It finally happened. I had a feeling it would, and I’m pretty excited about it. Most people seem to dread it, but I’ve embraced it. After all, milestone birthdays don’t come along all that often. You see, this month I turned 50 years old!
I’ve often wondered why people dread getting older. I met a man in the Denver airport a few weeks ago who was about to experience a milestone birthday as well. His name was Dave, and he was turning 80. He shared my enthusiasm for celebrating a milestone birthday, and I asked him why he thought so many people dread them. Dave’s response was simple, “I think turning a corner makes us realize how much we don’t have, how little time we have left, and maybe how little we’ve learned. It’s tough to reflect on our lives and not like what we see.” Wow. I suppose he was right.
When I turned 30 years old, someone suggested I write a list of 30 things I still wanted to achieve in my life so I could see I still had a lot to do in this world. When I turned 40 years old, I wrote a list of 40 things I had accomplished. I suppose I wanted to feel I was making progress toward living a fulfilled life. And just as I was about to turn 50, I met Dave. I considered what he had said --- that some people dread getting older because of how little they’ve learned.
I suppose there are several things you should have accumulated by the time you turn 50. Perhaps the most important is some valuable wisdom. Dave made me wonder what life lessons I’d learned after 50 trips around the sun, so I sat down and wrote a list of 50 things I’ve learned. Here’s what they are:
(1) Where I am in life is directly related to the choices I’ve made --- good and bad.
(2) If I don’t like where I am in life, it’s never too late to make better choices. Never.
(3) No matter how bad they are, my past mistakes do not define me.
(4) Giving to those in need makes me much happier than buying new stuff for myself.
(5) I’ve learned more life lessons from my dogs than most smart people I know.
(6) I like my dogs more than most people I know.
(7) No matter how much we want to hang on, we outgrow some friendships.
(8) Critics suck --- particularly those who have never done what they are criticizing.
(9) We owe it to others to be on time. Being consistently late is not funny. It’s rude.
(10) God got it right when He made ice cream … specifically Blue Bell Ice Cream.
(11) Words are powerful. They can lift someone up or tear them down. Choose wisely.
(12) Nobody wants to hear my problems --- they have enough of their own.
(13) The best improvement any of us can make to our physical appearance is a smile.
(14) I need to learn from the past, then cut loose the anchors dragging me down.
(15) Everyone we meet is important to somebody. We need to treat them that way.
(16) Being fully engaged in what I’m doing will always beat dragging myself through life.
(17) I can live the rest of my days without encountering mustard or sour cream.
(18) Every gut feeling I’ve ever had was God’s way of nudging me to listen and obey.
(19) No one is smarter than me because they’ve overcomplicated something.
(20) My willingness to tolerate nonsense expired the moment I turned 50.
(21) We become like our friends --- surround yourself with the right people.
(22) We all need people who will challenge us --- we seldom learn otherwise.
(23) Not everyone will like me and the decisions I make. I’m okay with that.
(24) We can’t get OK with aging until we get OK with where we’re going when we die.
(25) There is nothing wrong with striving for more, but get happy with what you have.
(26) We need to live a life of appreciation --- for both the good times and the setbacks.
(27) I don’t need to be right all the time. The focus should be kind, not right.
(28) We can either be right, or we can be happy. Choose happy!
(29) Forgiving others is not letting someone off the hook --- it’s for the one doing the forgiving.
(30) Life as we know it can change in the blink of an eye. Enjoy what you have.
(31) We will never be fully satisfied until we have figured out our bigger purpose.
(32) We need to find our philanthropic passion and dedicate our lives to it.
(33) My BS meter is more tuned than ever--- I can smell it a mile away.
(34) Common sense has proven to be far more valuable than book smarts.
(35) We all need to depend on a higher power --- for me that is God.
(36) Life got remarkably better when I figured out #35 and put Him in front.
(37) We can’t save the world, but we can make an impact on those in need around us.
(38) No matter how bad we have it, somebody has it worse. Perspective.
(39) There is evil in the world, but the good will always outnumber the bad.
(40) It may be a cliché, but you get out of something what you put into it. Period.
(41) We all like our stuff, but in the end, that’s all it is --- stuff.
(42) Life is hard, and we all have a responsibility to help others along on their journey.
(43) We need to make ourselves a priority. Do something you enjoy --- for you.
(44) I’m uplifted when I hear the good in other people’s lives --- Tell Me Somethin’ Good!
(45) Bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. It’s life.
(46) We can always find something to celebrate. Put something in a glass and raise it high!
(47) Life got easier when I followed this simple command: Love God, Love Others.
(48) Relationships matter --- focus on them or life will get in the way.
(49) The world tears people down. We need more people lifting others up.
(50) George Bailey was right --- It’s a Wonderful Life!
A friend of mine once told me that getting old is not for sissies, and I suppose he’s right when we consider what the aging process does to our bodies and minds. The reality is getting older isn’t an option, but choosing how we view it certainly is. As I celebrate my 50th birthday, I choose to consider all the lessons I’ve learned.
Life is a precious thing, and it can end at any time. If mine ends tomorrow, I will know I’ve enjoyed a life filled with the love of others. I will know I’ve found my philanthropic passion and lived to serve others. But if the plan is for me to live a life that will allow me to experience many more milestone birthdays, I know there are many more lessons to be learned. It is my hope that everyone reading this blog will stop to consider the lessons they’ve learned, and perhaps learn one or two from my experiences.
© 2017 Clint Swindall — Clint is the president & CEO of Verbalocity, Inc., a personal development company with a focus on leadership enhancement. For information about how he can enhance employee engagement in your organization, please visit www.verbalocity.com, or contact him directly firstname.lastname@example.org.