I guess you have no idea how old you are; yet, you know the number of years you’ve been alive. Your true age is equal to the amount of years you have left.

Let me explain:

If you’re 26 and you’re going to die next week, you’re older than an 80 year old person who has a couple of years left to live.

People sit on two sides of the fence when it comes to life. Some say it’s a time for exploration. Others say it’s a time to get serious about your path going forward.

I say it’s time to get serious about your path going forward regardless of how old you are.

Here are my tips for a full life I experienced and which I am still experiencing every day.

If I could travel back in time, here’s what I would tell the young 21 year old version of myself


1. Do not ever make the mistake of thinking that you can, or will, or have ever arrived.  Whether it is to a state of happiness, income, or mindset.  I had this mentality during crucial stretches of my twenties, to my own detriment.  Thinking you’ve ‘achieved’ is a static worldview and stunts your growth.  Come to terms with the fact that if you want to achieve, you can never stop trying.  If you’re not learning something every day, you’re stagnating or regressing.  The best companies in the world need to improve every day or be taken over by competitors, and I think there is something analogous in the human sense.

2. Don’t wait too longfor the right things to say, don’t wait for the ‘right moment’ to kiss the girl or hold her hand, don’t try to time these things.  Don’t wait for others to introduce themselves before you say hi.  Don’t wait for inspiration.  Take perseverance over inspiration every day.  Don’t follow your passion, follow your effort.

Forge forward despite the doubts, because often it’s all about the form – show up every day and chip away at the things that lay between you and your goals, 15 to 30 minutes every day.  Over 5, 10, 20 years, it will compound exponentially.

3. With every year, the immortal feeling you get on some nights as a young 20-year old depletes, goes away, disappears for months at a time.  In fact, there must be some kind of scientific, asymptotic limit here.  When you’re young, you have less skills and experience than older people.  But your only sure competitive advantage is energy and boldness.  Use it!

4. Beware of short-term emotional swings, and don’t do or say important things while you’re in them.  It takes practice to be self-aware, but it’s crucial.  Try to understand why you’re feeling the way you do.  It is easy when you are angry to believe that you are absolutely, 100% correct, and be vindictive and unyielding.  This will harm you in the long run, trust me, in both your professional and personal life.

5. Be grateful.  Every day you’re alive and breathing is another opportunity.  Do not squander it.  Be grateful for the small things.  This is a list of things that you will start having a greater and greater appreciation for, as you get older: peace. clairvoyance. focus. peace. parents. 30 minutes of uninterrupted free time. one full day without some ache or soreness or pain.  Live with a spirit of thanksgiving.

6Continuing the above point, eat RIGHT and EXERCISE.  Like I said, energy is a competitive advantage.  Starting from that premise and the premise that time is limited for everyone, you are able to accomplish more and be more productive with more energy.  Exercise creates energy in the long run, not depletes it.  This is not to say that you are trying to maximize ‘achievement’.  Energy goes hand in hand with other crucial things, like happiness.

7. Take some time before you ratchet up a lifestyle.  It’s a literal ratchet – it doesn’t go back down easily unless you remove the wrench entirely.  Don’t go into debt for possessions.  And do so cautiously for investments (including yourself).  Everyone is insecure about money, and if anyone really tells you their salary, it’s probably inflated.  Don’t spend too much time thinking about other people’s money.  Unless you’re in finance.

8. When you plan things, always plan buffers.  Everywhere.  Knowing that things will go wrong, expire, run over their limits, and planning for them, will keep you from being disappointed, frustrated, and nervous all the time.  Plan for things, somewhere, going wrong.

9Think carefully.  What do you do with all your free time? Nights and weekends.  If you won the lottery, this is what you would end up doing every day.  Think carefully.  I worked with a guy who walked away from his job, he’s now in his mid-50s with $100 million in the bank.  What does he do every day?  He calls into work every day to check up on things.

10. Stop worrying.  About everything.  The best point I’ve ever read about this is this incomparable quote by Twain: “Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe.”

11. Everything is about execution.  Dreams and visions are free.  Implementation takes place in the real world where friction and inefficiencies exist.

