On Friday, I turned 26.

A lot has happened in a year.

Yesterday was my wife’s last day working at her day job. She has now quit and is working at seanwes full time. She’s been working part time for me for a few years now in various aspects of the business, but we couldn’t be more excited to finally get to the point where she’s able to help out full time.

She not only compliments me in all the best ways personally, but we also really work great together as a team. My favorite part of this is her ability to travel with me for more than 2 weeks out of a year (which is something we really want to do more). I’m also requiring that any speaking engagements I have accommodate her as well so we don’t have to be apart. Administrative assistance is exactly what I’m needing and it’s her specialty, so it couldn’t be a better fit.

On a more reflective note, I find myself rarely looking forward to things. I suppose it’s a good thing, because I really do truly live in the now and I love that. Though I often feel robbed of anticipation because I don’t experience the build-up as much.

For instance, when going on vacation, I don’t have that “Just 6 days left until vacation!” countdown excitement. It’s really not real to me until I’m on the plane, or driving out of the city. This birthday sort of snuck up on me and just “happened.” I supposed it’s partially my personality and partially 26 being more into the “less important” birthdays now.

The reason I share all of that is to say I’ve actually be finding myself really looking forward to visiting with family next week over the holiday. I can’t remember the last time I actually looked forward to something, but I’m enjoying it—even more so than my actual birthday. I think I’m just craving some good, relaxing family time after working hard.

Last year, I shared 25 Things I’ve Learned with you. I’ve decided to make this a tradition and continue sharing what I’ve learned every birthday.

1. You Can Do a Lot if You Have Focused Time

Workers are interrupted once every 10.5 minutes on average.

That’s not even the worst part: studies show it takes on average 23 minutes to regain focus.

If you are working in a place where you’re getting interruptions, you are not working. It’s not actually time that you lack, it’s focused time. You have to create focused time.

2. You Can’t Do It All on Your Own

This was probably the biggest lesson I learned. Sure, I got a lot done in a year, but I realized if I wanted to scale, I wasn’t going to be able to do it alone. It meant learning to delegate. It meant raising the ceiling proactively.

Giving up the things you don’t like doing in your business is easy. What’s hard is giving up the things you shouldn’t be doing even if you like doing them.

3. Rest as Hard as You Work

I’ll be honest with you: I have a hard time slowing down.

I’m an all-in kind of guy. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to apply myself fully and give it my best. I realized if I was ever going to rest, I’d have to be just as intentional about my breaks.

This is why I started doing Small Scale Sabbaticals. Every 7th week, I take an entire week off to rest, recharge, and pursue my secondary passions like making music.

The idea really scared me because taking time off sounded unproductive. But you know what’s even more unproductive? Burn out. That’s where I was heading.

Having now taken two sabbatical weeks in the past few months, I can say it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. I estimate that I get about the same amount of work done simply because it makes the other 6 weeks that much more productive.

If you’re wondering how you can afford to take every 7th week off, I can empathize. I wondered the same thing. Now that I’ve done it, I now wonder how I could have ever afforded not to.

4. Money Does Not Buy Happiness

I’m super happy right now, but I’m just as happy as I was a few years ago. Don’t get me wrong, I love all my tech gear and it’s super fun to nerd out on stuff and buy new things, but it’s true what they say: money doesn’t buy happiness.

I work really hard, we live frugally, and whatever I’m not investing, I’m saving. As a result, I can literally buy anything and everything I want, but it really doesn’t affect my happiness.

I’m happy because I choose to be happy. If I was sad, the cool gear I buy wouldn’t make it better. Things are just things. Sure, there’s a temporary high when UPS knocks at the door, but you’ll never find satisfaction in things. You will only ever be as happy in the future as you purposefully choose to be happy now.

5. Don’t Neglect Relationships

My wife is incredibly supportive. More supportive than I deserve. If I work late or I’m putting in overtime, she’s understanding and accommodating. The danger here is that I can very easily take advantage of that without realizing.

The same is true of your friends and family. Don’t neglect the important relationships in your life—especially with those who are supportive of your endeavors! Make time for them. You’re never going to “have” time for them, you need to make time for them.

Make a date. Get it on the calendar. Spend time with them. Be with them. Be face-to-face with them. Relationships are all that last anyway. Work is fleeting. The impact you have on people and the relationships you foster are what remain.

6. Motivation Comes After Commitment

Everyone wants it quick these days and they want to “hack” their motivation. They want to wait for motivation before they start.

  • “What’s the shortcut version?”
  • “Can I get a lifehack for this?”
  • “I need tips or tricks! Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

For most of the meaningful things in life and worthwhile aspirations, there are no shortcuts. The success stories may be fun to read, but what you often don’t hear about are the years of tireless effort and persistence.

  • I’m talking about relentlessness in the face of no results or even rejection.
  • I’m talking about showing up.
  • I’m talking about being there day after day consistently when it seems like it’s all for naught.

