A Milestone Birthday

Today, I turn the big 4-0.

I’ve thought about this day a lot. Is it a birthday? An anniversary? A milestone? Just another day? Is it something to be sad about or to celebrate? Am I where I am supposed to be in life? Have I accomplished all that I’ve wanted? If I died tomorrow, would I feel regret?

In reflection, I wrote down ten things I wish my 20-year-old self had known. It’s been a wild ride, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. Enjoy.

01. It goes quicker than you think.

I vividly remember my early 20s, singing Tiesto and Britney Spears til’ the wee hours of the morning. Laughing and dancing with my best friends, and thinking I had my whole life ahead of me. It went by quicker than I ever imagined. Today, I have weird pain in various body parts and my knees creak from time to time.

My tip: Don’t take a single day for granted. Eat the things, experience the trips, be responsible, but take risks. One day you’ll wake up wondering where it all went.

02. Spoiler alert: Life probably won’t work out the way you planned. And it’s okay.

I had an entire game plan for my life: earn a master’s degree, get married, have babies, coach cheerleading, bake cookies, and volunteer for 4-H. Instead, I have worked in almost all fifty states as a motivational speaker with a corporate consulting business, single and never bake cookies. Even though what I sketched on my vision board twenty years ago didn’t come to fruition, I’m still happy, healthy and feel incredibly lucky with the life I have!

My tip: It’s okay if life doesn’t shake out as you planned. As long as you enjoy every moment of the journey, that’s all that matters.

03. Don’t regret crashing that one wedding and becoming friends with a super-famous person.

Okay in all fairness, a bride doesn’t want to know that you crashed her big day. Maybe don’t make it a goal to pull a Vince Vaughn.

I’ve always had a yin and yang, a pension for wanting to give back, and a side for pushing the limits. It’s certainly gotten me in trouble over time, but it’s also given me some of the most amazing experiences.

My tip: Don’t be afraid of coloring outside the lines on occasion. You’ll know when you’ve pushed too far, but you’ll never regret the memories. (And while she and I were besties that entire weekend, I did have to sign an NDA the following week. #WorthIt).

04. Surround yourself with the right people.

In my 20 years of working professionally, it’s always come back to “who you know.” I see it time and time again in networking, business and life.

My tip: Keep asking questions, evaluating relationships, getting mentors and striving to get where you want to go. Having the right people in your life will elevate your path. 

05. Be willing to fail.

Trust me. I’ve failed a LOT. One distinct failure was “winning” a highly coveted role early in my career. It was one of my biggest “wins” at that point. I couldn’t have been more ecstatic. But from the very beginning, something was off, and before I knew it, I got fired. But not just fired, brutally, publicly ambushed. I’ll never forget showing up to a “friends” party shortly after receiving the news, realizing they all were gossiping about me before my proverbial workplace door had even hit me on the way out. I often think back to that year and realize I could’ve let that early public (and personal) humiliation completely change my life course. But instead, I picked myself up and kept putting one foot in front of the other.

My tip: You will absolutely fail at some point (just hopefully not as publicly as me). Be ready for it, and then find a way to move past it.

06. You’ll experience more heartbreak than you ever imagined.

No matter how many plans you have in place, life will throw a ton of curveballs. They’ll hit you in the shoulder, the foot, and sometimes square in the jaw. You won’t see them coming. You’ll feel betrayed. But then you’ve gotta ask yourself, will you let the heartbreak define you, or will you rise above it?

My tip: Recognize that there will be difficult times and that life isn’t perfect. You will experience sadness and anxiety, just as you’ll experience joy and confidence. These are all human emotions and you should live each deeply, knowing that you’re not alone and that each is temporary. At your lowest lows, remember that it will get better.

07. People really do want to see you succeed.

I hope you know in all the life lessons that the best of humanity still wins. And people still truly, deep down in their souls, want the best for each other. I’ve felt it. I’ve breathed it. I’ve lived it.

My tip: Don’t let the naysayers get you down. Find your tribe and cheerleaders, and champion the positive synergies with the folks cheering you on.  

08. It’s easy to lose meaningful friendships. Don’t let it happen.

I do have a few regrets. It’s the friendships or relationships I let slip away. The people I loved more than anything. The ones I truly felt connected to. Don’t let it happen to you. No matter how much pride, anger or frustration, find a code word or secret shimmy handshake that supersedes erosion. It’s easy to let others drift off and before you know it, the divide is harder to repair.

My tip: Keep those you love close to you and keep working hard at it no matter what.

09. Spend time on you.

We get so busy making a “life” that we forget what it means to just be at peace with ourselves. It’s easy to get into the hustle and bustle. It’s harder to spend time with yourself alone, without any devices or distractions. Can you truly “be” by yourself? Are you fully happy with who you are? Are you comfortable in your own skin?

My tip: Unpopular opinion, but don’t be afraid to shut out the noise from the world and invest the time in yourself. Do the things that will make your soul be at ease. Meditate. Journal. Workout. Make sure you are right with your body and soul.

10. No matter what, never give up.

Through it all, this life can produce some incredible moments. No matter what happens, be steadfast that you will never give up on yourself, your dreams, and your path. I hope one day you look back and say, “Dang. I lived the best life.”

My tip: Never give up.

As I reflect on today, I have an abundance of gratitude for the last 40 years. The path wasn’t straight or perfect, but it was exactly what it was supposed to be. Wishing you the best day, wherever you are at in your journey. Cheers.

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