Yesterday was my birthday. I’ve finally hit the big 3–0, the age that I used to worry so much about because it sounded old.

But now I’ve realized, being 30 isn’t all that bad. I don’t have any wrinkles. My bones are still strong. My senses are still intact. I’m still exercising everyday and slowly becoming stronger. And I’m working hard to rebuild my life, a life that isn’t steered by somebody else, by pursuing my passion in writing, traveling and creating videos as often as I can.

We often think being 30 is the next milestone in our lives, but the truth is there’s not much difference whether you’re 30, 29 or 31. Age is just a number. It reminds us to look back on the progress we’ve made, to see if we’ve discovered who we truly are and what it is that we really want. It reminds us to recognize our values, to understand them and make it clear to others what it is that we stand up for as a tribute from what we’ve learned from our past.

I’ve gone through many hardships these 30 years; some more serious than others: a 9 year heartbreak that left me stranded alone and in China, learning to travel alone, constantly feeling lost, vlogging on Youtube for the very first time and struggling with my thoughts while writing just to list a few. I’m thankful for all of these experiences because it has given me a greater depth of life and has allowed me to grow as a better person.

Below, I’m going to share with you some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned before turning 30.

Your time is more valuable than everyone else’s

I used to give all of my time away to anyone who’d ask. I did it because I felt good knowing that I could be of help, but eventually I realized that most of these people who asked for my time weren’t genuinely sincere about it. They’d ask for my time because they knew they could take advantage of my kindness to accelerate their own agenda, their own priorities, their own ambitions without giving back or being appreciative in return. Most of them valued only their time and not mine.

It’s okay to help, it’s okay to sacrifice your time but there has to be a reasonable cause. It has to be for something/someone worth sacrificing that time for. It has to be something you actually value and care about and not just for the reason that you were asked.

We all have our own goals and things to work on; our time isn’t any less precious than anyone else’s. If we constantly say ‘yes’ to every request we’ve been asked, we’ll never have time for ourselves to grow, to relax, to try new things and gain more experiences. We’ll never have the time to pursue our own passions because we’re too busy helping others pursue theirs.

The best things in life takes time and effort

Most of us try to look for the “easy” way out when trying to achieve something great, when in truth it requires the most time and effort. I know that sucks to hear, but that’s life. Losing weight, getting better at writing, learning to love yourself — these are all things that take tremendous effort over a long period of time.

When I traveled to Taiwan, I’d gained a lot of weight. It was from the stress I’d accumulated from working at a startup and I couldn’t hold back from my temptations of milk tea and fried chicken. But then I began working out more while doing intermittent fasting; I’d run to the gym the moment I woke up, do a lot of deadlifts and intense cardio, all on an empty stomach, and eat after fasting for 16–18 hours. It was painful especially in the beginning but I kept it up anyways. It paid off. In 6 months, I’d lost 20 pounds.

The things we want, the changes we want, all take time and effort. If you want to get better at something, accomplish a goal, you have to dedicate yourself to achieving it, and be patient.

After all, there’s no such thing as “overnight success” but success that comes from hard work and persistence.

Being you is the greatest gift you have

Normally I tell the best lesson first but this time I saved it as the last, and that’s to be genuine.

Too many people, including myself, constantly struggle to express ourselves. How we behave and what we say in real life is far different than how we portray ourselves through our writing, on Youtube or anywhere else that has an audience.

We’re inclined to only show the best side of ourselves; the best photos of us, the best stories, the best videos. We’re so used to hiding our mistakes, hiding our opinions, hiding our thoughts and feelings that we often forget those are the things that make us who we are.

As someone who values genuineness, I find it incredibly refreshing and exhilarating to see someone who isn’t afraid to show him/herself. And it inspires me to do the same because when you’re okay with being yourself and you’re not scared to speak your thoughts and feelings, people can relate to you better and are more likely to support you because you share a common ground.

After expressing myself with full transparency through my writing and videos, I’ve built up more confidence, grew a voice of my own, and made higher-value friendships. I have no doubt that this will continue to help me grow.

Now, being transparent isn’t easy and like all great things, will take time and effort. But if you truly want to be successful and grow your influence in leaps and bounds, you need to let others see the real side of you. That’s the only way.