20 Life-Changing Mistakes I Made and What You Can Learn from Them
Please don’t do what I did.
Nobody wakes up and says “today would be a great day to make mistakes.” Yet, they happen all the time.
You don’t mess up on purpose. Mistakes happen because things don’t always go as planned. You tell a corny joke to make people laugh, but all you get is disgusted faces. Been there, done that (more times than I can count.)
Mistakes cost you, sometimes more than you think.
While a bad joke will be forgotten the next day, other things won’t. Some blunders will cost you a ton of time, money, and energy to straighten out. If they can be made up for in the first place.
But you don’t have to make all these mistakes.
Instead, you can learn from others. My life has been a bit of a roller coaster ride — I lived on three different continents, traveled over 15 countries, stepped on a bodybuilding stage, did a bunch of drugs, and was in a relationship with a stripper who scammed me out of money.
Safe to say I’ve seen my share and made a bunch of mistakes along the way.
Have a look at what I did wrong so you don’t fall into the same traps.
#1 Falling for Someone Because They’re Beautiful
Two years ago, YouTuber Douglas Martin left his model girlfriend (dubbed the “world’s sexiest weathergirl”) after three years to pursue a professional Call of Duty career.
In other words, the guy left a woman millions of men adore so he could play video games. And I completely understand.
Beauty isn’t everything.
Once the initial fascination with someone’s outer appearance subsides, you realize it doesn’t matter nearly as much as you thought. Take it from someone who spent years chasing and interacting with women based solely on their beauty:
Looks attract, personality makes you stay.
Unless you belong to the 2% of humanity’s super-taskers, your brain isn’t made for doing multiple things at once.
Single-task ruthlessly and watch your productivity skyrocket.
#3 Trading Too Much Time for Money
It’s hard to get around this, but once you’re aware of it, it will completely change the way you think about the subject.
You’ll always have to trade your time for money. Even when I set up a passive income website, I had to invest time before I could enjoy the pay. Time equals money, but this is mostly a one-way street.
Buying time with money is much harder than the other way around.
Don’t waste your time with something you don’t enjoy at least a little bit. Don’t make yourself miserable in a job because it pays well and helps you buy a fancy car. Life’s too short for that.
You spend at least eight hours a day at work — make sure they’re well spent.
#4 Choosing the Safe Option Just Because It’s Safe
There’s an inherent problem with choosing the safe option.
One thing I learned from my business studies is risk and reward are always related. If you dare to take a risk, you’ll face a bigger reward. This holds for investments as well as life.
If you take the safe route and take the proven path everyone else already took, you’ll get what everyone else already got. There’s a reason why dying patients wished they had more courage to take risks throughout their lives.
Don’t try to avoid risks in life just so you can make it safely to death.
#5 Adhering to Society’s Expectations Even If It Wasn’t What I Wanted to Do
I quit my business studies that would’ve opened a lot of doors in the corporate world after six years, only half a year from completion.
The pushback was enormous. People didn’t understand. To them, I was throwing my life away. To me, I would’ve thrown my life away if I kept walking this path.
Here’s what society wants you to do: Do well in school, get all sorts of grades, badges, promotions, and pats on the back. Work hard, save money, retire.
If that’s for you, by all means, go for it. But I never looked back once I stepped out of the carousel.
Choose yourself and do what makes you happy. Pleasing others will only make you miserable.
#6 The Sunk Cost Fallacy
Imagine you go to Vegas to play a one-armed bandit. You keep putting money in but the machine sucks it up like a Dyson vacuum. The more you put in, the more desperate you are to finally win because you’ve already spent so much on it.
That’s the sunk cost fallacy.
I held on to friendships way beyond their expiration date. Deep down, I knew they weren’t good for me. But since we had already gone through so much, I couldn’t just cut it, right? Wrong. People change. Sunk cost.
Don’t hold on to things just because they worked out well in the past — write them off and look for a better investment of your time, money, and energy instead.
#7 Not Spending Time with My Loved Ones Before Time Took My Loved Ones
The only ones who suffer from death are the ones who are still alive.
A few months ago, my grandpa died peacefully in his sleep. I now understand people who say they’d trade their everything to have their loved ones back.
But death doesn’t care so the only thing you can do is to use the time you have left with the ones who are still alive.
Don’t take people around you for granted.
#8 Making Decisions When I Was Emotional
“Never reply when you’re angry. Never make a promise when you’re happy. Never make a decision when you’re sad.”
This is the single most costly mistake I ever made — and I made it many times until I finally learned.
Emotions are powerful, but short-lived. In just one feeling-fueled minute you can wreck a whole year of your life. I’ve burned money investing, wrecked my motorbike, and cheated on my girlfriend — because I made decisions based on how I felt in the moment.
Clear your mind before you decide.
#9 Excessive Drug Use
“It is only the dose which makes a thing poison.”
Drugs have a bad rep.
Sure, they can wreck your life and get you addicted. But if you use them responsibly, they can be a lot of fun, connect you with other people, and add value to your life. The emphasis is on responsible use.
In the past, I often overstepped this boundary.
I never went above and beyond, but binge drinking during my teenage years and chemical-fueled club nights a few years later took away from the rest of my life. More time drugged up meant less time working on my dreams.
Don’t consume mindlessly, whatever the substance. Be responsible, and you get to play and have fun.
#10 Chasing Happiness
“You won’t find happiness by looking for it, but by living it.”
— Finnish proverb
If you can’t find happiness on the inside, you sure as hell won’t find it on the outside.
I’ve been there. I’ve bought fancy sneakers, slept with beautiful women, and made more money than I needed. None of that made me happy — I just kept walking on the hedonic treadmill.
