Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had this dream of changing the world, but growing up, I had no idea how—let alone what I wanted to do with my life.
So I tried different things: I studied abroad, I worked at Google, I backpacked for lengths at a time, I launched my own online business. I kept on looking outward, never truly feeling any sense of contentment or peace, until I arrived at these words by the 13th-century poet, Rumi:
“Yesterday I was clever so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise so I am changing myself.” That’s precisely when I began to understand that all the change I’m seeking in my life first begins with me. And all the change that you’re seeking in your life first begins with you. Change the inside, and the outside falls into place.
The truth is, you are capable of creating whatever you please, but what’s standing in the way between where you are and where you want to be is you. Not time, not money, not circumstances—you. And do you know why? It’s because you are your greatest obstacle.
The sooner you learn this, the better, and the sooner you accept, the sooner you will want to learn how you can change. And once again, Rumi’s eloquent words chime in and ring ever so true: Yesterday you were clever so you wanted to change the world. Today you are wise so you’re changing yourself.
Here are 35 life lessons that you should learn early on in life. Read them, contemplate them, and apply them. And as you do, be mindful of the fact that change takes time, so allow yourself all the time you need to grow.
1. Your entire life can change in an instant. So instead of passively taking what you have for granted, be grateful for it and do whatever good you can with it.
When I was 27, I flew off a bike and blacked out on the street. In an instant, I fractured my spine and tore the main ligament in my knee. In an instant, the entire trajectory of the next year of my life changed.
Earlier this year, the third-largest explosion in human history rocked my home city of Beirut. In an instant, 200 people lost their lives and 300,000 thousand people became homeless. I could’ve easily been one of them.
We often forget that death hangs over us; it lingers in the space we cannot touch, and in the blink of an eye, in the flash of a second, it can capture us and strip us bare of the most precious blessing of all: The gift of being alive.
Your entire life can change in instant. So stop taking what you have for granted. Instead, be grateful for it, and do whatever good you can with it.
2. It’s okay to feel lost sometimes; the truth is that you owe nothing to your younger self, but you owe everything to your present self.
When I was younger, I used to think that feeling lost was something to be ashamed of. Now I realize it’s the normal course of life because life is not a straight line that goes from A to B, it’s a canvas of circles and waves, ups and downs, highs and lows. It’s a journey of self-discovery and creation. We paint it with a set of colors and then re-stroke it with another.
Life is transformative .
So feeling lost is normal and no matter how “put together” everyone around you seems, when you dig deeper, you’ll realize that they’re all just “figuring it out” as they go. Every business owner is constantly trying to figure out how to reach more customers, every couple in a relationship is constantly trying to figure out how to keep it working, and every new parent is constantly trying to figure out how to maneuver their way through parenthood.
Truth is, I’ve come to realize that feeling lost is a sign of growth. It means that the things you once valued are no longer the things that matter to you today. And do you know why? It’s because you are no longer your younger self.
When you were a kid, you set goals and dreams for who you thought you would want to become as an adult, but through time and novel experiences, your interests changed, and so did the way you think. Now I’ve realized that the previous ideas I had for my future self no longer resonate with the ideas I have for my present self today.
The same applies to you: The person you are today is not responsible for being the person you once thought you would want to become. The person you are today is solely responsible for the adult you want to be today. You owe nothing to your younger self, but you owe everything to your present self.
So it’s okay to feel lost or feel like you don’t know what you’re doing with your life — you’re not expected to have it all figured out because it’s a process. What’s important, however, is that you don’t use “being lost” as an excuse to sit in stagnation. What’s important is that you toil in the language of action more than that of contemplation and thought.
3. Action breeds more clarity than thought, so you can’t think your way into a new life, you have to act your way into one.
How do you find out what you actually want in life? You lean into what you think you want and take action toward it. That’s the best answer I can give you because here’s what I’ve learned: Action breeds more clarity than thought.
I spent the majority of my teen years thinking that what I wanted to do with my time on earth was to become a CEO of a multinational firm until I joined a corporate conglomerate and realized: That’s not what I want. A few years later, I spent the majority of my time at Google dreaming of becoming an entrepreneur and building the next big unicorn startup, until I launched my own company and realized: That’s not what I actually want.
Action breeds more clarity than thought because, at the end of the day, you will only learn, improve, and figure it out, by doing. You’ll learn how to cook by cooking. You’ll master the art of writing by sitting down to write every day.
When you lean into your curiosity and walk the path, you will gain experience, and the answer to what you actually want will reveal itself to you as you work toward what it is you think you want.
All you need, then, is a direction to move into. All you need is the “where,” not the “how.” Once you begin to walk the path and trust the process, the answers begin to reveal themselves to you, and the way begins to appear. That’s why you can’t think your way into a new life; you have to act your way into one.
4. Chasing happiness will lead you to misery until you realize that happiness is the way.
A few years ago, at a campsite in a music festival, I met a woman in her early 30’s who told me that she had yet to find happiness in her life—that she was still chasing and looking for it. Unfortunately, I used to think the exact same.
Perhaps that’s because modern society conditions us to believe that happiness is a destination we arrive at: the promotion that will wash away all our problems or the freedom we will obtain from leaving a 9–5 job. So we now live with this idea: “When X happens, I’ll be happy.”
I lived the entirety of the past decade cultivating this toxic mentality and it affected every major decision I made in my life. I was always chasing the next big thing, in constant pursuit of what’s next, never truly indulging in the fullness of what I already had right here, right now.
Here’s what I want you to realize: Happiness is not a paradise island we must go looking for. No. Happiness is a deep-rooted rose of contentment that you carry with you everywhere you go — and you are the one who chooses whether or not to water it every morning upon waking up.
Your happiness and wellbeing have nothing to do with how well you think you’re doing, how far into the journey you’ve crossed, or what’s coming next. Your happiness and wellbeing have everything to do with how present, accepting, and content you are with all that is, right here, right now.
As per the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, “there is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.” If you fail to appreciate this sentiment and continue to chase the big elusive dream of a distant happy future, then you’ll never experience the self-worth and contentment that can be found in this very moment.
