8 Things I Learned Before 38

Jason Dookeran
7 min readFeb 13, 2023
Yes, it does feel like this sometimes.

In keeping with my list of things I’ve managed to learn as an adult before my <insert age here> birthday, I’ve decided to compile a handful of things I learned about life, money, and everything else into a single, easy reference for others. Hopefully, this will help others who are younger than me or at least give them an idea of what they should try to learn.

1. Employment is temporary; experiences leave permanent memories

The Sacred Valley of the Incas, picture by me

In 2019, I quit the job I was working at for around a decade. It was a sad time, but at the same time, it opened a lot of new doors. From then to now, I’ve dealt with several clients from many different fields. Since I get to select my clients currently, I am less inclined to put up with people who ask for too much and offer too little. However, the experiences that working this way has afforded me can’t be understated. In 2022, I traveled extensively (and I intend to do the same in 2023 if I can). Travel is a unique experience, no matter where you go or with whom you travel. You can always find another job or another client. But experiencing something, whether it’s the beach on a weekday or a whole different island, is an experience that sticks with you for life.

2. Adaptability is more important than knowing many things

Can’t fit a round prong in a square hole, after all

Leon C. Migginson once wrote, “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” In the twenty-first century, I’ve realized that this statement has never been more true. What you know today can change in a heartbeat. And I don’t just mean sweeping innovations like ChatGPT, but other things too. One of the best examples of this is the shift in focus of SEO from when I started in the field (in 2012, if you can believe it) to today. Back then, it was about trying to toe the line Google set for searches. Today, it’s about delivering value to searchers and giving them what they want. That innovation took a mere ten years, and ten years before that, search engines were in their infancy. Adapting to change like this is a crucial part of growing up. Never accept anything you know today will remain a fact in five years. Hell, I still remember when Pluto was a planet!

3. The people you go to school or work with are not necessarily your friends

Trauma-bonding over exams doesn’t make friends

This one took a long time for me to learn. However, it’s a lesson that I think more people should know. Many of us develop friendships based on spending time with people. The more time we spend with them, the more we feel like we know them. Yet this is only sometimes the case. Many times, the people we spend the most time with, while we might call them “friends,” they really aren’t. What they are is an acquaintance with whom you spend a lot of time. You might even enjoy their company and bond with them. But that doesn’t make them your friend. What makes a friend? Someone who enjoys the things that make you happy the same way you do. Someone who understands you at a fundamental level. So take a look at your friends, especially those with whom you’ve spent a lot of time, and ask yourself if they really are your friends.

4. You need money to make money

It all starts from dollars and sense (no, that’s not a typo)

While this might get me a “no shit, Sherlock” from some people, for others, it’s still a relatively new statement to digest. However, just because you need money to make money doesn’t mean you need that much money. My personal experience with this is probably the best example. In 2011, I was broke, working four days a week and trying my best to make ends meet after moving into a new apartment. Sometimes I’d let my internet bill pile up and then pay it all off later, making me even more broke than I was before. I saved up $US30 (around $TT200 around that time) and spent it on a course teaching me the basics of writing online. Using that course, I applied (and got accepted) to Upwork and started earning money part-time as a writer. Today, that’s my full-time hustle. But it took an investment of $US30 that I could have blown on anything else.

5. Don’t invest in anything you don’t understand

If you read it, and you look like this, don’t invest in it.

Another piece of advice that should be common sense but clearly isn’t is that you should only invest in something you understand. Since I started writing about crypto a few years ago, I realized that there are many things the average person doesn’t understand. Hell, I released an article a few weeks ago about just that very thing! But crypto isn’t the only thing I see people wasting their money on. I live on an island where scams can be advertised on the television without anyone asking questions. Where you can stick up a flyer for “alkaline water” with a slew of promises that nobody bothers to check. And yet these things make money. People sell them. No one should put money into something that they don’t know how it works. If someone can’t explain it to you in a way you understand, then avoid it altogether.

6. Anything you get from social media should be researched before accepting it

The art of research is not dead yet.

With the rise of TikTok, reels on IG, and Facebook’s “Watch” shorts, it’s easy to put out misinformation and make it look legit. It’s so easy; anyone can say anything about anything else. If it sounds legit enough, people will just roll with it. This bullshit-peddling is why so many people think the earth is flat or that there’s a ninth, mysterious planet (Pluto still doesn’t count). It’s why conspiracy theories propagate even when there’s ample evidence to debunk them. People like to feel smart. And these things, these “revelations,” play into that feeling of being “smarter” than the average human. The only thing is that it works in reverse. Anyone who actually understands what you’re talking about thinks you sound like an idiot.

7. Happiness should come from yourself, not other people

You don’t need anyone else to make you happy.

Being happy as a kid was simple. However, being happy gets more messy and complicated as you grow older. When the hormones hit after puberty, happiness stems from finding someone you can be with romantically. And, for a lot of our lives, we think that happiness is other people. Or maybe that one particular other person that fictionally exists in our head, thanks to Hollywood selling us a load of bullshit about “love.” No, Happiness is not other people. Hell is other people, but happiness is yourself. I recently talked to a friend who admitted to me that she doesn’t know what makes her happy. And I know that’s the norm with many people. They don’t know what makes them happy because they’ve never reflected on themselves and the things they like about themselves. When I was 16, to help my flagging self-confidence (I had really low self-confidence in school, FYI), I made a list of things I like about myself and a list of things I hate about myself. I accepted that that’s who I was. It was a moment of being bluntly honest with myself. Thanks to that and constant revisions of that list as I grow older, I can see what makes me happy. The things I like about myself make me happy. So if you haven’t made that list yet, you should consider it. It might help you immensely.

8. Seek to be a better version of yourself today than you were yesterday

No one lives forever, so improving yourself every day should be your goal.

One of the things I learned when I stopped trying to compete with other people in life is that the only person I should seek to be better than is the person I was yesterday. It’s a powerful thing for several reasons. When you compete against other people (or even compare yourself to others), you look at the best they offer. Social media has exacerbated this problem since people can now show off their best and even create fictional lifestyles for themselves from a few well-placed camera angles. Don’t compare yourself to others because other people are busy making things for you to compare yourself to.

Be A Better You

But only if you want.

I used to be a cynic, and I’m still cynical about some things. Usually, it’s with good reason. I’m cynical about anyone or anything that tells you they can guarantee you’ll make a profit. I’m cynical about people’s feelings toward me. I’m also cynical about people giving advice, so this is probably a weird thing to do. Most people who do it expect something in return. I guess I’m no better than they are because I’d hope that this honest list of things I’ve learned will both help others and encourage them to subscribe to my Medium. Thanks for reading, and I hope I see you on my mailing list!



Jason Dookeran

Freelance author, ghostwriter, and crypto/blockchain enthusiast. I write about personal finance, emerging technology and freelancing