Here are a few lessons I learned during my life journey so far and that have really shaped who I am today.
Never stop learning
Most people think that reading stops when finishing the university. In fact, they never read a book in their life after college. The truth is, education starts on graduation, it doesn’t end.
You can only become better by educating, growing and doing. It’s the only way to learn.
I read books, blogs, listening to podcasts and watch book summaries on youtube. It just makes me grow personally and help other people too. It’s how I started this blog!
Happiness doesn’t come from owning things
Although money can buy happiness, happiness doesn’t come from acquiring more stuff. Happiness comes from experiences, like hiking with friends or achieving something bigger.
For example, I went through some pain to create a blog, write posts and research personal finance. But when I look back and I see all the 2017 articles I’ve written, the positive comments and the people I’ve helped that’s true happiness for me which came from creative work. Create something!
Working hard pays off
Sure, networking, being nice and politics can get you far, but at the end of the day, the quality (and quantity) of your work will show your value.
This is what gave me a 6-digit salary in the software engineering industry and created opportunities. I don’t know a single person that made it big without working their ass off. For this reason, you need to find what you like doing. There’s a saying.
Do what you love and you won’t have to work a day in your life.
It’s hard to pursue what you love
As human beings, we’re trained to follow what society thinks is politically correct. Get a taste of what you like before you finish high school, get a university degree and work on something you may or may not like for 40 years.
Noone will teach us about self-awareness or about the value of trying different things to find out what we like doing for the rest of our lives! That’s why it’s very important to focus on finding what we love.
We’re also hesitant to change gears because we care what other people say. I like programming but I’m not 100% into it. That’s why I’m trying blogging and helping people with personal finance. I think finding what you love is very hard – and very underrated.
If you want to make money start leveraging your time
Time is limited and trading my time for money as an employee can only get me that far. To make a real impact (and make millions too) I know I need to create businesses. When doing business, I can do things at scale.
Most people trade their time working for someone else because it’s the easiest and the safest. So do I. If I want a 50% pay rise I cannot just go and ask for one. The market decides the ceiling of my industry earnings and I have to oblige.
But if I sell shoes online I can definitely spend £100 in Facebook ads to generate an additional £1,000 income a month. That’s the power of businesses – do things at scale.
There’s a book on that: The Millionaire's Fastlane by MJ DeMarco. Cheesy title but great content. Read it!
Life is not always about work
I usually strive to become better, more productive, work harder and smarter. But I found that we all need some downtime. Other people meditate, take mountain trips, or play online games.
I create pressure for myself and feel guilty if I’m not working on my blog, on my profitable betting or on improving my career skill set. But sometimes it’s just TOO MUCH. What’s the point of doing all these if you don’t enjoy the downtime? #DowntimeForTheWin
Exposure creates opportunities
My technical blog gave me the chance to meet some great people, getting hired without an interview and 2 calls from publishers to write a book for them.
I couldn’t believe that! Who am I to write a book as an ‘expert’?
Not to mention free travels to speak at IT conferences. It probably increased my intrinsic value as a software engineer too – basically, I’m paid more thanks to it.
This personal finance blog works in the same way. People started e-mailing me because they see me as an authority on the subject. I got a call from Warner Bros about contributing to a TV documentary about debt. Who knows what the future will bring! I’m excited!
All I’m trying to say is that when exposing yourself to others and let your skills shine magical things can happen. It doesn’t matter whether you’re right or wrong. You suddenly don’t reach out for outbound opportunities and inbound opportunities start to find you. You help people and you increase your luck surface.
Two helpful resources:
There’s always enough time, it’s a matter of priorities
I’m so tired hearing people say “I don’t have the time, I don’t have the money, I don’t have the energy”. Noone has enough time and everybody gets the same hours every day.
Between kids, full-time jobs, there’s this sweet spot of finding 2 hours per week to do something you love or are passionate about. During these years I learned that if I say “I don’t have enough time” I am either not passionate enough for this or I’m prioritising something else over this one.
Interest creates thoughts and wishes. But taking action and staying committed puts your resources behind your words.
