If Life had a manual, this is mine

I call this note My life’s little instructions. I wrote it for my 29th birthday.

Since then, I update it yearly as a birthday ritual.

This week, I turned 29 30 31.

#1 Everyone is fighting their own battles

“If we threw our problems in a pile and got a look at everyone else’s, we would fight to get back ours“, Regina Brett wrote in her book “God never blinks”.

A few weeks ago, during my team dinner with the boss, she said, “I wish I could invite you guys to my house, but my father does not like visitors.” We asked why.

“He suffered a brain injury and became atrabilious ever since. Sometimes, he lashes out at my mom.” I thought she had a perfect life, then I got a glimpse of her vulnerable side.

Everyone is fighting their own battles. Even Obama has constipation.

#2 The best way to trust someone is to trust them

A friend’s boyfriend cheated on her.

She asked me,” How could ever I trust anyone anymore?”

“Keep trusting. I know it is painful, but I would trade another betrayal than stopping trusting people. Why let someone’s misuse of trust turns you into one of them? There are more than enough people who love you. Trust them,” I said.

#3 Don’t compare life

My sister’s HR manager asked her in her interview, “How do you feel having high achiever elder siblings?”

My sister replied, “Good for them. Now, If you may, It is time for me to live mine!”  We have our own destiny and it begins when you stop comparing.

Never try to live someone else’s life; never try to chase after other’s destiny. Because you are awesome the way you are.

#4 Serve your master

I had a dispute with my teammates from the regional office. It was a heated debate and I was upset for upsetting them. But, I had to take my stance.

After the meeting, the boss said, “Brandon, you need to decide who is your master. Is that your boss, your investors, or your purpose? You can never make everyone happy. Serve your master and that means you can’t please everyone.”

Do you know who is your master in life?

#5 Family first

I turned off my Facebook birthday notification.

I wanted to know who remembers my birthday without the reminder and as it turned out, not many.

The first greeting was always from my parents and they wanted nothing but for me to be healthy and happy.

A friend said, “We are lucky that our parents are family. For some people, it is not the case. I saw how my boyfriend’s parents abused him, and I would never call them family. A Family is a group of people who love and support you conditionally, be it biologically related, or not. ”

Choose family. Because at the end of the day, not many people will mourn your death at your funeral.

#6 Never surrender your selfworth 

One day, in a cab ride to the airport, my friend and I were whining about a bad meeting.

We were definitely demotivated.

The cab driver listened and said, “Never surrender your self-worth to anyone, not your parents, not your loved ones, and more so, not your bosses.”

Life is a boat sailing in an open ocean. There will be days when the waves hit you so hard and sink you so low, but only you get to decide to swim or sink. No matter how tough the days get, keep your chin up. You are the captain and the boat is called “self-esteem”.

#7 This too shall pass

Life is fun because it is a roller coaster ride.

Faced with an arduous situation, always step back and ask yourself, “How would this pain matter 5 years later?” Most of the time, they don’t. Life is temporary and everything in it is momentary. During tough times, tell yourself, “This too shall pass”.

5 years later, you might look back and say, “how silly”.

#8 Leaders are human too

We sometimes look upon our leaders and wonder why they always look composed.

No, they are not in actual. they shit in their pants too (they just did not tell you). In fact, leaders are often more vulnerable and lonelier when no one is looking.

Once, after a long grueling business review, I overheard Sam, my ex-president, said to his assistant, “I think I am getting an ulcer.” He sounded exhausted. The next day, in the town hall, he said, “This is the second toughest year I had in my entire career in P&G. It is tough, but we will make it, together”. He sounded hopeful and assertive.

My ex-boss, Pratima said, “Sometimes I keep you out of some meetings because I don’t like you to see how I get beaten up by the bosses,” It broke my heart and drove me to do better because I don’t like my boss being beaten up.

Humanity makes a great leader.

#9 Watch your mouth

Words have power, you can use them to lift a spirit or to break a soul.

Speak wisely, or at least try not to speak like an idiot. If you have nothing better to say, keep it shut.

#10 Naked truth over false hope

Randy Pausch in The Last Lecture said, “If I only had three words of advice, they would be, Tell the Truth. If I got three more words, I’d add, all the time.” A half-truth is a bigger sin than a whole lie because it makes it harder to tell the difference between the two.

Many years ago, a girl I admired rejected me, “No Brandon, I don’t like you romantically and I will never do. We are friends and there is no what-if. Sorry that I hurt you, but I rather tell you the truth.”

She was right. The naked truth is painful. But it is the best gift you can offer to someone.

#11 Ask the heart

My first manager, Pankaj had a rule of thumb for decision making. “when it comes to making a tough decision, gather all the information and think rationally. Spend a few days to internalize if you need to. Then, sleep. When you wake up, ask your heart for the decision. Say yes if it feels right and you will not go wrong.”

The method always work.

#12 It is when you are sad that you will find joy 

Our best memories are bittersweet.

There are some sadness, regrets, but they are also our most cherished ones.

Watch the movie “Inside out” and you’ll know what I mean.

#13 Success is not winning all the time

After my team and I took the podium as the national champion for L’Oréal Brandstorm competition in 2009, my lecturer told us, “We were so sure that you guys would not make it. You were so awful during your rehearsal.”

I asked, “why didn’t you just tell us yesterday?”

My lecturer just smiled and said, “My job is to help you to be successful and success in life is more than winning a competition. It is about character building. Are you becoming a better person? We want to let you learn from your own experience”.

#14 If you want it badly, go get it. 

My youngest sister applied to be a veterinarian, but she was rejected by the university. She was devastated until my mom said, “if you want it, then go out and don’t come back until you get it.”

