Learn From Others Mistakes

Jinkx Monsoon By Chad Sell
We all make mistakes in life, and it's actually a very healthy thing to do provided that you learn from them. Learning helps our brains stay sharp and keeps our life fuller. Occasionally someone close to you makes a mistake that affects their life so profoundly that it touches yours, you realize that you never want that to happen to you. Sometimes it's a parent or a sibling, and other times it can just be a friend or coworker. Either way, you see their mistake and you make sure that it will never happen to you.

But there's already a lot of good advice that you hear everyday that most people ignore, I know that I did. It's so common and you hear it all the time that for some reason we just tune it out like, "Blah, blah, blah, I've heard that grandpa, of course I wouldn't do that." But we go ahead and do it anyways. We think that the older generations are telling us something so obvious that we of course would never do it ourselves. Here are some common ones that you should avoid, many of these I did myself, learning the hard way instead of from others.

Just because you've earned it doesn't mean you need to spend it

Just because you have a steady paycheck doesn't mean you should be spending it all. Also, just because you're saving X% into your retirement doesn't mean you should view what's leftover as discretionary spending money. Back when I decided to cut the cord and move to a TV with an antenna that could stream stuff off of the internet I knew I was going to be buying a fairly expensive TV. I don't regret that decision at all. After a few years of not paying a cable bill I have more than paid off my TV. But I do regret getting a 3D TV, I figured I was already spending over $700, so why not spend a little more for 3D? I'll tell you why not. It's a novelty I've never used.

I also used to collect art, for a while it seemed like every few months I would purchase something new for my walls. I loved it, but I didn't need it. I filled up my walls and had no more room to put things but I still bought more. I needed to learn where to draw the line but I didn't. I will still buy something on occasion, but for the most part I don't make the big purchases anymore. Mostly just the smaller things that I enjoy. Of course, now if I want to buy something I have to take something down to make room for it, so I guess that helped curb the problem.

Eat Healthier

At some point your body will tell you, "You're doing it wrong!" You can't eat like you did back in high school or even college. When you get older you need to start eating healthier because your metabolism will slow down as you age. It's a lot easier to get out of shape when you're older, so do yourself a favor and start eating better. The key word is "better" not "eat like a nutritionist would." And if you are very unfortunate, then factors such as heart burn may physically punish you for not heeding this advise. I've been learning this the hard way the past few years. I used to be able to fill up on doughnuts for breakfast back in college, but now if I have more than one I just start to feel sick. I guess that goes for substituting all junk food for meals.... Something I may have done frequently before the age of 25.

Start Saving/Investing

There's a reason older people tell you to start saving for your retirement at your first job. Compound interest. Listen to this advise, please. And it's not just putting money into your 401(k), you need to actually save money outside of that for other things in life. What happens if you ever want to buy a house or have children. You need to learn to invest and the best way to learn is when you don't have a lot of money to lose. Don't buy risky assets, get a boring index fund so you sleep better at night. Even putting your money in the wrong investments is better than not saving your money at all. Too many young people suffer from savers block, don't be one of them!

Blindly Following the Standard "Steps in Life"

You know... Get married, buy a house, have children, buy a new car. Somehow these became milestones in life and I think you should question if they even apply to you. We are all different, just because you're at the age where your parents had children doesn't mean you have to do that now. Looking back I'm not sure if buying my house when I did was the best purchase. Had I waited a year the housing market would have crashed and I would have been a lot better off. But besides that perhaps I would have bought a smaller house with a smaller mortgage where I didn't have to live with roommates. Part of my reasoning was that I just followed the advise that owning was better than renting, but I've felt trapped the past number of years because it's a lot of work to sell a house.

Fun Fact: the word mortgage is derived from French words meaning "death" and "pledge". Are you sure you want to be making any eternal pledges yet?

