November 16, 2022

Turning 30: Reflections On the Past and Plans For The Future

I just turned 30.

I have many words to describe the past decade, so I decided to write a reflection post.

I overcame crippling anxiety and daily panic attacks, sold two companies, lived in a log cabin an hour from the nearest grocery store, got engaged, and almost died in Africa.

This post is also a summary of the goals and plans I have for the near future.

I’m building an investment portfolio of digital assets and writing and coding every day.

I’m very grateful for what my life looks like now because 7 years ago, I was suffering.

Overcoming Adversity

The worst birthday I ever had was my 23rd birthday.

One of my close friends will occasionally remind me of this day. 

I was suffering mentally and battling severe anxiety, which manifested itself physically in the form of panic attacks.

I had lived 22 years without experiencing “crippling anxiety” and then the week before graduating college, I had my first panic attack.

From that day forward, it was something I battled every single day for ~3 years.

I remember feeling really low on my 23rd birthday because it was a reminder I was another year into adulthood and I spent most of my day battling this constant feeling of impending doom.

Not what you envision life after college to be like.

I wasn’t taking care of myself physically or mentally at the time. 

I was working long hours, was chronically sleep deprived, my diet was less than ideal, and I had never heard the term “mobility” before so I had chronic back pain from sitting in a chair for so many hours of the day.

But now my life is entirely different.

I no longer struggle with anxiety and haven’t had a panic attack in many years. 

I’m in the best physical shape I’ve ever been in and don’t have any chronic issues. 

I’ve learned what foods make me feel good. 

I’ve learned how to sleep well. 

And most importantly, I’ve learned how to do the emotional work to heal myself — something I plan on writing more about at some point.

When I reflect back on that time of suffering, I remember wondering, “Is this something I’m going to have to live with for the rest of my life?”

It was a terrifying thought that fed the anxiety I felt.

Overcoming anxiety wasn’t easy. 

In fact, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

But it’s what I’m most proud of accomplishing in my 20s because overcoming so much adversity enabled me to build trust in myself.

Trust that I can get through anything difficult and make meaningful positive changes in my life, as long as I work hard at it.

A Side Quest

My Mom always told me I’d be building my own businesses.

She saw it in me growing up.

But the path toward entrepreneurship isn’t well defined like becoming an accountant or doctor is.

So I always had one toe in entrepreneurship and one toe in a more “defined” path.

During my 20s, I tried a ton of different businesses — affiliate websites, Amazon FBA, a Christmas light installation service, agencies, SaaS, and a slew of others, all while working a full-time job.

After selling two of the companies I built in 2021, I told myself I was going to take a year off from building businesses.

The acquisition process took months and was emotionally exhausting.

I was burnt out from doing so many things at once and nothing sounded better than a normal job.

So that’s what I did.

I stepped into a Head of Growth role with the intention of developing my leadership skills.

For the first 6 months, it was great.

I only had one thing on my plate, which was a relief.

I relaxed more and was more liberal with my routines and schedule.

But it felt like something was missing. 

Like there was a part of myself I was neglecting.

As time passed, the more this feeling kept gnawing at me and intensifying.

Near-Death Experience

Me and 3 friends decided we wanted to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. 

We trained for 6 months and then flew to Africa in August 2022. 

Long story short, I almost died on the mountain from anaphylactic shock after taking medicine I didn’t realize I was highly allergic to (if you’re interested in the story, you can read about it here).

The event shook me, as I imagine near-death experiences do for those that live through them.

But I didn’t react to it with anxiety like my 23-year-old self would have.

Instead, I found myself in a reflective state, assessing what was actually important to me in life because, well, you should probably try to do as much of the things you love doing because you never know when it could all come to end.

I began really pondering questions like, “What do I like? What don’t I like? What do I want my days to look like? And my life?”

I realized I’m great at talking myself into things — focusing on the good while ignoring the bad. 

And because I’m disciplined, I can get myself to do those things for long periods of time, even though I’m not enjoying them. 

This is a feature and a bug.

Personal Legend

In the book, The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, the main character, Santiago, leaves home in search of his personal legend.