And it doesn’t take much to be happy: Practice being present, write down what you’re grateful for every morning, be accepting of whatever happens, and do something every day that brings joy to your heart. These are some of the easy, simple, and practical pieces of advice on how to become happier.
5. If you want to change the trajectory of your life, embrace these rules and apply them: Commitment is what gets you started, consistency is what gets you somewhere, and persistence is what keeps you going.
From the years of 24 to 28, I only talked about becoming an entrepreneur, but I never did. Why? Because, back then, all I did was talk, but never “do.” So, on my 29th birthday, I registered my first company—I committed to becoming an entrepreneur, and that changed the trajectory of my life.
One year later, on my 30th birthday, I chose to become a writer. I committed to this new vocation and over the course of that year, I built a system to help me stay consistent. Within twelve months, I published 140 online articles, which took me from zero views to over 500,000, from zero followers on Medium to over 6,100, and from zero newsletter subscribers to over 1,500.
What was my secret?
I consistently wrote and published 2-3 articles per week. Even on the days when I didn’t feel like writing, I forced myself to show up, sit on a chair, and write.
If you want to change your life around, here’s what you must do: Commit to one thing. Stay consistent in it. Push through it.
Commitment is what gets you started on a new trajectory. Consistency—which is the key to creating long-lasting and sustainable change in life—is what gets you somewhere. And persistence is what keeps you going in spite of adversity.
6. We breakdown little by little, day by day, but we also take care of ourselves, and build ourselves up, little by little, day by day. Why? Because your habits define you—what you do today is a reflection of who you will become tomorrow.
There’s a thin line standing between where you are today and where you will be tomorrow. The hinge that connects the two is the one small habit you repeat every single day. If you lean into bad habits (or neglect the good ones), you will breakdown little by little, day by day, but if you practice good habits, you will build yourself up, little by little, day by day.
In my first six months of entrepreneurship, I completely neglected myself. I stopped meditating, I stopped socializing, I stopped exercising, I stopped taking care of myself. The result? Sleepless nights of overthinking, constant frustration and worry, emotional turmoil, and confusion—I was miserable.
Fortunately, as soon as I became conscious of this self-sabotaging behaviour, I vowed that I will never allow myself to fall this low ever again. Since then, I’ve incorporated 10 daily habits and still practice them to this day. They include, among others, a 15-minute daily morning meditation, gratitude journaling, daily stretching and exercise, and intermittent fasting.
The reality is that every day we are faced with new challenges, some bigger and more catastrophic than others. In spite of the emotional wreckage we might find ourselves in, we must look inward to ignite the fortitude that allows us to pick ourselves back up and carry on. How do we do this? We allow our daily rituals to uphold us. Our daily habits and self-care rituals fashion the rhythm upon which our life flows and the direction in which it progresses because what you do today is a reflection of who you will become tomorrow.
Want to know where you’ll be in a year’s time? Look at what you’re doing today. Do you aspire to be a writer? Well, are you writing today? Do you want to be in the best shape of your life. That’s great, but did you exercise today? You become your habits because you are what you repeatedly do.
Whatever you want those day-to-day anchors, habits, and rituals to consist of, do your best to stick with them because breakthroughs don’t happen overnight—transformative breakthroughs happen after the tiny increments of change in your day-to-day life compound into something beautiful over time.
7. Share your progress, not your goals, and you’ll always be motivated.
Research has proven that the premature praise we receive from sharing our goals in public becomes a substitute for actually achieving them. That’s why a lot of people talk about what they want to do, but never actually end up doing them. And that’s why I learned to no longer announce my goals in public. Rather, I work silently behind the scenes and share my progress instead.
When you track and share your progress, you keep yourself motivated. The tracking allows you to see your evolution unfolding before your eyes and the sharing allows people to praise you not on your results, but on your process.
Tracking my progress is one of the three strategies I use to keep myself motivated to write. I’ve built myself a dashboard on Google Sheets to track and measure my progress, and I do it for three reasons: It keeps me motivated and inspires me to keep going. It helps me stay disciplined. It helps me make better decisions (because now I have data to work with). So if you want to move the needle, start sharing your progress, and stop sharing your goals—start sharing what you’re actively doing, and stop sharing what you want to be doing.
8. Every second you spend comparing your life to someone else’s is a second spent wasting yours; so stop comparing and create your own definition of success instead.
Comparing ourselves to others is one of the most toxic habits that can drastically affect our mental health and emotional wellbeing. When I first started my entrepreneurial journey, I was comparing myself to every other one out there. I would compare my chapter one to someone’s chapter twenty, without knowing the full extent of their story. In fact, I didn’t even know any of the people I would compare myself with. Was there any sense in this? Absolutely not. Did it make me miserable? Yes, it did.
The truth is that each one of us is unique. We all have our own story to keep writing and our own paths to keep walking. So instead of comparing yourself with others, create your own definition of success; as long as you stay true to this definition, you are successful. Here’s one definition by Ralph Waldo Emerson that I absolutely love.
Part of my definition of success for the past year was to publish two articles per week. I did. Do I consider myself successful? Yes. Who cares if society thinks otherwise?
9. Designing a meaningful life you love is possible, but doing what you love won’t make life any easier—it will just make you more disciplined and it more joyful.
My ideal life is one where I create more than I consume, enjoy my quality time with the people I love, tell good stories that inspire positive growth in others, and I’m healthy and financially independent with the freedom to do my creative work from wherever I please. That’s my definition of success.
Over the past two years, every morning I wake up, I am reminded that designing a meaningful life that I love—where I live it on my own terms and do what I genuinely enjoy—is possible.
Why? Because every morning I receive new notifications that remind me of this possibility: The growing number of people who read my articles, the growing number of subscribers to my newsletter, the messages I receive from readers.
Visions are possible to achieve and everyone who tells you otherwise is a cynical person who’s given up on the abundance of beauty that life has to offer. The truth is, people will always project their fears and limiting beliefs onto you. What you must do is build a shield against this noise so you can protect yourself from it.
But here’s the caveat: If you’re waiting for someone to give you the green light to get started on designing that life you want, you’ll be waiting forever. Nobody is going to come along and push you onto the path of what you desire. You must push yourself. Nobody is going to come along and give you the approval to be yourself. The only approval you need is your own.
