35 forward

35 mental models, ideas, and pieces of advice for the future me & we.

Adam Fry-Pierce
8 min readOct 4, 2022


Recently I turned 35.

If I’m lucky, I’ll live another 35 years. Maybe even 35 after that.

35 years is enough lived experience to shape a person. There have been five major variables that have shaped me the most:

Travel, relationships, service, love, and curiosity.

Double-click on any of these things above, and my most transformative moments are centerstage. They’re very cliché.

  • Family trips.
  • Falling in love.
  • Deep diving into my mind.
  • Breaking a bone and rehabbing to be stronger.
  • Helping someone in need and seeing their relief.
  • Experiencing music that twists the stomach or lightens the heart.
  • Making a public mistake everyone else forgets (but I remember forever).
  • Laughing with friends until my sides hurt and tears stream down my face.
  • Building something for my community, and then they actually like it.
  • Jamming with musicians and finding flowstate.
  • Figuring out how to be valuable in the world.
  • Experiencing new cultures.
  • Losing best friends.
  • Gaining clarity.
  • Everything Salomé.

These are mostly good things. In my first 35 years, I was fortunate to have growth moments that came from positive experiences. I can’t help but wonder if this is always going to be the case.

What waits for me in the next 35 years? Probably pain. Even if the good times keep rolling, there’s hardship ahead. There’s going to be a time I’ll attend more funerals than weddings. There’ll be a time when entropy reminds all of us that we can’t out-manage it.

As long as fate is nice to me, I’ll have my mind through all of whatever is ahead. With my mind, I can stay grounded in the tough times and find a way to grow.

And that brings us here. To this lil’ write-up. I want to remind my future self about some powerful ideas that are helping me now.

So, future self, here are 35 things that are helping me at age 35. These are mental models, frameworks, and ideas that are the foundation of the good life I have now. My hope is that my future self will read this when I’m 70, or maybe even 105, and do a retro. How did these ideas and frameworks change over time?


The 35 Forward

A public letter to myself, with considerations for a good life.