Happiness is a way of living, a byproduct of doing something meaningful, and a trait you have to cultivate within yourself.
#11 Making Rigorous Plans and Refusing to Adapt
“The only constant in life is change.”
Following a plan makes sense until it doesn’t anymore.
Life is unpredictable. One morning you wake up happy and healthy, the next you get a bunch of problems for breakfast, receive an email announcing your doomsday, and your girlfriend leaves you for someone else. There goes your plan.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have dreams and plan steps to get there. But you have to be prepared for everything going to shit every moment. That isn’t pessimistic — it’s realistic.
Don’t become a slave to your structures and plans. Learn to be adaptable instead — it’s how you succeed in our fast-changing world.
#12 Cheating on My Girlfriend
I’ve cheated on my very first girlfriend, wrecking a three-year relationship.
It was a classic as it goes. I was drunk, another girl hit on me, I didn’t consider it that bad. Little did I know.
Cheating is never worth it. You hurt other people and your own integrity. And either your remorse or the trust issues you developed will come back to bite you in the ass at one point.
Bottom line: Don’t cheat. Period.
#13 Worrying About What Others Thought of Me
“Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
— Dr. Seuss
I used to be anxious about how other’s perceived me — my looks, what I said, and if they thought I was cool. But at one point, I realized an astonishing truth.
Nobody cares about you.
Seriously. They’re too busy with their own shit. Sometimes I start loudly singing off-tune while grocery shopping to see how people react. Most look sincerely worried — about which cucumber they should buy. Nobody I’ve ever met has asked me “aren’t you the weird dude from the shop yesterday?”
Do your thing. Life’s too short to worry about other’s opinions.
#14 Neglecting My Body
I’ve been working out at least four times a week for ten years, but that doesn’t mean I always led a healthy life.
For many years, I didn’t care much about my body. I ate a low-veggie diet consisting mostly of meat and other animal products, my sleep was about as regenerative as running a marathon, and I drank too much. Needless to say, I felt like shit most days.
You only get one body and you’ll have to live with it until you die. Keep it healthy. Eat well, sleep enough, and exercise.
#15 Not Sharing
“Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow. ”
— Swedish proverb
I grew up as an only child, and as such, I never really learned to share. Maybe I was just an egoistic turd and used this story as an excuse, but the lesson stays the same.
Share, no matter what you have.
I know it seems unfair to give away some of your hard-earned money, food, possessions, or success. I know it’s hard to talk to others about your problems, sorrows, and worries. Still, you have to share.
I don’t make the rules, that’s just how it is. Humans are social animals. We’re made for sharing and living together. You’ll feel better when you do.
#16 Not Asking More Questions
The single most life-changing habit I ever developed was to question everything.
- Do I really have to learn this piece of knowledge by heart or could I use my time better?
- If drugs are really addictive, why do some people turn out fine?
- Does fat really make you fat?
- Will I really go to hell if I sleep with someone even though we’re not married?
- Is saving your money for retirement really the best option?
- Do I get sick if I stay out in the rain?
- Why aren’t smart people always happy?
Don’t assume everything people tell you is true. Ask questions. Think hard. Use your brain.
#17 Suppressing My Emotions
My male high-school friends used to make fun of anyone who seemed soft or weak. I quickly developed a thick skin and thought it was cool to be “strong” and unphased by my emotions.
If you don’t embrace your emotions, you’re dead inside.
Stonewalling is easier than facing the pain and hurt. But all the suppressed feelings will stack up underneath your hood, the trauma will never get resolved, and the pain will never be healed. Instead, it will eat you up from the inside.
Embrace your emotions. Accept, feel, let go. It’s what makes life worth living.
#18 Buying Fancy Shit I Don’t Need
I have more shoes than my girlfriend. Seriously. There are about 30 pairs stacked on my cupboard right now.
There was a time when I went crazy for sneakers, copping a few pairs every month because I tried to fill the void a nasty breakup left by buying a lot of shit I didn’t need. I thought it would make me happy, but it only gave me dirty, fleeting highs I chased again and again.
Buy experiences, not things.
I’m not saying don’t spend your money. Go on a splurge if you can afford it, but be smart about it.
Most of the fancy stuff you buy will soon rot on a shelf. But the experiences you had and the investments you made in yourself will be yours for decades to come.
#19 to People Telling You What You Can’t Do
“Don’t listen to the naysayers.”
— Arnold Schwarzenegger
People will tell you you can’t do something all the time. And unfortunately, I listened way too often.
- You can’t make a living writing online.
- You can’t walk up to her and ask for her number.
- You can’t start a business because the economy is too bad.
- You can’t make money from your passion.
- You can’t lift this weight.
- You can’t just quit your job, sell everything, and go traveling.
- You can’t eat all these burgers on your own.
People don’t believe in your dream because they don’t even believe in their own.
The next time someone says you can’t do something, turn around and say “watch me.”
Will it work out every time? No. Will you fail every time if you listen to the naysayers? Yes.
Believe in yourself.
“Someone once told me the definition of Hell: The last day you have on earth, the person you became will meet the person you could have become.”
Procrastination is dubbed the silent killer for a reason.
All the “just five more minutes” and “I’ll do it tomorrow” add up. Tomorrow never comes. Instead, you wake up one day to realize you’ve wasted a bunch of years on stupid shit instead of doing something meaningful. That is pain.
Thinking about how much time I spent in front of YouTube & Co. in the past makes me sick. Had I used only 10% of it to do something meaningful and worthwile, I would be in a totally different place right now. But regrets don’t help at all — only a commitment to become better in the future.
Don’t procrastinate if you don’t want to kick the bucket with your bucket list still full.
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