20 Life Lessons


On Feb 3rd of this year, 2019, I was rushed to the hospital with acute pain in my right abdomen, assumed to be Appendicitis. After blood tests and a CT Scan, I was told to call my wife and the executor of my estate to ensure that affairs were in order just in case and rushed into surgery 2 hours later.

That woke me up.

As a 38 y/o that played football (soccer) for Real Mona F.C. in Jamaica, is considered healthy in my annual physical, walled 5km Monday to Friday each morning, played in a football league weekly in Orlando, a weekly tennis league and golfed once per week, I thought I was invincible

5’ 11” and 190 lbs, up from my usual 180 lbs for most of my 30s, I rarely ever get sick; to the point that my parents, a doctor and a nurse, as well as my wife, don’t understand how since my diet is supposedly not as healthy as theirs and I am a picky eater.

The news was a blow to them but even more to me because here I was thinking I’m invincible and have all the time in the world to spend with my wife, kids, parents and friends later in life so put in crazy work hours now.

I was wrong!

This experience has taught me some CRITICAL lessons that have changed how the next half of my life will be lived and made me realize just how wrong I was up to age 38.

Here are the lessons that this badly needed wake-up call have taught me:

1. No matter how important you think your work is, it all has to pause when you have a medical emergency. Somehow the world goes on and people manage.

Don’t overwork yourself and learn to share some responsibility.

2. Build in redundancy so everything does not depend on you.

Founders especially should give up more control and allow different teammates to cover the areas of expertise.

3. You know who really cares about your well-being when you face a serious medical issue and who is just a user.

Get rid of the users from your life.

You can hail them when you see them but don’t go hang out. It is poison.

Soak up the positivity of those who actually care.

4. Share your grand ideas widely in case you never live long enough to execute them yourself. You may inspire someone else to execute it and that matters more than getting credit.

5. Your legacy to the world does not matter. All you care about is how your family and friends see you.

I was especially scared about how my 3 children would remember me, our daughter being too young to actually remember me properly because she turned 1 in January. That one hurt the most.

6. Do not care about the opinions of every single person or that old debt you owe that someone still holds against you after your business failed.

They can say whatever they want. You tried something they were too afraid to try. Be happy to try things even if you fail. No regrets.

7. I realized just how poor of a job I had done as a husband in recent years by traveling so much working for a hedge fund and then launching our own firm.

I thought that I was doing it for the future good of the family but the family wanted me to be present. I was stupid.

8. Our family financial bible came in handy — a document with every single bank account, life insurance policy, share ownership, respective lawyers, contact person for each company and passwords to everything I have.

My wife also has the password to get into my phone.

9. True friends seek to remove stress from your life, not add it. They check on you, pray for you, cheer you up and even put their foot down.

10. Pace yourself

My father had to fly with me to Jamaica the day after I was cleared to fly. I was in a wheelchair to get on and off the plane. He drove me to EVERY meeting and timed them.

1 hour then done.

He limited me to 3 meetings per day.

I was way more efficient.

11. You realize the things that you were sorry you had not done some things yet and then re-prioritize.

I have specific things to help Jamaica that I’ve wanted to do for 10 years but I was waiting to be very rich. Things in the Diaspora that I wanted to do as well.

Now I will not wait.

12. Time is more valuable than you realize.

I will spend money now to buy more time without thinking twice. Earlier flight to get home to see my family? Shorter layover? Help at home? Additional staff in the company to take away some of my work?

I just wanted 1 more day.

13. Stop getting upset when my children injure themselves.

They are already in pain so console them and ask them what lesson they learned but be glad that they are still alive. You would not want your last memory to be of scolding your child or arguing with your spouse.

14. I value my parents even more than before.

Not just because they spent 72 hours in the hospital taking care of me or because they have been amazing with my care since.

Simply because their mortality is now VERY obvious to me. I cannot predict how many more years they have.

15. Do not waste ANY energy arguing with a single person.

It is not worth it and that is time you waste that you cannot get back

In person, on the phone, on social media, it’s not worth your time and energy. Don’t waste brain cells trying to convince people of anythingunless you are running for office, serve in an elected role or it is your job to convince people of something.

Otherwise, do you and be willing to state your opinions and walk away. You do not owe anyone an explanation unless they are impacted by the decision/opinion.

16. I no longer leave things unsaid or awkward. I don’t have time for that anymore.

You will get the unvarnished truth from me about a person, about yourself, why I do or do not do business with you, or invest, etc.

You will learn from that truth. Sorry if it hurts. Grow. I call this “Steve Jobs Mode” having read Walter Isaacson’s book. I am still working on the delivery to be softer but it still needs to be unvarnished.

People have grown soft over time with sugar-coated criticism so real talk makes them think you’re an a**hole.

I used to care.

17. People are going to judge you no matter what you do or don’t do so focus on not having regrets.

You aren’t living your life for them.

18. Most people you meet will be inconsequential in your life. Don’t treat them that way because you can never know who will be consequential.

I was happy that I have treated so many people with respect. Some of the support messages were surprising and one hospital visit surprised.

19. Friends don’t have to speak for a year and can be more real than the people you talk to every week.

Know your true friends separate from acquaintances.

Focus on a few deep relationships, not many shallow ones.

20. Rethink your mentors and role models.

They may have what you want financially but do they have what you want personally.

When my wife and I got married, I showed her my 5 role models and pointed out that 3 of them were divorced so we committed to study what went wrong…

We agreed to try and not have the same things happen to us despite the odds being against us based on my 15-year plan.

We read together, worked at it and I still ended up letting work and ambition supersede family.

Wrong role models, period.

Together we identified new ones with Will Smith and Barack Obama being the key ones.

Will especially has been important because Jada has been so transparent about the marital issues and how they worked to overcome.

I now have a wealthy mentor JUST for marriage. Married 35 yrs to his wife and went through a very rough patch.

Those are my 20 life lessons since Feb 3rd, 2019.

David P.A. Mullings is the founder and CEO of Blue Mahoe Partners, a private investment firm based in Florida.


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