As of this posting, I have been on this earth for 40 years. 40 years! How often do we hear the phrase, “Seems like just yesterday”? But, it really does seem like just yesterday that I was playing Little League baseball, watching Punky Brewster, and playing Contra on Nintendo. Where does the time go? As more and more gray hairs keep showing up on my head, I have really started to reflect back on the life that I have led so far. Here are a few words of advice from the old man.
1. Maintain A Positive Attitude
This one is first because this might be the one that I have the most difficulty with. I don’t consider myself a negative person, but I also do find myself complaining about things time and again. I even set up a challenge for myself (and all of you) to stop complaining. Over these last 40 years, I’ve realized that complaining rarely gets you anywhere. Sure, I guess it could be cathartic to complain and get things off my chest at times, but to dwell on it serves no purpose. Instead, I aim to remain as positive as possible. It can do wonders for your mental health and success.
Staying positive and trying to look at the bright side of things helps us to remain happier, more productive, and can even lead to higher wages. It’s not always easy, and sometimes it’s just about impossible, but try to keep a positive outlook and you will be rewarded.
2. Always Choose People Over Things
Have you ever heard or seen a quote, and immediately it just sticks with you? This has happened to me a number of times, but I come back to one by Joshua Fields Milburn of The Minimalists over and over again. Sometimes words of advice from others can be so powerful. He says,
“Love people, use things. The opposite never works.”
Related Post: Lessons Learned from The Minimalists in Less is Now
At 40 years old, we’re supposedly halfway there, right? When all is said and done and we reflect back on our lives, what memories are we going to cherish the most? What will we wish we had a little more time to do?
I’m guessing your memories don’t revolve around things, they revolve around people.
And if we had more time, we’d use it to be with the ones we love.
Nobody looks back on the stuff in their lives. We won’t reflect on our big house, our new car or our fancy clothes.
We will look back on the friendships, relationships, and impact we had on other people. Yet, we spend so much of our day-to-day lives focusing on stuff instead of trying to squeeze the most out of those connections with people.
3. Doing Good Makes You Feel Good
As the years have passed, I have consistently found that doing good things in this world benefits me just as much as anyone else. Could it be true what my parents used to always say around the holidays?
It’s as good to give as it is to receive.
It didn’t seem like it when I was getting a new Nintendo game or a bike, but as the years have gone by, I realize they were right. I try to convey the same message to my kids now.
Ashley and I are fortunate enough to be in pretty good shape financially. That allows us to support the causes and people that we care about. And that feels great.
I volunteer to coach youth sports and I run Key Club and Habitat at my school. We have donated countless pints of blood to the American Red Cross, sent thousands of toys to Toys for Tots and we have raised money for everything from the Marathon Bombings families to Hurricane Katrina. In helping others, my heart has been filled. It’s amazing how something so unselfish can selfishly feel amazing.
Think of it this way. Have you ever done something really nice for someone else that you really regretted? My guess is no.
4. You Can Always Make More Money, But You Can’t Regain Time
“He’s over the hill.”
“He’s on to the back nine.”
We have all heard the cliches a million times. As I look back on these last 40 years, I’m reminded that time is our most precious commodity.
We can earn back lost money.
Work off extra pounds.
Mend fractured relationships.
Apologize for mistakes we’ve made.
But we can never reclaim lost time.
Cherish the time you have, don’t waste it.
5. Push Yourself – Don’t Settle
You will never be truly happy if you don’t feel fulfilled. Push yourself. Be the person who you want to be. These words of advice might be the hardest to fulfill, but they will be the most rewarding.
Don’t settle for that mediocre job — you will be at it for 40 hours a week and 2000 hours a year. On average, we are at work for nearly 25% of our adult lives. Find something you love or you will have a tough time making the other 75% spectacular enough to make up for a miserable job.
Don’t settle for the life you don’t really want. Do you want to be in better shape? Push yourself to work out and eat healthier. Are you unhappy with your money situation? Push yourself to start saving and get out of debt.
Push yourself to try new things, and to step out of your comfort zone.
6. Avoid Complacency
As the years go by, it’s easy to get complacent and set in our ways. Many of these routines are probably healthy and productive, but trying new things and can give you that extra boost.
In the last few months, I have started waking up at 4:30 AM each morning. It was a huge adjustment at first, but my body has adjusted and I love how productive I am in the morning now. I wrote about all of the benefits I have noticed here.
It’s important to note that I’ve also tried things that didn’t really work for me, but I was still glad I tried them. For example, I was inspired by Matt D’Avella to attempt cold showers every morning. I made it through six days and hated every moment of it. It wasn’t for me, but at least I tried it.
7. Express Gratitude
Finally, show thanks and appreciation. It’s easy to be swept up in all that’s around us and not take the time to realize how we got here. I’m so thankful for the family and friends in my life. I feel so fortunate to have been impacted by so many loved ones. From my wife and kids, to my parents and sister, to my aunts and uncles and cousins, to my friends, I am truly blessed. Life is never perfect, and sometimes it can be pretty rough, but I will forever be thankful for all of those around me.
40 Down, May the Next Ones Be Even Better
Now that I’ve had my moment to reflect back and give some words of advice, it’s time to focus on the present. Looking back on our past is only helpful if we use what we learned to improve ourselves. I’m excited to continue to learn and grow — to accept new challenges and continue to strive to become a better person.
What about you? What are some of the most important lessons that you have learned so far in your life? Whether you are 20, 40, or 95, what are your words of advice?
4 thoughts on “Reflecting on 40 Years – Words of Advice From the Old Man”
I never get tired of this post format– listening to people pause and look back at certain milestones in their life about reflect on what really seemed to make a difference. Thanks for sharing. Personally, I think #2 and #3 are well discussed and talked about, but still completely underrated in their ability to change your life. Decide today that your relationships matter more than anything else and that you will live your life for the good of others– and those will be two decisions you never regret. We need more content like this… keep up the good work.
Can I ask for why you wanted to try cold showers? That seems like an interesting idea and it’s making me want to try it a little bit. Is the logic that cold showers are supposed to wake you up faster and stronger in the morning than a warm shower?
Congrats on reaching 40! Life is just getting started.
I was having a lot of back pain at the time and had heard that the cold showers could work as an anti-inflammatory. That was my main reason for giving it a try, but yes, I was also going for the alertness and energy in the morning. Maybe it would have helped eventually, but I hated it so I stopped!
Thanks, I agree!!
That makes sense! I’ll try cold showers some time, Dave, and let you know how it goes, haha.