Well, I’m officially in my late twenties. This year has been a whirlwind: I created this blog, adopted a Texan dog, began ghostwriting for a client, started a small podcast, moved into a new apartment, read some life-changing books, and paid off most of my student loans. Here’s a collection of all that I’ve learned over the past 365 days of working and playing.
1. How people behave around others they don’t agree with is far more dangerous than the opinions themselves. We could all use a lesson on how to disagree with grace.
2. Your home is more peaceful when it’s less cluttered.
3. Your mind is more relaxed when you don’t overcrowd your phone, tablet, and laptop with needless apps and notifications.
4. There are a few things that are always worth the money: pets, books, tattoos, vacations, concert tickets, and coffee.
5. There are a few things that are never worth the money: cars, bags/purses, haircuts, and clothes.
6. Turning down money is very hard but possible.
7. You don’t need to participate in affiliate marketing or clog your website with advertisements in order to make money from writing online.
8. Being underestimated is one of the best tactical advantages. I thought looking young would hurt me as a lawyer; it turns out that it’s a blessing. I’ve caught opposing counsel off guard quite a few times when they realize I can put up a fight.
9. If you want to be an effective lawyer, you need to be an effective storyteller. If you want to be an effective storyteller, you need to throw out all the unnecessary details that bog down the narrative. The simplest story wins.
10. Don’t buy into your own hype. We taste a little bit of success and all of a sudden we think we’re the center of the planet. In reality, no one cares. Just focus on doing the work.
11. If you’re someone who seeks permission to do something, a career in law is probably not for you.
12. If you’re someone who needs to be sure before you do something, a career in law is probably not for you.
13. Adopting a dog was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. When another living thing is totally dependent on you for their survival, you realize what a privilege it is to care for someone else. The emotional and financial cost of taking care of the little guy is totally worth the love and happiness he gives.
14. In the past year, I overworked myself. Although I didn’t burn out, I wasn’t making as much time for my loved ones as I should. Even when you love what you do, it’s important to know when to close the laptop and enjoy the present.
15. Immerse yourself in as much art as possible. Attend a concert, watch a play, or visit an art gallery. You’ll be surprised at how much these experiences can inspire you.
16. If I had any productivity “hack,” it would be waking up early. There is no way I would be able to practice law full time and manage three side projects if I didn’t wake up at 5:30 a.m. during the week.
17. Instead of meticulously planning your early retirement, learn to be thankful for the here and now. There’s a lot that could happen in the next few decades: you could be laid off, your freelance clients may lose their budget, new mortgage rules could come into effect that makes it harder to purchase homes, a family member could be diagnosed with a terminal illness, etc.
18. That being said, it’s still important to be good with your money. Life is crazy, so plan for the worst. It’ll give you a piece of mind that all your affairs are in order.
19. If you think about it, we’re just a speck chillin’ on a rotating rock. It’s silly and selfish to think that our purpose is to accumulate money, buy things that’ll end up in the landfill, and then die. We have an obligation to look beyond ourselves and take care of our planet and each other.
20. The other day when I was at the mall, I recognized a woman who used to serve me at Tim Hortons almost every day for an entire year. She had changed jobs, or picked up a second job, as a cleaner at the food court. While she probably doesn’t remember me, I distinctly remember how warmly she would greet me every single morning as I ordered my coffee. Fuck people who say that minimum wage jobs are just “entry-level” positions for young people.
21. There’s only a handful of writers, singers, and artists that inspire me, and I have no idea how much money they make. I find that profoundly liberating.
22. The best personal finance “hack” is to have a frugal partner.
23. It’s possible to earn a great living in the nonprofit world.
24. Run as often as possible, not for the physical benefits but for the mental clarity. What’s better than surrounding yourself in nature while listening to your favorite music? Nothing.
25. Lifting heavy things is important too, but you don’t need to make it complicated. I purchased a weight set for $50 at Canadian Tire and exercise at home. No expensive gym or CrossFit membership required.
26. Push yourself to read books that you don’t quite understand. Push yourself to read smart opinion articles that you don’t agree with. Nothing challenges your critical thinking like forcing yourself to think differently.
27. Someone commented on one of my articles that while my finance tips were practical, they could have done without the “smarmy change-the-world” message. He continued to state that it was up to the world to change, and not for us to change the world. Unfortunately, the author deleted the comment, although I wish that he hadn’t because it served as a wonderful reminder that the world desperately needs more optimism.
28. Don’t listen to people who tell you that advocating for a progressive society is admirable but unrealistic. Progressive economic policies already exist throughout the world from Norway to Finland to France to Germany to right here, in Canada. We can learn from them or we can shake our heads with our arms crossed. Do you want to be part of the problem or the solution?
Jennifer Chan is a lawyer and blogger. You can find her at jennifertchan.net where she focuses on connecting the dots between work, money, and happiness. She resides in Toronto, Canada with her girlfriend, full-figured rabbit, and a deaf & blind cockapoo.
Image via Unsplash