Yes, you can build yourself a lifestyle where you are doing what you love every day. Your first step is to take responsibility for it. Define what makes life worth living for you, and then design your life around that.
Your second step is to recognize that doing what you love won’t make life any easier. In fact, you’ll find it more difficult initially to pave your own path. Some days will be hard, really hard. You will have to work ten-fold. You will doubt yourself. You will question everything. And yet, those are the biggest signs of growth and renewal.
Stick with it and see it through.
As per the beautiful words of Rumi, “let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” And that’s because there’s magic in doing what you love: You’ll prioritize it, you’ll become more disciplined for it, you’ll enjoy the process of working toward it, and once you get into your flow, it will rarely feel like work.
10. Whether right or wrong, everything you do is born out of a set of beliefs. This implies that self-care is not all roses and chocolates; self-care is going deep within to surface all the subconscious behavioral and thought patterns that are sabotaging your growth.
Self-care is not all roses and chocolates. Self-care is looking in the mirror and asking yourself these hard questions:
What’s weighing me down? What do I need to let go of in order to allow myself to bloom upward? What habits and false ideals don’t serve me any longer? What self-limiting beliefs am I holding onto?
Self-care is realizing that you are your greatest obstacle. And that’s one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned over the past few years. Your beliefs, your ideals, your habits, the way you speak to and of yourself, the extent of your self-acceptance, your subconscious behavioral and thought patterns… All these things, if not evaluated and upgraded, will sabotage your progress in life.
Today, you subconsciously act in a way to validate old narratives. You’ve seen how things are done and now you subconsciously think that’s the only way things can be done. You’ve been criticized and now you subconsciously believe that you’re not capable of flourishing. You’ve been hurt and now you subconsciously hold onto resentful grudges that do you no good.
The reality is this: Every action you take is born out of a deep-rooted set of beliefs—regardless of whether these beliefs are right or wrong. So if you want to change your self-sabotaging behavior, and thus, the trajectory of your life, you must first change those inner-beliefs. How? You raise your self-awareness so you can make the subconscious conscious.
We can never flourish or experience any positive sustainable change in our life as long as we keep carrying the entire weight of our baggage with us. Self-care is the active process of learning how to identify these self-sabotaging patterns that weigh us down and then letting them go. Once we let go of what’s no longer positively serving us, we will allow room for what will.
11. In an age of speed and acceleration, aim to slow down. When you live slow, you become more mindful and intentional about how to live your life, and you begin to take care of your body, mind, and soul so that they can then take care of you.
We’re now living in an age of speed and acceleration where a rhythm of rush can be found all around us: Fast food, fast fashion, fast internet, fast travel, fast money. In my early twenties, I also lived in the fast lane after falling for this emotionally-wrecking trap of the hurry-up life philosophy.
It wasn’t until a little over a year ago, when I hit an all-time low in my life, that I decided to slow down. I stopped hustling. I stopped optimizing. I stop being aimless and mindless and I started becoming much more intentional and mindful—and this approach sits at the core of what it means to live slow.
Slow living is a life philosophy. It’s a state of mind you embody in your day-to-day living and it’s the antithesis to mindless hustle. It shifts the focus away from speed and efficiency and onto the idea that we should do what’s most important to us and our growth, and do it as best as we can instead of as fast as possible. It improves attention, creates stillness, and develops emotional maturity.
Here are some signs you’re starting to live slow:
You’re putting yourself first, which means that you’re prioritizing your own emotional and mental wellbeing before anyone else’s because it has finally dawned on you that you cannot give from that which you don’t have.
You’re becoming more intentional about how you want to live your day-to-day life and the kind of lifestyle you want to lead, so you’re not doing more—you’re doing less of what doesn’t matter so you can do more of what does.
You’re not rushing in the mornings. Instead, you’re giving yourself the time to discover how you want to set the tone for the day, so you’re creating a self-care plan that works for you and tailors to your needs rather than to what society tells you a self-care plan should look like.
You’re meditating and reading books to nourish your mind. You’re journaling and making time to practice hobbies that you love so you can feed your soul. You’re treating your body with the respect it deserves. You stretch to stay flexible. You move and exercise regularly. You try to eat healthy wholesome foods, but you also allow yourself the fun of indulging in sweet delights.
Anytime you’re faced with a dilemma, you ask yourself this question: “Does this matter to me?” If the answer is yes, you give it your attention. Otherwise, you let it go.
You’re saying “no” more than you’re saying “yes.” You’re protecting your time and safeguarding your energy. You’re not jumping into things just because they sound cool—you’re going back to that question of “does this even matter to me?”
You’re learning how to design an environment that is conducive to your growth; you’re choosing to move away from people with negative energies and closer to people who uplift you. That’s how you’re creating more space for wonder and inspiration.
You’re starting to accept that struggle is simply the refusal to accept what is. So now you’re teaching yourself how to surrender to the flow of life. You’re learning how to trust the process and you’re becoming more aware of the benefits of focusing only on what’s within your control.
You’re slowing down to become more observant and conscious of the beauty all around you. You’re becoming more grateful for all that life has to offer you: The sun in the sky, the soothing sound of the waves kissing the shore, the comfortable bed you get to sleep in tonight.
You’re creating more than you’re consuming. You’re realizing that a sense of purpose is rooted in the service of others, so you’re now seeking meaningful work you enjoy doing and choosing to give it your best effort.
You’re recognizing that the sanctuary is found within you and the only way to reach it is to be kind to yourself first, so you can then be kind to all other humans around you.
Slow living is a way of life that values mindful, intentional decision making over rapid, intense, and aimless acceleration. So instead of living a life of escapism where you run from what’s wrong, slow down so you can see the path that will allow you to walk toward what’s right for you.
12. Journaling is the most timeless and priceless form of therapy that will help you think clearly, understand yourself better, and make better sense of life.
Journaling is simply the act of reflecting and thinking about certain aspects of your life and writing them down—and translating your thoughts into words can have a profound impact on all areas of your life.