These people did not wake up with motivation. They woke up to a commitment. They woke up to focused work time scheduled on their calendar.

Motivation comes after you show up.

7. Build Your Own Platform

The playing field has been leveled. The middlemen are slowly fading away and you no longer have to play by the rules of the gatekeepers in order to reach your audience.

When you build your own platform, you are the master. You own the domain and you set the rules. This means you can control the pricing, you can control whether or not your products are discounted, and you can design the entire experience.

It’s a long term play, but if you have the foresight and vision to see it through, you will come out on top.

8. You Can Sell Without Discounting

Everyone tells you to launch with a discount. Everyone says if you want to increase revenue, you should run sales.

The thing is, discounts are always a devaluation. The more you discount, the more you devalue, and the more you train your audience to wait for discounts.

In theory you could make more money discounting, but it forces you down that path: If you want to continue making more money, you have to become a “discount brand.”

The only two prices that acknowledge full value are Full Price or Free (when I say “free” I’m talking about Pro-Bono).

If you’re going to discount products, you have to decide if the reason you’re discounting is worth selling out. The only time I make an exception to do so is to reward loyalty. By offering exclusive discounts only to past customers, you can reward their loyalty without devaluing your brand.

9. You Don’t Have to Make the Listener the Product

Question: What do you owe Facebook?
Answer: Absolutely nothing.

Why? Because you are the product. This seems to be something that a lot of people don’t get, so let me explain: If you are not paying for a service, you’re probably the product.

Services like Facebook and Twitter are selling your data, your attention, and your eyes to advertisers. You don’t have to pay for the service, because you yourself are the product being sold.

When was the last time you heard a podcast without sponsors? If a podcast doesn’t have sponsors, it’s likely because it just started out or plans to soon implement them.

Rarely does anyone question the practice, it’s simply taken as a given. In fact, it’s almost held as an aspiration. Once you have sponsors, then you’re “legitimate.”

I decided to do things differently. I decided to not force my listeners to be the product. As I go down this list, I find myself writing more and more. Rather than expound here, I’ll give you some further reading if you’re interested: Why Not Having Sponsors or a Title in my Podcast Artwork Is Setting Me Up For Long-Term Success.

10. Haters Gonna Hate

I used to think this was a silly expression. Maybe some people eventually got haters, but surely not all. Surely if I poured my heart and soul into helping people and enabling their success, I would be immune.

I was naĂŻve.

It’s not a matter of if but when you have haters. You will get trolls, you will get angry messages, you will be called names, you will be dismissed, you will be mocked, you will be ridiculed, and you will get haters. It’s purely a matter of scale.

Expect it, plan for it, but don’t let it get to you.

Look at any video on YouTube with over 1 million views, and no matter how happy and positive it is, you’ll find people complaining in the comments. Every single time. You can’t make everyone happy.

If your work is strong enough for someone to hate you, it’s strong enough for someone to love you. The middle is what you should fear.

11. You Don’t Have to Be Rich to Be Generous

Generosity is a relative gesture. It is not measured in absolute amounts.

How quickly people come out of the woodwork to criticize someone with wealth for not giving, while they themselves have not contributed anything to a good cause.

They assume their contribution is worthless, which makes them a part of the problem. Let each of us give generously to others. It’s not about the amount, it’s about the heart.

12. Comparison Is the Thief of Joy

Feeling like you’re not good enough is common when you’re first getting into an industry. You see the forerunners, you see the really good work—the cream of the crop, the stuff that rises to the top—and you feel inadequate. But what you really need to be doing is not spending so much time seeing and more time doing.

It doesn’t matter what someone else has. It doesn’t matter what someone else can do. None of that affects you. You have control over you, and you alone.

If people spent the same energy they used comparing and complaining about their disadvantages on something meaningful, they’d be so far ahead.

13. It Doesn’t Matter How Hard You Work

You can work hard, you can put in the all-nighters, you can hustle and sweat all you want, but all that matters at the end of the day is how valuable that solution is to the customer.

You have to solve real problems that real people have.

It’s not that people aren’t asking, it’s that you’re not listening. Trust me, people have problems. If you want to build a product that people will buy, you need to find out what those problem are, and you’re only going to find them by listening.

14. Self Employment Is Rewarding

Working for yourself: is it easy? Heck no, it isn’t easy.

It’s rewarding. I’ll take challenging and rewarding over easy any day.

You just have to be willing to:

  1. Simplify.
  2. Work hard.
  3. Focus on the long term.
15. Writing That Is Easy to Read Is Exceptionally Hard to Write

Take time to write and re-write your material. Respect the time of your reader.

If you are a person who thinks out loud, think out loud to yourself first to determine you message—then re-present it:

  • Turn on your recording, ramble about whatever you want and think out loud.
  • Now listen back to it.
  • Transcribe it.
  • Re-write it, and read what you wrote.
  • Now toss the transcription out and say it in your own words from memory.
  • Do this over and over and over again. Repeat this process of refinement.
16. You’re Not Too Old

Stop thinking you’re too old to start something and be successful at it—you’re too old to do something that sucks for the rest of your life.

