of what you need to reach your big goals right now.
(me, while journalling)
Your need to control things often results in you having less control than if you did effectively nothing. Identify areas where you feel a strong need to have control, and learn to relinquish it, trust me.
(me, after years of journalling this just clicked. Kinda realized "oh shit, all these problems in my life are the same thing: I may have control issues. premature optimization, being overcontrolling in relationships, spending 15+ hrs/week planning for the future, over-systematizing things that don't create value in my life, these may all be just a deep need for control that is actually causing more harm than good )
I love you
(Flynne Morris my mom)
ps. love you too mom.
Looking forward to another 25 times around the sun.