On June 3rd 2014, I turn forty.
Throughout the year, I’ve watched many of my old high school and college friends (and foes) go through this same life-event and have been thinking about how I wanted to address it when it was my turn.
For the most part, I’m not really feeling all that old (though my body is as well rounded and saggy as the average 40+ year old) and I’m not really feeling bad about turning 40 at all.
In fact, if anything, I’m actually excited about it. I’m excited because, if I’ve just middle age now, then that means I’ve got another 40 plus years to enjoy life…to learn…to grow…and to fill with love and adventures (how couldn’t you be excited about that!?).
Best of all, unlike the past 40 stretch, I get to go into this next 40 with a little bit of wisdom…and so I thought to mark this occasion I would share a few bits of that ‘wisdom’ I’m taking into the next 40.
Before we get to the list though, I should state that this is not a comprehensive list. In fact, it’s just a rambling list of what came to me in the ten or fifteen minutes that I sat down to think about and write this post…so it’s very likely that it’s not even the list of my *most important* beliefs or “rules to live by”…but it’s a list none-the-less, and it’s all stuff I wholly believe (at the moment).
Anyway, here goes:
1. Words have power, but actions have real meaning. If you say one thing, then do another…it’s only the 'doing’ that really counts. If you want to show someone love, or simply that you care, forget the words and do it through your actions.
2. In my book, respect is not earned, it is given freely and only lost through actions that *I* deem poor. Still I strive to treat even those I no longer have respect for with common manners…and I do everything in *my* power to limit my exposure to them. Time is too precious to waste engaged with people you don’t respect.
3. Manners matter. Most people, even those that dislike you, respect and respond to manners. It’s the easiest way out of an uncomfortable situation, and almost *always* makes you appear smarter, kinder, and even more attractive then you really are. Take the extra five seconds and use your manners, trust me.
4. Being 'right’ is relative. Ultimately *you* are the judge of your own actions and the only one that truly has to live with them. Doing the right thing is often harder in the moment, but doing the wrong thing will stick with you (even if just internally) for many many moments to come. Take the pain upfront and do what you believe is right as often as you can. And keep in mind that the only one you should *really* debate right and wrong with is yourself. Sometimes you can’t undo the *wrong*, so figure out a way to live with those moments and use them as a strong guide for your future.
5. The point of *my* life, in one word, is 'adventure’. In two, it’s “fun adventure”. Though I find my wife beautiful, independent, and intelligent it is her sense of adventure throughout life that I’m most in love with. She, along with my two wonderful kids, can make even a simple car ride a fun-filled adventure that brightens my day. More than anything else, it’s a future filled with adventures with them that I’m looking forward to in the next 40 (plus) years.
6. The next best thing to a real adventure is a great story. Sales, marketing, branding, promotions, love, sharing, friendship…these are all things simply powered by stories. Learn to tell and share great stories and you’ll always have a path to success in everything you care about.
7. Money is the most misunderstood (and mis-valued) concept of the modern world. Religion is a close second. Politics rounds out the top three. I avoid publicly engaging in all of these as much as possible…but I spend a deep amount of internal thought (and stories) on each.
To make an exception to my usual rule…the best advice I can give about money is to save it before you spend it and don’t spend it until you’ve physically got it. The best advice I can give about religion is that you’ll never know the real answers until it’s too late - so live your life with respect and manners towards all possibilities. The best advice I can give about politics is don’t have expectations and opinions, take real actions and earn the results you want.
Really, in the end, I think they all kind of loop back to #4 above.
8. Everything is a struggle in one way or another. Without the pain, and respect for it, there is no understanding of true happiness. Accept the struggles as temporary, focus on getting through them as quickly and easily as possible. Make educated decisions quickly and don’t dwell too much on the pain of the struggle but instead focus on the goal and the happy ending you are working towards.
9. Decisions are not the end to something, they are the start. Reaching any goal is mostly about making the decision over and over again, and a priority throughout each day. You don’t make the decision to be married once, you make it every day. You don’t decide to be happy once, you make it every day (and hopefully multiple times throughout the day). You don’t lose weight or get in shape because you decide to, you do it through actions that you decide to take each day. *You* have the power to change your decisions (through actions) at any time.
10. In 200 years from today, only a handful of the 7 billion who are currently alive, will be remembered by the world (and not all fondly). So don’t stress too much about today or tomorrow. Help the real people in your life to have better adventures, to get through their struggles, to find their own internal *right*…and do it all with actions.
So there you have it…ten random bits of wisdom I’m taking into the next 40+ years of my life.
I hope you’ll spend some time reflecting on them yourself, and if you are so inclined, sharing some of your own “rules to live by” with me in the comments below (in fact, I couldn’t think of a more perfect birthday present)!
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Kevin has a day job as CTO of Veritonic and is spending nights & weekends hacking on Share Game Tape. You can also check out some of his open source code on GitHub or connect with him on Twitter @falicon or via email at kevin at falicon.com.
If you have comments, thoughts, or want to respond to something you see here I would encourage you to respond via a post on your own blog (and then let me know about the link via one of the routes mentioned above).