50 Things I Pretend To Know Now That I Am Nearing 50

Every day I realize more how stupid I am. It's OK to be stupid. But when I was 18 I thought I was a genius. Now I realize I'm an idiot.

Here are the other 50 or so things I realize as I get older. I list this just for me. Because my memory is getting worse every day so I might have to refer back to this list.

1) You only retain 1–2% of anything people teach you in a class or in books.

2) Experiences are more valuable than goods.

3) Who your spouse will be is the most important career decision you will ever make.

4) Three skills to money: Making it, Keeping it, Growing it. They are very different skills.

5) Having kids is horrible. But having kids is wonderful.

6) Sleeping eight hours a day is really important. Regardless of the scientific reason.

7) Eat smaller portions. Every year you live, reduce portion size. Else you get fat no matter how much you exercise.

8) Try really hard to not care what people think. This is too hard for me but I’m learning.

9) Business is about creating value. No value = no profits = no business. Don’t believe your own hype.

10) Google people before you meet them.

11) Ask questions at a rate of 10:1 of giving answers.

12) Pretend everyone is your child and he/she is about to die tomorrow. Then you will listen and be nice.

13) Anger is not a real emotion. It is fear clothed. Figure out what you are afraid of before you get angry.

14) Reinvent every five years or you'll get bored.

15) Try to be creative once a day. Creativity is a muscle. There’s no such thing as inspiration.

16) Gratitude and complaining/blaming can’t exist in the same brain at the same time.

17) All diets are BS. Avoid processed sugars. Eat less.

18) When you read, you can absorb the entire life of another person in a few days. Might as well read a lot.

19) Happiness = Reality / Expectations

20) The 5/25 rule. List the 25 things you want to do in life. Separate out the 5 most important from the other 20. NEVER look at the other 20 again. They are only distractions.

21) Napping is fun.

22) Sex is a painkiller.

23) War is never justified.

24) Ability is 99 parts skill, one part talent. Talent is the ignition and skill is the oil.

25) The only math you need is: add/divide/multiply in your head. And basic probability and statistics and percentages.

26) Watch a lot of comedy. Try to watch comedy every day. Laughter cures diseases.

27) If someone’s feet are angled away from you while they talking to you then they don’t want to talk to you.

28) Alexander the Great doesn’t care (right now) that Alexandria was named after him.

29) The Bible, The Bhavagad Gita, Buddha, The Koran, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, are all the same book.

30) If you are OK at one thing and OK at another thing then you can be the best in the world at the intersection.

31) When you write, pretend you are talking to someone bored and you are trying to keep them interested sentence by sentence.

32) When bored…do what you are most scared of or embarrassed by…in bed.

33) Insecurity is good. Confidence is porn.

34) This is a job: You create X in value: Your boss takes 10% of that. The company takes 10% of that. Taxes take 40% of what’s left. Housing takes 1/3 of what’s left. Eating, commuting, one vacation a year, clothes, takes almost all of what’s left. Which is why we most people have no savings.

35) Thomas Jefferson raped slaves but "Trump is Hitler" and "Hillary kills people."

36) We don't have any clue who the richest man in the world is right now.

37) Isaac Newton created Calculus. But also believed in Alchemy. You can’t be smart if you don’t do a lot of stupid things.

38) Richard Branson started Virgin Air by putting up a sign when his plane was cancelled, selling tickets. He used the money raised from the tickets to rent an airplane. You can start an airline like that also.

39) NYC had a huge environmental problem in the 1890s. The city was going to be buried by manure. No technology that existed could solve the problem. 20 years later cars solve the problem. Don’t try to solve every problem today.

40) Quantity is more important than quality. Quality is a byproduct of quantity. Picasso created 50,000 words of art.

41) The fewer things you own, the fewer things own you.

42) The more good things you do, the more people will hate you (but reverse not always true).

43) If you meet someone who you know hates you, shake their hand, smile, and pretend you don’t remember their name.

44) The prequels were not as bad as you think. Don’t be a generational elitist.

45) Nobody knows how World War I was started. Nobody remembers when Charlemagne was born. History books are just one slice of facts and we can only eat so much.

46) Opiniontainment.

47) Paleo people didn’t eat meat. They ate bone marrow, and only rarely.

48) Physics and most of biology are just opinions that will change every few years.

49) To make someone happy: tell them they can have what they want, tell them it’s not their fault they don’t have it, blame someone else, then you can persuade them of what you want (e.g. see “Trump”)

50) There is always the good reason and then there is the real reason (e.g. excuses a teenager will give you. excuses an employee will give you).

51) If someone can’t answer a question then they are lying (e.g, “where were you last night?” “I was out with friends” did not answer the question.)

52) 1% compounded every day is 3700% in a year. Figure out the 1% you want to improve on every day.

53) 42

Please add to the list...


Related post: The Ultimate Guide To Your 20s, 30s, 40s, And 50s

  • David

    If someone you don’t like wants to spend time with you, say no. You don’t have to think “I hate that person” or “I am a bad friend”, you can just think, “We’re both flawed, we’re not compatible, and that’s okay”.

    • The reverse holds true also – if you want to spend time with someone but they don’t want to spend time with you, accept it without being hurt and move on.

    • Jacob Martin

      Exactly. Value your limited time, instead of torture your self.

  • kayumochi

    When I was in my late 20’s I read that as humans age caloric requirements decrease yet nutritional requirements remain high. This stayed in the back of my mind and as the years went by I simply ate a little less than the year before without every becoming obsessive about it or even giving it much thought. Now I am 52 and still have the same body size and shape. People tell me I look about 35. It works.

