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30 Things I Wish I Would Have Known About Life Before I Turned 30

Workout, nutrition, and life advice from world-renowned coach Martin Rooney.

Martin Scotland

My life changed the day before my 30th birthday

It was August 2001. As I stepped onto a boat in the afternoon to cruise around Manhattan, I was a single man in my 20’s. I knew that after I stepped off that same boat the next day, I would be a married man in my 30’s.

It was scary. But also liberating.

A few weeks later, the Twin Towers in New York City became a terrorist target and thousands of people were killed. That, of course, was September 11, 2001.

That night, I flipped through my wedding photos and stared at the two buildings in the background. Here today. Gone tomorrow. I was reminded of how precious and fragile life really is.

I often reflect on those couple of weeks surrounding my 30th birthday. I think about who I was before and who I am now. I don’t know why, but 30 years old seems to be a transformative time in a man’s life.

I thought I had it all figured out back then. As I look back, I realize I was just getting started in my studies of the way the world works.

Rooney twin towers I’ve carried this photo in my wallet for 12 years.

Now that over a decade has passed, I’ve learned so much more about life.

I’ve had four children, built businesses, traveled to over 25 countries, written 8 books, and trained alongside some of the best athletes on the planet.

With all of those amazing things now in my 40’s, I can look back and laugh at the things I messed up and what I wish I knew then.

Guys in their 20’s and early 30’s have all this potential…but often, they don’t know what to do with it. I sure as hell didn’t.

That’s why I wrote this list of 30 things I wish I would have known before I turned 30.

Maybe you’ll find something here that causes you to change your life in some small way.

30 Things I Wish I Would Have Known Before I Turned 30

1. I wish I spent more time deciding what I really wanted from life.

Figure out your passion and purpose. Don’t wait until 30 to find that out. Chances are the guys that figured it out earlier already have the dream house, the dream job, and the dream girl.

2. I wish I would have known protein was essential for post workout nutrition.

I went from just water and no eating, to carb-only “sports” drinks. I know I would have had way better results if current science had been available. A Gatorade just doesn’t cut it.

3. I wish I would have been more excited for other people’s success.

This will get you ahead faster than only being excited for your own success. Take time to hear what people think. You won’t ever get called a jerk for listening too much.

4. I wish I would have had a full length mirror in my house.

Then I would have known I had to train my legs, too. To think of all the times I did biceps curls instead of squats…

5. I wish I had paid attention to the effect food had on me.

Some foods made me drowsy and others gave me a throat full of phlegm. I thought it was “normal.” Now I replaced that word with “allergy.” Start figuring how foods you eat are affecting you.

6. I wish I would have known girls are more attracted to guys who have fun.

Guys who try to look big and tough miss out.

7. I wish I would have learned to keep my house and car neat.

Someday a girl is going to come to one of them and care about chewed fingernails and the stain on your pillow case. Protein bottles in the back? They smell worse than you think they do.

8. I wish I got rid of things faster.

Once your favorite t-shirt has more holes than a Tiger Woods alibi, it’s time to let it go. Same goes for the old sneakers you’ll never wear again. Same thing with resentment and ill-will.

9. I wish I would have saved more money.

Get a financial planner, an IRA going, and invest. Don’t wait until you’re married and someone else is counting on you. And regardless if you have much money or not, put some away now. Learn the Law of 7 and the idea of compounding interest.

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10. I wish I would have learned that driving 20-30 miles doesn’t make a bar any better.

Odds are the bar in your town will be just as fun. And your chances of trouble (DUI, etc.) go way down.

11. I wish I would have known what kinds of food weren’t good for me.

Most labels with “Light,” “Healthy,” or “part of a nutritious diet” are really just trying to cover up how crappy the food actually is.

12. I wish I followed my instincts more.

Listen to that knot in your gut. If you think she might not be the right girl, she probably isn’t. Same goes for your job. Of all the voices you hear, your own may be the wisest and hardest to listen to.

