31 for 31

Nolan Smith Blog

For my 31st bday I wanted to write one of those powerful “31 things that I’ve learned while on earth” posts where people list out the all the shit that they know forsure. But when I gave it a little more thought that sounded SUPER daunting because I know enough to know that I don’t know shit. And even the little shit that I do know I have to learn over and over (& over) again. So instead, im gonna make this a little more doable for myself and copy & paste 31 notes I jotted down in my evernote in this past year and give you a little context on each note. Look out for book/podcast recommendations etc. anything thats underlined is clickable.


1. Impact > Interaction

I noted that this would be a good title for a blog post so maybe i’ll dive a little deeper on it in the future. This is always a topic of conversation with my influential friends. The instagram algorithm is an unfaithful bitch. Remember, just because something doesnt “perform well” (get a lot of likes/comments) doesnt mean its not making an impact. Think candy vs. vegetables. I would argue that going deep with a small audience can be more impactful than going wide to a large audience.


2. “Competition in art”

This is another blog title idea, if you want me to dive deeper on this let me know via text or instagram DM. I also jotted down: Art is not a competitive sport. Artists can succeed simultaneously. The idea that competing against someone else is actually limiting ourselves. We should be focused on being the best version of ourselves.


3. Notes from Tim Ferriss x Howard Marks podcast

(Howard Marks is one of the most successful investors of all time.)

  • Listen to the podcast episode here: https://tim.blog/2018/09/25/howard-marks/

  • Key to great partnership = Shared values and complimentary skills.

  • There are 2 kinds of forecasters: The ones who don’t know, and the ones who don’t know they don’t know.

  • “It’s not what you know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for certain that just ain’t true.” - Mark Twain

  • There is nothing more dangerous in life than being sure you know something that you don’t know.

  • Know your limitations.

  • “Praise by name, criticize by category.” - Warren Buffett

  • “The right decision at the wrong time is the wrong decision.” - Howard Marks


4. The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.

Corny quote that I saw in a gift shop that rang true.


5. “Who you be > what you know”

I think this came from Aubrey Marcus’ podcast. I’ve always gotten caught up thinking that “Knowing Shit” is the most valuable thing you can do for yourself and others. And while there is definite value to it, its not nearly as valuable as who you are in your actions. Are you loving? Are you kind? How do you make others feel? etc.


6. Mr. Money Mustache

The note literally just says that, “Mr. Money Mustache”. His blog is definitely worth sharing. He has inspired me to think about money and finances from a completely different angle. He’s one of the forefathers of the “FIRE movement” (Financially Independent, Retire Early). I definitely suggest you bookmark his blog or sign up for his email list (he only posts about once a month, if that.) https://www.mrmoneymustache.com


7. “those who understand, don’t need explanation. those who don’t understand, no explanation will do.”

I heard the teacher say this in a yoga class and I understood it.


8. “Fill the cup up and then give the overflow to others. Let people drink from the saucer, not the cup.” - Christine Hassler

I heard Christine say this during Aubrey Marcus’ Mastermind weekend event in Santa Monica last year. Often times when we feel depleted its because we are giving too much of ourselves mentally, physically, and emotionally without taking adequate time to refuel. If we make habits of regularly doing the self-love things that fill us up, we are much happier and more effective to those around us.


9. “The best writers say the most vulnerable shit.”

Erick Godsey said this on an Aubrey Marcus podcast. I thought it was simple and true. It inspires me to be more vulnerable in my writing. But damn, it still aint easy…


10. “Until you make the unconscious - conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” - Carl Jung

This Carl Jung quote from James Clear’s book “Atomic Habits” literally SLAPS me across my face every time I read it and I hope it does the same for you. It’s so straight forward that I don’t even have much to say about it besides… !!


11. “We don’t rise to the level of our goals, we fall to the level of our system.”

This is another one from James Clear’s “Atomic Habits” definitely on my “must read” list. Check it out here.


12. “The biggest thing in my design studio is you can’t just say something is “bad”. You can critique, but you can’t critique without suggesting something for everyone else in the room to critique.” - Virgil Abloh

I heard Virgil say this quote during a short youtube profile on him inside his studio. I think that he is one of the most prolific creatives of our time and I love soaking up as much game as possible from him. I especially resonated with this quote because in the creative process i’ve found that simply thinking something is “bad” or “not liking it” is not enough, we as creatives need to know “WHY?”. And what can/should/will we do to make it better?


13. Figure out what your gift is and express gratitude for the time you have by offering that gift.

Im not sure where I got this quote - I might have made it up myself(!) I think this is our mission while we’re here on earth. Do shit you’re good at and do it as much as possible!