  • Ted Scarborough

    Don’t regret! When you do something stupid, it’s like getting hit with an arrow. Get up and keep going. Regretting it for 20 years is like taking the second arrow. That arrow will kill you!

    One of yours that is a favorite of mine. How’d you leave it off?

  • Mayank Pratap

    A small typo in spelling of “Bhagavad” not “Bhavagad” :P

  • Whoaaaaaaa

  • I don’t understand 32 or 33. :(

  • Mollie Altucher

    I’m not so sure about 7… Just eat fruits and vegetables… You know this!

    • Hmm, and now I know that as I near 50 I have to pay more attention to my two growing daughters!

  • Girl & Duck

    Lol! Always brilliant. I want to steal 31 for my creative writing students. Is that okay? ;-)

  • Warwick Absolon

    Don’t ever leave fun to find fun.

    • Simon Lindgaard

      This is a golden nugget. Never thought about it, but it is oh so true.

  • Roland Decker

    “Most limits are self created”. Awesome post as always James.

  • Matthew G. Bailey

    You inspired me to write my own 32 tips I’ve “almost learned” from 32 years… as it was my birthday a couple of days ago. This really broke me out of a writing funk to. thanks James. http://www.livelimitless.net/32-tips-ive-almost-learned-from-32-years

  • Ask yourself “why” often, and think very hard about the answer–whether it’s your answer or someone else’s. It can be difficult to tell the difference.

    Thanks, James for another great post.

  • Shantanu Saptarshi

    Believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see,

  • Your posts are so good James, that every time I think that I need to get to work, I see your post and try to ignore it but can’t, it just resonates in every way possible. I love your writing and your authenticity the most. X

  • Wayne Nef

    “A small leak can sink a large boat.” – Ben Franklin

  • PC

    Hey James, great list, number 13 is my favorite. 50) Telling yourself no “that never works out” is wisdom. Even when you want to do it.

  • Matt

    Your best article I have read…insightful, funny, and oh so true! Good stuff!

  • Watcher

    #49-Trump, yes. Also all politicians everywhere all the time.

    Rule# __ Don’t be a lazy ass. Except sometimes.

  • Being yourself and not pretending to be someone else won’t make you a lot of friends. But it’ll make you the RIGHT friends.

  • Leslie Hickcox

    Stay away from people who do crappy things to you.

  • Eric Wentworth

    I would include:

    Never have business partners…especially friends.

    Write a book…people will think you are smart.

    f you marry at 25 and want to know what your wife will look like in 40 years, just look at the mom. If you can get excited about the prospect of sex with someone who looks like mom…go for it.

    With real estate agents, there’s never a bad time to buy a home.

    All the “cute” things your wife did when you were dating will drive you fucking crazy once you’ve been married ten years.

    Once you turn 50 you also become invisible to women under 25 years old.

    There’s a 90% chance a man’s hair will either be gone or gray by 60,

    • Simon Lindgaard

      wow.. I would not follow the advice of such a bitter man.

      How are you gonna grow beyond your limits if you don’t involve others?

  • John Brudenell-leech

    -there’s no such thing as starting, only re-starting
    -breathing is a barometer of how you are feeling, can you breath deeply?
    -Don’t take one thing out on another, if you are annoyed about something, don’t take it out on your children
    -get the balance between blame and responsibility right and avoid “i should have”
    -imagine what it would be like if you could only do things you said you would do that day, instead of avoiding them. good news is – your in charge, bad news is-your in charge
    -be gentle with yourself

    thnks James love your work

  • Tom Mosher

    Relatonships, arguments: You can be right or you can be happy. It’s much harder, but worth it, to choose happy.

  • Daniel Ajumobi

    Number 3 Struck Me!
    Love Your Works!
    Kudos!

  • Great Post! Thanks for sharing… ;-)

  • Charles Warnock

    Life should be more like the movies. Movies should be more like the previews.

  • Josh

    Cuddle with someone, or at least something, every day.

  • Josh

    Credit is usually unnecessary. Credit scores are sometimes important. It sucks.

  • – Your children can never love you as much as you love them.
    – Everything comes cheap, fast or good – pick two.
    – Don’t look back – you’re not going that way.

    In regards to item #42 on your list – for every action there is a re-action so naturally no good deed goes unpunished. As always, thanks James, for providing us with helpful insights. #40 was an, “Aha!” for me.

  • Loved this James… A major takeaway for me.
    40) Quantity is more important than quality. Quality is a byproduct of quantity. Picasso created 50,000 words of art.
    (Also, I’m assuming you meant “works” not “words”).

  • ronz91

    can someone elaborate on 32 and 33 for me?

  • Michael Cherock

    lists grow longer the older we get

  • Stephen Hunt

    Never rub another man’s rhubarb.

  • Gabi Lopez

    Stop looking for answers, you are living the answer… just find the right question (p.e. changing “why” por “what is it for…”)

  • Tami

    The most important story is the one you believe.

  • Blue Phantom

    “Pretend everyone is your child and he/she is about to die tomorrow. Then you will listen and be nice.”

    I laughed harder than I should have.

  • Lil Peck

    Life begins at 50.

  • Brent Spychalski

    It is a fruitless pursuit to do lifehacks for the sake of trying to be more productive or get rich.

  • Great post – considering that I am now a little over a week from being 50! And I love number 53 :)

  • love #53 and #43

  • Alisha Peck

    Never waste someone’s time Always offer time saving solutions. For the greatest gift is that of the most precious commodity known to man, time .