A few weeks ago, I hit the big 4-0. As others have told me, it’s either the beginning of the end, the beginning of the greatest chapter in life, or as my Mom put it, “I’m perfect and I love you.” Thanks Mom!
Personally, 40 felt exactly like the previous 9 birthdays. My back hurts a little more these days and after having children I no longer know what it’s like to sleep past 6:30am, but I still woke up feeling gracious to be here and looking forward to celebrating the next one. However, I do recognize 40 is a milestone where a lot of us reflect on life and how it’s going.
Is it going according to plan?
Are we living with regrets?
What can we expect from the next 40 years (if we’re lucky?)
For each day leading up my 40th, I posted one lesson learned on my LinkedIn and Instagram pages (check out the whole list using those links). But since I’m already counting myself lucky if you’re still reading up to this point, I wanted to share my top 5 lessons learned while turning 40.
1. It’s OK to ask for help.
In many cases, we’re taught to figure things out on our own. At the surface level, it’s an important skill to do so; however, it becomes dangerous when we become scared to ask for help. It’s OK to ask for help at work from those around you with more experience. You can learn from them and odds are they’ll be glad you asked. If you’re struggling with your mental health, it’s OK to ask for help from those around you or from more professional help. Don’t let your pride or ego get in the way.
2. Don’t get married to the destination; Savor the process.
I’ve had hundreds, if not thousands, of “plans” over the course of my life. Many I’ve accomplished. Perhaps more I’ve adjusted or abandoned along the way. Some of the plans didn’t serve the intended purpose after some time, so I’ve learned to be OK making adjustments versus blindly sticking with them. As one of my favorite basketball players, Kobe Bryant, said, “It’s not about the destination, it’s the journey.”
3. Be curious, not certain.
We live in times where there’s a tremendous amount of pressure to have an opinion. Over the years I’ve learned it’s more important to be thoughtful than right. More important to be interested than opinionated. More important to be curious and not certain.
4. You can’t always control circumstance, but you can control your response.
There are times you’ll be dealt a bad hand. Absolutely none of it will be your fault or the result of something you did to put yourself in that situation. What is important and within your control is how you respond. Often the easiest route – and frankly more comfortable route in the moment – is to play the victim, get negative, and rant until your hoarse to anyone who will listen. But it’s not productive or helpful. The more productive – albeit harder route – is to remain positive. Focus on what you CAN control. Do something to get your mind into a positive space. It’s a reason I’m so keen on exercising. If I’m in a funk or finding the bad in everything, I can normally trace my mood to how often I’ve been active in the last week. For others, it might be journaling or some R&R. Whatever works for you, make sure it’s a priority in your schedule. And if you don’t know what it is for you, spend some time figuring it out.
5. You have the rest of your life to be ordinary.
I don’t like to say I have regrets. In hindsight, I certainly wish I would have done a few things differently, but I don’t regret any of the experiences because I always learn or experience something more powerful than the original intention.
But with the benefit of looking back, I wish I would have taken more risks in my 20s. I was a little preoccupied with doing what felt safest, or what I thought was the normal route and progression in life. In my 30s, I started taking some more risks. I started focusing less on what felt “normal” and more on what felt “right.” For example, my wife Megan and I moved away from home to Texas when she was 7 months pregnant. Shortly after, I began my public speaking career (and eventually left the safe corporate career behind). Even more recently, my family sold our home and traveled for 16 months to 48 states in a converted Amazon delivery truck 🙂
It has been a slightly unordinary journey. But it’s been the right one – for us. And over time, I’ve realized most of the risks we take in life can be undone. Not all, but most can be rectified if they go completely sour. What’s harder to fix is doing nothing in the first place. Inaction will be the source of frustration 10-20 years down the road, always saying to yourself, “I wish I would have done it.” That is why I’ve learned you have the rest of your life to be ordinary. And even at 40 years old, there’s plenty of time.