10 Truths I Learned at 30

Last Aug 2019, I turned 30. What a year.

This post should have been posted last year. But as usual, life gets in the way. Did a lot of things. Learned a lot of new things.

You can check the truths I learned at 29 here.

Truths learned at 30

(white sand, please!)

1. The pain or adversity we experience today will probably influence our actions in the future.

In other words, how we act in the present is probably a byproduct of our past experiences — either negative or positive.

This usually happens in relationships. When someone treats us poorly today, it’ll affect us one way or another. We’ll start to resent that person. Even worse, we begin to model that person unconsciously. We treat others badly as well.

Of course, we can always decide how circumstances should affect us. Either we let it consume us or treat it as a lesson and become wiser.

That’s not easy though.

My wife, for example, resented my parents because of the way they treated us in the past. There were many nights when she opened up that she still couldn’t forget what they did even though my parents are now trying their best to make amends.

Over the years, she slowly realized that my parents are imperfect people just like everyone else.

We are all a work in progress.

What matters is that we know why we act this way. When we know it and we fully acknowledge it, our actions make more sense to us.

Yes, it’s still hard. But we can work on it.

2. Envy will ruin us.

Feel something icky seeing someone’s success? I get that. It’s not because we hate them, but because we wanted their achievements as well.

I am no exception. I often feel envious seeing an acquaintance in the music scene succeeding in his/her music career — the type of success I wanted for myself.

Envy breeds negativity. The more I get envious the more I compare and the more I criticize myself (even forgetting that I have some sort of success, too). I hate this feeling.

But recently, it hit me. Why am I envious? Why can’t I be happy for them? They worked so hard for it. They deserved it.

The trick is to imagine everyone as “me”. So when someone is getting what they want, well, that’s me! I’m happy for me because I worked so much to get it. Congrats, me!

Weird. But it works (for me).

3. (Most of) our wants are driven by insecurity.

Everyone knows that we have needs and wants. The needs are the necessities: (1) shelter, (2) food and water, (3) clothes; and (4) enough money to sustain those 3.

If we can fulfill our needs daily, we’re fine. Absolutely, we’re fine. 😉

The conflict starts when we have many wants as well:

  • luxury car
  • mansion
  • the most advanced gadget
  • expensive outfit
  • traveling around the world
  • lots and lots of money
  • more stuff
  • more followers on social media

Nothing’s evil with our wants. Our wants can be our driving factor to work hard and earn more.

But often, we never ask why we want it.

Do I really need that cool guitar even though I still have 2 functioning guitars? Or I just want it because my favorite guitar players use it?

Sometimes I find myself motivated to get something because others have it and I feel behind not having it.

I realized that if my basic needs are covered, yet I still want something, it’s better to ask myself first why I want it. Maybe it’s just insecurity because others have it. And most of the time it is.

(NOTE: Every individual may have different needs. Mine are probably lesser.)

4. Loved-based actions vs fear-based actions.

This is a thought I’ve been carrying around for years. But right before I turned 30, I think I have a glimpse of what could be the difference.

When we’re providing financial support to a loved one, we do it because we love them. When we’re working on something we think people will benefit from, we do it because we love the possible outcome of it.

When we let go of other things so we can be with someone, we do it because of love. When we pour our time and energy into doing meaningful work, we do it because we love ourselves and the work we do.

Love is powerful. It makes us ambitious and resilient. When we do something for love, we just do it. No doubts. No negativity. No excuses. No bullshit procrastination.

On the other hand, fear-based actions entail all kinds of uncertainties and anxiety and fear. Although we still do things, deep inside is a negative force wiggling, electrifying our senses.

This negative force is the stress everyone hates. It can be helpful in some cases, sure. But it’s not sustainable. Sooner or later, it will take a toll upon us.

Constantly asking myself whether my actions are based on love or fear has been beneficial.

Whenever I find myself doing things out of fear, most of the time, I look for alternatives so I can finally stop the fear-based action.

There’s nothing wrong with fear. Just be aware that fear-based actions are mostly good (only) for short term pursuits.

5. The shallow things are (still) the material possessions, high status, and fame.

Over the years, I’ve had a fluctuating relationship with money. I’ve gone from wanting to earn more to being OK with what I earn, and then, wanting to earn more again… repeat the cycle. I even wrote about it many times.

Of course, we have to earn money to cover our needs and fund our dreams. Or maybe, earn more so we can provide value to people — I like this.

The thing about having more money is that it can allow us to buy freedom. That’s one thing.

On the other hand, it can allow us to acquire material possessions — this is the obvious one, but I’m not playing this game.

But why do many people do this? Because having material possessions such as a big house, car, properties, gadgets, and on and on can signal a higher status.

And if we have a high status… that means we are admired or respected, sometimes famous.

I have nothing against it. But, is that really the ultimate goal of life? My rule of thumb is to use the money to cover my basic needs, and then save the rest for other important matters. I also allocate some for investments. That’s it.

I don’t blame people who want status. Maybe they find it exciting or beneficial. But speaking from experience, it’s just a fool’s game — it’s not really adding value to life.

I always find working on my inner world — habits, happiness, values, self-awareness, self-education, skill mastery — more important than trying to improve my external world — material possessions, more followers on social media, fame, prestige, and so on.

But that’s me. I don’t know about you.

You can always try the path to more material possessions or the path to status and fame, so you can actually understand what I’m saying here.

It’s one thing to learn from what you’ve read. It’s one thing to learn from your experience.

