40 under 40 - Principles

I wanted to write down a list of things I care about in life. I am borrowing the catchy title format and using it for listing life principles instead of people. Even though I am borrowing, it will still be technically the truth. I will list 40 items, which sounded like a good amount, and I am still under 40.

The curated list would reflect the way I approach life, however, the items on this list are not necessarily original or novel.

Living (a good) Life

  1. Sleep. Nothing beats 8 hours a day, for every day. Get good sleep as much as possible.
  2. Reflect. Reflect on your day, reflect on your week, reflect on your month, reflect on your year, and so on. Reflect on your relationships, reflect on your life.
  3. Life is short. Enjoy life, work, family, food, nature, and anything else you like to enjoy in life too. Be kind. Life is better that way. And if you are not enjoying life, find ways to change things.
  4. Don’t delay life. Slow down, relax and enjoy the moment. Carry a (digital) notebook to reflect and take notes.
  5. Be minimal. Keep your life, environment, relationships, habits, duties, hobbies, etc. simple. If they are cluttering your life and no longer sparking joy, it is time to part ways with some of them. And that is ok.
  6. Enjoy the beauty of impermanence. Not everything is permanent. Nothing is permanent. Enjoy the beauty of the world and what is inside it knowing that everything is impermanent.
  7. Write things down, keep notes, and keep a diary. Even if you will never read them back, they will help you with learning, thinking, remembering, and reflecting.
  8. Take care of yourself. Exercise, sleep, eat well, and reduce your stress. Take care of your body, take care of your mind.
  9. Experiences are more important than things. Strive for having many, varied, and great experiences. You will remember them for a long time.


  1. Keep in touch. It takes an effort, but good relationships and friendships are worth it.
  2. Spend quality time with your family, and friends. Time is the best thing you can share. Say sorry and grow together.
  3. Humans are fascinating. They have so many built-in ways of thinking fast (and biases) and they can collaborate and deliberate and think to solve amazingly complex problems. There are lots of great books on this subject to read about too.
  4. Lies are bad, all lies are bad, and they will catch up to you. Do not lie, do not tell white lies, do not lie to children, and do not lie for others’ good. Dealing with things directly is almost always a better option. But do not expect people to not lie to you. Everybody lies.
  5. Take care of people. Be kind and nice to others, a little bit of empathy goes a long way. That does not mean that you have to act altruistically in all cases. Take care of yourself too. (Related: Think about who ‘people’ are in any situation. For example, in a work context, people could mean people working at a place, however, customers and shareholders are also people, and the needs of those groups need to be considered similarly.)


  1. Grow. Always look for opportunities to grow. Humans have the incredible ability to learn new things, do things better, and be creative. Keep growing, that is the way to live life to the fullest.
  2. Learn from yourself. Think about your success and strengths. Learn from your mistakes and improve.
  3. Learn from others. There is something to learn from anyone in this big, wonderful world.
  4. Learn how to learn. Practice deliberately, with spaced repetition, with an open mind.
  5. Know yourself, your wants, needs, and strengths. And communicate those.
  6. Risk and probabilities are not well understood as they apply to real life. People who studied those are not that good either. There are lots of great books on this subject to read about.
  7. There is not one, but many games. Different people are playing different games.
  8. Take risks, make yourself vulnerable, and welcome critique. That is how you can get better and receive the gift of feedback.
  9. Have a bias for action. Do try your best and make progress. If you are not sure what to do, might as well do something.
  10. Say yes. Say no. It is good to try out new experiences, say yes to some new challenges and it is good to say no to things that you do not want to take part in.


  1. Do things: you like, you do well, and others value. You can play with the contributions of each for different things.
  2. Spend a proper amount of time on decisions. Invest lots of time for important decisions with major consequences, especially when they are irreversible (or hard to reverse). For trivial decisions, invest only a trivial amount of time.
  3. Once you decide, commit to it, and execute. Review your decision again only if new information becomes available.
  4. Communicate well with clarity, using the best medium, with the right people, repeatedly (i.e., over-communicate), and explicitly. Communication is a skill developed over time with practice, and it amplifies you as you master it.
  5. Think. Good thinking is a rare skill. Practice it regularly. And prepare. Thinking takes time and rarely happens in the moment.
  6. Keep your circle of concern smaller than your circle of influence. Worrying about things you cannot control would not do anyone much good. News is the worst offender of this. Focus on what you can control, influence, and how you could do good with those.
  7. You usually have more options than you think in response to an unpleasant change. You can accept the change, try to change it, or leave it (e.g., freeze, fight, fly). Having and knowing options would make it easier for you to deal with the situation.
  8. Assumptions. Check your assumptions, oftentimes they will be wrong. Be aware of your implicit assumptions, and blind spots.
  9. Negotiating is an art and a science. Negotiating on the spot for an inconsequential thing is mostly an art. Negotiating for an important thing is mostly a science and a matter of preparation.
  10. Don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.

On that last note, I will leave this at 30+, it is already a good enough list if not perfect. I would hope that my son will read this one day and learn a little bit more about me.

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