10 Lessons From My 10 Year Journey

June 2020. I had no idea where I would be 10 years ago when I graduated from high school. I remember the pain I felt that day after graduation when my new reality finally set in. I was not going to university, like all of my peers. I cried like a baby that day, but I made one decision: I had to get serious for the first time in my life.

That summer of 2010 I began to teach myself to write C# code, which gave me a decent familiarity with object oriented programming before I began taking computer science courses at Bellevue College that fall.

More importantly, I began an incredible journey of personal development. One day that summer I found this old book that my uncle had given me a few years ago. I read these words on the cover and felt like I had discovered buried treasure: “This book could be worth a million dollars to you”. I hadn't even opened Think and Grow Rich until that moment, and it changed my life forever!

These are 10 lessons I've learned throughout this 10 year journey of my adult life. These lessons are in chronological order, and each lesson was learned from or around the time I read a specific book.

1. Set goals. Pursue them with everything you've got: Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill

The summer of 2010 was the first time I ever set a goal, in my entire life! I won't get into specifics, but the chapter on goal setting alone changed my entire approach to life. I used to think I was a very type B personality (aka lazy), and have since embraced my true nature as a type A personality (badass achiever). When I accomplished one of the financial goals I set for myself with a 30 day timeline, I gained an enormous amount of confidence in my ability to succeed. I didn't feel like a failure anymore! I began to understand that I had enormous potential when I actually applied myself.

2. Education is supposed to be painful: The Republic, by Plato

When I was a student at Bellevue College, Philosophy 101 with a required core class. I had a brief exposure to Plato in my World Religions class in my senior year of high school, but this was a whole new level of understanding. I began to think critically about many things I used to take for granted as the status quo, such as which news sources to consume. The process was very painful for me while also enduring the pain of being a college student. I was actually getting good grades while working a part-time job, but it took a great deal of resilience to get through it all. Plato's allegory of the cave is one of my favorite concepts to this day. When the shadow people finally get out of the cave, they're blinded by the light of natural sun. The pain of uncertainty from the bright outside world is education, compared to the dark comfort of the cave. I've covered it in at least 3 college courses, and some outside trainings. I even taught the concept to a 4th grade class of Ismaili students during the Saturday religious education classes I used to teach!

3. Keep trying different things, and trust the process. You never know where you'll end up, but it will be amazing: The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

Ah, the Alchemist. This was a lovely story, and really challenged my ego when applying the lessons to my life. In high school, I wanted to get into the University of Washington: I was rejected. After I completed my Associate's degree from Bellevue College I still wanted to get into UW: I was rejected. I've attempted many businesses since high school: they've all failed. I wanted to get a job at Google so desperately: I bombed both interviews I've had with them. Many of my dreams were brutally shattered over the years, but I kept adjusting and trying different things.

In hindsight, I was so worried about HOW certain things would happen instead of THAT they happened (attached to the result, instead of committed to the outcome). I ended up getting a computer science degree from a good University. I ended up getting a job at a great tech company. I ended up reaching a level of financial security I couldn't even dream about 10 years ago. It's been a hell of a ride, and I'm just getting started.

4. Reality is negotiable through the 80/20 rule: The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

😍 The 80/20 rule changed the game for me once I was at Seattle University. I've seen Jack Ma talk about this in a couple of speeches recently, which gives me great joy: you don't have to be a perfect student to be successful. In fact, sometimes it's better to not be perfect so you can free up time to work on other things. I had been strategically slacking in some classes at Bellevue College in order to optimize by time while also juggling work, and a long bus commute to campus. I leaned into this concept even more at SU, because I realized some classes just didn't need my attention that badly. I found it was acceptable to slack off in some humanities and business courses while I worked on homework for other classes or personal projects.

I was able to learn so much practical knowledge - especially about Node.js by optimizing my time with end goal of a career in software in mind. Using 20% of my effort to get 80% of the results I needed was incredible, I don't know if I could've managed the workload otherwise.

5. Maximize your twenties: The Defining Decade, by Meg Jay

Setting goals started the fire of my ambition, adding a sense of urgency was like adding gasoline. I realized these 10 years (of which 8.5 are over) were the best time for me to set myself up for success in every area of life. My brain, body, and energy levels are never going be higher outside of my twenties. I created a whole new level of intensity with everything I did because I knew there was a potential end date to every opportunity.

6. Without self-love you will suffer: Gifts of Imperfection, by Brené Brown

In this race to graduation, I had been doing everything with brute force. The downside became a stiffing of my emotions, which negatively affected my mental health. Brené Brown taught me to be a little bit more forgiving of myself. I began a self-healing process that I'm still going through to this day. Since then I've learned to more gentle with other, become less intense, and to be more empathetic to others.

7. People first, then money, then things: The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke, by Suze Orman

I grew up in a household with little to no financial intelligence, and that's all I'll say about it. The mindset shift to making financial freedom a priority helped me focus so my efforts. Hell yeah I wanted fancy sneakers! But, I wanted to avoid the pain of financial stress so much more. I wanted financial security for my single mom as well, it wasn't just about me. This entire journey of personal development started with wanting to escaped poverty so we could both have a better life. The escape became my number one motivation in life. For example, it led me to pay of all of my student loans within 1 year of graduating from Seattle University. Something that doesn't seem like a big deal to me, but always seems to impress people when I tell them!

8. Become aware of the talking machine, practice ignoring it: The Untethered Soul, by Michael Singer

I began learning to untangle the two entities within the human mind: the automatic talking machine, and the consciousness. The talking machine goes on nonstop, and it's probably judging the legitimacy of this sentence right now. Recognizing the talking machine and knowing when to ignore it has helped me to get out of my own way. I'd had some experience with mindfulness in other forms before, this was a cognitive awakening to what this voice is and to detach myself from whatever it's saying.

9. Only keep/do things which spark joy: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo

Marie Kondo is such a soulful person, I loved watching her Netflix show! Around this time in my life I was getting overwhelmed with many things. I went through her Konmari process, sort of… and made some big changes. I've always been an aspirational minimalist, this became a very practical way to move in that direction. Talking to old friends sometimes would ruin my energy for multiple days because I'd remember past experiences with them, when I was a “lesser person” back then. Often the conversations were flat, and we only kept in touch out of familiarity. My time is super valuable, and I don't want go out of my way to spend it with anyone who I can't spark joy with.

10. Alignment is everything: Find Your Why, by Simon Sinek

My why statement is: to relentlessly pursue being world-class, so that we can all experience beyond what's possible!

After reading my previous 9 lessons, that WHY statement feels so right! Over the past year I've grown to be a leader in many ways, especially in my volunteer role as the National Product manager for IPNOnline. I received one incredible piece of advice to lean into alignment when recruiting volunteers who're already interested in what the team is trying to achieve. You don't have to convince people to do anything if they already want to do it - just make them aware of the opportunity.

That piece of advice sent me down a rabbit whole on Simon Sinek's Golden Circle Theory, which I've written 2 posts about:

  1. Finding Your Individual Why Statement (Golden Circle Theory, part 1)
  2. Defining Your Individual HOWs and WHATs (Golden Circle Theory, part 2)

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