13. I wish I had been more coachable.

Welcome feedback and understand that criticism is positive. Just like rubbing alcohol on a scrape, it will be painful at first. But you’ll be better off cleaning strategic areas of your life.

14. I wish I would have written down exactly what I wanted.

Spend more time planning where you’re going in life than planning where you are going on Friday night.

15. I wish I started my “private” university earlier.

Build your personal library and read. 20 pages a night 5 days a week turns into 100 books in 5 years. 100 books in 5 years can turn you into an expert…in anything.

16. I wish I would have know there was a rotator cuff, feet muscles, neck muscles, hip adductors and abductors.

I would have worked on those more.

17. I wish I had learned the true power of a thank you.

Since I’ve adopted an authentic “attitude of gratitude,” my life has been much smoother. Hint: send a card or gift to someone that deserves it today.

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18. I wish I had not been “too busy” for my parents.

When you get older, get a real job, and get married, you only have less time for your parents. Realize that they’re people, just like you. And that they’re actually pretty smart and fun to be around.

19. I wish I used my “down time” better.

Speaking of “too busy,” never say that you are. 24 hours is enough time to get stuff done and still have fun.

20. I wish I was less concerned with what everyone else thought about me.

I now know a thick skin isn’t just important for your hands and working out. It’s important for life and not caring about other people’s opinions of you. The fastest way to be unhappy is to worry about making everybody else happy and not staying true to yourself.

21. I wish I would have laughed more.

Make sure to laugh everyday. Learn to speak the language of “serious fun.” As it implies, get the serious stuff done…but make sure you have your share of fun and play, too.

22. I wish I would have quit some things faster.

Know when to quit things. Although it may seem counterintuitive, there are people, situations, and places where you are spending your time that aren’t serving you. Quit them.

23. I wish I would have defined my values earlier.

Decide what you stand for. If you don’t stand for much, you’ll fall for anything.

My first jobs, workouts, and girlfriends were because other people said they would be good for me. Make that choice for yourself and you won’t develop a weak set of knees when the time comes to stand up for yourself.

24. I wish I didn’t let other people’s expectations hold me back.

Eight words to remove from your vocabulary: “What will people say? What will people think?”

25. I wish I had gossiped less.

Build people up to their face and don’t talk to people behind their back. It only leads to trouble.

26. I wish I had trained around injury better.

Your body has incredible recuperative powers. Don’t let injuries or time off hold you back. And remember, even if you took time off, it’s never too late to start again toward fitness.

27. I wish I would have treated my body like my car.

In other words, don’t just pay attention to your body when there’s a problem. Also, make sure you are putting the right things in the gas tank. Just because it looks good on the outside doesn’t mean everything is good on the inside.

28. I wish I had “kept in touch” better.

Don’t let more than three months go by without staying in touch with the important people in your network.

29. I wish I had built my network even faster.

Surround yourself with people more fit, successful, and wealthy than you are. Just like the tide, you will rise or fall according to the influential bodies around you.

30. I wish I would have realized that the world is “service” oriented.

Serve others. You’ll learn as you get older that it’s not about what you get, but what you give back that really counts.

Build The Warrior Within

More than a decade has passed since my 30th birthday, and I know I’ll always be learning from my mistakes and trying to pay it forward. That’s the way of the Warrior. And it’s what I hope for you too.

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Quick Note: I’m passionate about education and helping others develop their own skills, not only in the fields of sports performance and strength training but also personal development.

In fact, I’ve put together a free video course for guys who want to become more motivated, using fitness and training as the pathway to bringing out their inner Warrior.

If you’re interested in learning more, just go here to check it out: Training For Warriors.

Thanks for reading.

Martin Rooney Martin motivating UFC fighter Jim Miller.

About the Author: Nate Green is the Program Director for Scrawny To Brawny. You can find him on Facebook or Google+.