Writing helps you declutter your mind and better process your emotions, both of which lead to better thinking. You’re also 42% more likely to achieve your goals, simply by writing them down on a regular basis.
I’ve been following a 5-minute intentional journaling exercise every morning for the past year and it’s helped me be more intentional about my day. Once a week for the past seven years, I’ve been writing a free-flow journal entry where I reflect on what’s going on in my life and strategize for what’s ahead.
Truth is, it’s only through regular writing that you can develop a deeper level of self-awareness and a better understanding of yourself. So keep a journal as a form of reflective meditation and a medium to tap in and converse with yourself.
Write to understand yourself better.
Write to think better.
Write to make sense of life.
Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nelson Mandela, Albert Einstein, Marcus Aurelius, and even Vincent Van Gogh—all these great thinkers journaled daily and they did it for those reasons. So why aren’t you?
13. You grow rich when you seek new experiences, not material things.
Material things break. They collect dust. They might even be forgotten over time. Experiences, however, live with you forever. When I look back, I remember the day I went skydiving, the first time I moved to France, the time I received a standing ovation for a speech I delivered, that trip to Thailand with my brother, the week of silence in Sri Lanka, the thrill of starting up my own business.
When I look back, I remember experiences, not things.
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. once wrote that “a mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” This is so true. Experiences stretch us because they push us out of our comfort zones and into our growth zones. And as we gather more experiences, we grow, curate memories, build relationships—we evolve, and thus, we grow richer in mind, body, and spirit.
14. In today’s digital-first world, the greatest skill you can leverage is the power of focused attention, and the way to build it is through daily meditation.
For my 28th birthday, I signed up for a one-week silent retreat in Sri Lanka. It was one of the hardest but most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had. Difficult because you cannot speak. Beautiful because you finally learn how to create the mental space for peace of mind.
After that retreat, I spent another two weeks traveling solo along the island—a significant portion of which was dedicated to writing. By the end of my 21 days, I had re-written and edited a 100-page book I was working on at the time.
That’s how I realized that meditation works wonders. Why? Because meditation teaches you how not to be the victim of the mind’s wandering thoughts. It trains you on how to take control of your mind’s attention and direct it as you please.
As I used to explain to my clients while working at Google: We now live in a digital-first world where the average user’s attention span is less than 5 seconds (hence why YouTube video ads are skippable after 5 seconds).
What does that mean? It means that the greatest skill you can leverage at this moment—and into the future—is the power of focused attention. Focused attention is your ultimate currency. You can train and compound this attention-muscle with the daily practice of mediation.
15. The equation to financial wealth is quite simple: Learn how to manage your money, master a skillset that will make you valuable, and create more than you consume.
Mike Tyson earned approximately $300 million during the height of his boxing career, yet he lost all his money and was $23 million in debt when he filed for bankruptcy in 2003. Allen Iverson, once an NBA MVP, made a total of $154 million during his playing career, and almost went broke after retirement. Throughout my twenties, I was in debt three times.
What do all three of us have in common?
We never learned how to manage our money.
Look, everyone shares the motivation to make more money, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but what’s the point in acquiring more money if the sabotaging issue is with our inability to manage it?
The first step to financial wealth then is to fix our relationship with money and build better habits so we can better manage it. You build the foundational skills to manage a 5-figure income and they become transferable to a 7-figure income.
At the end of the day, money comes and goes. It arrives in the form of an income and it leaves in the form of expenses. Your income is what you earn from the work you produce and your expenses increase as you continue to consume. So, in a nutshell, the more you produce—or create—and the less you consume, the more wealth you will create.
But the question is, how can you create more money when you only have one source of income? How do you quadruple your production or creation?
Here’s the answer: You master a skillset that makes you valuable. You think like a craftsman and become one of the best at what you do. Why? Because that opens the door to more creation which opens the door to more income streams: You can now teach others what you know. You can now productize your knowledge and yourself.
The equation to financial wealth is quite simple:
Learn how to manage your money. Fix your relationship with money and build the foundational skills that will become transferable.
Master a skillset that will make you valuable. Think like a craftsman and become so valuable at a certain skillset that people will be so willing to pay and learn from you.
Create more than you consume. Cutting expenses saves you money, but creating more income streams makes you money. And how do you build more income streams? You create products that provide added value to the market. How? You leverage the skillset that you’ve mastered.
See how it all connects?
16. You’re a student of life, for life. Your sole objective, then, is to keep learning, evolving, and expanding your mind.
Thousands of years ago, Confucius wrote these words: “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.” And yet—whether it’s rooted in our ego’s pride or low self-awareness—we continue to overestimate our abilities to achieve some things even though we clearly do not have the right skill set to attain them.
In psychology, this is referred to as the Dunning-Kruger Effect, a type of cognitive bias whereby people who are incompetent at something are unable to recognize their own incompetence. I learned this lesson exactly two years ago when I dove headfirst into the world of entrepreneurship thinking that I knew everything and it will be a walk in the park.
Newsflash: It wasn’t.
That’s when I adopted this new philosophy into my life: You are a student of life, for life. I hope you adopt it too. If you do, then your sole objective becomes to keep learning, evolving, and expanding your mind. How? Read books and get busy doing: Explore new hobbies, seek new experiences, or master a skillset.
17. Fear is not there to stop you, it’s there to show you that you’re interested and you care. So befriend fear, don’t fight it, because once you do something that scares you, it becomes almost insignificantly small the second time around.
Once realize that fear is a feeling that arises only when you’re interested in something, your relationship with fear changes. You stop fighting it. Instead, you start leaning into it and befriending it—which puts you in the driver’s seat and in control of your destiny.
This is where one small mental shift can help you overcome the fear of taking action—the realization that if you take the first small step forward, everything else becomes easier because once you do something that scares you, it becomes almost insignificantly small the second time around.
Once you quit your job, it becomes easier to quit the second time around. Once you build your first business, the second becomes significantly easier. With time, the more wins with fear you can accumulate, the more fearless you will become.
