So I had a birthday recently. Kind of a biggie. And while I am certainly not the first to hit a milestone number and I won't be the last, it got me thinking....
50 years. Wow. Half a century. There have been more times than I’d like to admit where I wasn’t sure I’d see this day. Yet here I still am, despite the best efforts of my friends at times to land me elsewhere. It’s been a hell of a ride. Been lucky enough to experience some unforgettable highs and been blessed and lucky enough to survive and have the strength to ride out some deep, dark lows.
So what have I learned in 50 years? Tough question. It’s the question I’ve been asking myself recently as I’ve looked back. So I thought of it like this – If I could pass some good advice onto my younger self, here is what I would share:
Life happens - Sometimes good, sometimes bad. Don’t get too cocky when it’s going well and don’t get too down when it’s not. Just ride it out and enjoy and/or endure.
Find an outlet – Be it writing or drawing or photography or singing or working out or whatever you find that floats your boat. Find that outlet you enjoy and nurture it. It may never make you money but it will be there for you as a haven for when things get rough.
Read – Doesn’t matter what you’re reading, but read and never stop. Besides the enjoyment you’ll get from ingesting a good story, reading strengthens and keeps strong so many important processes in the brain by the way we intake, comprehend and process information.
Refuse to give up – When obstacles are in your way, improvise, adapt and overcome.
Be strong – A lot of times you’ll have a choice – make the right decision or make the decision that will be popular. Popularity is fleeting and it comes and goes. Make the right decision.
Listen more – I have never once learned anything new by being the guy speaking. Listen, watch, observe, absorb. Take as much in as you can and then take more. You will never be sorry for being well informed.
Be comfortable in your own skin – Accept who you are and embrace it. Don’t take the things that make you unique and change them to fit other people’s perception of what should be. Be YOU. Look, I never planned to be a short, bald, left-handed wise-ass, but I wouldn’t change any of that for the world.
See it live – While TV can give you a “you are there” feeling, there is nothing like the raw energy of being in an arena or stadium with thousands of others as you all sing along with the band or cheer on the winning score. It is truly electrifying. Go to concerts. Go to games.
Enjoy the silence – Learn to be OK on your own and embrace it. Go a step further and shut everything down once in a while and just listen to the world around you. You’ll never be lonely if you have yourself for good company.
Laugh – First and foremost, learn to laugh at yourself. From there, laugh at life, others (without being hurtful), and anything else you find funny. Not much will feel better than coming down off a genuine, tear-inducing, side-hurting laugh.
Accept being wrong – Learn to admit when you’re wrong and do so graciously. Nothing will piss people off more than refusing to see another point of view or hear another side and still refusing to acknowledge you’re mistaken. Related, admitting you are wrong and doing it begrudgingly like a douche will not be well received.
The last thing I would share with my younger self is this: Don’t take people for granted. Make sure the people you care about know it on a regular basis. For one day they will be gone and you don’t want to live with the regret of “I should have told them….” Related, you’ll be lucky in life to know a lot of people, but at the same time, you’ll have a small circle of truly close friends. Nurture and care for those relationships because if you do, when you need them most, these are the people that will have your back.
Is that everything I could share? Not even close. But I have to save something for when I finish the next 50 years.
What advice would you offer your younger self?