Your personal legend is your life’s spiritual purpose —the things deep down you know you want to accomplish in your life.

Santiago explores many different things on his journey toward fulfilling his personal legend. 

His journey is filled with failures, but he continues pushing forward, learning from them.

My 20s felt like this.

I did a lot of learning and exploring my own preferences and desires.

I learned from a book called Wanting, by Luke Burgis, that desires are often mimetic, or mimicked from the people and culture around you.

I realized many of my desires weren’t actually mine and were inherited from my environment.

For example, society applauds you for getting promotions at work and climbing organizational hierarchies. 

So for me, there’s a subconscious drive to do exactly that, even though it’s not fulfilling to me.

I began realizing that the higher up I climbed in an organization, the less building and creating I was doing and the more politicking and people problem-solving I was doing.

And for me, that meant the higher I climbed, the less fulfilled I feel.

I started seeing mimetic desire everywhere.

When you desire something just because someone else has that thing, you’re not being true to your own personal preference.

You end up going down these paths that are dead ends, at least for you.

I’ve started asking myself, “where does this desire come from?” 

I try to really analyze the why behind the desires I have and am much more skeptical of them.

Doing this has forced me to reflect on and analyze my own preference, which has allowed me to learn more about myself and what makes me feel fulfilled. 

I now know that the majority of my day must be in deep work, not in meetings or other people-related obligations.

Whatever I’m working on must be entrepreneurial and I need to be able to think for myself, otherwise, I get bored.

There also needs to be a high degree of complexity or technical problems to be solved, otherwise, I get bored.

Now that I better understand my preferences, I need to actually listen to them.

Easier said than done.

Founder-Product Fit

I don’t see many new entrepreneurs putting a lot of thought into the type of business they want to run.

In the beginning, I thought any business, as long as it was my own, would be fulfilling.

But after building an agency, I know that any business that requires people and revenue to scale at similar rates or that is operationally intensive (e.g. a Christmas light installation business) is not the right business for me.

I don’t want a calendar cluttered with meetings. 

I don’t want to be beholden to other people, especially clients. 

And I don’t want to spend a large percentage of my day communicating with people.

I do want to work on businesses that scale through software and automation.

I want to work on unsolved, challenging problems. 

And I want to do it asynchronously with a small team of smart, ambitious people.

I would have never learned these preferences without experimenting.

And that’s something I know I need to continually leave room for.

But I also know what I need to say no to.

Through experience, I can now say, “nope, that’s something I’ve tried, but that doesn’t fall in line with what brings me fulfillment.”

Having a better grasp of my personal preferences has me very excited about what I’m working on right now.

Current Projects

GratitudeStories.io

GratitudeStories.io is an idea I've been sitting on for almost a year now and one that's near and dear to my heart.

I was listening to a Huberman Labs podcast about the science behind gratitude and learned from Andrew Huberman that, "the data actually points to the fact that a gratitude practice is a very, very potent way in which you can steer your mental and physical health in positive directions and that those effects are very long-lasting."

But rather than the typical gratitude practice where you journal about 3 things you're grateful for, the most effective gratitude practices are rooted in story.

I searched far and wide for a product that was doing gratitude stories as guided meditations, but found none, so I decided this was something I needed to create.

I don't expect this to be a money maker, but I LOVED the process of creating it.

Digital Assets

I’ve decided to start investing time and capital into both building and buying a portfolio of websites that use SEO as the core distribution channel and are largely programmatically created.

I'll be writing more about these projects in the future, but I'm VERY excited about two of them.

Skill Development & Health

Full-Stack Development

I’ve been writing SQL and hacking together Python scripts for close to a decade now. 

I’ve built countless WordPress websites and know the basics of HTML and CSS through SEO. 

But I’ve never spent the time to learn how to build the entire stack.

I love creating, so I’ve been learning full-stack JS and building web apps.

I’m having a blast and am doing it every single day.

My goal is to feel comfortable spinning up MVPs by myself for idea validation. It’s not something I would learn unless I really enjoyed the process of building, which I do.

Writing

I fall into a deep flow state when I’m writing about something interesting.

It’s an enjoyable experience and it helps me think more clearly.