Find someone who supports you
I’m so lucky to have a wife that wants to make me happy and respects my wishes!
It’s very important to have support by your side and someone working towards the same goals as you. That applies not only to the other half but people in general – friends, colleagues etc.
Receiving as well as offering support are crucial to getting more satisfaction too! Have you not experienced feeling better after helping someone improve their CV or discuss their personal problem?
Teaching makes me a better learner
When explaining a subject to someone I need to structure my thoughts. I need to describe it in the simplest way possible. This enforces my learning and sometimes helps me to understand it better.
Let’s say I want to explain how investing works. I will try to think of a simple way to explain that owning a very small part in a big business can give you a small share of the profits. Similarly, if you lend your money to the government you agree that they’ll pay you back a little bit more. Lending to your government is usually safer than lending to a company which can go out of business.
Writing a whole chapter in investing made me a better investor because I HAD to learn or re-read the investing concepts to describe them well.
Sleep is king
I can’t think of a better way to be more productive in the morning. A good night’s sleep recharges my batteries and the lack of it destroys my day.
Apparently, good sleep puts your thoughts in order, protects you from getting sick and FEELS NICE!
If I get only 4-5 hours of sleep then I struggle and can’t wait for the next night. Getting enough sleep is the number #1 priority in order to enjoy the next day. Sometimes it’s hard to sleep well, but I found that avoiding drinking too much and having a tea 2 hours before bed are the 2 most helpful tips.
Exercise makes me happier
I don’t know why but every time I take my bike I feel more excited and in a more “prime” state. I usually do not exercise on a pattern because I’m lazy.
But between bike walks, the occasional tennis and football matches I become more active. That makes me happier and I should do it more often!
Everyone can escape the 9-to-5
If you don’t want to work for money but want the money working for you, then you live in the right era. The plan is simple and based purely on numbers. Just spend less than you earn, avoid debt and invest the rest.
Slowly but steadily you will generate a passive income. In the beginning that may not be high – maybe £100 per year. But as you accumulate more money that will become a snowball too big to ignore. Then depending on your lifestyle expenses, you can “retire early” and work because you want to, not because you have to.
You can boost your income too by expanding your skill set, doing business and side projects.
You can do anything tech-related without having a degree
All the information flows freely on the internet. I’m saying tech-related because you cannot really become a doctor or a lawyer by taking online courses.
But speaking of my profession, you can become a designer, a software engineer or a digital marketing guru by studying online. Even top universities like Stanford give online courses and I can guarantee you this: You learn by doing not by reading.
A very relevant article: How to become a software engineer without a degree
Stop worrying about things outside your control
People worry about the traffic, the weather and generally things that they cannot change.
If I learned something from following some Stoicism principles is that focusing on things we can control makes us a happier human being. So next time that you find yourself cursing at someone driving, think again. Why do I worry about something I don’t control of?
Stop consuming, start creating
There are so many business podcasts out there. We all read Medium articles on productivity, life hacking and growing a business. Gary Vee keeps talking and talking about creating and documenting stuff.
When will we stop listening and start taking action?
I’m more of a consumer myself but I try to think from the producer’s side as well. Everything is free on the internet (starting a blog, a podcast, a website). Grab your iPhone’s camera and make something today!
You only learn by doing
One of the benefits of producing over consuming is that you learn something better from the inside. When creating a blog, going through the details of setting up a theme and writing to keep it alive I learn more than what 1000s of “how to” articles would teach me.
I think the same applies to everything, from formal education to skiing. You may have a PhD in Business but want to build a product and it’s completely different from what the books say.
Product validation, customer retention, strategies for increasing customer lifetime value, lean start etc. The best school to acquire these skills is to actually dive in and do stuff the real way.
Life is not fair
It really isn’t. Your father might have left you when you were young, you graduated in debt, and your below-average-colleague takes a promotion instead of you. This shit is real.
What can I do about it? Try my best, be optimistic and look forward. That’s the only way to make it. I’ve also practiced The Subtle Art of not giving a F*ck which helped massively when dealing with whatever life throws at me.
