46 Things I’ve Learned in 46 Years

I can’t believe my birthday is here.  I’ve learned a lot over four-plus decades and thought I would pen a piece about the 46 things I have learned in 46 years.

46) What other people think of you is none of your business. I wish I knew this in high school. But I’ve realized that the only opinion that counts is your own.

45) Action is the X-factor.  More than research and preparation and reading about a topic, action is the game-changer. If you jump in the deep end and make the proposal, contact the decision-maker, or step on stage and take the microphone, change will come.

44) The more you do something, the better you get at it. And the better you become, the more you will enjoy it. Sometimes this is the seed that grows into a passion tree. Don’t worry if you don’t know what your passion is. Start trying things and you might enter a whole new world of inspiration and creativity that you never dreamed existed.

43) Only swim against yourself. The race is won or lost in your lane. If you worry about your competition, you will never reach the top of the mountain. Be a better you than you were yesterday and you’ve already won.

42) When you have a gift that can help others, give it away. The rewards may not be immediate, but they will come. It may not be monetary but it could unveil itself in connections or opportunities that arrive because you made a difference in someone else’s life.

41) Don’t burn bridges. You never know when you will need to walk across that river again. My mother taught me this years ago. Someone may treat you badly, and you may be upset or angry, but don’t say or do something you will regret. As Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, we go high.”

40) What you focus on gets bigger. If you focus on impending disaster, it will arrive with a vengeance.  If you focus on the last thing that made you smile, you will lift your spirits. We get to choose our focus.  Choose wisely.

39) The little things are the big things. My kids never say, “Remember that huge gift I got?” But they do remember campfire marshmallows or catching a fish on a lake at dawn.

38) You become what you believe. If you think you are weak and useless and failing, the self-fulfilling prophecy will come to life. If you think you have something valuable to offer and can do anything you set your mind to, doors will open and positive things will happen. If you build it, they will come.

37) If a door doesn’t open, it’s not your door. Some of the biggest lessons in life come from not getting what you want. Because in the end, what you wanted might not have been what you needed. Things not going the way you hoped might be the biggest gift you ever received.

36) Start. So many dreams die from over-analysis. Begin now and figure it out along the way. You will never have all the answers. And you can run out of time trying to think of all the questions.

35) You are never too old. Countless people found success later in life. Samuel L. Jackson got his first big movie at age 43. Julia Child’s first cookbook was printed when she was 50. Colonel Sanders got the chicken business going at age 62. Anything can happen if you follow your heart no matter your age.

34) A walk outside is fuel for the soul. Fresh air brings new ideas and a calmer point of view. All you need is shoes and a path to follow.

33) If you are willing to be vulnerable, you will grow exponentially. Perfection is hard, but falling in front of a live audience is harder. If you are open to making mistakes, you will find success much quicker. Embrace failure, take note of the lesson and move on towards a new you.

32) Be grateful. For the meals you have to cook, the appointments you have to keep, the work you have to do, the clothes you have to wash, the drives you have to make, the house you have to clean. It means you are living a full life. As Tony Robbins said, “Trade your expectations for appreciation and your whole world changes instantly.”

31) You become the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Are those people filling your bucket? Are they sabotaging your esteem? Are they interested in changing the world or are they being mediocre? You will mirror those around you so decide who you want to be and who you want to be with.

30) The best people to spend time with are people who are inspired, open-minded, grateful, motivated and passionate. They will make you strive to become who you were meant to be.

29) Ask questions. Don’t worry about “looking smart.” You become smart by being curious.

28) If you are on the side of the majority, take another look at your beliefs. Change comes when people think differently. And change is good.

27) Grit is something we must exercise in order to succeed. Every time we get up when we fall we are one step closer to our goal. Grit evens the playing field because we can choose to use it no matter our education, bank account or beliefs. It is a game-changer.

26 ) Whenever possible, choose to travel. When you see other parts of the country or the world, it changes your brain and you are a new person. Meet new people, try new food and see new things.  It is a priceless experience that changes everything.

25) Rest. Muscles grow after a workout during recovery. We grow when we stop and take a moment to ourselves. All the big ideas come during downtime. While on a vacation or in the middle of a morning shower. Take time to unplug. Once we remove ourselves from the onslaught of information, the network in our brain has time to make new, creative connections that become eureka moments.

