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I’m Turning 30, Here’s What I Think I Learned In My 20s

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Blake Miller is a Partner and Director of Technology & Accelerator at Think Big Partners, a for-profit, entrepreneurial incubator based out of Kansas City. Read the original piece here.

I turn 30 in about a week. There I said it. It’s actually not that terrifying, but it does make you think about your life in a broad sense.

I look back on my 20s with no regrets. There was no shortage of good times, but like many others, I made a lot of boneheaded mistakes. I believe all experiences, good or bad happen for a reason. People come in and out of your life for a reason.

It’s only taken me roughly 30 years, but I think I’m starting to figure out that the reason is simple.

Everything happens so you can grow as a person.

I’ve changed drastically in the last 10 years. But the overarching theme I’ve learned is you must be kind to people. There’s always that guy in the bar, nobody knows what the other person is going through.

I think I’m far more mature and way less pretentious (douchey?) nowadays.

Our Instant gratification culture has screwed us. It’s easy to forget that who you really are isn’t instant, but a long, learning evolution of who you can become as a person over the passage of time.

I don’t write much, but this bookmark in life has made me thoughtful about my place on this tiny speck of blue in the cosmos.

Stay in constant pursuit of having your mind blown.

It wasn’t until I had the honor of being the godfather to my best friend’s daughter that I realized this.

She was a few months shy of two-years-old and when she walks into a room she has this expression of just awe on her face. It’s like she’s thinking, “What amazing thing could I learn about in here?” Then again, she could be just wondering if I had any graham crackers.

I’ve learned that I want to learn something everyday. I want to meet some entrepreneur that has some life changing, world changing idea with enough passion and ability to actually execute it. I want to travel the world and embrace other cultures. I want to share amazing experiences with the people I care about, experiences that the only way to describe it is mind blowing.

Relationships are everything.

I grew up hearing “You’ll get more done on a golf course than you would in a board room” and it’s always stuck.

I’ve learned that things, whether in business or in life get done because you have a relationship with someone. You treat them as a partner. Sometimes you have to give before you get, but you work together because you’ve found a common bond that brings you both together.

People are just people.

I’ve had the opportunity to do some pretty cool things so far in my life. I helped start an Arena Football team, worked five years in the Power & Light District entertaining thousands as a DJ. Helped start Think Big to change the way people build companies. In all of this, I’ve gotten to meet so many different people, from so many different walks of life.

What I’ve learned is that no matter the wealth, fame, social status, etc people are essentially the same. Everyone is worried about the same things. It’s their family, money, job, food, sex. They want to fit in, feel cool, and feel important. They all have anxieties, stresses and insecurities that plague them. They’re terrified of feeling or looking stupid.

People are just people, not any better or any worse than the rest of us.

Don’t waste your time on people who don’t treat you well.

People are just people but don’t tolerate people who don’t treat you well. Period. Don’t tolerate them for financial reasons. Don’t tolerate them for emotional reasons.

I’ve learned good relationships are hard to come by, that there’s no shortage of people to meet and friends to be made. There’s no reason to waste our time with people who don’t help us on our life’s path.

Take risks.

Unless you are already dead — mentally, emotionally, and/or socially — you cannot anticipate your life five years into the future. It will not develop as you expect. So just stop it.

I’ve learned that taking a risk is a powerful thing. If an opportunity presents itself you should take it. If you’ve been dreaming of starting a business you should just do it. Whatever the risk is, the worst thing that could happen is you fail and you don’t learn from your mistake.

Money shouldn’t drive you, experiences should.

Sure, money makes the world go round and when it comes to it, I want to make all of it. But to me, money is just a means to experiences and creating more opportunities for them.

Personally, I’m more interested in shared experiences I can have with others than lots of material things.

Have you ever gone on a trip with someone and had one of those mind blowing experiences that nobody would get unless they were there? You could go years without talking to that person, meet up and it’s like you never skipped a beat. I want more experiences like that with more family and more friends.

As an entrepreneur, I want to make more money so that I can fund more businesses. There is nothing like being a part of building a product or business that impacts millions of people’s lives everyday.

I’ve learned that money is a means. If you can make it while doing what you love, you should do it. If what you love just so happens to create once in a lifetime experiences, you should do more of it.

Never stop asking questions if you want to grow.

Can you believe that people actually thought the world was flat? How about that Pluto used to be a planet? These were universal truths that everyone believed as fact. It turns out not all facts are actually facts. We know that because people kept asking questions and challenging common belief.

I’ve learned that to really grow and evolve, you must always ask questions. You can never stop challenging your assumptions about how things “just are,” and learn to accept that sometimes things change and you have to grow with it.

You gotta take care of yourself.

I weighed 208 lbs 4 years ago. I was fat and I hated who I had become. I was always tired, always sick, and always sick of being sick and tired.

I made a decision that year for a life change. I figured if you can’t have control over the one thing in life (yourself and how you feel about yourself) then how do you expect to be a leader and help people?

I needed a lifestyle change. I needed an attitude change. I’ve lost nearly 50 pounds since then.

I’ve learned that if I want to achieve the things I want to achieve and help others the person it starts with taking care of yourself, both mind and body. Quit making excuses about why you can’t make it to the gym or why you are eating like shit. Your body is a machine and you should treat it that way.

Turns out that the only thing I really learned in my 20s is to never stop learning. Here’s to the next 30 years.

To read more about Blake and Think Big Partners, check out their website.

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