30 Surprising Life Lessons I Learned by Age 30

I never believed this day would come so fast. I turned 30 years old today.

I can’t help but ponder the significance of age 30. In the Bible, the number 30 can symbolize dedication to a particular task or calling. In Old Testament, priests were dedicated to serve at 30, in part because it was the age when a person reached both physical and mental maturity and could therefore handle major responsibilities. John the Baptist was age 30 when he came out from the wilderness to pave the way for the Messiah. Jesus officially began his public ministry at 30.

So, here’s my 30 life lessons I learned by age 30.

1. I cannot give what I don’t possess.

As an author, speaker, coach, consultant, and blogger, I am given the platform to constantly pour into people. Mostly, I’m continually investing in others. If I’m always giving, giving, giving, I must ensure that I’m intentionally receiving. That’s why I surround myself with a personal board of directors. That’s why I’m always reading books, learning, growing because I want my actions to speak louder than words.

2. Resiliency: The secret of overcoming temptation.

A key theme of twenties was about fighting against untamed passions. Experiencing temptation is human nature, but living carnally is an intentional choice. Instead, continually fighting for purity, righteousness, and joy is a pursuit I’ve learned in my twenties. No matter how many times you stumble, the key is to always get back up.

3. There is more to life than career.

An African proverb says, “You can go fast alone, but you can go far with others.” My good friend Andy Eun helped me radically changed my notion of friendship at a whole new level. It’s friends like him that remind me the power of community.

4. God does not call the qualified. God qualifies the called.

Failure isn’t an unfamiliar theme in life. I failed my 2nd year of college. I had seasons of depression. In the midst of these failures, God has chosen me to live out my calling. When the tasks God has given me is greater than my strength, I trusted God. The rest is history.

5. When choosing your career, follow a leader worth following instead of an organization that pays well.

Growing under a respected and liberating leader will help you to catapult your long-term success.

6. Discover your sweet spot in life.

Start discovering your natural hard-wiring/ temperaments, giftedness, passions, and life story. 20’s is a perfect time to discover who you really are.

7. Life is a Vapor.

“You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). Life is short. Eternity is long. Live like it. The older I get the more intentional I become in stewarding my time and realize I only have so much time to fulfill my very purpose.

8. Be unapologetically you.

Oscar Wilde was right: “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.” Growing up, I always compared myself with others. Instead of embracing my unique qualities that were designed in me, I never sought to truly embrace my qualities but rather wanted to be like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, my recovering CEO dad. Knowing that I made in the image of God, knowing that I am His child and being rooted in Christ allowed me to truly be myself.

9. Calling is about complete surrender.

t is about responding  the Caller. It’s not choosing your own destiny. It’s not about the American Dream. It’s about responding to summons. How well you respond determines how well you live a life worth living.

10. Vulnerability breeds authenticity and trust.

I always had a façade of professionalism. I needed to appear “perfect” in the eyes of others. I was fearful I would be considered inferior if I showed my weaknesses. Instead, I realized over the years, my lack of vulnerability created more distance with others. It prevented building 1-mile deep relationships.

11. Self-care isn’t selfish or useless.

I never uttered the words self-care until the last two years. I realized that I was advancing my professional endeavors at the expense of creating a sustainable and healthy lifestyle. Giving my body and mind to rest is key to refuel my vision. I have grown to understand the impact of this in my life. It relates to the idea of stewardship

12. I’m a steward, not an owner.

Everything is a gift. Nothing is mine to begin with. Whether that is health, time, talent, and resources. I’m learning that the platform God has given me is not mine. My family, my health, my intellect is something divinely given from my Father. Therefore, anytime God can take it away. I want to be at a place, where I’m okay if that happens. I strive to live every day I want to satisfy my Owner’s objectives.

13. Go slow to go fast.

My desire to go faster has done more damage than good. Especially when working with others, taking time to build deep, and intentional relationships with others in the beginning will do wonders once the trust is built into the working relationship. My task-driven nature is something I am aware of and continually need to remind myself of the big picture.

14. Your twenties is the defining decade.

Meg Jay was right.

  • 80% of life’s most defining moments happen by age 35.
  • 70% of lifetime wage growth happens in the first 10 years of a career.
  • More than half of Americans are married or living with or dating their future partner by 30.
  • Our personalities changes more in our 20s than any other time.
  • Our fertility peaks.

