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40 Things I’ve Learned in 40 Years

I turn 40 years old today. Since I hate birthday presents I figured I’d pass along some of the presents people have taught me over the last 40 years. 

1) Always try to be a good person. This is the most obvious one and also often the hardest one. Life is hard and everyone is fighting their own personal battles. Help them through it by being kind enough to try to understand their battle.

2) Never mistake money for wealth. The person who mistakes money for wealth will live a life accumulating things, all the while mistaking a life of owning for a life of living.

3) Never stop learning. Life is one big lesson and the older you get the more you’ll realize how little you know. Never lose an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and understanding.

4) Don’t do something you love. Do something other people will love you for doing. We often hear people recommend that young people should find a job they will love. But the path to success isn’t always filled with doing what you love. It’s filled with doing the things that other people will love (and compensate you) for doing.

5) Anything meaningful is hard to do. The Olympic Creed says “the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.”  All of life is a struggle, but working through the struggle is how we grow and improve. A lot of it will suck along the way, but as my friend Wes Gray says, “embrace the suck”.

6) The more you give the more you get. The only wealth we’ll ever keep is the wealth we give away.

7) Discipline is freedom. Don’t take it from me. Take it from this guy. 

8) Patience + process = control.

9) Marry your best friend. The person you marry is someone you’re going to agree to have tens of thousands of meals with. You’ll spend countless hours watching TV and talking to them. They’re the person you’ll argue with and love with most. Make sure it’s someone you really, really like to be around.

10) Surround yourself with people who will make you better. 

11) Train your mind. You’re capable of so much more than you think. But you have to want it and you have to want to invest in it.

12) Train your body. Your body can do amazing things. Really amazing things. But you have to want it and you have to want to invest in it.

13) Be voraciously open-minded. 

14) Learn what is enough. As you get older you’ll realize that someone always has more than you. Always. You’ll never have it all. But you’ll also learn that having enough is not that different from having it all.

15) Embrace change. Morgan Freeman said: “Ernest Hemingway once wrote, ‘The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.’ I agree with the second part.” The world is always evolving and adapting. Change is part of what we are. Don’t just embrace it, but be a proponent of it.

16) Don’t forget to laugh. This post is getting way too serious already. I should probably squeeze a good fart joke in here somewhere.

17) Always live with a margin of safety. Life is risky. Don’t be afraid to take some risks, but never risk more than you can afford to lose.

18) “Eat food, mostly plants, not too much” – Pollan

19) The time is now. Really. It all goes a lot faster than you think it will. Don’t wait to do the things you want to do.

20) Never stop teaching. You’re the person who has to help the next generation of people navigate this world. Embrace the learning so you can later embrace the teaching.

21) Set huge goals. This will teach you to fail and endure.

22) Embrace your failures. Life is all about making mistakes and learning from those mistakes as you become a better person. Failure is all part of the process.

23) Relationships are mostly about compromise. The best relationships you make in life are the ones you give the most to.

24) Learn to say you’re sorry. You’re gonna make a lot of mistakes along the way. Other people expect it, but also expect you to admit it and become better from it. It all starts with two simple words: “I’m Sorry”.

25) Learn to sell yourself. You’re great. You can be even greater. But no one’s gonna believe that at first except for you.

26) Farts are funny. See #16. 

27) Be a problem solver. 

28) Ask for help. You’re gonna need it a lot.

29) Be a builder, not a breaker. 

30) Learn to be grateful. You’re gonna encounter a lot more good people than bad people in life. Be grateful for the good ones because the bad ones will often make you feel like the good ones don’t exist.

31) Don’t be afraid to be emotional. Life is an emotional roller-coaster. Don’t be afraid to let people know how you really feel.

32) Keep exploring. The world’s a big place with a lot of different views. Don’t stop trying to see and understand them all.

33) The truth is usually somewhere in the middle. We all want to join a tribe and assume that tribe knows everything about the best ways to live. But the reality is that there are lots of tribes for lots of different reasons and we’d all be a little better off if we spent more time trying to understand those other tribes and less time assuming our tribe is always the best.

34) Coming up with 40 life lessons is harder than I thought it would be. 

35) Forgive and forge forward. Life is too short to hold in all the pent up anger you’ll encounter.

36) Learn to say no. You can be giving without being wasteful.

37) You’ll make some enemies along the way. Progress comes one controversy at a time.

38) Clutch the constructive criticism. Be authentic and open about your faults. You’ll be amazed at how many people want to help you get better when you open yourself up to criticism.

39) Be a skeptical optimist. The world is getting better, but we’re making a lot of mistakes along the way. Be skeptical of what is, but optimistic about what we can become.