  1. To feel good, make your future self proud: That doesn’t mean to be overly virtuous with your actions or words, it just means to mostly choose things that will make you smile tomorrow or next year.
  2. To build a good life, build platforms for good: You don’t need to go build a startup — you can do this at your current employer. This is the purpose at the core of your pace layers if you so choose.
  3. To build wealth, build platforms for others to make money: On the flip side, maybe you discover that you need more capital for some reason. Well, if you want to build a wealthy life, build platforms for others to make money.
  4. To feel safe, build up your community: Our relationship with neighbors can give us a sense of safety at home. If you know your neighbors and can find a way to feel good when you see them, everyone is better because of it. Invest here.
  5. To feel loved, build up your relationships: This is directed to my wife, however, the idea can be for any other touchpoint with another human. It’s all about love. A fun and rewarding game to play is: how can I get my wife to fall more in love with me today?
  6. Be nice: I’m borrowing this from someone, but I once heard “be nice. it costs you nothing and it shapes the world around you for the better.” Don’t forget it!
  7. Morning rituals: Give yourself time at the start of the day that’s only for you. Read, the coffee ritual, a workout…whatever it is, just give yourself the time and be present with it. The anti-hero here: checking social media. the entire ritual is tainted if you open social. Stay away.
  8. Consistency: If you’re doing anything that requires growth, just be consistent in base hits. You don’t need grand slams or home runs. Do the thing that gets you on base.
  9. Invest in the lesson: Don’t waste a failure. If an experiment or effort results suboptimally, don’t get down in the dumps. Learn how to improve for next time. And even if you hit your target, seek the lesson. In everything you like doing — someone is better out there. As Alex Hormozi says: “quiet the ego, look for the lesson”. Taking this a step further, invest in the lesson, too. If you can find the thing that someone else is doing, put time and effort into that aspect.
  10. Dogmatism is dumb: Other than the commitment to your wife and your virtues, nothing else should be unmovable. Consider the world around you to just be a thesis. It’s putty. Moldable. Your ideas should be the same.
  11. Evidence: In taking in the world, look for hard data to baseline your worldview. People will naturally add filters to narratives. And while perceptions are generally helpful inputs in our consideration of what is “true” — objective truth is often elusive and can be hard to find.
  12. Give more, take less: It’s our collective responsibility to future-proof humans and life on earth. As you age, please give more of your time to contribute. Put more time/energy towards building the next chapter for humans. And leave less of a footprint.
  13. It’s okay to chillout: Stop trying to fill every minute as a way to check a box and do a thing. Chill. Look outside at the flowers and birds. Look inside to be with your thoughts. Play a game. Relax.
  14. Canvas is the way: Two things are happening at a macro level. Robotics is on the rise, and individualism is at an all-time high. What’is ahead of us? What happens when more people are forced out of traditional jobs but need to be seen and heard? The working thesis is that if we can have a positive collective impact on the human story, we’ll feel better. Keep this in mind as you continue to figure out how to create more impact with fewer energy points in your professional life. Adopt Ryan Holiday’s Canvas Strategy to help others, too.
  15. Read: Acquire knowledge. Read and buy books. They’re one of the best value buys on the planet at any given time. Expand your library and follow the rule to fully read cover to cover 50% of the books that enter your house (the rest might be gifts, or are more “field guide” reads).
  16. Suffering isn’t cool: It seems very “in” to be down on things. I think this might have been normal for a long time, but only recently did this seem like it’s very acceptable to be rude or pessimistic. Be careful never to conform here. It’s important to be optimistic. The universe surrounds you with your thoughts — you need to be positive. If you ever slip, be sure to rewatch John Green’s Against Nihilism. P.S — John Green is a national treasure.
  17. Find more John Greens: Speaking of, go out there and discover more inspirational thinkers. Every few years, you’ll find someone by accident, and it makes your perspective technicolor. Timothy Kreider, John Green, Ryan Holiday, Rumi. When you discover an author that brightens your soul you become brighter yourself. Seek them out.
  18. First principles, forever: If you run into a challenge, default to core principles to find your path forward. This means you need to not just think about the foundational building blocks of an opportunity, but also be in touch with your own principles, too. PS — James Clear writes about this better than I can.
  19. Power matters — localize: Power allows us to accomplish our goals. Seek power as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of others. Power can change your worldview and can be addictive. Set boundaries before you accumulate power, knowing what level of power you wish to seek in society, in your personal life, and with yourself (ego vs. id). Check-in with yourself often. Run diagnostics.
  20. Never stop networking: Go to events. Offer help. Send that random email to Michelle Obama. Keep networking with good people. This has been the single best return on invested energy for my personal development and career.
  21. Be spontaneous: You seem to be growing out of this one. Reverse the trend! It’s said that one of the fundamental cornerstones of healthy relationships is spontaneity, so, be more “in-the-moment”. It makes things more interesting.
  22. Be alive while you’re alive: Dead time is the infinite scroll in Instagram. It’s the time that didn’t yield growth or meaningful memories. Alive time are things that make your future self proud or your relationships stronger. Be alive.
  23. Drink less and eat less meat: Fill yourself with things that make your body feel better, and avoid the things that make you feel a bit groggy. I’m looking at you, cheese, you delicious and diverse mold of temptation.
  24. Learn something new, often: You’ll be more fun to yourself and others if you see the world from an updated perspective. Journey into new crafts and disciplines often to become a more dynamic and interesting version of yourself.
  25. Thoughts become real: Thoughts manifest themselves through words and actions. Get specific about your curiosities and desires. The universe will reply and surround you with opportunities.
  26. Minimize: Less distraction and less clutter mean more room to create and improve.
  27. Assume positive intent and good faith: The world is busy and it’s unlikely someone is out to slight you. Just assume whoever is talking to you needs you to be positive. It’s all love in the end. Shower the world with love and practice empathy.
  28. Telescope, then microscope: Wide perspectives are great spaces to ground before zooming way into work on something specific. When in doubt, zoom out.
  29. More “Oh, Wow” moments: I believe Steve Jobs's last words were full of contention, in looking at his family and reflecting on what he did with this time. I think that’s why his last words were “OH WOW OH WOW OH WOW”. Wonder. Whimsey. Awe. Love. These things are why we are here. Fill your life with things that bring you wow.
  30. Breathe deeply, more often: You’ll live longer. And it feels nice.
  31. Remember, relationships are temporary: I love my friends. Many of the highest highs and lowest lows have come from friendships. I think that as time goes on, this will continue to be an area of great joy and sadness. Friends will die, or worse, drift off. This is why every year, I’ll reread We Learn Nothing. There’s a great line in there by the author, Timothy Kreider: “The same thing that makes friendship so valuable is what makes it so tenuous: it is purely voluntary. You enter into it freely, without the imperatives of biology or the agenda of desire. Officially, you owe each other nothing.” This is all to say, people grow. It’s natural for things to shift a bit here. One thing you can do is deliberately choose which friendships to invest further in and grow alongside.
  32. Addendum: everything is temporary: It’s all borrowed. My abilities. Mom and Dad. My time here. This moment where my understanding and skills match market needs in a way where I’m able to work with some incredible people and institutions. Everything is temporary. Treat it with respect and enjoy the ride.
  33. Debt is control: Avoid its grip unless necessary. If you must spar with debt, always be on the advantageous end.
  34. Character has a longer shelf life than career accomplishments: Your job will be reduced to bullet points on a CV. Your life will be reduced to a sentence on a tombstone. You will be remembered for your character, not your accomplishments. Act accordingly.
  35. Respond, don’t react: Let your reactions flow through you and use logic to form a response. Easy to type and not so easy to live. Practice this every chance you get.

All things good,

PS — do #30 right now!



Adam Fry-Pierce

Empowering design and product leaders with connections + products. Creator of http://designleadership.com. DesignOps + product ethics is on my mind. Doodler.