She was devastated until my mom said, “if you want it, then go out and don’t come back until you get it.”

She packed up and boarded the first flight in her life to meet the dean of the faculty of Veterinarian of the university “Let me try one more time”, she said.

“Let me try one more time”, she said.

The Dean asked, “why?”

She showed a picture of our family pet and said, “Let me show you the first stray dog I rescued. This is the second one. This is the third one…” She went on counting, “but I can never save all of them. I want to do more.”

The following day, she received her letter of admission from the university.

#15 Forgiveness is freedom

In the last two years of high school, I had a crush on a friend. I didn’t let her know.

She dated one of my good friends and I was jealous. I said hurtful words and did childish things and eventually killed our friendships. I feel guilty since.

10 years later, I emailed her, “Sorry for being a dick. Would you forgive me?”

She said, “yes, of course, my friend.”

As we reconciled our friendship, I felt a massive weight lifted off my chest.

Holding on to unresolved emotion is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.

#16 Who are you without your job?

When a person goes to the jail – we forfeit his time and identity. We replace his name with a number. 

A job is more than a pass time – you belong to a tribe and it gives you an identity. For example, someone in Google is a “Googler”; often times I label myself as a “P&Ger”. That’s why- oftentimes we hear people say it is scary to quit a job because losing an identity is scary.

But, it should not be your only identity. Who are you without your job? And do the world knows that version of you enough? You are more than just your job.

#17 Learn to master money

They never taught me money management in school. But, we deal with money 99% of our life. Being savvy doesn’t equal to being stingy! Here are some of the basics I found practical.

  1. Salary is a drug
  2. Learn to file your tax and maximize the return
  3. Pay your credit card bill on time. 
  4. Never underestimate compound interest 
  5. Learn to invest. Begin with FD if you know nothing. 
  6. Do not get into the money game. They are 100% ponzi scam 
  7. Spend beneath your means. The ability to save is an underestimated life skill
  8. Make friends who are financially savvy. They can teach you many things
  9. Track your net worth on a monthly basis. You can’t grow things you can’t track
  10. Splurge occasionally because we need to pamper ourselves

# 18 What gets your here won’t get you there

When I left the university, I was ready to be humbled.

I knew my achievement in the campus would never bring me far. Not especially if I stay arrogant.

I had to start afresh, like Sisyphus.

Sisyphus was the man portrayed in ancient mythology who was sentenced with the eternal task of rolling the same stone up the mountain, each and every day, only to watch it roll back down. The work never was done, the finish line never crossed. Each and every day, he had to come back and perform all over again.

 The mistake many can make is they live off their past proud glory. Your past achievement is never an insurance plan for the future. Each day, you start anew and have to re-earn your achievement for the day.
You need to stay on top of your game and always reinvent yourself.

Look at Nokia. It was huge. Then it died.

#19 Squeeze the orange

“If I were to squeeze an orange as hard as I could, do you think apple juice could come out of it?” I asked a friend who loves to complain.

“No!” he laughed.

“What would come out of it?”

“Orange juice, that’s what’s inside!”

“Let’s assume that this orange isn’t an orange, but it’s you. And someone squeezes you, puts pressure on you, says something you don’t like and offends you. Out of you comes complaints and negativity. Why?” I asked

Because that’s what’s inside of you.

What comes out when life squeezes you? When someone hurts or offends you? If anger, pain, and fear come out of you, it’s because that’s what’s inside. It doesn’t matter who does the squeezing—your mother, your brother,  or your bosses. What comes out of you is your character. And you are fully responsible for what’s inside of you.

Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it.

#20 Who are you trying to impress? 

Cabe likes to ask her gym buff friends,”are you training for health or for aesthetic?”

“Some people build their body to look good. They are after social validation. An easy way to tell is by looking at the legs. Because legs are the hardest to train,” she said.

Many of us do things subconsciously to seek approval and to keep up with the society’s standard.

When I was 15, I begged my dad to buy me a guitar and to send me to music classes. I knew I didn’t really like music. But I insisted because all of my guy friends were doing it. I felt left out.  15 years later, I still can’t sing, can’t play guitar, and I am perfectly OK being imperfect.

15 years later, I still can’t sing, can’t play guitar, and I have learned to be OK being imperfect. I know I am good at something else.

Confidences is silent. Insecurity is loud.

Remember, you’re giving your personal power away every time you seek validation from someone else for who you are.

#21 You’ve hit the jackpot

Gary Vaynerchuk said there is 400,000,000,000,000 to 1 odd to becoming a human.

You’ve hit the jackpot.

You have one life to live.

Your choice.

#22 You are gonna die

A few years ago, my friend dared me to a chili pepper eating challenge. It didn’t end well.

I vomited through the night and I swore I saw blood in it. It sounds silly now, but I really thought I was going to die. I flashed back and thought about the many what if and regrets I had. I was angry because being killed by chili was a stupid way to die.

And you know what? Throwing away your life is equally stupid too.

Why don’t you take the leap of faith, go on the dream road trip, and put on the most expensive perfume that you’ve kept for the special occasion, and do the things you’ve always wanted to?

Don’t postpone life.

The saddest summary of a life contains three descriptions:

I could have

I might have

and I should have.


  1. Thanks Brandon for your writing. The old post comes at the right time for me. Lots of useful advice that light me up. Thanks again for all of your sharing. Love to read your tiny letter everyday. Keep it up!!! Cheer and Happy New Year!

  2. Hi Brandon,

    Thanks for inspiring writings and daily tiny letter. They never fail to amaze me with different yet simple views 🙂 Stay awesome as always!


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