20-something lessons from a 26-year-old software engineer’s year that might help you in life
2022 has been a year of immense growth for me — both personally and professionally.
Like any other year, there were both ups and downs, however, looking back I can confidently say that the sheer volume of highs easily outnumbered the number of lows. Lucky me!
Most of the highs this year revolved around the word “growth” for me. It encompassed both my personal life — where I grew as a person — and my professional life — where I found ways to monetize my hobbies and started a transition in my professional career. More on these coming up later.
Now that I am sitting at a recently discovered hidden gem cafe, I wanted to take the moment to share the lessons I learned this year. I hope there is at least one thing that you can take away from my experience to make your life better.
I do have a more detailed annual reflection that I wrote about earlier in the week. It’s a little dense, but if you are interested, please check it out.
Here are 20-something interesting things from the year that I hope to carry through to next year.
(1) Investing in great relationships can be very satisfying
For a very long time in my adult life, relationships came second. They were always overshadowed by either my studies or my career.
This year, I realized the importance of relationships and deep connections in my life. Family, friends, or romantic partners — this year I decided to prioritize and invest in these relationships. I am glad I did!
(2) You meet people in life who can really bring the best out of you
People can inspire you to live your best life.
They don’t need to tell you explicitly what to do or how to do something. They just somehow bring the best out of you. They make you want to be your best version.
If you find such people in your life, don’t let them go.
(3) No matter who’s in your bed, you sleep alone every night
You might be able to get away with lying and cheating in the short term. However, every night when you sleep, you sleep alone with your thoughts. If you are anything like me, your conscience won’t let you sleep peacefully.
That’s why it’s always better to be truthful and honest, no matter what the consequences are. It’s not worth hiding it.
(4) Being selfless can be selfish
There is some strange satisfaction to get from random acts of selflessness.
This year, more than any other, I have been very selfless. I have done things for people just for their own good, irrespective of how I felt about it. And it made me happy!
Honestly, I feel like every time after the first act of selflessness this year, I have done things knowing how helping people and doing things for them make me happy.
Am I selfish? Maybe. But I do get a type of satisfaction by being selfless. It’s difficult to explain.
(5) You need to believe in things bigger than yourself to be truly happy
Everything is not about you.
The world outside is full of issues. There are people out there who need help. There were systems in place that are unjust. There are laws and norms that leave unheard victims in their wake.
You can take a stance on all of these. Taking a stance, and doing things actively to make the world a better place is hard.
However, when done consistently, it can give life meaning.
(6) You can change your identity
We always tend to cling very tightly to our already-formed identity. There’s an old adage that says something along the lines of “people cannot change”.
I find that to be untrue.
As you grow, you can mold your personality, and in turn your identity. You don’t have to stay the person you are.
With the correct growth mindset and systems in place, you can change your identity very quickly. It’s all about discipline and staying consistent.
(7) The only constant in life is change
I used to be horrible with changes and transitions.
I used to love constant. I hated it when either my surrounding or the people in my life changed.
Gradually, I realized that change can be good. It’s a natural process to get rid of the old and bring in the new.
Whether you like it or not, no matter how hard you try to keep things as is, change is inevitable. It’s best to live life with a growth mindset and adapt to the change, instead of being salty about it.
(8) Always be true to yourself
If you don’t stay true to your beliefs, who are you?
In this hyperconnected world, it’s very easy to lose yourself. Every day we spend looking at social media, we either get jealous seeing other people or get upset listening to targeted advertisements that tell us we are not good enough.
It’s very easy to just “go with the flow” or get peer pressured in such an environment. In the short term, it might feel okay to do that. However, in the long run, you start suffering from an identity crisis.
That’s why it’s always worth it to be true to yourself. Know who you are and what you believe in, and live your life by those ideals and principles.
(9) Consistency beats everything else
You won’t always be motivated.
You won’t always enjoy doing the same thing over and over again.
You won’t see progress every day.
It still pays to be consistent. Only by being consistent with something can you truly achieve greatness.
There’s this great quote by Jacob Riis:
When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing on it. Yet at the hundred and first blow, it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it — but all that had gone before.
Be consistent with whatever you want to achieve. That’s the best way to get there eventually.
(10) Don’t always count on having self-discipline
Being self-disciplined can be exhausting. Don’t count on it all the time.
