Lessons Learned from the Last 35 Years

I’m turning 35 today and thought I would take a moment to write some of my lessons learned from the last several years.

Move everyday.
I’ve always had a pretty thorough movement practice, but among the most positive changes in my last 5 years is the fact that I now move every single day. I’ve found that one of the biggest, simple changes anyone can make is a routine to get your body in motion. What’s interesting to you? What’s a thread, an exploration, a discipline of study that you’d like to pull on? Go try it! These bodies of ours are meant to move.

Find work that you love. Keep looking until you do.
I enjoyed much of what I did professionally 5 years ago, but that pales by comparison to the amount of delight I get from my work today. As someone who has had more than 40 different jobs in more than 15 different industries, I can tell you that it’s really tempting to settle. You don’t have to settle for good enough! Keep looking.

Work with people you love.
While the work matters, doing it with people that you love matters even more. Among the most positive characteristics of my work today is that I get to spend my working life with people I enjoy. Find those people that you are proud to work alongside, and build your professional life with them.

Fear is a good guide.
I’ve often gone towards fear, but it’s only in the last year that I’ve recognized, specifically, that fear can be a useful guide. It’s natural that we move away from things that we are afraid of. That’s fine: it keeps us safe. But sometimes, it can be useful to go towards the things we are fearful of, instead. There’s a lot to be learned in those shadows.

Everything takes the time that it takes.
As somebody who prides himself on his ability to move quickly, patience with myself is a hard won feat. In the many years that I was dissatisfied with my work, I was constantly pressuring myself to have already found my perfect career path. Over many years of wanting a family member to take better care of himself, I was always wanting him to change more quickly. We don’t get to decide how quickly or how slowly things change.

You don’t get to control people. (And actually, it is none of your business.)
Years ago, my friend, Dana Casperson, told me “you don’t get to control people, and actually, it is none of your damn business!” This has been hard feedback for me to receive, and I’ve repeated that quote to myself many times over the years. I’ve often derived meaning from trying to “help” (control) people whom I love. We don’t get to. Practice letting go of the desire for control.

“You’ve always been a little bit slow.”
Something my Dad said to me on my 30th birthday – jokingly, but with a grain of truth: “Robin, it’s okay. You’ve always been a little bit slow.” I’ve accomplished a lot that I’m proud of in the last 35 years and some are things that most people don’t let themselves even dream of trying. But I also went on my first date at 19, years later than anyone else I knew, and am frequently the last person to recognize something new about myself that’s obvious to everyone else around me. While I have excelled in many areas in my life, I have also moved slowly in areas that my peers are much quicker. That’s fine. Going slow works, too.

Get familiar with grief.
This has been a particularly hard one for me, having gone through two substantial heartbreaks in the last 5 years. I haven’t found that grief gets any easier, but I’ve found that I can develop better toolsets to help deal with it. Endings, deaths, and partings are a natural and inevitable part of our lives. It helps to practice getting familiar with grief.

Relationships get better with time. “Make new friends, but keep the old.”
I was pretty antisocial until 19 and then turned a corner and learned the name of every single person in my entering class in college. I love meeting new people. (And a good thing too, since that’s most of my job today!) But novelty doesn’t hold a candle compared to my most intimate friendships that go back 10+ years. Relationships get better with time. Make room for that.

Leave room for introspection.
I’ve long had the tendency to distract myself by being busy when things get tough. It turns out, at least for me, that when I leave more room for introspection, growth happens more quickly and way more gently! I’m blessed that I have bandwidth in my life today for a lot of quiet introspection. But however you do it, leave room for yourself, too.

Read more.
Along with my propensity to get busy, I frequently don’t make enough time for reading. It feels like cheating – taking time for myself, selfishly, to learn. But in a world that is filled with distractions, I find so much delight in handling a physical book and diving into someone else’s world. So this advice is mostly just for myself: read more.

Play more.
Anyone who knows me knows that I can be very playful. Not usually childish, but frequently childlike. There’s a lot to take seriously in the world right now. Balance that with play.

There is such a thing as too much caffeine.
5 years ago I would have believed no such thing. Maybe I’m just getting old, but I sleep better at night if I stop drinking aged pu-erh after noon.

The last year and a half has been tumultuous for everybody. Beyond that, in the last 5 years, my personal and professional life have changed more than I could have conceived. These practices have become bedrock in my life. I’m going to spend the next five years deepening these and developing more. I wish you well in finding yours!

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