36 Lessons on the Way to 36 Years Old

Ryan Holiday
14 min readJun 16

The amount of times I had to do the math to see how old I was this year was alarming. Even as I wrote this piece, I had to check, 36, right? Wait, did I accidentally do 36 last year? I don’t know why, because this is definitely not old enough for senior moments, but I’d like to think that this is a sign that I’m living my life the right way.

Seneca had a great line. At the end of your life, he said, you should have more to show for it than just a number. My view is that if you love what you do, you lose track of time. That’s how I know I’m really in the zone on a book — the hours fly by, the days follow. 36 isn’t a big enough number that I should lose track of it, but then again, if I have packed a lot of living into those years, if they’ve all blurred together, maybe it is.

Anyway, today on my birthday, which also happens to be the 16th or 17th year I have written one of these birthday posts, I thought I would put together some lessons (or in some case, observations) I have picked up on the way to 36. Doing my best to pack a lot of living into these years, I’ve learned a lot — through both mistakes and experiences, successes and failures, by original discovery as well as by the experiences of others. (You can also check out/track the evolution of these lessons from my collections at 35, 34, 33, 32, 31, 30, 29, 28, 27, and 26).

–The word of the year for my wife Samatha and I has been LESS. Less stuff. Less distractions. Less screentime. Less commitments. Less so we can have more — more presence, more peace.

–As part of that, I made the difficult decision to call my publisher to push my next book a year or so. This was a massive clearance on my schedule — several hours a day did not have to be spent researching and writing on a project. Yet it was remarkable how little my life changed. Because tasks expand to fill the space, because it is so easy to say yes to other things. Less demands vigilance and discipline, perhaps even more effort than actually doing stuff.

–Which is to say that less is actually harder to do than more.

–I’ve caught myself several times, after getting out of the cold plunge, waiting for the shower to warm up before I jump in. I just got out of 38 degree water…and I’m waiting for the shower to be the perfect temp…

Ryan Holiday

Bestselling author of ‘Conspiracy,’ ‘Ego is the Enemy’ & ‘The Obstacle Is The Way’ http://amzn.to/24qKRWR