Instead, design your environment and develop good habits to keep you on track.
A good example is keeping cookies and chocolates in your apartment. If your goal is to live a healthy life, you might start developing discipline so that you can resist having these chocolates around your apartment.
Some days you will succeed, some days you won’t. Even when you succeed, it will be difficult with these delicious chocolates starting at you 24/7.
Instead, design your environment to make it easier on you. Just don’t buy unhealthy snacks and chocolates. If you get rid of its presence in the first place, you don’t need strong self-discipline to steer you clear.
(11) Reading lets you learn from 100 people’s experiences without living their lives
You can only live and learn from the one life that you got.
Reading lets you learn from the experiences of people who came before you, and people who are living life right now.
The more I read, the more I realize how little I know about the world. That’s another reason to keep reading.
(12) Traveling helps you create memories
One of the best ways to create memories and really live life is by traveling to new places with friends and family.
Looking back at the last couple of years, most memories that stick out to me are of times when I went to places with friends and family.
(13) Your mindset is literally the most important thing you have
You can’t control everything that happens to you, but you can control how you decide to react to things.
I am not sure which book or podcast taught me this, but it has really transformed the way I live life.
Throughout the year, things have happened to me that I didn’t necessarily enjoy. I didn’t plan on many things happening. But they did.
If it was a couple of years ago, I would have been unhappy and played the victim. That’s not me anymore though.
Now, I only get upset when things that are in my control don’t go my way. Other than that, I stay in control by choosing to react positively.
(14) Life has a funny of working out…or not
Sometimes life works out for you, sometimes it doesn’t. It works in mysterious ways.
I am really happy in life right now. However, if you asked me a couple of years ago if this is where I saw myself, I would have sworn that I didn’t.
Life has a funny way of making things work out for you in the long run.
I stopped questioning the small losses I take over the course of time and tell myself that things are going to work out somehow in the long run.
There’s an interesting quote by Steve Jobs that I hold close to my heart:
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.
(15) I Know Why I Like Making Money
I have always enjoyed monetizing my hobbies.
I have always worked hard to make more money.
I get happy when I get a raise. I get happy when my small side hustles make some extra money.
Surely, I love spending money then, no?
Not really. I always wondered why I do things that make more money, yet tell people that I don’t care about money.
I like the peace of mind having money gives me. I realized that firsthand this year.
If you look at my lifestyle, I can live on very little. I don’t value material possessions. Buying things doesn’t make me happy.
It’s the mental peace I get knowing that I have enough to survive for some time if things hit the ceiling tomorrow. And I can’t put a price on that feeling.
(16) I love building things
I really enjoy building things that people can use and get value out of.
Whether it’s through writing, creating videos, or just working on a product that people use every day — there’s something about the act of building things for people that I really like.
In the past couple of years, I have created many digital products and apps, without any intention of monetizing them. Today, I spend countless hours writing and creating videos.
Why do I do these? I love creating things that people get value out of. I will continue doing it.
(17) From a software engineer to an engineering manager
If you asked me a couple of years ago if I wanted to get into management, I would have told you “Hell no!”. I loved being an engineer. However, this year I did the transition from a software engineer to an engineering manager.
I have loved it so far! I am sure I am not as good a manager as I was an engineer, but I am willing to put in the time and effort to become the best manager that I can be.
I am sure you will hear more from me about management in the coming years.
(18) Plans can go out the window when life happens…and that’s okay
I am obsessed with planning things out meticulously.
I also understand that most of the time things don’t go according to plan.
However, it’s the act of planning that helps you prepare for life when life decides to take you on a rollercoaster ride.
That’s why I still plan no matter what.
Also, there’s the fact that I am a productivity and planning geek, and doing these give my life some purpose. But we will let that one slide.
(19) Don’t stress about things that are not in my control
I am sure I have said this before, but it’s worth repeating here.
It takes time to develop this, but once you do, you will be a much happier person.
(20) I crave autonomy
Above all, I crave autonomy.
I like living life on my own schedule. That’s why I love working at a company that’s remote-first, and also like the trust I get at work to do things my way.
That’s also the reason I love making money because it gives me the freedom to live life on my own terms.
I hope you found this a valuable read and have some takeaways that you can go ahead and implement in your wonderful lives.
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