6. Who said we fully know ourselves?

My wife and I were hanging out outside a convenience store when a group of street kids asked for 5 PHP (0.10 USD). I was curious. They didn’t look homeless to me. They wore nice clothes (in fact, nicer than mine).

It started with a few questions, “Why are you asking for money? Where are your parents? Looks like you’re lying?” 

I wasn’t satisfied with their answers. In an instant, I shifted from being compassionate to being cynical. It kept escalating. I scolded one of them for being so persistent. I sermoned that he should go home, that money is not something you must ask. You must work for it!

In hindsight, I realized I was being stupid. I could just ignore them and move on. Instead of responding, I reacted. I made a little show. And it made me guilty.

I thought I already knew myself well. But, holy smoke, it’s not even close.

The truth is, as we get older, we’ll discover more about ourselves. Some are interesting. Some are awful.

7. It won’t happen the way we wanted it to be.

I know you’ll hate me for this. But this is the truth. The biggest truth. You might disagree, but sooner or later you’ll figure it out yourself.

As an ambitious driven goal-oriented person, I wanted to achieve all my dreams at a certain point in time. I don’t want to be left behind. I don’t want to die not achieving them.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), it doesn’t work like that. The world doesn’t always work our way. We don’t have control over the outcomes. There are a gazillion things beyond our control.

The only thing we can do is just do our best. And accept whatever the outcome is.

It’s way better to accept things as they are, and then, revise our plans, and then navigate accordingly, instead of forcing things to happen.

If you’re young, it’s hard to accept this. But promise, it will all make sense as you grow older.

8. If we always feel right, we haven’t looked at different perspectives yet.

There are about 8 billion people on earth (as of this writing). Imagine if each one of these people only believes in the same one thing.

I’ve met tons of people who are incredibly certain that their beliefs are the one and only correct. I understand where they’re coming from though (most of the time I do feel the same way).

The reality is, it’s easy to get lost inside our own heads. We like to think that our beliefs, our opinions, and our plans are the best and the only way. But how can we be sure of?

What we probably don’t like to admit is this: We couldn’t stand the idea that we could be wrong all along.

For a religious person who’s spent years following his church leader, it could be devastating to accept the truth that he’s been misguided for years. And for an atheist who’s spent years denying a supreme being, it could be devastating as well to accept the opposite of his belief.

Seeing different perspectives and examining them is everything. It broadens our understanding of life and human nature.

I don’t have any conclusions yet. And I don’t intend to make a conclusion. I just enjoy exploring different perspectives. It’s fascinating. 🙂

9. We only see the advantages of the things we are experiencing.

My wife and I don’t prefer living in a house without housemates as it may cost us a lot. We want to save more money for our future. And we think this is a wiser decision.

Yes, we can save money. That’s the advantage.

Unfortunately, we’ve become one-sided as well — we never consider the possible advantages of living in a house without housemates.

Almost everyone I know thinks the same way. They don’t want to pay for something because it would cost them too much. It would cost to buy that book. It would cost to get that fuel-efficient car, or invest in real estate, or expand that business, and on and on.

But what if that something would add value in the long run? What if that something would make their lives better in ways they never thought possible?

This is one of the many paradoxes in life. Because even if we decide to spend money on something we think beneficial in the future, there’s no guarantee that it will.

It’s like sacrificing the present situation for the sake of a perceived outcome (financially speaking). A tough choice to make. Even harder if you have limited resources.

But one thing I’ve realized is that it’s always worth a try. We’ll see.

(UPDATE: After 4 years of living with housemates, my wife and I finally moved into a new house last June 2020. Yes, it has cost us more money. Maybe that’s the disadvantage. But surprisingly, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. And the advantages are some of the things I’ve never imagined.)

10. It’s not what you say.

I think I’ve written about this many times here. But I could not leave this behind. This is one of the truths I’ve learned over and over again. And before I turned 30, it was magnified.

If I say that I want to be a filmmaker but I’m not actually doing it, or at least working towards it, then it’s not what I really want to do.

It’s not what I really want to do for now (maybe in the future?).

And if I meet someone saying that he wants to start a passion project, or start his own business, or travel the world, but he’s not actually doing it or at least working towards it, then it’s not what he really wants to do as well.

Often, we love to broadcast what we think we want to do instead of just doing it. But the truth is, if we really want it, we don’t have time to broadcast or brag about it. We’ll just do it. Whatever it takes. No excuses.

You can try an experiment on your own. First, ask yourself the things you always say to others that you really want to do, then look at your actions whether or not you’re doing it.

Do you really want to do it? Or you just love to talk about it?

BONUS: “Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.”

That’s a quote from Jerzy Gregorek. I read that a few years ago. But it wasn’t until late 2018 when I was tested. I was left with one hard choice to make: Confessed to a band member that he’s not fit in the band anymore.

For years, I struggle to be radically honest with the people I work with. I don’t want to hurt people, even by telling them the truth.

But over time, I’ve found it’s not doing good to me and the people around me.

Sure, it’s still hard to tell the truth. I wouldn’t deny that. I prefer to be silent, or “not tell them everything”.

Life, however, has its own way of teaching me the importance of being radically honest with the people I work with. It’s a hard decision to make, but it’s crucial to make my professional life and creative pursuits less difficult.

I also tried it in almost every decision I make. If I only have easy choices to choose, it’s probably not leading me to the kind of life I really wanted.

For example, when it comes to diet, if I’m not making a hard choice about what to eat and what not or when to eat or fast, that means, I’m not actually preparing for an easy life in the future.

I’m still working on it.