18 Truths About Life 2018 Taught Me

man wearing red long-sleeved shirt standing beside wall
bruce mars / Unsplash

“The saddest part about getting older is seeing how intellectually dead some of my friends have chosen to become.”

My dad shared the words above with me at the beginning of 2018 when talking about the realities of getting older. Needless to say, they hit me like a ton of bricks, and I made a decision right then and there to make curious my baseline. As a result, I cannot remember a year in which I felt more intellectually alive and below are the 18 biggest truths about the world I have learned in the process.

1. Sometimes you can be doing everything right, just in the wrong place

Knowing why you do what you do is paramount. So is getting clear on how you are going to accomplish it. But do not underestimate the power of where and take the time to make sure your work is positioned in the place where the right people can find it.

The strongest axe in the world does not do an ounce of good if it is standing in front of the wrong tree.

2. If you do not stand behind your work, no one else will

Throughout 2018 I did some work I thought was good. However, it did not take off as I had hoped. Instead of lying down and accepting the verdict like in previous years, I looked for a different judge. Within days of finally having the confidence to take a stand on the work I was doing, I started checking off bucket-list items off my list at an alarming pace — with another two massive ones coming soon.

Never forget that one person’s opinion is exactly that — one person’s opinion.

3. The best way to find your tribe is by creating one

In 2017 I fell in love with writing. However, the one thing I was missing was a creative space to bat around ideas with like-minded people. So instead of spending time trying to find a tribe, I contacted a few people I admired and together we created one.

Out of all the decisions I made in 2018, this was the best. It finally taught me the value of making what I wanted instead of sitting around and wishing for it.

4. Most people will say yes if you offer them something they are already looking for

Running around trying to convince every Tom, Dick and Sally of what you are doing is not nearly as effective as first taking the time to understand what they are doing, then tailoring your offer to meet their needs.

Every successful company does this. They first identify what the world wants and then they create an intersection. The same goes for you. You have to know your audience if you ever want to move them.

5. Careers are made in two hours of distraction-free intervals

Success is often found by doing the opposite of most people. In today’s noisy world, the easiest way to do this is by turning off all notifications, putting your head down and getting to work.

When you do this, your work will begin to be taken seriously because you have begun to take yourself seriously. However, this will never happen if you jump at every single tweet and beep.

6. Sometimes not saying anything is the best thing to say

Not everyone is looking for you to provide them with an answer. More times than not most people just need to talk, and a supportive ear is much more comforting than a running mouth.

7. You are as old as the people you spend your time with

The average age of both the company I am working with and the creative group I organised is 27. I cannot stress how beneficial this has been. I am 40 years old and I have never had more energy and I have never felt younger. This is for the simple fact I am running around with energetic young people.

Quick Aside: If you think Millennials are lazy and entitled, you may want to actually get to know more of them. What I have seen is that they’re ridiculously driven and intelligent individuals who will stop at nothing to make the world a better place.

8. It is hard to yell at someone if you just ate an apple or went for a walk

Mr. Internet loves to shout the benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle. However, most Google searches miss the biggest one. When you eat well and exercise often, you are more fun be to around.

After going for a run, it is hard to be impatient with your partner. After you eat a big bowl of fruit, it is hard to yell at your kid for spilling the milk. After you climb a mountain, it is hard to ignore someone you care about.

We may indeed be the average of the five people we spend the most time with. However, an argument could be made that we are also the average of the five things we eat the most and the average of the five things we do the most. So cool everything you eat (nothing slows you down more than fast food) and walk everywhere you go. It is amazing what you can get away with when you make these two things a priority.

9. Reserving an hour a week to speak with someone you admire is the best career and life investment you can make

Growing up my dad told me that my only job was to meet as many people as possible. 2018 marked the year I finally listened to him. Come rain or shine, sick kids or strict deadlines, each week for the last year I reached out to someone whose work I admired and set up a time to speak with them. This has opened career opportunities I was previously too scared to even imagine. More importantly, it has created relationships with people that today I could not imagine life without.

10. Negative feedback is much easier to handle if you are the one who asks for it

If I have learned anything this past year, it is that the best way to get something right is by opening yourself up to something you may have missed. However, you cannot only be proactive in seeking out the positive — you must also ask for the negative. This becomes much easier if you are the one who seeks it out, because it is hard to get angry at someone who told you something that you asked to hear.

This is not only the best way to move a good idea to great, it is also a great way to create stronger relationships, because it is hard not to admire someone who will stop at nothing to get things right.

11. The best way to move fast is by taking slow but deliberate steps

The world belongs to the people who know where they are going. So be like Warren Buffett and prioritise time each day to simply sit and think.

12. You may have already created something valuable but the world has not caught on to it yet

Last April I wrote an article and for the first seven months it didn’t gain any traction. However, every day for the last two months it has gained roughly 200 views per days and shows little sign of slowing down. This is because it now sits on the first Google page when you search for its key word. This is now my most read article for 2018 and the exact same thing has happened for my second most read article, both of which have resulted in opportunities I never thought I would be presented with. In short, be patient.

13. Empathy is the key to truly being able to see

People will only care about you if you give them a reason to. From my experience the best way to do this is by asking others what they think instead of telling them what you think. There is no higher compliment than truly listening to someone and getting to know them as an individual.

14. The best opportunities come from the strangest places, so treat everyone with respect

I love the work I am doing today. However, not one of the opportunities I have has come from someone I am close to. Instead they have come from people who I left a good impression on and they thought of me when someone said something that aligned with what I am doing.

15. The beauty of finding work you love is you are proactive in helping others to find the same

Have you ever thought about how fast success seems to compound for some of the people around you? This is not because they are any smarter, faster or stronger than you. However, it is because they use their smarts, speed and strength to help others reach their goals and as a byproduct they knock out their own.

16. The moment you do something nice for someone expecting something in return is the moment you lose

The beauty of getting older is that patterns begin to emerge. One of the most glaring is that the more good deeds you do for others, the more good deeds get returned to you. The expression “When you give, you get” is cliché for a reason — there is loads of truth to it.

17. Content isn’t king, but consistency is

The best work rises to the top. However, the only way to ensure your work gets a shot is by doing it every day. 2018 marked the year I finally learned this lesson. Every day I wrote. Every day I read. Every day I spoke with someone interesting. In short, every day I learned and somewhere in the process my work not only improved, but so did my life.

18. Never underestimate the power of friendship

In 2018 I quit the numbers game. I stopped worrying about how many likes, followers and subscribers I got. Instead I focused on going deep with the people already in my life or those I wished were. As a result, my work has not only never been more seen, it has also never had more meaning. There isn’t a productivity or happiness hack that competes with having strong relationships.

When looking over this list some obvious themes become apparent. Relationships matter. Focus matters. Listening matters. However, I cannot help but feel that the biggest lesson I learned was the fact that we are defined by how we define ourselves. Prior to 2018, when I failed, I felt like a failure. However, in 2018, whenever I failed, I still felt like a success, and this has made all the difference. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

I teach storytelling to Fortune 500s, MBA students, and first graders

Keep up with Michael on Instagram, Twitter and mikethompsonblog.com

More From Thought Catalog