It’s become a trend in the blogosphere ( which is an actual word according to my spell checker) to take a moment on your birthday and reflect back over lessons learned in the time you’ve been here. Since yesterday was my 31st birthday I thought I would follow suit with 31 things I’ve learned in these 31 years.
Note: I won’t be including things learned in the first 5 years of my life, because I feel like learning to walk, talk, and not pee myself is probably a given.
So here we go, totally random thoughts in no particular order… other than numerical.
1. Bigger Does Not Equal Better (For Me)
I’m at a point where most people want more stuff. They start moving up to bigger houses with more storage space and extra bathrooms, filling up spare bedrooms with nice sets of furniture and adding TVs to guest rooms. But I’m going the opposite direction. I want less things and more experiences. Even if we do build another house at some point it will be small and simple. I have things I would rather do with my time than take care of a big house and the things that fill it.
2. Being Positive Creates Opportunities
I’m a pretty content person. I’m sure that’s partly just my nature and partly an intentional choice I make to stay positive. But it really does go a long way toward creating opportunities. I won’t get all new agey on you, but positive thinking really is all it’s cracked up to be.
3. You Aren’t Your College Major
I graduated college with a degree in software applications programming. In layman’s terms that means Big Huge Nerd. This is definitely true, but beyond that I’m a creative. I write and draw, I design and constantly look for art in everyday things. This is something I’ve done as long as I can remember, and it’s time to stop ignoring it. The programming background helps when I work on websites, but my college major didn’t define who I am today.
4. Do Everything You’re Big Enough To And Then Some
I’ve spent far too much time being worried about what other people think and listening to the voices in my head that say I’m not one of those people who does big things. This last year especially has shown me how important it is to do what you want and do it now. You only have so much time here, don’t waste it wishing you had done more.
5. Luck Doesn’t Happen On Its Own
Wayne Gretzky had a great quote about this one – “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. I firmly believe that luck is the intersection between created opportunities and hard work.
6. Mornings Are Awesome
I wasn’t always a morning person, but I definitely have been for most of my adult life. Mornings are quiet time, the world hasn’t fully woken up yet, thoughts can float around all free and happy, and you become part of the day as it wakes up. If I sleep later than 7 o’clock I feel like I’ve missed something.
7. Travel Often
Not only is it fun to get away and see new things, but leaving your comfort zone can open up parts of you that you didn’t know existed. Go somewhere new, try a strange food, maybe walk around with an Australian accent all day because no one knows any different. You won’t regret it.
8. You Aren’t Going To Please Everybody
The only way to not have haters is to never do anything. Make the choice instead to make yourself happy, the people that matter will follow if they’re meant to. On the same note, some people will never be happy, no matter what you do.
9. If You Don’t Ask The Answer Will Always Be No
I actually wrote about this one here, and it’s still proving itself to be more true every day.
10. Eating Raw Cookie Dough Probably Won’t Kill You
Despite what my mom said. I ate some last night, and I feel fine.
11. Relationships Are Important
This one seems kind of like a no brainer, but I have a tendency to get so involved in my own life that I don’t take the time to keep up with my friends. I lost a good friend from college that way… I’m sure he got tired of me not answering the phone. Nowadays I try harder to be there, because some things you can’t erase.
12. Cats Are Jerks
Which is probably why they’re so fuzzy and adorable. But they’re still jerks.
13. Investing In Yourself Is Worth It
I don’t like spending money, especially on myself. But I’ve learned that sometimes investing in a course, conference, or just a haircut can have a profound effect on how I feel and act.
14. Everybody Has Fears
I honestly thought I was the only one who had that little voice who said I wasn’t good enough or people would think I was a fraud if I tried to do the things I wanted to do. Turns out, pretty much everybody has some version of that voice. And they’re all wrong.
15. Redbox Is One Of The Best Inventions Of All Time
Seriously, whoever decided to put movies in a vending machine was a genius. The only thing better would be a pizza oven mounted on the side.