Be nice, kind and life will eventually smile! Don’t let anyone get under your skin. I know I need to practice on the latter!
Chase making an impact, not making money
People will not care that you want to make money. All people care is solving their problems. When building something it’s pointless to chase the money alone.
I once read something worth mentioning: “Improve the life of 1 million people and you will be a millionaire”. If you think about it, this is absolutely right. The ball now is in my court. If 1 million people read this blog, will I become a millionaire? Let’s see!
Practice beats talent every single time
Andre Agassi wasn’t very talented. He wanted to quit tennis but his father insisted he continued. He cried, fought his father and himself but eventually he put the hours in.
If you’re determined and practicing your craft then you’ll beat any other more talented but lazy person. Practice beats talent every single time.
80% of the work is showing up
This is so hard because of all the obstacles our minds create for us. I don’t have time, I don’t have the money I don’t know enough about X.
The only way to make it easier is to take action and just start. To create the first blog post; to take the pencil and write the first book page etc.
To live a healthy long life, eat less meat
Ok, I’m not a nutrition expert but this one is driven by my wife and her food geekiness.
The top 10 causes of premature death are related to high cholesterol and cancer. Research shows that reducing meat and dairy products consumption makes us far less likely to die prematurely. Meat-free diet protects you from cardiovascular diseases, stroke, Alzheimer and many other types of cancer.
Top resource: How Not To Die - Dr Greger
Arguing is pointless
The whole point of an argument is to prove that they’re wrong and you are right. When I’m about to argue with someone I try to see things from their perspective. What is their motivation? Why are they trying to defend their position boldly?
An argument never helps regardless of whether it happens in your personal or your professional life. I took some great advice from “How to win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie. Instead of making enemies, try making powerful allies.
“Your house is an investment” is a big lie
People lost their homes in 07-08 because they thought owning a house is the best investment.
There’s a difference between owning your own house and renting one out to someone else. The former hardly makes any money, the latter can be a very profitable business.
Sure people made money, especially in the 2008-2016 recovery period but it doesn’t mean this will keep happening. History tells us that prices do not double every 10 years and owning a house is great but it’s a luxury.
I’m still thinking: Should I buy a house in London?
Investing is great when done early
It took me 26 years to realise that I should start investing and creating financial assets for my future. I wish I had done that earlier.
The power of compounding is a very strong force. Every £ your investment makes can create more £ for you. Start early, and your investment profits will generate profits 😉
“In a gold rush, don’t dig for gold, sell shovels!”
Everyone is buying bitcoins, everyone is making profits buying stocks and London property. I genuinely believe that while everyone is buying bitcoins I should be building a bitcoin exchange 😉
Reading the news is a waste of time
The sole purpose of the news is to attract as many viewers as possible. More viewers, more metrics, more “conversions” for the ads that fuel the news.
Drama and fear sell more than joy and history, which is the reason we see “House price crash coming in London” when the market declines by 1%. I have stopped reading the news and prefer reading books instead. Books provide distilled information of everlasting value.
Never be afraid of asking
Asking for a raise, asking the girl to go on a date, asking your customers what they want. Asking is hard because we negatively frame the failure in our minds before it happens. By doing so we eliminate the 10% chance that IT WILL happen.
I still remember the day I met a very important person to me, Nathan Marz. He was the creator of a tech framework and a keynote speaker at a conference I’d attended. I emailed him after the conference, expressed my appreciation and asked to meet him.
Surprisingly to me, he accepted and we had an awesome time eating churros in Barcelona while discussing tech! I’m so proud I did that. If you never ask you never get.
There’s no such thing as “Too much Greek food”
Being many years away from Greece, I really miss it! Isn’t everyone? 🙂
Having a cat is great
I must admit cats are great too! Having a pet makes me more caring and responsible. I get the occasional scratch but I also get love and purrrrrrrrrr.
Papi definitely makes my life more interesting 🙂
Always be grateful
I will always remember all the sacrifices my parents made to make me who I am. I feel I’m super lucky to live in a modern, civilised and Internet-connected world.
I feel there are so many opportunities out there to meet new people, build businesses, do good and be happy. What do you think?
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