Written by Nguyen Le

Despite all the obstacles I've had in my life - the death of loved ones, crushing family debt, work stress, I've lived through my 20's with much joy and happiness. And now I'm living out my 30's. I still have so much more to learn, experience, see, do, give, feel and accomplish. Thought I'd take a moment to reflect and share some thoughts in this post. A retrospect on some of the lessons I've learnt from my time on this giant spinning rock. I hope you enjoy and can derive some meaning from some of these lessons 🙂

1. Happiness, Freedom and Contribution.

That’s the 3 pillars that I predicate all my actions on. Does this make me happy? Does this bring joy and happiness to others? Does this buy freedom and time? How light and free is life? What am I contributing to the world? What causes can I help and contribute to? How can I empower and share happiness, freedom and a sense of contribution to my family, friends and the people I influence?

Having a set of principles is important. That way you can navigate a very purposeful life that is a truer expression of who you are and who you strive to be. Pause and listen to yourself. Don’t get caught in being busy, when you should be still. Blindly following peoples pipe dreams is a road to disatisfaction. These 3 things keep me in check and bring clarity in times of uncertainty.

2. Gratitude leads to happiness

Always strive to be better. Kaizen is important. But also be appreciative of where you are. How far you’ve come. That you are *alive*. That the everyday things that you take for granted are pure miracles in an of themselves. Take a moment to appreciate those things you’ll be happier for it.

Which leads back to those core values.

3. Don’t worry about what other people think

Navigate life on your terms. Listen and absorb what people have to offer you. But don’t do things to impress other people, for status or to boost your ego. Those are fleeting things. Also don’t fit into a mold for society's expectations just because you feel you have to. “Lions don’t lose sleep over the opinion of sheep.”

4. Don’t try to be impressive to other people, by your wealth, what house you live in or what car you drive. But by being compassionate and lighting up someone else’s life.

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

I’m not a hippie, but the older I get the more this becomes important. There’s so much toxicity in the world, be that small change that makes other people feel important. Don’t force your happiness or values on to others. But listen and help.

5. It’s ok to go against popular opinion and doing what everyone is doing.

Play and live life to the beat of your own drum. You’re a designer, design the life you want. You’ve had the privilege and opportunities to do just that so don’t waste it. Just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean you should conform.

6. When you think you’ve got life figured out, just know that it’s what works for you only in this very moment. You don’t really have it figured out because life will always throw unexpected things your way both good and bad. Be ok with that.

7. Learn, Learn, Learn. 

Why 3 times? Because you have to learn on top of what you think you've already learned and learn on top of that 😉 You have to keep learning. It doesn’t stop after school.The world is full of wonderful lessons on whatever topic you can dream of. Keep learning and apply what you learn. If done right your life will drastically improve in so many different areas. The seeds of knowledge that you plant today harvest into wonderful fruits and outcomes in to the future.

8. Listen to music, watch good movies, read a great book appreciate good design and the arts.

There’s something about human connection and true expression that just really captures the heart. Can’t explain it, but there’s good vibes when other people's art and storytelling touch your very core.

9. Everything is a game 

I like designing and doing good work. So I too treat it like a game. I’m serious about my work but I am not serious about myself. Everything is play. I like making money it’s a fun game. I like the highs and the lows. So I treat it like a game that you learn about. Running a business, starting something stupid. Life and Work as play.

10. You’re going to be wrong a lot, make a lot of mistakes. Learn from them, they are some of life's greatest lessons.

11. You don’t have to be perfect

You’re different and that’s ok. There is no perfect. Everyone is just trying to do their best.

12. Find passion in what you do

12. Find passion in what you do

Never had any idea what I was going to do with my life. Serendipity lead me to design, something I’ve always had an interest in but was it a possible career? Having fallen into this industry, it’s hard to call this passion work sometimes. And that is a wonderful blessing. Work your ass off and find an angle where market value intersects with your passion and you’ll be golden.

13. Travel and see the world

The world is a wonderful kaleidoscope of different cultures, sites, and cuisines. I never dreamed in my childhood that I’d have the opportunity one day to visit the places I’d seen in books or saw on TV. The world was so big then. I was an immigrant kid from suburbia.

