Lessons from Year 15

Over the past few months, I have come across many articles on the internet titled “Birthday Notes”. These are written by the writers who compile their major life lessons every year on their birthday for reflection. I have decided that I’ll do it for myself too. Many people have done it every year consistently and all those articles have accumulated over time and they serve as a way for them to track their mental growth. Plus it just takes a little effort to write them.

Today being my fifteenth birthday, here are some major things I’ve learnt in the last year. The year has been fairly educative and boring at the same time but staying at home has given me the time to learn many new things and explore my interests. At this stage, I feel young and ambitious. I am feeling the slight transition to being an adult. I’m also noticing how stupid and uncertain adult life is. Things aren’t as well planned as I expected them to be. It seems like one of those video games in which you move ahead and destroy the rocks as they appear, one at a time. You don’t know what’s coming ahead and are just going with the flow.

Never mind, here are some of my reflections from Year 15:

#1 – Starting things is the hardest yet the most important part

Always. The starting is the most difficult part of doing things. It’s different when you don’t have a choice, you ‘have’ to do it then. This is the reason we work better with deadlines. It’s particularly hard when you have the power to chose. It takes a tremendous amount of willpower to overcome the friction this choice gives you.

A few months back, I remember making up my own character called the ‘Dithering Devil‘ (by the way, he’s one of the coolest things I’ve made up). He symbolizes the part of our brain that makes us overthink and tells us to wait for the perfect time. Let me tell you, the perfect time to start something doesn’t exist. It’s important to start it in order to move forward. The practical way to do this is something called The Ten Minute Rule, here’s an excerpt from an article discussing this:

“Sit down and do the work for the next 10 minutes. You can set a timer if you want. Once the 10 minutes are up, you can then decide whether or not you will continue. Nine times out of ten, you will decide to keep going. It’s as simple as that. Honestly, this is the way I go about beating procrastination. When I don’t feel like writing an article, I say to myself: “I’m going to sit down and start writing for the next 10 minutes.” Ninety per cent of the time I get into a state of flow and continue typing away for the next hour.”

#2 -Extracurricular Activities and Friends are as important as grades

Beside Academics. one of the things I have struggled with is discovering my side hustles, everyone seemed to have something – sports, music, dance. It seemed as if I am “the jack of all trades, master of none”. I had dabbled with every skill but never seemed to stick with one with focus. Mostly because I wasn’t interested enough to make it my thing.

During the last year, I discovered something new about myself – I liked learning about new things. I enjoyed reading articles about completely random things, listing to podcasts online and taking my notes. This led to me starting this personal website/blog. Honestly, I don’t have a writing plan – I just read stuff and write my opinions and learnings as blog posts. I finally have something I am serious and passionate about, still not completely sure about my future profession but we’ll figure it out on the way.

Personally, I feel that grades do matter but they matter far less than we think they do. It’s great if you can create a balance between academics and your social stuff. It feels like this is the time to make friends and indulge in fun activities you can look back to later. I always say that I don’t have many friends but the ones I do are quite genuine. Most of the friends I’ve made till now are by enrolling in extracurricular activities and I suppose we connected because we have similar interests. It’s all about not being afraid to put yourself out there.

#3 – It’s easier to focus on what you lack than what you have

I apologise for being so cheesy but I had to include this. This year made me realise how grateful I am in every single manner. Especially after seeing so many people suffer around me due to the second wave of Covid in India. So many people have died, suffered from poverty, not being able to get proper health care, loneliness, depression… I have seen none of it and I am extremely grateful for it.

It’s a privilege to be able to lead a chill and easy life. But still, it’s human nature to focus on what we are lacking than being happy about how we are blessed with. I have learnt a lot about gratitude in the past year and couldn’t have asked for a better life. Everything is just perfect. A practical tip-off that worked for me was actively thinking about the little things that make my life better each day. I regularly do it using the Five Minute Journal App and I recommend trying something similar for yourself.

#4 – Adapting Simplicity and Avoiding Complications and Clutter

Something happens to my brain when I complicated things. All I have is a big ‘No’ to anything that stresses me out. It’s not always a good thing as it often holds you back but I can’t help it. Last year, I got myself out of a really popular course and it has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It felt like a joker who juggled ten balls at once and finally got to keep them down.

When you don’t pay proper attention, things start piling up with clutter. It takes some amount of effort to keep things simpler but it increases mental clarity and makes them more manageable. The power of Simplicity is utterly underrated. I have learnt that it’s important to keep less but keep what you need. Otherwise, the brain will be having fifty tabs open and you won’t know where the music is coming from.

Steve Jobs, the late CEO of Apple once said, “That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

#5 – Start a blog, YouTube channel, podcast, anything else

This one has been the most impactful. Seriously, the pandemic has given us enough time to create some form of digital presence. I created this personal website during this time and it was a great decision. It’s like entering a rabbit hole learning new skills and discovering loads of amazing things. It can be a blog, YouTube channel, Instagram page, podcast or anything else. The ‘make it public’ attitude works well as there’s a sense of enforcement to make things better when it’s public.

The key idea here is just creating a place on the Internet where you can put in your work and showcase it for people to see. Don’t expect overnight success, just do it consistently with passion. It’s 2021 and there’s some form of community for everything, you’re just a few clicks away from finding them. I have learnt that having an online presence is simpler than it looks but at the same time it’s life-changing and leads to many new connections and opportunities later in future.

#6 – Practice and Repetition, both are crucial for Skill Development

Recently, I wrote a few articles about the equation of Skill Development which is Practice + Repetition. Even for learning new information for an exam, you need to practice and consume the material again and again until it sits in your long-term memory. This is the difference between learning and memorization. Cramming some answers is not effective as they will fade away with time. Even to become better at any skill, let’s say painting – You go through multiple bad attempts to finally have something you’re proud of. No one is ‘naturally’ good at anything.

I have also learnt how important it is to make mistakes and use them as your learning curves. If you don’t make mistakes and try to do everything perfectly, you will never learn. It feels great when you go from a four to an eight and it happens because you worked on those blank gaps to become better at it. This is called the ‘growth mindset’. Making mistakes also makes you more experienced. If you have always been perfect, failure will strike you harder than it does to other people. To be experienced, you need to see both sides of the coin and then accelerate over time.

That’s it. Seeing how much I have learnt and grown in the last year makes me so happy and proud of myself. I am extremely grateful to have you reading this and be a part of my journey. Looking forward to learning more meaningful things in the future and sharing them here. :)