Now here’s the question. How well have you stewarded your twenties?

15. Life does not end at 29.

I live in a world that glorifies instant-gratification. Thanks to unprecedented access to information with technology and social media, the world seems like crumbling down when I turn 29. “Everything goes downhill,” the world says. But no. I believe this is just the beginning. In fact, Jesus started his ministry around the age of 30. I am more excited to see what the next decade will look like when I live every moment with obedience

16. Saying No

Saying no was the best thing that allowed me to focus on my calling. I said no to my ex-girlfriend, my Fortune 50 job,  I’ve been working hard on overcoming people pleasing tendency. I look forward to saying more “no” in my 30s.

17. Attitude is my greatest asset.

The glory of twenties is not the technical expertise you bring. Rather, your relentless commitment to learn and grow. When you have the right attitude, this becomes your greatest asset.

18. Begin with the end in mind.

Stephen Covey was right. Where does God want you in the next 20 to 30 years in life? Paint a visual, compelling vision. Rewind back to where you are today and ask yourself, “What do you need to do and be in order to become the person God desires?”

19. Eliminate FOMO by practicing gratitude.

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is the epidemic of the 20’s. The nature of social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter is all about the positive, almost never the negative. Instead of feeling jealousy, practice gratitude in every aspect of your life. Don’t ever take anything for granted.

20. Be interested before being interesting.

I realized people don’t care about how much you know until how much you care.

21. Traveling gives life perspective.

Augustine once said, “The world is a book. Those who do not travel read only a page.” I had the privilege of traveling numerous countries and it has served me well. I have realized how I am a frog in a small pond and helped me to realize while people are so different, we are essentially the same.

22. The Power of Journaling.

I started journaling since I was 14. Though it started off as an assignment from my ESL program, I am grateful I continued this habit. As I look at my writings, I was able to relive my past experiences both good and bad. I hope to use this information to write my autobiography one day.

23. Practice 10,000 hours.

When I was 14, my singular goal was to master the English language. For the next 10 years, I put 10,000 hours into memorizing vocabulary, reading countless books, making presentations. In hindsight, though it was sometimes grueling, putting in the hours has served me well.

24. Humbition always wins.

Humbition is the combination of humble and ambition. So much in life, I’ve struggled with pride. When I am humble in Christ, my ambition is no longer about me. It’s about making Jesus famous. Reading the Book of Proverbs helps me to keep my perspective intact.

25. It’s all about consistency.

I’ve always been curious about what makes someone “great.” Some have incredible talent but I see they are wasting away their lives. On the other hand, I see people with “mediocre” talent but reach unprecedented heights. Looking at my dad, I realized how consistency and diligence was the game changer.

26. Be intentional over being accidental.

Success and significance doesn’t come out of nowhere. Above all, it requires intentionality. Are you being intentional with your growth, family, team, and organization?

27. Freely give what you freely received.

True influence starts when I am for the person instead of being for Remember you’re a steward, not an owner. Give generously because it’s not yours in the first place. Your time, talent, and treasure is a gift from God.

28. Be innocent and as a dove and wise as a serpent.

I grew up hearing this mantra (Matthew 10:16) endless times from my mom growing up. I always go back to this Scripture to measure my character.

29. Listen, listen, listen.

I used to simply teach others what I knew. I never truly listened to my family, friends and colleagues. I realized how listening is the secret to great communication.

30. Life-long learning matters.

Gandhi said it best, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” The key to unlocking life-long learning really starts with an insatiable curiosity.


  • Happy belated birthday, Paul!

    As a 50-plus-year-old guy, I can attest to the value of the lessons you’ve learned in your first 30 years.

    The best of God’s blessings as you continue to grow and serve.

    Onward!
    ~Guy

  • Alex Tran

    I can’t believe it’s been a year since your “29 Lessons” post! Happy birthday, my bro from anotha motha! You are wise beyond your years!

  • Lynn Hare

    Happy Birthday, Paul! Now on to finding the suh-weet spot in your thirties! I love the word “humbition.” Sign me up! Keep me posted on how I can pray for you.

  • Very true and you will rediscover these all the way to the grave. My list at 65 looks the same.

  • Alex

    30 thumbs-up for you bro. in Christ! Shalom.