24) Read as much as possible. Fiction, non-fiction, industry magazines, history books, political pieces. Things you enjoy. Things that are outside of your comfort zone. Read about opinions you don’t agree with and try to see the other side. Read about things you don’t understand. Creativity comes from connecting dots that don’t normally go together. And reading gives you lots of dots to connect.

23) Time is the one thing you can never replace. As author Annie Dillard said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

22) There is never a perfect time. To travel. To change jobs. To move. To start a family. The best time is now.

21) It’s better to regret things you tried than regret things you didn’t do. At least you learn something new and you never know what opportunity might be on the other side.

20) If we all put our troubles on the table, we would probably take our own back. We don’t know what those around us are going through because we all have a chapter we don’t read aloud. Be kind and know that everyone has a weight to carry.

19) Technology has its place, but human connections will always win. Make eye contact. Ask people about their family. Meet for tea. Send hand-written cards. Pay for the person behind you in the drive-through. The smallest gesture can change someone’s world.

18) Everyone makes mistakes. How you act after a mistake can make it better or worse. Winston Churchill said, “Failure is not fatal.” What you do with it makes all the difference. Apologize. Listen. Make it up to someone. Make it better. We are perfectly imperfect and that’s what makes us human.

17) Education lasts a lifetime. It’s not just about schools and degrees. It’s about constantly growing and becoming more of yourself. You never want to be the smartest person in the room. If you are, you are in the wrong room.

16) There is enough for everyone. Make room at the table. Cheer on each person’s success as it takes nothing away from your own journey. When one person succeeds, we all succeed.

15) Inspiration makes all the difference. It spurs someone to take action. It reminds people to believe in what they can accomplish. Inspire someone else with your life journey and spend time doing things that make you feel inspired to change the world.

14) Fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg said, “You know, there’s a thing about the woman across the room. You see the woman across the room, you think, ‘She’s so poised; she’s so together.’ But she looks at you and you are the woman across the room for her.” You never know who is watching you and how you are making a difference to others.

13) Be confident in who you are. We have flaws and we have gifts and they are inexplicably intertwined. What makes us weak also makes us strong. Never change. Your individuality is your power.

12) Author Maya Angelou said, “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” So choose your actions appropriately.

11) We are more alike than different. We have varied backgrounds, beliefs, families, bank accounts, homes, educational journeys, and passions. But we all want to be loved. We all want to be validated. We all want to feel like we are making a difference and that we matter.

10) There is nothing like a good conversation. Talking to somebody about something you are passionate about. Learning new things. Feeling connected. It is invaluable.

9) We only have one body. We should feed it nutritious things. Move it every day. Let it rest. And love it even though it’s imperfect. It’s carrying us around on the journey of a lifetime. We should be thankful for the ride.

8) No matter how old your children get, they are still your babies. I see this in my parents’ eyes and I feel it in my own heart. All we can do is give them wings to fly and roots to know that they can always come home.

7) Tomorrow is another day. The sun will rise. Life will go on. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and it will all make sense one day.

6) The only thing that’s guaranteed in life is change. Nothing ever stays the same. Once we accept that, things get easier.

5) Each of us can do one thing better than 10,000 other people. We just need to figure out what our thing is. And then spend time doing it.

4) The most important skill in life is critical thinking. No matter the career path or position in life. If you can think critically about a situation, you will be a creative, coachable, leader. You will never lose by investing in your own personal software system – your brain.

3) The arts teach us to think differently, dance to our own beat and sing from the heart. The arts promote confidence, individuality, vulnerability, bravery, creativity, and expression. No matter what career you are in, you will always be better if you color outside the lines.

2) Life is about peeling away the layers of who you think you are supposed to be and finding out who you really are. Don’t listen to the definitions society provides for success and happiness. Your inner voice will tell you what you need to know. But you have to quiet down the noise and ignore the expert opinions to hear it.

1) As mythologist Joseph Campbell once said, “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” Enter the cave. It’s the only way to find what you are looking for and live your true life.

A birthday is a blessing marking a year full of lessons. May we never stop learning.