21 years. 21 things I have learnt.

I’ve always been a very reflective person.

Reflecting on the past has allowed me to learn from both mistakes and successes, while giving me the power to design my future, knowing that I am learning from what has already been.

Accordingly, as today is my 21st birthday, I’ve been reflecting over the past 21 years of life and working out 21 of my greatest lessons. Some of these are very simple truths, some perhaps more complex. All of them I believe to be incredibly important.

I’m not at all saying these are right, but they are what I have learnt to be true in my life:

1. Shit happens, and life doesn’t care who it happens to. I have learnt to take the good with the bad, and ups with the downs, the happiness with the sadness. As Joan Rivers once said, “I enjoy life when things are happening. I don’t care if it’s good things or bad things. That means you’re alive. Things are happening.” I have learnt to enjoy the emotions on the rollercoaster. Emotions and sensitivity are what makes life worthwhile.

2. I constantly ask myself this fundamental question: what would I do if money were no object? What do you desire? What would truly make you happy? I am fortunate to say that I am living that life, and follow a 30 year plan designed to reflect that. Life is extremely short and as humans, if we are not living a life that is true to our hearts, we are wasting our precious time on this plant and cheating and failing ourselves. It sounds like a ridiculous cliche, but the truth is that we only live once: make it count.

3. Treat people how they treat you. Never judge someone before you meet them. Don’t get caught up in hurtful rumours. Never judge a kid off their parent. Approach every human with a totally open heart, and allow them to prove themselves.

4. Forgive and apologise. Grudges are pointless. We are on this plant for a short, precious time, so what is the point in living a life full of contempt? Always have an ego small enough to remove yourself from your notsoperfect shoes and look at any issue from different perspectives. Understand your wrongdoing and always, always, always be the bigger human and apologise, as it is likely you made mistakes too, no matter how clear you believe your track record to be. As my late father once told me, sometimes it is best to apologise even if it isn’t your fault.

5. Friends are everything. I used to totally reject the concept of friendship: I was very inwards facing and I would rarely open up. What I know for sure is that the concept of friendship is one of the most powerful in the world. More powerful than money, than fame, than influence. You wouldn’t trade a true friend for anything at all, and if you’re lucky enough to have friends like this, realise how lucky you are. Blur the lines between family and friends. True family are friends, and true friends are family. Moreover, friendship is ageless. Most of my friends are at least double my age, some of them triple.

6. Making the decision is always the hardest part. Once you have made the decision, no matter how outrageous it may be, everything else will start to fall into place. Make the decision.

7. You have to make big, crazy and scary decisions to change the trajectory of your life. Small decisions will only ever make a marginal difference. If you want to literally move the needle of your life, you have to make decisions so bold, and so scary, and so uncomfortable, and then back them with unrelenting determination and fearlessness.

8. Never change who you are to reflect the culture of a place you’re in, whether that be school, work or social circles. Instead, always find the place that reflects your culture. The world is so big and diverse that there will be a place where you can be you, totally unfiltered, and totally respected and loved for that.

9. Focus on your own shit. Truly look inwards. I used to obsess over the success of others, and beat myself up for not being as successful as they were in certain areas of my life. I have learnt that one of the secrets to happiness is to focus on my own journey. If we are looking at other people, and comparing our success to their success, we will never be happy. As Oprah so brilliantly explained, “ the energy that it takes to look back and see where the other guy is takes energy away from you. And if he’s too close, it scares you. Don’t waste your time in the race looking back to see where the other guy is or what the other guy is doing. It’s not about the other guy. It’s about what you can do. You just need to run that race as hard as you can. You need to give it everything you’ve got, all the time, for yourself.” I truly believe that happiness is a byproduct of focusing on your own journey, and obsessing over how you can be better as a human being.

10. Always be thankful for the support and help of others. Always show your appreciation. Send thank you cards, send gifts, shout dinners, throw parties. Be generous and always totally genuine.

11. Everyone is fighting their own battle. Be kind, be genuine, respect others and always realise that everyone is wearing a mask of some kind. Give a shit.

12. Work out your life philosophy, and stick to it. What do you stand for? What don’t you stand for? What do you know to be true? When you set standards in your life and stick to them, people will drop away. Let them. Only then can you look at yourself in the mirror and truly see yourself reflected back at you.

13. Love is love. Nuff’ said.

14. Find joy, and happiness, in the moment. This is life. These are the good old days. Happiness is not the end goal, because if it is you will never be happy! Why? Because the finish line is always moving. It will never be static. As humans we must learn to find happiness during the journey, and truly live in the moment.

15. Live a life by design. You are in control, so be the engineer of your life. Schedule in fun. Schedule in holidays. Schedule in time for your friends and family. Look at your life holistically; look at your life is one life. Work should be play, and play should be work.

16. No one knows what they’re doing. As much as people pretend they know what they’re doing, and they allow themselves to believe that they know what they’re doing, no one has a clue. Most days I wake up thinking how am I going to achieve this goal, or how am I going to avoid this situation ending up destroying my entire business. So “beware of your own shadow.” You’re never going to truly understand where you are, or what you’ve become, or even who you’ve become, because you’re always going to think that you’re that 16yearold kid just getting started. So that feeling… that little voice inside your head that says that you’re not good enough; or it can’t be you; or someone else is better, and you shouldn’t do it now. Act in spite of that voice and take on your dreams. Life is short. We’re here for a very short period of time, so while you’re here, make an impact, leave a legacy, and get the most out of your life.

17. Develop a vision and plan for your life and work towards that vision. If you don’t have a plan for your life, you will be in someone else’s plan for sure. Structure this as a 30yearplan and tell as many people who care to know, who will listen, and drive fearlessly towards that vision.

18. Blur the lines between business and personal life. I only do business with my friends, as I make friends with my business connections. My lawyer is my friend. My accountant is my friend. Even my dentist is my friend. Never look at business life as “work,” and personal life as “fun,” otherwise you’ve already failed.

19. It is 100% possible to fall in love with a physical location. When that happens, make that place your home. I love in New York City and Queenstown with all of my heart, and in life I will live between these two locations. And as I fall in love with other places in my life, I will integrate these places into my plan, and into my life. Life is all about decisions and choices; everything is within your control.

20. It is possible to turn dark into light, sadness into happiness, tears into a smile. Every cloud, no matter how dark is may seem, has a silver lining. Always find that silver lining, and use it as fuel to go forward, and move on in the face of tragedy. My Dad’s death, more than anything, taught me this. Dark can always become light.

21. Work out your macro objectives in life, and use these as guiding principles in every decision you make. For me, these macro objectives are freedom, family, fun, friends, fortune, finances, fitness, love and influence. Every decision I make has to take me towards success in one or more of these areas of my life. Will this decision increase my ability to love? Will this decision improve my friendships? Will this decision give me more influence in this world? This is an extremely powerful way to live.

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