18. You have to believe in yourself before anyone else does. That’s the cornerstone upon which real confidence is built.
Let’s get clear on this: Nothing in your life will change if you don’t take action toward creating the change that you want to see. And truth be told, you will most probably not bother to take action if you don’t believe in your ability to bring about that change in the first place. Part of this is due to the fact that your brain is designed to keep you tucked into your comfort zone, but another part comes back to this: You don’t believe in yourself, and so you don’t bother to try and go after what you most deeply desire.
Since every action you take—or avoid—is rooted in a set of beliefs, the first step then is not to build the confidence to take action, but rather to change the belief itself. Look inside yourself, work from a place of identity, and re-write the script of the story that you repeatedly tell yourself:
I believe in my ability to figure things out as I go. I know that I can weather the storm when it hits. I know that I can adjust my sails when the wind blows. I am confident that I can find a way when the obstacles mount. I do believe that I’m capable of achieving what I set out to do.
Self-believe is the light that sparks your confidence. And it’s your self-belief that drives you to dive into new experiences that stretch beyond your comfort zone.
The way to genuine self-belief isn’t by boasting about what you’ve accomplished or talking about what you’re going to do. No. The way to real self-belief is to do the exact opposite: Stay quiet, and let your actions speak for themselves. Why? Because real confidence speaks in silent action.
On that note, here’s how the confidence cycle works, and here are five habits that can help you build real self-confidence.
19. Nature, laughter, kindness, love, and self-compassion—the best and most beautiful things in life are imperfect and free.
Sunsets. A swim in the sea. A walk in nature. Waking up to witness the sunrise over the mountains. A minute-long embrace. Laughter. Kindness. Love. Self-compassion. All these things are imperfectly beautiful and all of them are free.
The question I always ponder is why do we spend so much of our time, energy, and money seeking temporary pleasure in monetary material when we can find eternal meaning in the beauty that exists all around us?
You can find solace in nature.
You can find love in self-compassion.
You can find relief in laughter.
And you can find beauty in imperfection.
Nature, laughter, kindness, love, and self-compassion—these are the best and most beautiful things in life and they are totally free. They’re imperfect and that’s what makes them perfect. Nature calms you, laughter has the magic to revive you, and kindness and self-compassion weave a fabric of love into your world. And collectively, they heal wounds.
20. Failure and adversity are the greatest teachers—there’s a reason we can only see the light of the stars in the darkest of times.
I used to be ashamed to say that I failed. Now, I realize that it’s a blessing because failure gives you experience and teaches you how not to do things so that the next time you try, you’re more inclined to succeed. You have to fail first in order to succeed. Failure then is one step closer to success than not trying.
I used to be discouraged by adversity. Now, I embrace it because I know that obstacles are not there to keep us out but to give us a chance to build up the strength, character, and resilience to break them down.
Together, failure and adversity remind us that we must not be negatively affected by our own disappointments, rather, we must respond to them with the positive enthusiasm that would allow us the chance to thrive in spite of them.
So when you find yourself at a low, please remind yourself that it’s only in the darkness that we can see the stars in the sky. Similarly, it’s only in the darkest of times when the light can enter us. That’s why those who have been hurt the most have the greatest ability to heal.
And healing, as with everything else we can control in life, is a choice. We open the gateway to it once we learn how to become more grateful for our struggles, more appreciative of all the little blessings in life, and thus, a more beautiful being because of them.
21. Stay curious, question everything, and if you want something, ask for it. Live with such an attitude and you realize that when one door closes, another one always opens.
I’ve realized that as we grow older, we’re more inclined to listen to our inner critic; but I’ve also learned that the only way around this is to amplify the voice of our inner child. The ones who do are the ones who grow older but stay young in spirit. They’re the kind of people who see what they want—the opportunity, not the obstacle—and do one of two things: They either ask for it or go for it.
That’s because our curious inner child is what allows us to explore, ask questions, and create. It’s the engine of our wonder and imagination. And we all need to fiddle with a greater sense of wonder if we are to spark change in our life.
Truth is, the extent of how far you go in life is tied to three things: How curious you are, how often you question things, and how likely you are to take action.
When we reconnect with that inner child, we add a new robust layer of critical thinking. And it’s this curious attitude that will help you recognize that life is generous; when one door closes, another one opens—you just need to be resourceful enough to create it.
22. When you play the quick short-game you win small, but when you play the sequential long-game and allow yourself the time to grow, you win big. So be impatient with your actions, but be patient with your results.
The best things in life take time to grow.
The mastery of artistic pursuits.
This is one lesson that took me years and years to learn—that anything meaningful in life requires a long-term commitment. That’s when I stopped searching for shortcuts, slowed down, and rewired my thinking to only consider long-term pursuits.
The truth is, sacrifice, commitment, and hard work are foundational parts of the equation to get to where you want and reward is on the other side of it. There are no shortcuts or hacks. There is only dedicated, purposeful work that compounds and blossoms into something beautiful when the time is right.
To write a book, you must sit and write one page at a time. To cross the ocean, you must swim one stroke at a time. To summit a mountain, you must climb up one step at a time. To achieve anything great and reap the rewards, we must first toil in the language of labor—and we do so one small step at a time.
So here’s my advice: Be impatient with your actions, but be patient with your results. Focus on where you want to be in five years’ time, who you want to become, and take small steps every day that would move you in that direction; that’s how you create a positive domino effect in your life. And while you’re at it, give yourself the time to bloom into it—play the long-game, never the short one.
23. True mental strength is a game-changer. You build it by consciously focusing on what you can control (your inputs and outputs) and ignoring what you can’t control (your outcomes).
Life can be so difficult sometimes, but you already knew that.
What staying in bed unable to walk for two weeks taught me, and what being broke building a startup taught me, and what facing a pandemic taught me, was this: True mental strength is your ability to focus and refocus on what you can control and ignore everything else outside of it—that’s the only way you’ll maintain the enthusiasm to push onward.
How do you do that?
You focus on your inputs and outputs and you hold the belief that as you continue to put in the work, the outcome will work in your favor.
The life you experience is simply a reflection of your mindset: In any given situation in life, you can either dwell and complain about all the things that are bad (things that you can’t control) or you can shift your attention onto all that you can do (what you can control—your inputs and outputs). Little by little, day by day, as you consciously practice the latter, you will build resounding grit and mental strength. Here are 12 habits that can help you do so.