16. Better Is Better
This is related to #1. I’ve recently learned that while more stuff doesn’t make me happier, better stuff does. And fortunately enough when you buy better instead of more you tend to spend the same amount of money in the end.
17. If It Scares You It’s Probably Worth It
In general if you find yourself uncomfortable or afraid of taking the next step you’re probably headed in the right direction. Unless you’re approaching a bear, rabid wolf, or giant cave cricket. Then you should back slowly away, perhaps using your Australian accent to confuse them.
18. My 30s Are Already Better Than My 20s
My 20s were good years, lots of great things happened – I got married, built my first house, and had a ton of fun. But as far as my self esteem and attitude towards life in general my 30s are clear winners so far. I spent a lot of my 20’s wondering if what I was doing was right or wrong, wondering what I wanted to be when I grew up, and feeling not so hot about all of it. Now I have a clearer purpose, a better sense of who I am, and better hair… I can’t explain that last one.
19. Marry Someone You Like
I don’t care how uncool it might be to want to hang out with my own husband (really, when did that become uncool?). He’s my best friend and we have fun together no matter what we do. I couldn’t imagine it any other way, and I highly recommend marrying someone you actually like to be around.
20. You Don’t Live In A Bubble
Although I wouldn’t consider myself an introvert I’ve spent years acting like I live and work in a bubble. I’m realizing now that it doesn’t matter what you do or how good you are at it, you need other people around you to succeed.
21. Consistency Matters
You become what you do every day. Do the things that will lead you where you want to go and you’ll eventually get there. Do the wrong things consistently and the grand gestures won’t matter.
22. If You Don’t Make A Change No One Else Will Do It For You
If you are stuck at a certain point in your life, spending your time unhappy and wishing things were different, you have to cause change to happen before it will. No one is going to come along and offer you a new life. Unless you witness a murder.
23. The Journey Is More Important Than The Destination
You should have a destination in mind, but don’t rush the journey trying to get there. Enjoy it, savor it, get lost a little along the way. You may end up somewhere better than you even expected.
24. Laugh Everyday
Even if it’s just at yourself. Find something to laugh at everyday and you’ll be just fine.
25. Don’t Worry So Much
It doesn’t do any good most of the time. I’m not great at this one, but I’m working on it.
26. Find Something You Love And Do It Often
When I was younger I read a lot, wrote often, sketched regularly, made cool things out of random stuff I found outside, and had a ton of fun. As I grew up I quit doing those things because they didn’t fit my new life. Now I find myself going back to the very things I loved to do growing up, and even incorporating them into my dream job.
27. Start Now
Whatever it is you want to do or be, if you start now you’ll be that much closer a year from today. The time will pass whether you start or stay where you are.
28. Do Your Best And Then Let It Go
I’m a perfectionist, if I can’t get something just exactly like I want it I have a tendency to trash the whole thing. But sometimes done is better than perfect, and sometimes the act of doing is more important than the result.
29. Don’t Take Yourself So Seriously
This whole life thing is marvelous, but unfortunately you’re not going to make it out alive. I hope you already knew that, if not I’m sorry for ruining your Tuesday. But now that you know you might as well make the most of it… have fun, laugh, play, work hard, do big things, and eat cake.
30. You Will Regret What You Don’t Do More Than The Things You Did
This speaks for itself. Base your decisions on whether you will look back at the end of your life (see #29) and wish you hadn’t been too much of a wuss to (insert awesome thing here).
31. Keep Learning Everyday
Try your hardest to learn something every day. If you pay attention it doesn’t even take that much effort. There are lessons everywhere, and there is always someone who knows more than you do. Ask questions, pay attention, read everything you can, and soak it in.
Ironically enough I wasn’t sure I knew 31 things when I sat down to write this post, but 1800 words later I guess I’ve proven myself wrong! If you made it this far I commend you, and your commemorative lapel pin will be in the mail shortly.
Do you have any lessons to add? What would you tell you from a decade ago if you had the chance?