11 most important things I learned in 2017

I am 24 years old and as a background, I own a design studio. I got into writing just recently and decided to commit to it. And as part of it, I would love to share with you my most important learnings for this past year. Every time some of these things happened to me I was angry or disappointed. But now as I have reflected on them and wrote an article about it, I feel like I learned a lot. And it gives a sense of satisfaction. So I decided that I will try my best to take out the most important lessons and write short paragraphs for each lesson I learned.

1. Do whatever you want

The famous quote from Steve Jobs that all these rules are made by people no smarter than you is becoming more obvious to me. Somehow I was thinking that people have it figured out on how to make money, how to be happy, how to be successful etc. But then you start realizing it’s all not true. I believe that doing whatever you want (don’t be an ass) is the way to go. By simply starting projects that you never did before or you always wished to do begin is a way of finding yourself.. I started Laroche.fm, a podcast show about design, business & creativity, as a need and desire to learn from other designers and business people on how they build products and run their business. And every time I finish recording an episode, I get goosebumps and such a positive energy inside. I think this is the feeling when you do something you love. So doing whatever you want, starting that company, project, launching that product, or service, that rock band is such a good way to go. Because you never know where it can lead and you live only once (spoiler).

2. Read philosophy

I had an interesting comment from the girlfriend of a friend of mine which said: “Oh, you read philosophy. So what does it teach? About the existence of God right?” I think most of us are still getting it wrong. Philosophy is a way of life, not really teaching you how to live. The best books I read on philosophy so far is Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and On shortness of life by Seneca. And every time I read a paragraph from one of these books, it makes me feel better. Why? Because I get the thought of “it makes sense now”. Philosophy and meditation come hand in hand. Having those quiet moments and reading about how someone describes an idea of something and depicts it from all perspectives is so refreshing. Philosophy is like a vacuum cleaner for your brain, cleans all the dust from it and gives you a fresh breath of air.

3. Reading is breathing

Frankly speaking, I hated reading books in school. Only a couple of years ago I discovered the true potential of books. It’s like having all these smart people near you when you need a piece of advice on what to do or how they did it. It may sound like a cliche and like all those click-bait articles which say that all successful people read a lot but I would like to add something different. If you don’t like reading, it’s because you did not discover your favorite book yet. I read because it helps to improve my business skills and know people a bit more. As Baltasaar Gracian famously said:

Many people spend time studying the properties of animals or herbs; how much more important it would be to study those of people, with whom we must live or die!

4. It’s about people

I will keep this one short because of previous point one of the places where you learn about it. Everything you do in life is about people. Anything you want to achieve in life is about people. To know people is to know life.

5. Set goals that scare you

Tim Ferris has a TED talk where he says that you should define your fears instead of your goals. I was skeptical about this in the beginning but now I get the idea after a year of failing at a lot of stuff. I, for example, had the fear of talking to strange people about different ideas, topics, etc. More or less introverted. But then I decided to make this fear as part of me and get used to it, so I started Laroche.fm. A podcast about design & business. Frankly, it scared me to the bones. The feeling of getting rejected all the time of people not wanting to do an interview scared me a lot. What am I going to talk with them? What am I going to do? What if it goes wrong? What if they don’t understand the question? What if the audience does not like it? etc. And one episode at a time, I still struggle with this, but it’s better now. Making fear part of my life is now like a ritual, and I get less scared with each episode. So I think we should tap into our fears more than our goals. Getting comfortable with uncomfortable is the way.

6. Friends (or family) & business is like a thin layer of ice on a lake

I have read and listened to so many personal stories on this topic, that you could potentially write a book titled “Friends & Business: A Thin Layer of Ice”. Look, it depends. I do not want to say that it does not work, there are some cases when it works, but eventually, all break up in the end. Why? People do not know how to set boundaries between what is really expected of each person, how much everyone should earn and based on what. But there is also another alternative, maybe you are simply not made to work together. It’s life and some things are simply meant to teach you a lesson and move on. I personally learned that it is not possible.

7. Zero expectations

Have zero expectations after you help someone. Have zero expectations for any type of relationship. Have zero expectations for any type of project you launch.If you let this sink in and make it as one of your personal principles, makes life so much easier. If you helped someone and he or she hit success in a couple of years and did not think about you, why bother? This is something that came a bit harder to me, but in the end, I got the lesson and helps me see things from a different perspective.

8. Small boxes are the heaviest

Do you know that small job that you have been asked to do for free? I mean, he is your friend, and it’s just a small job. But ends up being a full-time project that consumes more resources than you ever expected. This is something I did not get convinced in the beginning, so failed twice at it. But nevertheless, I learned my lesson and it is part of me right now. A few years ago, I read a story, written in the book “Design is a Job” by Mike Monteiro, which was this: “A kid got a job as an assistant to the mailman, to help him sort out the boxes out of the car when he delivers them. The mailman told him: “Kid watch-out for the small boxes”. The kid did not listen to him, but when they came to a location, the mailman gave him the big boxes first, which were easy to handle. But when he threw him a small box, the kid fell down, because it was the heaviest box in that car. The mailman laughed his ass off and said: I told you, kid.” The moral of it is pretty straightforward, but you have to know how to apply it in real life. How is that? Well, by failing actually. I did personally burn myself with a couple of clients before I fully understood this lesson. It is hard to know which small project or request is going to drain all your energy or resources. But you have to taste it before you can understand the true value of it.

9. Your ego will not get you too far

As already mentioned, I host a podcast Laroche.fm where I talk to different people about design & business. And an interesting part of this job is that you get to know the true side of people. Someone who achieved nothing significant so far, but have minor accomplishments, have a bigger ego than people who actually did something remarkable or are doing it. I once invited a design investor to the show (who, for reference, appeared only on a couple of podcasts) and he wanted to see what are my numbers (listeners). And he was not impressed by the number and refused by saying he is busy at this time with other stuff. On the other hand, I had invited a successful entrepreneur and CEO of a company who agreed to the invitation and even helped me to get a better quality episode that day. Frankly speaking, I was impressed of how humble some people can be. And you never know when 10 years later that person, maybe, will remember that day and help you back.

10. If you are in any type of business of selling services, get a lawyer

This lessons, same as small boxes, came to me only after I burned my ass a couple of times with wrong clients. Mostly it’s because again, you should have 0 expectations from people but always be prepared. Having a lawyer is like having a guardian angel in real life whom you can call and save your company a couple thousand dollars. And another good tip here is, never hire young lawyers! Never! Hire a young lawyer only if he is supervised by a senior one! Because you may hire a young promising guy or gal (for a cheaper price), but your competitor may have hired the lawyer who literally wrote the law on that specific business issue you are having. And of course, you lose in the end.

11. Patience

Frankly speaking, it will be weird to hear this from a young guy, but yes. I got the lesson that patience is absolutely key to anything in life. I still did not master it, and I think we need a life to master it, and for some, even a life is not enough. Russian’s have a good saying for this “a life to live, a life to learn”. Patience is about the long game in which you can’t cheat or take sprints. Patience is a key decision maker in any business deal, relationship — in anything that you want to be successful or achieve in the long-term. Or as there is another saying: “Warrior’s greatest weapon is patience”. I think I will write about this point every year because it’s something you can come back to it constantly. But the most important thing I learned this year with patience is that it can be an important element when doing a business deal. You are so close to finishing line and because you have been impatient, you lose the entire progress.

It was a great year and hopefully, the next one will bring more learnings to me. Thank you for reading and I hope you got something for yourself too.