Professional Life

1. Don’t compare yourself to other generational cohorts.  I always hear people talking about this.  The last few years have proven that financial success can be cyclical, and that you can’t fight the cycle.  Sometimes you don’t even know where you are in the cycle.  Example: many people who graduated from my college about 10 years before me are millionaires.  People who graduated 5 years before me, just made the cut.  This is because they got into the choice jobs when things were hot and the economy was booming.  Things started going bad for my cohort four years into our career.  People who graduated 5 years after me, well, good luck.  The point is, you can’t control where you are in the cycle and comparing yourself to older (or younger) people is useless.  Another example is that when I read resumes of high school kids these days, I wonder if I could have got into college at all..

2. Don’t think that all routine is bad.  Senseless routine may be bad, but routine built with a rationale is powerful.  Routine may kill your enthusiasm when you’re working for someone else, but if you ever go into business for yourself, routine will absolutely preserve your sanity.  It goes hand in hand with automation.  Learn how to program…anything.

3. Learn how to communicate.  You’d be surprised at how many things can be solved by a good chart, report, or presentation.  After working for a few years, you’ll discover that the whole world is built on an infrastructure full of misdirection, inefficiency, and incompetence.  Cut through that and you’ll succeed.  By succeed I mean become known, become in demand, become indispensable, become valuable.

4As a knowledge worker, when you’re in business for yourself, the key is to have a sustained ability to concentrate for as long as possible. This ties into energy and happiness – notice a pattern here?   Also recognize that your energy will quickly deplete if you are working on things you don’t have the enthusiasm for.

5. Wherever you are on the totem pole, ladder, or entrepreneurship ecosphere, learn business.  By this I mean learn to think like a business owner. A lot of the slights, perceived faults, injustices, and malice that you assign to individuals and companies stem directly from the fact that a business is an economic engine, that the owners (your bosses?) are trying to optimize every day by balancing cash flows, about achieving consistency, exploiting loopholes, and trying to create cash flow out of nothing.  Business is as much an act of creation as anything else.  Knowledge of the overall business of business will not only generate understanding but help you start your own.

6. The more pain you solve for people, the more time you save and money you earn for your company, the better your prospects within the company as well as outside it.  I guess what I’m trying to say with point 5 and this one is that solving pain unlocks value.

“I see three categories. I look for companies that create efficiencies of time — service companies that make things quicker, that compress time. Then entertainment, games, movies that make time more intense, more intensely enjoyed. And finally, I look for companies that actually work to create more time for people, through medicine, extending longevity. Health care. I think really successful businesses fall into these three categories. Time is the one thing we only have so much of, and we don’t really know how much we have, actually. So assigning value to time is very reasonable and almost easy to do. I invest in that value.”

7. Remember that it’s all driven by sales and customers.  Especially when you’re wondering why the partners at your firm show up for 2 hours a day, have a client lunch and extravagant expense accounts, and make 20x your salary.  Or when you create this great startup that you, sample size of 1, believe is a great idea but are unable to get users for.  Sales and Customers.

8. Like I said before, your competitive advantage when you’re right out of school includes two things: enthusiasm/energy/boldness(don’t waste all of it on late night partying) and technical knowledge of new technologies, usually because older people have not had the time to learn things while in the workforce. That’s why your boss either can’t type, use Excel, write a proper email, and is still your boss.  Recognize this and exploit it.  And if you stay in a job, be wary of the technology point, because you’ll end up becoming one of these people.

Remember being poor enough so that you take nothing for granted, remember making life decisions at the gas pump, remember sleeping on couches and sofas.  Remember the feeling of hunger.  Remember how it drives you.  Remember so that you do not want to go back there again ever…. Remember it so that you are not scared of losing it all, remember so that you will be grateful for what you have.  In my best moments of clairvoyance, I always go back to the thought that it is better to be young and hungry than old and fat (metaphorically speaking).

Enjoy the ride of your life….


Written by

Ziad K. Abdelnour, Wall Street financier, trader and author is President & CEO of Blackhawk Partners, Inc., a private family office that backs accomplished operating executives in growing their businesses both organically and through acquisitions and trades physical commodities – mostly oil derivatives – throughout the world.