37 Lessons Learned from 37 Years

I turned 37 earlier this week and thought it would be a fun creative constraint to list out thirty-seven lessons learned in the last few decades.

Drop me an email and let me know your favorite, or if there’s one you think I missed!

Follow the thread of your interest – The best way to learn anything new is to follow your curiosity. You never know where the threads of your interest will take you and this kind of self-directed learning is much more fun.

Growth isn’t linear –  You can’t estimate your progress by looking at who you were yesterday. Growth doesn’t happen that way.

What you practice is who you become – If you want to judge progress, look at the habits you practiced today and the direction they point. That will show you who you’ll become. 

Motivation comes in waves – Motivation isn’t constant. While it is a skill you can practice, it also comes in waves. When you’re feeling motivated, harness it. (I am at my most creative in the morning, so I’ve learned to harness that momentum, not work against it.)

Know what fuels you – We all derive energy from different sources. Know what gives you energy, and use it.

Change is inevitable – Trying to fight change is like trying to fight gravity. Since things are going to change, you might as well celebrate it when they do. 

Everyone begins where they are – We can only begin from where we are. And that’s a good thing.

Small habits are everything – Every tectonic shift grows from a small beginning. Focus on the small habits, and the big changes will take care of themselves.

Start smaller – Make a new habit so small that accomplishing it is practically inevitable. And when you think you’ve gotten as small as possible, go smaller still.

Celebrate to reinforce – Celebrate your successes, no matter how small. Celebration removes your self-judgment and cements a new habit.

Habit stacking – Good habits build on each other. (Bad habits do, too.) Cultivate one new habit, and then layer the next one just afterwards.

Small is smaller than you think – Make a new habit so small that doing it is practically inevitable.

Don’t judge when you backslide – Judging yourself when you regress just means that you feel bad about yourself. Instead of judging, acknowledge what’s changed, and then continue to build.

Failure isn’t failure – Failure isn’t a permanent state. Years later, you’ll look back and have learned something from the experience. If you’re going to do that later, you might as well do that now!

Comparison is the thief of joy – Comparing yourself to someone else or against all of the things that you haven’t accomplished yet removes any chance of appreciation for where you are now. 

Competition is fuel – Competition can be good fuel to do difficult things. Competition against yourself is healthier than competition against someone else. (See Comparison.)

Physical activity makes everything better – There aren’t a lot of things that can’t be improved by physical activity.

Get outside – A short walk. Glimpse the sky. Climb a mountain. Get outside and you’ll feel better.

Love the process – The key to learning anything well is to fall in love with the process.

Prioritize mindfulness – Good things come from carving out time for mindfulness and introspection. Find an approach that works for you, and then practice.

Pursue positive addictions – Get “addicted” to things that are healthy for you.

Child-like, not child-ish – Maintaining child-like wonder makes for a much more enjoyable experience and life. This attitude shouldn’t be confused for child-ish.

Skepticism is overrated – It is easier to criticize and doubt. Skepticism is an excuse for avoiding action. Be bold.

Go all in – When you’ve decided to try something, go all in. Even if you change your mind later, when you go all in you’ll learn faster, enjoy it more, and won’t second-guess afterward.

Optimism is a superpower – Cultivate an optimistic worldview, and things are much more likely to go your way.

Attitude over words – Your attitude comes through, regardless of the words you use. Prioritize how you show up over the words you speak. 

Ask more loving questions – Ask questions with love and attention. These questions allow someone to see themselves more clearly, which is a gift.

Vulnerability – Vulnerability is at the heart of connection and positive growth. When you show up with vulnerability, you invite others to do the same. 

Bravery – Fear is a great north star. If you’re afraid of doing something, that’s probably a good indicator to consider doing it.

Play to your strengths – Know what you do uniquely well, and do more of that.

Don’t forget bystander apathy – The bystander effect is a powerful force that allows each of us to justify inaction. The key to overcoming bystander apathy is to remember it exists. 

Variable reinforcement – we’re all subject to variable reinforcement. Use this to your advantage to reinforce the behaviors you want.

Remember The Dip – There’s a point in any learning curve when most people quit. When you’ve decided to do something difficult, remember The Dip.

It is all make-believe – We create our reality. Don’t like it? Reinvent. (Read Illusions.)

Grant yourself grace – We all make mistakes. Grant yourself, and others, grace to try again.

History rhymes – It is often said that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Your history rhymes, too.

Time for money – Don’t trade your time for money, unless it is also spent doing something you love or the learning is worth it.

Who you are is more important – Are you kind to waitstaff? Do you prioritize the most important people in your life? These things are more important than your list of accomplishments.

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