Things I Wish I'd Known At 20

I'm turning 31 in less than two weeks. In tech nerd terms, that means I'm basically an ancient relic. There are a few things I wish I'd been told, and other things I was told but wish I had listened to. If you're a young aspiring geek about to excitedly enter a career in technology, maybe I can save you some heartache in your twenties.

  1. Programming is hard, but (usually) it's not an emergency. Enjoy yourself and don't sweat the day-to-day.
  2. Ideas are worthless. Execution is everything.
  3. Learn how to solve problems, not how to use the latest tech. No one ever hired a builder because they were really good at hammers. They hired them to build a house.
  4. Avoid lifestyle inflation. Live like you're middle class, even if you make six figures. (American median income: $51,939)
  5. Save six months' worth of expenses in a savings account as fast as you can.
  6. Keep your recurring expenses as low as possible. This means things like rent, debt payments, utilities, and your gym membership.
  7. Stay out of debt. If you're in debt, eat dog food and work until you're out.
  8. Remember your colleague with the big house and nice car probably makes about the same you do. Also remember they're probably stuck in their job paying for them. Choose mobility.
  9. Don't buy a house unless it's a really, really good deal. Even then, probably don't.
  10. Commuting to an office eats more of your salary than you think.
  11. Fall in love. It keeps you out of bars, in bed early, and attentive to your work.
  12. Eat lots of vegetables. Allocate time to cook.
  13. Invest in ergonomics. Stand at work.
  14. Listen to others unconditionally.
  15. Learn basic yoga postures. Practice them daily.
  16. Take frequent breaks while working.
  17. Drink lots of water.
  18. Avoid alcohol. Especially chronic use, since it becomes difficult to notice its negative effects when you're always hungover.
  19. Track every penny you earn and every penny you spend.
  20. Buy a small, inexpensive, efficient car.
  21. Run your household like a business with shareholders.
  22. You're going to be old and sexually undesirable someday. You're likely more attractive now than you'll be at the end. Enjoy that.
  23. Give to others spontaneously.
  24. Don't let your salaried job get in the way of your own dreams.
  25. Don't let your dreams be diluted by the day-to-day challenges of your salaried job.
  26. Don't let Apple tell you the things you need to buy.
  27. Chat and email aren't actual work.
  28. Choose clients and employers based on how you get along, not on how much you get paid.
  29. Symbols of status matter, but the symbols aren't your car, house, or clothes.
  30. Enrich yourself with knowledge and art. They're inexpensive hobbies and you'll always be fulfilled.
  31. Your parents are wrong about a lot of things. But they're also right about some. Choose your own path, but respect their guidance.
  32. The world is in peril. But it's always been that way.
  33. Gratitude is effective therapy.
  34. The best time to start has already past. But the second best time is right now.

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