Things in Life I Underestimated for Way Too Long

things in life that make you who you are

Ralph Waldo Emerson said this about gratitude: 

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” 

It’s so easy to get caught up in our daily routines and responsibilities that we forget to show appreciation for the people, things, and experiences we have. 

Because as Emerson said, everything (good and bad) in our life contributes to who we are and where we are in life. This is something I didn’t appreciate until recently, to be honest with you.

I thought, “I’m a grateful person. I say thank you a lot.” But that’s not enough. When I was reading Emerson, I finally realized I was NOT grateful for many things in my life. I’m glad I realized it now. 

In this article, I share some of the important things I’ve underestimated in my life for way too long, and how appreciating these lessons made me happier.

1. Where you grew up & live now

I grew up in a city called Leeuwarden, in the north of The Netherlands. I was always the only non-white kid in my class. In the 90s, the percentage of non-white people was around 5%.1Source:

During my childhood and teens, the city had a population of around 100,000. I always complained about our city. No diversity, too small, no big business, no career opportunities. 

While our city has grown and has become a bit more diverse, it’s still a traditional Dutch city. And this is something I appreciate a lot now.

Growing up with Dutch values has made a big impact on the way I view the world. People here are hard workers, honest, direct, and frugal. These are common traits that almost everyone lives by. And I love that.

Everyone has their own story and upbringing. Whether it’s good or bad, it’s who you are. Never run from it. Appreciate it. Use it. But never let it box you in.

I know people who grew up in hard circumstances and still made something out of their lives. They used their hardship as a strength. We can all do that, no matter where we come from. Just don’t run from it. Escaping is not the answer. Embrace it.

2. The power of your mind 

If I look at how I live my life now compared to several years ago, I feel much stronger mentally. I feel that way every year because I keep training my mind.

I remember getting so swayed by my emotions whenever something “bad” happened to me. And I say “bad” because I never had something really bad.

Like many other people, I hardly ever got what I wanted. And if we don’t get what we want, we get emotional. If I experienced setbacks, I wanted to give up.

I even had it with my writing career. I started in 2015 and it wasn’t until 2018 that I was earning a good living. Before that, I often thought, “Screw this thing. I’m doing something else.”

We all get discouraged. Especially because it seems like EVERYONE else is successful. The other day I saw a post that said something like, “How I make $200,000 a month from online courses.” For a second, I thought, “What? I want that too.”

Then I thought, “Screw that guy. I love my life.”

That’s the power of your mind. No matter where you are in life and how you feel, trust me, things will get better. 

Your mind is more powerful than you think. That’s something we must never forget to appreciate.

3. The mistakes you’ve made 

Every single mistake you made or bad thing that has happened in your life has shaped you. The question is: Are those things improving you or hurting you?

Let it be the former. Let your mistakes be teachers. 

It took me a long time to appreciate my mistakes. Because the things I saw as mistakes were not mistakes. They were lessons in disguise.

This is not just some motivational talk. When I started my first business out of grad school, I thought I made a mistake by not pursuing a traineeship at a corporation.

When I worked at a corporation in London I thought I made a mistake by trying to climb the corporate ladder instead of being my own boss.

When I started my writing career, I thought it was a mistake to leave the corporate world to focus on an endeavor with such a low success rate.

But hey, none of those things were really mistakes. I learned and everything made an impact on me. 

4. Wind, rain, cold, and “bad” weather

You know I grew up in The Netherlands. So you also know it rains a lot and it’s cold the majority of the year.

For my entire life, I hated that. I complained about the weather a lot. When I stopped complaining several years ago, I said, “I will move to Spain. At least I will have better weather.”

So I tried to live in Spain. I didn’t like it. Too warm. Different culture. Far from my family and friends.

You see, the weather is never perfect. When I was in Spain, I was surprised to see so many people complaining about how warm it was. “Man, it’s so warm I can’t even work without cranking up the AC, which is expensive.”

When I came back to NL, I had a different mindset. I said, “Man, I love the seasons. When it’s cold, I look forward to the warmer weather. And vice versa.”

It’s about your perspective. Just appreciate the weather for what it is. Especially if you live in a place that’s cold. It’s actually pretty nice.

6. TIME 

You can look at the concept of time in different ways. You’re probably thinking I’m going to give you the same old story of, “Time is limited.” We know that already.

What I underappreciated for a long time is that time can be your friend. There are a lot of things in life that need time.

  • Learning skills
  • Developing a career
  • Building wealth
  • Becoming a balanced person

The power of compounding in those areas is crazy. Tiny actions add up over time and lead to HUGE results. 

Read for one hour a day. Get better at your work. Save and invest at least 10% of your income every month. Live your life according to philosophy.

If you do those things consistently, time will bring you everything you ever asked from life.

And I mean everything. The problem is that people give up too early. They want to get rich and successful but think results should come within a few years.

You need way more time than that for most good things in life. If you give yourself that time without getting frustrated, you will be better off.

That’s not a matter of IF, it’s a matter of WHEN.

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