Got on the plane for the first time in my life in 2008 with my then girlfriend/now wife. And then we began to travel and experience different countries bit by bit. These experiences and memories are something that go beyond a dollar value and we will cherish them for the rest of our lives.

14. You’re going to be wrong a lot

15. Do your best to be a good husband, father, son, brother, friend, person

Be good to the people around you. Those closest to you and those furthest from you. Some days you will fail but do your best everyday. Relationships are what matter in life.

16. Money is important up to a certain level, after that it’s about buying freedom and allowing you to do and create the things you want to do. Don’t buy into the materialistic ego trap.

17. Anything hard is worth doing.

So many times I’ve had turning points in my life that felt so hard. Almost insurmountable.But when looking back they were some of the best things that could’ve happened to me. Because they built so much of my character. Sometimes things suck or are difficult, but out the other end where that tunnel of light is, it makes the victory so much sweeter. Learn to appreciate the hurdles that you face they are blessings in disguise.

Things can become extremely hard at any given moment. Be prepared for it.

18. Make sure that if you were to die today you’d look back with a life well lived without too many regrets

I definitely don’t want to die, but if it were to happen today. Looking back I’ve done more than I’ve ever hoped to and experienced so much. Start doing the things that are important to you, so that when you look back you don’t regret not taking chances and doing the things that brought you joy.

19. You’ll underestimate what you can do in 10 years and overestimate what you can do in 1 year. Anything is possible if you find the right mentors, have the right framework, keep learning and execute as you go.

20. Exercise and move around, there’s a zen in sports and movement

21. Don’t be so serious

I was probably more serious when I was in high school than I am today. Being an adult doesn’t mean you have to act a particular way. Lighten up a little. Laugh a little or a lot 🙂

22. Doing your best work is extremely satisfying

Do your best is so cliche. But when working, when designing, when you truly put in your best effort and put everything into it. It’s the truest form of expression you can give and in that process you find flow.

23. Be a creator

Make things. The world is waiting for you.

24. Being a parent is the worst and the best thing to ever happen to you.

It’s a lot like life with ups and downs. But in those pockets of clarity there is something transcendent and almost spiritual. That you and your partner bought these wonderful humans into the world, as they look and smile at you with all their innocence wonder and hope. And it's indescribable.

25. Be kind to people. Provide value to the world and other people.

Not always easy, particularly when people screw you over. But it’s in those moments that your character should be tested. Stand for what you believe in, but be kind to people.

26. Sometimes when you are young, things feel insurmountable or so difficult, but looking back it wasn’t that big of a deal. And if it was a big deal it was actually a blessing in disguise as it helped you build character and conviction

27. Everything is a work in progress keep moving forward

Nothing stays still or the same. I was a different person 10 years ago, 10 years before that my values and views weren’t even formed yet. You will constantly evolve. Don’t be so fixed in your ways.

28. Love

Love your wife, love your children, love your family, your father, your mother, your brothers, your in laws, your friends, strangers, the world. And learn to love yourself. Because when you do that you will have more to give.

At times I am still very guarded but I am learning to open up my heart.

29. Design and being creative is something I hope to practice and do for the rest of my life – who knows if this conviction will change I’m only 11 years in.

30. Give and you shall receive

Learn to be a giver. Give without expecting anything in return. When you touch enough lives and provide people with enough value, something magical happens.

31. You are constantly learning. You have it all figured out. You have nothing figured out. “The more you know, the more you realise how much you don’t know”.

But that’s the entire point, the journey IS the ‘THING’. Everything can change in a moment, you will die. Someone you love will die. Life's going to throw more insurmountable hurdles your way, but it will also reward you with the greatest joys when you learn to open your eyes and heart to find them. 

Is this a complete list? Probably not. But does it matter? Not really. Those are my 31 lessons. And why 31? I wrote these 31 lessons when I turned 31 years old. I'm 35 now and the lessons still hold true. I hope you find something interesting in there. Feel free to agree or disagree 🙂