Here’s how I define age: “Old” is over 100. We’ll call that “old.” Triple digits? Yeah, you know what, you’re old. You can own it. Be cool about it. Otherwise? You’re not old. Don’t worry about it.

17. If You Want to Make It Online, You Need to Write

It all starts with writing. If you want to make a name for yourself, write daily.

You can choose to say, “I’m not a writer,” or you can choose to show up and write anyway.

18. You Don’t Have to Have an Audience to Teach

Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach—right? Wrong. You shouldn’t wait to start teaching what you know.

All you have to know to teach is more than any one other person.

It’s a common misconception to think that you’re not enough of an expert to teach. The people that are leaders in any given industry are the people that started to teach. They didn’t get to a place of arrival before they decided that they could teach.

Leaders are seen as experts because they teach.

19. First Experiences Are Critical

That first experience someone has with your brand is critical.

The best thing you can do for your business is to stop treating everything as a one-time transaction. That shortsightedness doesn’t breed allegiance.

Don’t focus on making money—focus on creating loyalty and lifelong customers.

20. The Less You Create, the More You Conform.

You can either copy or be copied.

Make more stuff. The people that copy you can only ever be a step behind.

21. There really aren’t that many people, relatively, doing awesome things online.

You follow the people who make things you’re interested in, right? This creates what I call a Bubble of Awesomeness. This bubble is where you live. Every day, you consume feeds with content from the people who are the best of the best at what you like to do.

You’ve created a pseudo reality for yourself.

What you see in your feed on a daily basis isn’t a representation of the world as a whole—it’s merely your own personally-curated Bubble of Awesomeness.

Truly, if you pour your heart into making something really great, you’re already in the top 10%. The vast majority of the world cannot do what you can do, and of those who can, most are sitting around consuming.

As soon as you make the choice to flip the switch from consumer to producer, you position yourself as an influencer.

22. Turn Off Your Notifications.

Email notifications? Are you kidding me? STOP. Turn them all off.

  • Turn the badge off.
  • Turn the sound off.
  • Turn the popup off.
  • Turn the banner off.
  • All of it.

Any form of interruption is something that you can take responsibility for. That sounds weird, right? Because interruptions are typically not you. When other people are interrupting you, that seems like it’s not you. But you can take responsibility by evaluating the situations that you’re putting yourself in.

Evaluate the expectations that you allow other people to have of you: your availability, your time, your willingness to stop in the middle of what you’re doing. That’s something you have to communicate to people.

Maybe it’s your coworkers, maybe it’s your family—whatever it is, you need to tell those people, “I need you on board. I want to be able to help you. I want to give you my full focus and in order to do that, I need to keep my full focus on these other things right now.”

You will get 5x as much done and you will never go back. Own your time, and own your attention.

23. Don’t Go Into Debt. Ever. For Anything.

You’re either the master or the slave.

You own your life or you owe your life.

You can’t put a price on the feeling of not being in debt.

24. If You Think $1,000,000 Is a Lot of Money, You Might Get $100,000

Similarly, if you think 10 million dollars is a lot of money, you might get 1 million dollars. It’s about your mindset. It’s about how big you’re dreaming.

The bigger you dream, the bigger your achievements.

Set bigger goals.

25. Don’t Start With Inspiration, Start With Showing Up

What’s more immediately gratifying when you’re feeling stuck than going and looking at what other people have made? It’s a short term feel-good emotion. It’s a shot of dopamine, and you might try to convince yourself that you’re really doing good for your project, but really you’re just sinking a bunch of time.

Inspiration is something we should always be acquiring. Don’t go looking for inspiration when you’re stuck. Short term inspiration leads to direct copying. That’s not how you’re going to find the spark you need.

If you wait for inspiration, you will never get around to working. If you start with the commitment to show up, the inspiration will come.

26. Time Goes by Fast

Living for the next thing doesn’t ensure happiness when you get there, it only builds the habit of putting your happiness in circumstances just beyond the horizon. When you arrive, the horizon is once again further away.

Now is what we have. Now is all that we have. It is all that we’ll ever have.

Maybe you can’t wait to get your license to drive. Maybe you can’t wait to go to college. Maybe you can’t wait to graduate college. Maybe you can’t wait to find someone. Maybe you can’t wait to marry that someone. Maybe you can’t wait to find that dream job. Maybe you can’t wait to have kids. Maybe you can’t wait for the kids to grow up and leave the house.

The next thing you know, you’re dead.

Ok, that took a morbid turn, but I really want to grab you here. If you hear one thing let it be this:

Rest assured, you will get where you want to be soon enough. In time, you will be there. Whatever you are looking forward to will shortly be your reality.

Don’t spend your now trying to fast forward.