  • http://www.granttinsley.com/ Grant

    As someone who is closer to 20 than 30, I really appreciate getting life tips like these early on! Thanks for being to-the-point, but still packing in some great content. I definitely have some fresh inspiration and ideas after reading your article.

  • John

    As always, great post, love this site. 38 now and totally agree with the thoughts above especially the one about not worrying about what other people thing. Like that great quote – “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

  • Stacey J Diehl

    This is possibly one of the best things I’ve ever read. So many bases covered so succinctly. Thank Nate Green for posting it on Facebook. There’s so much of relevance here I’m even going to share it on my ART page. Well done.

  • Alex

    His name is not Tiger Wood, it’s Tiger Woods. Also, guys that try to look big and tough aren’t missing out if looking big and tough from the gym is what they want. Otherwise, I really appreciated the article.

    • Nate Higgers

      Hard to believe you truly appreciated the article when your first two points are frivolous. Keep up the good fight, Ale.

      • Alex

        No I really did appreciate it…Had some really good points. But if guys really want to just go to the gym and get jacked then that’s their prerogative I guess…if they’d rather be in the gym lifting weights than getting women why is that missing out???

      • Guest

        Save this article and 10 years down the road read it again. It will make more sense then.

  • Gary Miller

    Great article Martin lots of truth spoken in those 30 points. I am not sure if I ever shared this with you when we worked together but you were and have been an inspiration to me to go off and build something for myself. You always have put out great stuff man, Thank you!

  • Snoopy168

    Thanks for sharing this reminder. Wished I had this 20 years ago, when i stepped into the harsh working world.

  • Josh Muise

    Excellent post Martin. I truly appreciate the humbleness and openness in your writing. You are a man who leads form the front and I really admire that.

  • Mark

    I can relate to #6. Although it was more of working too much than spending too much time in the gym. I’m starting to think financial success, looks, and even intelligence are threshold qualities while being fun is more of an absolute (unless it takes away from other qualities).

  • Diron Bates

    There is some really good advice here. Can’t agree more with the one about not caring what others think about you. Too much of my day is spent worrying about that. The picture/anecdote of you and your wife in front of the twin towers gave me chills. Thanks for sharing.

  • Paddy O’Hanlon

    Can you point me in the direction of a resource for “The Law of 7“? A book didn’t show up in search results, only a few sketchy looking websites. Thanks.

  • Joey Dicardo

    hey Martin what boat did you get married on in 2001? I was the house DJ for East Coast Yatch Charters from 1999-2004

  • Yogesh Sharma

    thanks for posting…good thing is, i am 18 and i still have 12 years to become Mr.perfect…

  • DP

    Such a valuable post. Thank you for taking the time and thought to write this. Its funny how I’ve learned so many of these lessons over the last few years, and there are a few I’m working through right now. Appreciating my loved ones, accepting that there’s plenty of time to do whats important, respecting my body all the time, conscious purpose, the people around me, following my bliss… Every point you shared on this list is worth something. Golden!

  • Glen Chaytor

    MARTIN IS THE MAN.LOOK FORWARD TO DOING LEVEL 2 TFW IN NEWFOUNDLAND WITH YOU AT HEAVYWEIGHTS IN THE NOT TO DISTANT FUTURE.THANKS MARTIN.

  • Tony Dalton

    Best post i’ve read in a long time. This should be shared with more young men. Thanks for sharing

  • Ted Byer

    ‘We often forget as we get older so do our parents.” I love that I can spend an evening with my parents simply enjoying their company. Something I would have dreaded as a younger man

  • uniquename72

    Great post. One thing I’ll take issue with: “I know I would have had way better results if current science had been available. ”

    The science WAS readily available then; you just chose to ignore it, didn’t believe it, or didn’t read the right books.

    The gist of your post — and the most important lesson in life — is this: The older you get and the more you learn, the more you realize how little you actually know. And those who spout off with certitude tend to know nothing at all.