In the past, I’ve tried to write for an audience.

Sure it works, assuming you can get yourself to sit down and put pen to paper.

But for me to do something at my best, I have to want to do it. 

I’ve found that my best writing is always about the things I’m most excited about at that moment.

The words seem to just flow out of me.

A good example is the 9k-word behemoth of a post I wrote about my trip to Africa to climb Kilimanjaro.

It was the most enjoyable writing experience I've ever had because there was nothing else I would rather write about at that time.

It was hugely impactful in helping me integrate the experience.

I’ve decided I’m done writing with an audience in mind. 

Instead, I’m going to write for myself.

I have a suspicion that others will actually enjoy this writing more because there will be more passion and depth to it. 

I’m committing 45 minutes a day, every day, no matter what.

Health

I spent so much time in my 20s learning how to take care of myself.

I’ve built strong habits that keep me feeling energized and happy, as long as I follow them.

My only goal right now related to health is to continue improving at Muay Thai.

I want to focus on the other areas of my life, so I’ll likely just continue existing routines which include:

  • Muay Thai 3x per week
  • Weight lifting 3x per week
  • Sauna 5-7x per week
  • Cold plunge every morning
  • Mobility and myofascial release 3x per week
  • Eat super clean at home and whatever I want when eating out
  • Drink at least a gallon of water each day
  • Limit caffeine to one cup of coffee per day
  • Sleep 8-9 hours each night

I’m far from perfect with my health routines, but if I do those things 80% of the time, I know I’ll feel amazing which is good motivation to do so.

Life & Relationship

Getting Married

My fiance and I got engaged in July 2022.

The way we approached engagement and the way we’re approaching marriage is untraditional.

For example, I didn’t technically ask her if she wanted to marry me. I already knew she did because we had many conversations about it.

To us, a marriage is a partnership where both parties are equal and agree to work together to build an ideal life. 

Instead of asking her to marry me, I told her how much I love her and how much I enjoyed living life with her. I told her how excited I was for us to continue building the life we want to live, together.

Then I gave her a ring (that she picked out and designed herself) and we spent the weekend drinking wine and eating good food. 

It was amazing.

We’re in the process of planning a wedding that is also untraditional.

For example, we’re not calling it a wedding (Pro Tip: you save 40% just by not calling it a wedding) and we’re not doing a traditional ceremony.

We’re doing something small, with only our close friends and family in Italy.

Everyone is going to stay together in a big villa and the plan is to have a 3-4 day party where we’re optimizing for intimate, quality time with the people we care about most.

We’re realizing that it’s hard to go against traditions.

But we know we don’t want the quintessential wedding, so we’re having to clearly define what it is we do want. 

It’s easier said than done.

Let me know if you’re curious and I’ll write more about this in the future.

Cabin Life

My fiancé and I decided to move back to our log cabin full-time.

We lived in Austin, TX the past year and absolutely love it. We met some amazing people and adore the city.

There’s an energy in Austin right now that makes it a very desirable place to live.

So why move back to the cabin?

To focus.

While Austin is an amazing place to live, there’s no better place to focus than at our cabin.

It’s really remote (almost an hour from the nearest grocery store) and the natural beauty is breathtaking.

Erin and I end up taking many long walks through the neighborhood, which is great for thinking and reflecting.

I find it easier to pull myself out of the whirlwind that is life when I’m up there.

Our cabin is also equipped with all the modern luxuries we’d want like a gym, sauna, offices, and high-speed internet.

The only time we need to leave the cabin is to go grocery shopping which we do every 2 weeks. 

Our plan is to live there full-time up until we get married and then decide what we want to do next.

Final Thoughts

One of the most valuable lessons I learned in the past decade is that life is in a constant state of flux that is largely uncontrollable.

It’s a natural human tendency to resist change and attempt to control how things play out.

But that’s an impossible task.

So rather than resisting change and trying to control everything, I’ve learned that I’m happier and live life more fully if I embrace the uncertainty of life.

Rolling with the punches if you will.

Life’s beautiful, even when it doesn’t feel that way.

So here’s to life and the next decade of mine :) 

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