14. Here are 3 quotes I got from “The Artist’s Way Morning Pages Journal”:

  • “Stop looking at the marketplace and start looking at the gains you have made with your art.”

  • “The need to be a great artist makes it hard to be an artist.”

  • “Don’t call the inability to start “laziness”. Call it “fear”.”

I’ve been trying to write 1 page daily in The Morning Pages Journal since 2016 - this journaling practice has had a major impact on my life. Here is the Tim Ferriss blog post that encouraged me to start: https://tim.blog/2015/01/15/morning-pages/ Buy a journal here.


15. “Progress not perfection”

Just a reminder to take one step forward.


16. Rudyard Kipling’s “If” poem.

Do ya googles.


17. Wake up then ask:

  • How can I serve today?

  • How can I get 1% better today?

A little service, a little self-improvement. Every. Single. Day.


18. I took a bunch of notes from Jordan Peterson’s book “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos”. This book is NOT an “easy read” but man is it profound. I had to read several of the passages/chapters over and over again because of how in-depth they are. I recommend listening to his podcast with Aubrey Marcus and if you enjoy their topics of conversation then buy the book, either the audio book or physical copy will work and you might need both like I did.


19. “Instead of saying you “can’t” do something, instead say you “don’t want to” do something.”

“Can’t should never be in a (wo)man’s vocabulary.”


20. “Answered prayers are scary - they require responsibility.”

Not sure where I heard this but isn’t it true? Maybe we start to pray differently and for different things when we know this…


21. “If you change the way you eat; you change the energy you have, you change the way you feel, it’ll change your behavior, it’ll change your choices, it’ll change your ambitions, it’ll change your potential. There are so many things that will change! - Joe Rogan


22. In Alex Banyan’s book “The Third Door” his mentor Elliot Bisnow gave him these 5 rules:

  • never use your phone in a meeting - even for notes. (Use a pen = impressive)

  • Act like you belong. Walk into a room like you’ve been there before. Don’t hawk over celebrities, be cool.

  • “Mystery makes history” when you’re doing cool shit, don’t post pictures of it.

  • Never break trust. It takes years to build your reputation and only seconds to break it. If you act like a vault, people will treat you like a vault.

  • Adventures only happen to the adventurous.

The Third Door is another must-read, especially for anyone who needs motivation to chase a dream.


23. 4 people you need in your life:

  • A mentor

  • A coach

  • A cheerleader

  • A friend

Find those 4 people for yourself but also make sure you’re 1 of those 4 to someone else.


24. “A king wants to be treated like one-of-the-guys, and one of the guys wants to be treated like something special.”

Ask yourself, “who am I dealing with? a king or one of the guys?” act accordingly…


25. “Never compare your harvest - compare your hustle.”

This is a good rule of thumb.


26. Remember: “People admire your strengths but they relate to your weaknesses.”

Another case for being vulnerable.

27. “You have to decide who you are going to be before the crisis. Who you become before the crisis is who you will be in the crisis.” - Erwin McManus

Erwin McManus is one of the best speakers I have ever heard in my life. You can listen to his messages weekly on Mosaic’s Podcast or go catch him live at Mosaic Church in Hollywood. Sometime’s I trip out that I am alive at the same time on earth that he is and his church is in LA. Yeah, he’s that good.


28. “Adults devise a plan and follow it, children do what feels good.” - Dave Ramsey

Dave is pretty funny. Ive had a good time with his no-nonsense financial advice on his youtube channel.


29. If you want to create something that’s “bigger than yourself” then it CAN’T be about YOU. - Charlie Rocket



30. Wisdom sets limits to knowledge.

Have you ever learned a piece of information that you didn’t need to know? How about seen something that you immediately wanted to un-see? Sometimes we can help it, sometimes we can’t. “Wisdom sets limits to knowledge” is like the grandfather to “ignorance is bliss”.


31. “Money buys you time to think.” - Youssef Guirguis

My boy Youssef drops bombs on the regular. We will be mid-convo and I’ll have him repeat himself 2 or 3 times so I can write it down. Another cool thing Youssef does that I want to adopt: he schedules walk/talk meetings in his dream residential neighborhood. This creates a super inspiring setting walking up and down the streets looking at all the beautiful homes and gives context to the conversation.


I’m super blessed to see another year. Thank you for your support and joining me on this journey. Feel free to reach out via text or email.

The Student & Teacher in me recognizes and honors the Student & Teacher in you!


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