30 Things I Learned before 30

K Hodges
5 min readNov 26, 2020

Tonight marks the last hours of my twenties. If I’m being honest, the idea that the shift from ‘young upstart’ to ‘adult professional’ passed by so quickly is horrifying to me. Maybe the start of it was quitting my position at a respected cybersecurity firm to go make video games a few years ago. Anyhow, I’ve been making this list in my head all night, to y’know, fight off the realization that I’m at best 1/3 dead (or that I have another 30 years before retirement). These won’t be in any particular order. Some will be small, some will be poorly attempted profundity. These are mostly just long-term notes to myself, to be taken with a grain of salt and not necessarily applicable to anyone who doesnt have a tattoo of a slice of pizza.

  1. Many of the most meaningful friends came from unexpected places.

Some of my favorite people just kinda appeared. A kid who bummed a cig from me outside of a punk show 10 years ago ended up founding an activist community and introduced me to Stirner, the guy who worked at my local comic book shop ended up becoming a cherished mentor both in business and spirituality, and so many more.

2. The most important business conversations I’ve had were over beers.

I don’t think beer has anything to do with this, but ‘beer conversations’ have gotten me jobs, strengthened connections, resolved countless disagreements, and have turned professional relationships into lifelong friendships.

3. Many of the best things I’ve accomplished have started as a joke.

“I play a lot of league, I should just go work there”. “I should do a talk on AI security for shock value”. “This programming thing is fun, I should apply to defense contractors to meme”. I don’t know if it’s true for everyone, but something I’ve certainly found true is that listening to my own sense of humor rarely steers me in a bad direction… except for the times it did.

4. When you think you’re wise, you’re definitely not.

Careful with assuming that you have any amount of wisdom, you’ll end up writing medium articles that you cringe at years later.

5. Negative thoughts are great teachers, but not great navigators

Feeling shame, guilt, jealousy, anger, and so on, is probably unavoidable in life. When you dig within to find the actual root of these feelings, it usually reveals something useful. However, making decisions based on these negative feelings is something that had always steered me wrong. I see it so often, people’s political views shaped by shame and anger, people who abandon looking for love out of fear of loss, and so on.

6. Assuming positive intent is usually a good move*

I’m still learning this one. Some shit in my distant past made this seem impossible, even. But its worth it. When you get to a place in your life where you want to stay, youd do well to learn to trust others.

7. Read more books

Read more books that tempt you to jump back in just by seeing the cover.

8. Read fewer books

Read fewer books out of vanity, or wanting to impress someone.

9. Pursuing passing interests is incredibly valuable.

Like many ADHD folks, I have a tendency to passionately latch onto an interest. Once I do, theres a finite amount of time until I lose interest. I’ve never regretted the week I was really into watercolors, the summer spent tattooing, the football games, and so on. At the very least, dabbling makes for decent conversations.

10. Remember what sticks

Despite the aforementioned dabbling habit, I’ve never gone a week of my (conscious) life without engineering something, making some kind of art or music or cracking a joke. I rely on these things and bank on them always being there.

11. Good engineers love engineering, great engineers love people.

Probably true for most professions, but it’s a lesson I had to learn. I’ve known so many talented people who’s growth has been stunted because they suck at empathy. Hell, I almost was one of those guys at one point in my career. We arent vulcans, empathy is like sriracha, it makes everything better

12. Running away to Hollywood isn’t all its cracked up to be, but do it anyways.

South America, too.

13. You are bigger than any label

I said before that I’m a person diagnosed with ADHD. But I’m conscious of not letting that label, or any other label, become a self fulfilling prophecy. I’ve started being cogniscsnt of calling myself anything lest it takes root.

14. Make friends with people who are not at all like you

15. “You know, Rick, I have many a friend in Casablanca, but somehow, just because you despise me, you are the only one I trust.”

16. Sleep is all its cracked up to be.

I feel for the ‘brag about how little I sleep' meme for too long. It always catches up to you at the worst possible time. Sleep more.

17. Startups and crunch can be really fun

18. But burnout is real, and it sucks.

19. Money, too, sucks.

I hate money so much that I actively ignore it past basic necessity. I’ve never kept track of what people owe me, never really wanted more than enough for rent and beer, and have seen it ruin families and friendships more often than anything else. Money sucks, and I hope to never get caught up in the addiction more than is necessary.

20. Make it a rule to never turn down an invitation

I suck at this one. Sorry Tyler, Bree, Jon, Joe, Travis, Jason and many others. When I’m depressed it’s easy to make up an excuse to skip an outing. That habit turns into a default, and then people stop inviting you out. They thought of you enough to want to hang out. Go for drinks. Oh, and if you actually have to miss something, seriously follow up.

21. You lie to yourself a lot more than you realize.

It’s like an ego safeguard or something. I totally thought I knew Java really well until I realized that I was telling myself that because I felt I should know Java. Admitting that made it possible to put all that behind me, actually learn Java and then decide to just write Golang forever instead.

22. Your guilty pleasures tell more about you than your public faves.

I just bought a car that I absolutely love. A loud Subaru WRX covered in anime stickers and memes. My outward persona wanted an understated but upscale car, a BMW or a Benz, but the teenager in me wanted full JDM Fast and the Furious.

Anthony Fantano, famed music melon, once said that he didnt believe in having guilty pleasure songs, he instead wore them on his sleeve. His taste is his own, and what sounds good shouldn’t be surrounded with metadata. And that’s why he scored Lil Pump higher than Kendrick.

23. Unapologetically be yourself

Even when I think it’s a bad idea, it’s almost never steered me wrong. Except the time I wore jordans to the Facebook Christmas party.

24. The class war is real

25. This, too, shall pass.

My Dad said that to me while I was sitting in the back of a cop car. Didnt get it at the time, but hey, he was right. One of those things you dont forget

26. Treat yo’self

27. … but listen to your dopamine.

That first ice cream cone is a 10/10, but a daily habit of ice cream will make it less special.

28. In engineering the simplest solutions are usually the best

29. Engineering proverbs almost never apply to life

They especially almost never apply to relationships.

30. Fuck em if they cant take a joke.

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K Hodges

“Defense Researcher” according to Reuters, Chelsea Manning Fan Fiction Author, Delightful Degenerate