Don't cash out your 401(k)

Sometimes learning what NOT to do is just as important as learning what to do. I've heard this advise at every job I've had when HR starts telling me about their retirement plans. Everyone says not to do this. Luckily I've never needed to do this, but I know that some people do. So avoid it at all costs, it can easily push back your retirement a few years, and when you're in you're 60's you'll probably be thanking yourself that you didn't cash it out to pay for that new car you wanted.

I'm Still Young and Invincible

A few weekends ago I went to a free outdoor hip hop music street festival over in Oakland. One of our friends saw the small skate park they setup so he decided to borrow someone's board and try to hit some of the big jumps. I honestly don't know how good of a skate border he was/is but the first thing he tried was to make the biggest jump in the course over a ladder.... Shortly thereafter he had to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance because he had a compound fracture in his wrist. There comes an age where you have to realize you have responsibilities outside of the current moment. That the possibility of severely damaging your body while having fun has to be weighed out.

Listen to the advise of older people, not because they are right, but they have the most experience in being wrong.

I've shared some of mine, do you have any others that you feel are easily ignored?

Related post - Learning from Our Mistakes: How to Kill Zombies


  1. I remember in high school and college, subbing junk food for meals. It took awhile before I realized diet affects EVERYTHING so it's smart to do it right.

    1. That is the one goal that I'm still struggling with. I'm eating better than I was in college but I still need improvement! I know it will help me feel better now and in the long run.

  2. I could name a lot of "mistakes" that I made, but I could also preach that I am where I am today because of it. Many of these mistakes were things I was told not to do either by society or by people I know personally. One would be marrying someone when I never wanted kids and he does. But then that raises a question about how I define success and mine is being able to live in the moments, rather than looking towards the end picture. Some things (I think) have a greater chance of failing you, like cashing out your 401K, getting 5 credit cards when you are 18, or eating crappy food all the time, but others, like bringing people into your life in certain ways when you are told that "it will only end badly" well, I tend to not look at the end as the success, but the success of the experiences along the way.

    You friend who hurt himself may not have been in the best shape to try what he did, but if we only set ourselves to our perceived limits, we may never reach an amount of success we are truly capable of. The possibility of getting injured along the way is possible, but then I guess it's really more about how one views the assumed risk versus the reward.

    1. Rags2Riches,

      Mistakes are good if you learn from them, that's actually what my zombie post was all about. It's called learning the hard way, but you can sometimes save yourself the trouble by learning from other peoples mistakes.

      Also, who says that living in the moment and keeping an eye on the end picture are mutually exclusive? I'm planning a vacation right now that perhaps 5 or 6 years ago would have costed about 70% of my annual savings (now it's not nearly as much though). I'm still living in the moment because it was a sudden decision to go based off of a dream (which I will post on later) but at the same time I'm still aware of what my end goal is. I'm not letting my goal of financial independence stop other things along the way.

      You're probably correct that some mistakes are worse than others like throwing all your money into penny stocks on a random tip might be worse than stopping contributions to your 401(k) to help pay for a child's college tuition.

      As for my friend who hurt himself, I just don't think he weighed the risk versus reward at all on that one. He may have had enough drinks to not think that one through. In that particular case the reward was fun, and maybe eternal 10 minutes of glory from the crowd near the skate park. Risk: Break something with no medical insurance, not be able to perform his regular job for weeks after.

      I think he could have just gone for smaller jumps and still had fun, there was no need to try to jump over a standing ladder. But that's just my opinion of it. I do think that setting goals beyond our perceived limits is a good thing to strive for. I actually just posted some thoughts on overestimation and underestimation.


  3. I used to fall into that trap of being "average." I saved up to my "match" and had some other savings and just figured I was golden. There was still so much excess fat I could easily cut out, but figured it was unnecessarily since I was doing what my "pros" said I had to do. Same with blindly following the standard steps... Also, now that I'm in my mid 30s or can I say late early 30s??? Yea, things aren't the same as a decade ago =(

    1. Yeah, I wish the first few years I was working I didn't follow the standard advise. The first years of saving compound the most so I shouldn't have wasted it on so much stuff that isn't around anymore.