24. Your purpose in life is to be where you are and do what you can to serve the people and positively contribute to society. Once you see purpose through that lens, you will realize that your objective isn’t to do what you’re passionate about; your objective is to pursue your purpose passionately.
“I feel like I don’t have a purpose in my life. Why do I wake up in the morning? Why am I here in the office every day? I don’t have a purpose, so I need to go out and find it.”
If that sounds like you, then here’s what I want you to realize: You don’t find your purpose somewhere else; you create your purpose, exactly where you are, and you bear meaning to it. The sooner you accept this, the sooner you can start working from a place of intention, meaning, and passionate drive.
At this very moment, your purpose is to be alive. Your purpose is to show up to your devoted line of work. It’s to be useful and to evolve, adapt, and grow. Your purpose is to keep learning and figuring things out as you go. Your purpose is just to be where you are, doing what you’re doing, and giving it your best.
If you’re unsatisfied with what you do, and deep within your heart you know that you want to move your life in a different direction, but not sure how, then a good starting point is to ponder the purpose equation and explore how you can be in the service of others by leveraging what you’re good at, what you’re interested in, what you believe the world needs, and how you can use the above to help people solve a problem. As Gandhi once said, “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Keep in mind, however, that your purpose will probably change over time. That’s because as you experience different phases in your life, your sources of meaning will change. When you’re in school, your purpose is to learn and positively contribute to the class environment. When you’re working as a young adult, your purpose is to perform well, pay the bills, and serve the people you’re working with.
25. You don’t only live once; you live multiples lives within one.
Consider this: In my early twenties I was a student, later I became an employee, at one point I was a traveler, after that an entrepreneur, and now I’m a writer.
That’s five lifetimes within one. Why? Because each one demands a different you to show up. Each one requires you to die a little so you can be reborn into something new. That’s why Picasso once said that “every act of creation is, first of all, an act of destruction.”
There’s a general understanding that it takes 7 to 10 years to master something in life. So, if you live to be 88, after age 11, you have 11 opportunities to be great at something. Most people never let themselves die. Perhaps out of fear or lack of ambition, they cling to that one life that doesn’t serve them, without finding the courage to explore something else.
This new perspective of 11 opportunities has changed the way I think; it helped me realize two things: First, there is no need to rush into things because life is long—it only feels short when you live it void of intentional action. Second, you are never stuck—you are exactly where you need to be. Why? Because every event or stage in life is trying to teach you something, which means that there’s always a chance for renewal, reinvention, and personal transformation that can emerge from it.
You live many lives; live them fully and live them well.
26. Make time for the people you love and surround yourself with optimistic people that uplift you—it’s the people you share your life with that make living worthwhile.
I’ve now lived in six countries and traveled to over 40 and I can confidently say this: You will never miss a place more than you will miss the friendships you’ve made in it. Because it’s the people that make the place, not the other way around. And it’s the people who we forge our memories with, who we cry with, and laugh with. It’s the people who make living worthwhile.
Every morning I consider what I’m grateful for, and almost every morning I am reminded that to still have my parents—and the close people whom I truly love—in my life is one of the most wonderful blessings of all.
Make “making time” for the people you love a priority in your life. And the best way to do so is to be kind and make them feel appreciated. Use your words to make them feel loved. Use your words to make them feel beautiful.
Sure, your circle of genuine friends will grow smaller with time, but that isn’t a bad thing. It means that you’re growing and evolving. It means that you’re choosing who will be in your circle and who wouldn’t. It means that you’re becoming more intentional about the kind of energy you want to be around.
The goal of life is to have more deep, vulnerable, and genuine connections over shallow, fake, and materialistic ones. It’s to stay away from negative mindsets and embrace optimistic perspectives, and to have a support circle that draws the winds into your sails and uplifts you—friendships that will stand the test of time.
27. Keep an open mind and act like an artist but think, fail, and learn like a scientist—recognize that your life is an experiment and you will live a life without fear or regret.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: “Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment.”
All life is an experiment.
I think the people who don’t recognize this are the ones who fail to have fun in life—they forget to play and so they lose touch with their inner artistic child. They’re the ones who shy away from action and change. They’re the ones who end up regretting not having had the courage to live a life that was true to them.
People who recognize that life is an experiment are the ones who have fun. They try things. They break things. They see opportunities and take action. They do what makes them feel alive and they bring the entirety of who they are into what they do. Above all, they’re bold enough to follow their heart, fully knowing that they will be making mistakes along the way and that’s okay—because that’s how they’ll learn.
Fortunately, I’ve chosen to adopt the mindset of the latter because I also believe that life is an experiment—and I want it to be the biggest, boldest, most badass and artistic, wild, fun, and exciting experiment I could’ve ever lived so that in twenty years I can look back and say: “I’m glad I did.”
As a creative, I’m starting to realize that success in any field is part art, part science. The art part requires you to bring forth your personality, enthusiasm, and authenticity. The science part requires you to study the process, learn from the best, hone your skills, and strategize.
So here’s my advice to you: Keep an open mind and act like an artist, but think, fail, and learn like a scientist. In other words, be yourself and make mistakes, but don’t make the same mistake twice.
When you recognize that life is just an experiment, you’ll stop kneeling down to fear and you significantly reduce your chances of living a life filled with regret. You’ll start doing things that make you feel alive again. In short, you start telling a better story, and who doesn’t like good stories?
28. If you can drop anything from your world, drop the ego. And if you can be anything in this world, be kind.
My spiritual journey over the years has taught me that the ego is nothing more than a construction of the self, forged to conceal one’s deepest insecurities.
We feed the ego by playing the status game because, deep down, we’re so insecure about how people perceive our wealth. We feed the ego by acting like we’re better than everyone else or boasting about our achievements because, deep down, we’re so insecure about being perceived as insignificant.
Our attachment to the ego, and the idea of “I, the self,” is what creates constant fear, confusion, worry, and hate. It’s why we’re so unhappy. It’s why we self-sabotage and self-destruct… The only way to dissolve that ego is through conscious mindfulness and kindness.
