23 Best Pieces of Advice in 23 Years

The best advice is often the hardest to put into practice, and that’s probably why it’s good advice.

23 Best Pieces of Advice in 23 Years
Photo by Christian Lue / Unsplash

Each year, I like to write some kind of reflection on something I learned or have thought a lot about that year. See 20, 21, 22.

The best advice is often the hardest to put into practice, and that’s probably why it’s good advice. But even good advice can be bad advice if it’s not for the right person. Below are some of the best pieces of advice I’ve received, read, or heard that have helped me.

Slow to speak, quick to listenI have too much to learn to be talking all the time. I have made too many mistakes to think I’m always right. I have nothing to lose by listening more.

Consistency over intensity. In nearly every area of life in nearly every way, consistency beats intensity. A trip to Disneyland cannot make up for absentee parenting. A diamond necklace doesn’t make up for neglecting conversation. Sprinting every day for a month will leave you injured, but walking every day for a year will strengthen your body. Lucky stock picks are a rush, but long-term investing will build more stable wealth. Time x Intensity = Results. In theory, more of both would mean better results. In practice, we cannot have both in equal measure without burning out.

Make a decision. How do you know if it’s the right one? How do you know if it’s God’s will? So many times, you won’t. You just have to try and live and learn. Indecision is still a decision not to do anything. Many times it’s the least helpful choice because it keeps us stuck.

Stop worrying about what other people are doing. If you’re all worked up about what other people are doing, you’re distracted from what you’re supposed to be doing. Focus on keeping your “desk” clean--whether that’s with work, health, or relationships--and things will work out how they’re supposed to.

You can choose to get bitter or better. Choose to get better, and it’ll make all the difference.*

Create more than you consume. There has always been a lot of noise, but the internet has made it increasingly ubiquitous. We weren’t made to consume information or entertainment all the time. We were made to create.

Let anything you hear die with you; never fear, it will not make you burst!” This is hard to do, but the less I repeat of what I hear, the more free I feel.

Nothing good happens from staying out past midnight. Go home. I have found this to be mostly true. Not always, but mostly. Cinderella’s fairy godmother might’ve been onto something.

The key to a happy day is getting out of the house. I don’t think this is always true, but it’s easy to become restless if you stay stuck inside. Getting out of the house and doing something new makes the days richer and the years more memorable.

Live your philosophy more than you talk about it.*

If you use “just this once” as an excuse to compromise your standards, be prepared to do it again. In the words of Clay Christensen, life is one unending stream of extenuating circumstances. Crossing the line “just this once” in the name of extenuating circumstances makes it increasingly likely that I’ll do it over and over again in the years to come. 

A handful of quiet is better than two handfuls of toil and striving after the wind. We can spin our gears until our motor burns out, but we don't control the world. The One who does isn't found in our striving but in our quietness.

Guard your eyes ruthlessly. And your ears. Our character is shaped by the things we think over and over again. The things we see and hear have the power to shape what we think and how we feel. Let your inputs point you toward the kind of person you most deeply want to become.

Move every day. This one has been surprisingly difficult to follow through on lately, but whenever I move my body consistently, everything in life feels better.

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast is a saying from the military. Rushing usually leads to mistakes which slows the process down. Slowing down enough to do things properly counterintuitively makes us faster.

Clean your room. Clean your desk, clean your home, clean your space. I have historically been remarkably bad at this. But when I do manage to clear up my physical space, my mental space is so much clearer. Our space is often a direct reflection of our inner lives.

Have a job, but don’t let the job have you. It is good to work. It can even be good to work for someone else. But I know I can too easily let the job take over too much of my thought life and actual life. Your work is not your worth.

Just ask. If something matters to you, ask for it. It’s possible the person you’re asking would happily give. A friend told me this year, “You can’t get mad about it if you don’t ask.” She's right. Over-communication is almost always better than under-communication.

Because it’s Friday. I was in the office at 4:15 one Friday and a manager in the cubicle next to me walked up to her analyst and told him it was time to wrap up. “Why?” He asked. “Because it’s Friday.” “Because it’s Friday” is reason enough to stop working. This one’s another big challenge for me currently, but it feels like a great philosophy to live by.

Leave it at work. Work will be work, but we don’t have to let it burden our thought lives when we go home. 

Spend a lot of time in the quiet. Our minds and souls and bodies need much more stillness and quiet and rest than we think.

Focus on your eulogy virtues more than your resume virtues. Why burn out pursuing things that won't last the moment you die? An impressive career, a storied travel log, and six-pack abs might be impressive (resume virtues), but will they help you impact peoples' lives for the better? Patience, kindness, service, generosity--these are the things that outlast peoples' physical bodies because of the lives they touch (eulogy virtues).*

Relax. When I played tennis in high school, my coach would always remind me, “Relax, loosen up. You’ll play better.” He was always right. Life is too short to be tense all the time. Have fun!


[*] "I asked Josh why he’s so healthy, so emotionally stable, considering his childhood. Josh told me something I’ll never forget. He said, “Don, when something hard happens to you, you have two choices in how to deal with it. You can either get bitter, or better. I chose to get better. It’s made all the difference.”

from A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life by Donald Miller

[*] Inspired by 100 (Short) Rules for a Better Life - RyanHoliday.net
"Prove your philosophy more than you talk about it (and that’s not easy)."

[*] Resume vs. eulogy virtues is an idea I learned about from David Brooks