How to Live a Wiser Life — 10 Lessons from 28

Nathan Phelps
4 min readSep 14, 2021


Good friends and lemonade days

I’m 41 years from 70 today, according to my cousin.

This year was a ride, and it’s one that held some of the most tangible periods of emotional and spiritual growth I’ve had yet.

Here are a few of 28’s most important lessons:

Opportunities don’t wait around.

If you want to befriend that neighbor you’ve ran into a few times because you both bonded over music, do it. Six months will go by, and you’ll catch their U-haul bumping over the road’s potholes and out of your life.

Prioritizing productivity is just a stage.

Individual productivity is a stepping stone to spiritual and communal growth, and there are opportunity costs to over-prioritizing individual productivity.

You can take on too much yourself and never rely on others for help, which often slows entrepreneurial progress, you can spend your some of your best years in a room instead of experiencing the world, and you can prioritize money and success over community.

If community, friendships, freedom, and happiness are why we build, then shouldn’t we devote time to that along the way, too?

If friends feel stale, reevaluate your friendships.

Friendships wane for all sorts of reasons. If you feel tension and realize you aren’t as invested in someone, it’s okay. Adapt your relationship accordingly, and if it’s not worth it for them, then give them the choice to move on.

Documenting your life isn’t inherently self-aggrandizing.

I spent most of my twenties avoiding consistent social media engagement and adopted a strange combination of superiority complexes and envy against people who documented their lives publicly.

As it turns out, once you develop enough self-esteem to be proud of your own life, those prejudices often fade. We can all fall into the dopamine trap of social media, but using these tools to grow community, document moments in your life, and share them with your loved ones is not without value.

Social media, while easiest, isn’t required. If you despise these platforms but find yourself wishing you documented more, start a group chat or email list, take more photos/videos, and just share more.

Spontaneity is fundamental to developing stronger relationships

Before 28 I put people on read and added responding to them to my to-do list. This created an undue burden that would weigh on me, causing a one-way souring of a relationship experience and dulling them at the same time.

If you’re thinking of someone, call or text them. If you’re already reading the text, shoot something back. The distraction has already happened, and acting on those flashes of desire to speak to someone is how you make relationships stronger (which is the whole point).

Don’t always discount spirituality and tradition

After a bumpy exit from evangelical christianity, I spent my twenties avoiding everything that had to do with the beyond, souls, tradition, god — you name it. It was all atoms and logic for me.

And while I am still fundamentally that person, I’ve become less agitated by philosophical and spiritual discussions regarding life’s biggest mysteries. Instead of spirituality being the land of fools, it is another aspect of my life that is enriching and interesting to me. I am more convinced there are forces at work beyond our understanding these days, and that does not run counter to science — it simply means they have yet to be understood.

Progress is the antidote to feelings of inadequacy

Trip into a bad social media rabbit of people living the lives you want? Feel like an existential blob of unspent potential slowly dehydrating under the hot sun? Learn something. Anything. Go spend 15 minutes and discover something new. It can be related to your profession, hobby, or why cosmic background microwave radiation is the sh*T. It doesn’t matter. That feeling of growth will feel like progress and help your psyche think you’ve gathered yourself up and are back on the trail.

An alternative, much more challenging method, is to release the capitalistic expectations and conditioning WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic) people tend to have and focus on attaining the bare minimum you need to live a life rich with relationships, contentment, and mindfulness.

Share what you love

For any interest and any hobby, there are other people who love it just as much as you. That’s part of why this world is incredible, and the internet has made it possible to find them.

It doesn’t matter if you’re into French graphic novels, obsessed with finding the perfect pasta sauce, or just watched Full Metal Alchemist for the first time, there are people you can connect with just for the sake of connecting. You’ll meet new people, learn new things, and give and receive joy. So take your interests and own them — it will only enrich your life.

Keep an eye on your conditioning

Only by understanding your biases and conditioning can you work toward mitigating their effects. Make an effort to study common biases, go to therapy, and always approach someone with a different worldview and upbringing than yours with empathy and understanding. The more different you are, whether that be from race, religion, class, or culture, the higher chance you have of projecting your own biases onto their experience.

If you feel like you are wilting, create more.

Output over input, always. Whether it’s building relationships, writing, making music, exercising thought leadership in your field, actively investing in your future, or taking and sharing a photo, try producing instead of ingesting and see how you feel.

Wherever you are, you’ve got this.

I’ll see you when my inevitable existential crisis at 30 hits.



Nathan Phelps

Nashville-Based Writer & Musician —Writing about practicing music and whatever else comes to mind.