Mindfulness reminds you that are not invincible, that you are a speck of dust in the air, a bright light on a blue ball drifting in space—so why are you acting like you’re better than everyone else?
Kindness reminds you that all of us share the same power—we can either vulnerably love or viciously hate—so why are you leaning into separation and hate when you can lean into unity and love? Why do you keep judging everyone else around you when the only person you should ever judge is yourself?
Mindfulness and kindness are the stepping stones to empathy and compassion. So if you can drop anything from your world, drop the ego. And if you can be anything in this world, be kind.
Be kind with your words, actions, and intentions. You don’t know what troubles people are going through because injuries are silent—just because you can’t see scars, doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
29. Honestly, nobody cares what you do—everyone’s got their own problems to deal with. So stop belittling yourself and start being yourself.
I can no longer count the number of times I’ve spoken with a friend, and after pushing them to pursue a creative idea, they stop and bluntly say: “I’m worried about what other people will think.”
The fear of external judgment is one of the biggest that halts us in our tracks. Truth is, whether you do good or bad, there will always be people who will judge you. That’s just the way life is. All you can do is give it your best, focus on what you can control, and ignore those who make you feel less worthy of who you are.
When you allow the fear of what others think stop you from doing what you know you must do, you give away your power. I say no to that. I say why should you live a life where you’re not authentically and fully yourself?
Let me ask you this: How often do you find yourself worrying about other people’s problems? Seriously. Like, once a day? And the only reason you might do so is because that person’s problem is related to you somehow—which then makes it your problem as well, and that’s why you worry.
Everyone’s busy with their lives; so whether you follow your heart or not, nobody cares. Whether you fail or not, nobody cares.
Sure, in the heat of the moment, your close friends will care, but in the grand scheme of things, your life is yours to live because everyone else is living theirs. So stop belittling yourself and giving away your power to what others think. This is your life, live it fully: Be yourself and do what makes you happy.
30. Money comes and money goes in life, but time only moves in one direction. All you have power and influence over is what you decide to do with the time that you are given, today.
A few years ago, I went on a solo backpacking trip around Central America. I landed in Mexico and made my way through Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua all the way down to Panama.
After three incredibly adventurous months, and on the day before my return flight home, I arrived at a hostel to check-in. With a defeated voice, I said to the host: “I wish I could stay longer, but I’m out of money.” To which, he smiled and replied: “It’s okay. Money comes and goes, but time does not. Now you can go back home and work and when you make money again, come back and visit.”
Money comes and goes in life, but time only moves in one direction—forward. You can recoup money that was lost, you can create new sources of income, but you cannot redeem or create time that is now obsolete.
All you have is “the now” and what you do with it.
The past is done and dusted, all you can do is reflect back on it to learn from it. And the future does not yet exist, but it is defined by what you decide to do at this very next moment. In essence, our future is nothing more than the summation of a series of “the next sequential moments” connected together.
All we have is the present.
With this new perspective, you will realize that all you have power and influence over is what you decide to do with the time you are given, today. With this new perspective, you will realize how complaining, postponing, procrastinating, and entertaining excuses will render your time obsolete.
So stop wasting your time, dwelling in an abyss of excuses. After all, excuses are fabricated illusions we create to rationalize our behaviors when we’re too afraid to go after what we really want. Instead, start honoring your time on earth by doing what makes you feel most alive.
31. Be smart enough to ask for advice, but be wise enough to know who to seek it from.
Growing up, my mother used to tell me the tale of the fox and the giraffe.
The giraffe stood knee-deep inside a lake, when the fox, who was standing on land asked: “How deep is the lake?” The giraffe replied: “It’s not deep at all.” So the fox strolls in and instantly drowns.
He yells: “You liar! You said it was not deep at all.”
And the giraffe replies: “It isn’t! The water only reaches my knees.”
There will be all kinds of people who will feel entitled to give you advice in life. And the sad part is that most of these people will share their opinion on any subject matter at hand, even when they clearly have no experience in it. I’ve learned to ignore these people because they end up talking nonsense.
Then there are those who will share their advice only when asked upon. Listen carefully when such people speak. But remember this golden nugget: People give you advice based on their perspective.
The giraffe did not lie when she said the lake was shallow. From her perspective, it was, but from the fox’s, the lake was deep.
Who you ask advice from matters more than anything. If you’re a digital entrepreneur who’s selling online courses, don’t seek advice from a self-employed consultant who’s running his business entirely offline. And if you’re someone who values mindfulness and slow living, don’t seek advice from someone who preaches the “hustle” lifestyle.
Be smart enough to ask for advice, but be wise enough to know who to seek it from. In other words, never ask someone for advice if they haven’t already achieved what you aspire to achieve yourself.
32. Self-love is born out of self-acceptance and self-awareness. And the only way to all three is through solitude—how else can you create the space to look inside yourself?
Do you know why you self-sabotage?
It’s because you’re trying to measure up to a false image that’s based on what you were taught it means to be perfect. You believe that you’re supposed to mirror that image of perfection—even though you’re realizing how it completely contradicts who you are—but because you don’t measure up to it, you scrutinize yourself and hate yourself.
You reject yourself for not being what others expect you to be and you hate yourself for not having the courage to explore who you authentically are. So you end up languishing in this unworthiness, masking your inner pain, and self-sabotaging your growth. In the words of Ram Dass, “you can’t build joy on a feeling of self-loathing.”
So here’s what I want you to realize: You’re struggling to step into who you want to become because you’re not accepting who you are—you’re fighting fire with fire. Accept who you are today, and stop trying to be something you’re not.
Once you accept yourself as you are, only then can you allow yourself to become more self-aware, and thus create the space to mold yourself into who you genuinely want to become.
How do you do so?
You look inside yourself.
You close your eyes and look inward.
You meditate, reflect, and journal. You converse with yourself. You spend time alone so you can distance yourself from all the noise around you—so you can hear your own voice. You spend time alone so you can find the stillness to go deeper into yourself and open your heart so you can heal your wounds.
As you raise your awareness of who you are, you start breaking down the barriers you’ve built up against it. In time, you’ll find that love is not something to be sought, for your love has always been there, buried deep within.
