14 Principles I learned at 30

Today I turn 31.

This year, I read Ray Dalio’s Principles, in which Dalio pens a number of principles that have guided his success through life and work. He also encourages us to write down our own principles.

So naturally, I’ve decided to write a few ideas that I learned this year that may grow into principles over time. These are not intended to be universal.

Friendships/Relationships

1) Everyone has a story to share that lights them up. A quick way to build intimacy with someone new is to figure out how to draw that story out. It starts with finding the right questions to ask.

2) Appreciate the time you have with others. We are all on trains to the life we want to lead. Some people will join you on your train for days, weeks, months, or even years. But when our lives must take a different path, we can get off that train at any moment. Don’t live in fear that others will leave you. Don’t live in disappointment, resentment, or regret when they do. Don’t live in guilt when you must leave them.

3) The more effort we put into something, the more value we tend to attribute to it. Conversely, the more effort you allow others to put into something, the more value they tend to attribute to it.

4) In meaningful relationships, don’t agree to things you don’t want to agree to, especially if you’re trying to be “nice” or you don’t want to upset someone. If you can’t say “no,” you probably can’t tolerate conflict. And if you can’t tolerate conflict, you will keep losing your negotiations until you grow resentful. You’ll either explode at your loved ones or crumble — neither are good outcomes.

5) If someone pulls away from you, give them the benefit of the doubt two times, but then leave the ball in their court. Flaking on plans, being too busy, or otherwise not responding to emotional bids for connection — we’ve all experienced it. Life is too short, and you can’t invest in the relationships you do have when you’re busy chasing someone else.

6) Friendship with an ex does a grave disservice both to the memory of a relationship at its height and to the merits of intimate friendship.

7) Being accurate is the kindest form of constructive criticism. I had to steal this directly from Dalio. His point is that if we are truly invested in other’s long-term success, then we will strive to give them an accurate assessment of what they are doing wrong and what can be done about it. You don’t have to be mean to deliver accurate feedback when someone is performing below expectations. Also consider the opposite: when you receive accurate feedback, learn to get past your fight-or-flight response and take ownership of how you can do better.

Work/Productivity

1) Define what marathon productivity means for you. Most of us have decades of work ahead of us, and understanding how to be sustainably AND maximally productive for our desired lifestyle is important. I call this “marathon productivity.” This works for me:

2) People don’t read instructions. When building systems or processes (or software), when you think you need to explain something in a wall of text, assume your support cost will be correlated with the number of words you use. Instead of telling people what to do, design your systems so that’s it easy to make the right choice and hard to make the wrong one. And if necessary, allow people to correct improper choices after the fact.

3) Don’t waste time trying to get absolute certainty on whether your current path is the right one. You will end up paralyzed when the pursuit of the unknown will give you more information on whether it is right. Aim for 50%+ certainty instead and plow ahead, especially if the consequence of changing your decision later is not large.

4) Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. A large portion of sales reps don’t follow up with prospects enough. If you really believe in your product and believe in the value it can bring to your potential customers, then don’t get discouraged if they don’t follow up with your initial email or phone call. People are busy, and you can’t always predict when they will be receptive to your message. Most of us also have to see a message or product at least 5 times for it to stick.

Fitness

1) Make time in every workout for injury-preventing routines. Every activity focuses on some muscle groups to the detriment of others, and these imbalances, if not addressed, can lead to injury. Rowing requires diligent core, posterior chain, and shoulder training. Running requires a tremendous amount of complementary work to stay healthy. (And I don’t know all of it.)

2) Redefine success based on the circumstances. COVID-19, injuries, competition cancellations — there are so many things outside of our control. When the external shifts, you shift with it. 8 months ago, success was to win a world competition in rowing. 1 month ago, success was to walk 1 mile without pain. I found happiness in pursuing both.

3) Maintain a pain journal when recovering from an acute injury. Answer four questions every day:

Journaling helps you see patterns. Patterns help your brain recognize things you should and should not be doing. And even if you don’t understand the patterns, the journal is a tremendous tool for any medical professional you see.

Founder at RowHero, empowering coaches and athletes around the world to reach their potential