Solitude is essential for your well-being. Use it to build a foundation of self-awareness and radical self-acceptance—use it to change the inside so that the outside can fall into place.
33. Sometimes the world is trying to tell you who you are, but if you don’t stop to reflect and listen, you’ll never be able to hear.
When I was in my teen years, I used to write poems for my mom and dad’s birthdays. When someone upset me, I would write them a letter with words spilling right out of my heart. At university, I would flunk my multiple choice exams but ace my essays.
In my twenties, as I traveled through 40 countries, I journaled my adventures, narrated my stories, and published a handful of blog posts to document them. The few friends who read them instantly messaged me to encourage me to keep on writing. “You have a way with words,” they said.
A few years later, I launched a collaborative story-telling platform where people could upload a photo and write a short travel story about it. My objective was to inspire people to get out and explore the world around them. The project was short-lived as it fell through when my accident happened, but after I spent three weeks in bed, recovering from my surgery, I wrote a 100-page memoir.
The irony is, all throughout those years, which spanned a little over a decade, I was oblivious to the reoccurring and consistent themes of writing, storytelling, and inspiration. I was oblivious to what the world was trying to tell me:
Be a writer.
For over a decade, the universe was offering me signs and trying to tell me who I am, and yet, I never paused to reflect and listen. I was always looking outward with my eyes, to the next big thing I could do, to the next trendy train I could jump on, but I never looked inward with my heart.
Perhaps the same applies to you.
Too often, we push our own ideas, philosophies, and sense of identity onto the world, but have you ever paused to wonder if maybe the world is trying to tell you who you are?
Sometimes, you need to stop and reflect.
How else will you be able to see the signs?
Sometimes, you need to stop and listen.
How else will you be able to hear them?
If you’re trying to figure out what you actually want to do with your time on earth, my best advice for you is this: First, learn to be in awe of this gift that is life. Be in awe of this voyage of self-discovery and creation. Being in awe will keep you present and alive in the moment, and this awareness will lead you to the signs. And then, with all your courage, follow those signs.
Seek with your heart, not with your eyes.
Because, as per the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
34. The more grateful you are, the more beauty you will see all around you, the more generous life will seem, and the happier you will become.
My journey toward a more grateful outlook on life began sometime in August of 2017. It was around the time when I was still in bed, recovering from my surgery.
My mom would bring me a fresh fruit platter in the morning while I read the news and saw pictures of a father carrying his son on his shoulders and crossing rivers to escape the massacres in Rohingya. I would be tucked in the comfort of my bed while reading stories of the 65 million refugees who had nowhere to go.
That’s when I realized how lucky I was.
Lucky to still have my mother in my life.
Lucky to have a home.
Lucky to have a job at one of the world’s greatest companies.
Lucky to be earning money that allows me to spontaneously choose what I want to eat and go buy it, what I want to wear, and go buy it.
Lucky to be alive.
That’s when I began practicing gratitude one line per day. More recently, I write down three things I’m grateful for every morning. Sometimes I’m grateful for the sun in the sky, other times I’m grateful for the freedom I have, or the continued presence of a good friend in my life.
It was Rumi who reminded us to “Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life.” The reason is simple—the more you consciously practice gratitude, the more grateful you will grow, the more beauty you will see all around you, the more generous and abundant life will seem, and the happier you will become.
The scent of life does not diffuse in the rhythm of rush, it floats to the tune of stillness. Beauty is everywhere, but most of the time, beauty is not something that can be seen, but rather, something to be felt. Gratitude is the gateway to that awareness of beauty.
Every morning, take a moment to notice what you’re grateful for. Open your notebook and write three things. Slowly, as you give more of your attention to appreciation, you will receive more of in every corner of your life.
35. Life is what you make it; because the reality you experience is a direct reflection of the quality of your thoughts.
A few years ago I was in Menorca, Spain.
On one of the days, my girlfriend and I decided to take a spontaneous swim in a wide creek that opened onto the Mediterranean Sea. The water was pristine clear and some locals were swimming in it. That’s when we met an older lady, well into her 60’s, who gave us advice on where to watch the sunset and what to do on the island. When we parted ways she said: “Good luck with your life.”
I thought that was a beautiful way to say goodbye.
Today, at 31, I’ve come to learn that life is what you make it.
Yes, good luck is necessary and luck does play a role in shaping our reality, but luck is just part of that mysterious equation that makes this beautiful thing we call life what it is. And truth be told, you can invite more luck to play in your favor. How? You stop talking about what you want or don’t want, what you like or don’t like, what scares you or doesn’t, and you just start doing.
You don’t sit on that couch and daydream of what you want—you get up and go after it. You don’t complain about all the things that suck right now—you stop focusing on what’s out of your control and instead you do the best you can with the deck of cards you’ve been dealt.
You stop feeling jealous of everyone else’s success and you start taking responsibility for the fact that you aren’t as “successful” because you’re not committing to anything, you’re not being resourceful enough, and you’re not putting in the dedicated work.
Here’s how I see it: Keep complaining and life will continue to feel miserable; soon enough, everything that happens will seem like bad luck. Or, practice gratitude and be brave and intentional in the work you do, and life’s opportunities will suddenly look abundant; soon enough, everything that happens will seem like good luck.
It’s all in your head.
It’s all a matter of mindset.
The reality that you experience is a direct reflection of your thoughts. Good thoughts trigger good emotions, bad thoughts trigger bad ones. It’s really that simple. And that’s why I say: Life is what you make it.
Your life will be as good as the attitude you carry around with you. That’s why famous thinkers say that “you can’t solve a problem with the same mindset that created it” and “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
The truth is, you always have a choice. You have a choice on how to frame the challenges you stumble upon. You have a choice on how to frame your day as soon as you wake up. You have a choice on the kind of energy you project onto the world around you.
Will these experiences be positive or negative?
Will they be optimistic or grim?
That choice comes back to you.
And that, in a way, is why life is what you make it.
I’ve chosen the simple but extraordinary life, and that is what I’m making it to be. I’m alive, I’m here, I’m present, I’m grateful.
I hope you are too.