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21 Things I’d Tell My Younger Self

Life is one heck of a teacher because it punishes you first and teaches you the lesson second- the other more polite option is learning from others.

Reflection of your past builds wisdom

I recently celebrated a birthday and as is common with dates of personal significance we reflect and ponder. It’s surprising to me that my retirement years are closer than my college days- not entirely sure how that happened so quickly. But that’s okay! I don’t wish to be the me of my youth, I like being me now. Age is just a construct and people need to move past the concept of using that as an identifier of who humans actually are and whatever value they place on any particular number. I am just as youthful now as I was 30 years ago PLUS I have the wisdom of experience. My tastes are current and focused on what I enjoy now and not stuck in a previous decade- which is fondly remembered because of how it made me feel then. I still get giddy and excited over things now… in the current moment like mountains, waterfalls, travel, family and friends. I remain enthusiastic about life and work and figuring out how to make a difference. Getting calendar old is inevitable but getting mentally old is a choice. Physically I’m in better shape now than I was in my 20s- stop thinking obesity is a normal process of aging! So why is the middle age pudge so common? Because our moments are filled with micro compromises, mindless choices and not being fully present in our physical body. The good thing about mistakes are they allow for lessons to teach us in a way no other teacher can. So with that in mind, if any of my younger friends (of which I have many) want some words of wisdom that my higher mileage life has provided, here you go:

  1. Be you- own it! Authenticity is appealing… especially in the business world. There is so much energy expended in projecting a mask, a persona. If you don’t waste that energy on projecting and deflecting you can be you- free to flourish without betraying your own core essence. And by owning yourself you liberate and invite the people around you to do the same. Unifying all your different personas into one authentic true self is not only peaceful but it will maximize professional success as well! People want to do business with sincere people. Yeah it takes courage and it can make you feel vulnerable but being true allows others to be true to themselves, which in turn minimizes stress, improves work/life satisfaction and enhances kindness all around.
  2. Learn to meditate and do it daily. The science is quite clear… it helps in so many ways: stress reduction, perspective, peace, patience, openness to others, improving overall physical health, and giving your constantly chattering mind the joy of rest. With practice you’ll learn that you don’t always have to be moving, thinking, acting… you learn to delight in just being.
  3. Forgive yourself and silence the negative self talk. Don’t believe everything you think. You are something truly special… lift yourself up… be kind… be patient.
  4. Drink lots of water and moisturize. Water is life and the more you learn to love drinking it, the better you’ll feel. In addition to preventing your skin from aging too quickly.
  5. Learn early that food can either be nourishing medicine or delicious poison. You will never outrun a bad diet. If you don’t eat correctly to fuel the mind and body you won’t perform at your best. Properly selecting your foods will not only improve your physical health but help with mood and lower depression.
  6. Sugar is terrible for you. The sooner you treat this substance like a drug the better off you’ll be. Sugar increases hunger, dulls the brain, negatively impacts triglycerides, causes obesity and triggers the same addiction receptors that cocaine does. Yes… coming off sugar will cause withdrawal symptoms but the good news is your cravings will subside a couple weeks after you remove it from your diet. And you’ll learn to enjoy the natural sugars of fruit again- strawberries will be naturally sweet to you.
  7. Move your body- exercise! Learn the joy of feeling your physique fully animate and express itself. The flex of your muscle, the beating of the heart, the flow of your blood, the necessity of breath- the serendipitous beauty of movement. Be mindful and appreciative of the magnificence of the clay you just so happen to reside in at this moment.
  8. Don’t let someone else’s hang ups impact your unique path in life. Don’t care about what others think of you! It’s counterproductive to your peace of mind and it really doesn’t matter anyway.
  9. Keep your eyes open to wonder and not closed by limiting beliefs.
  10. Travel now- tomorrow isn’t promised. Traveling expands the mind, softens bigotry and causes you to be more open to those different than yourself. You’ll discover that all people desire to be happy, loved and want the freedom to live the life they wish to live. Plus there are some really amazing places to interact with in this short, wonderful, amazing life.
  11. Make friends different than you. Diversity at work and in your friend group will make you a better, smarter person with an enhanced ability to see things differently and come up with creative solutions to things that perplex you. Plus there are so many amazing people that are just waiting to make a friend like you- I promise.
  12. You’ll have more success with your goals if you approach them with a lot more chill. Never be in so much of a hurry you don’t take time to care about others. Listen to people’s dreams, goals and aspirations and acknowledge your support of them. Truly be present when they speak and let them know they are being heard. This goes for both personal and professional goals.
  13. All things in moderation for the long term even though you may take it to excess for a short time.
  14. Learn your gifts and SHARE them with others. The Dead Sea receives plenty of fresh water but is dead and can hold no life because it has no outlets. Similarly, if you only receive blessings from others and never make it a point to share from your own abundance then you slowly lose those gifts and your own vibrancy for living your best life. This can be done by mentoring, giving money and/or volunteering but physical and mental action is what I am mostly speaking about here. Be generous with you.
  15. Be in nature! Experience awe in places humankind has not altered. Fully arrive with all your senses (a high definition observation of the details of now)- how does it smell here? What am I seeing… the colors, the depth, the movement? How does it physically feel… the ground, the bark, the moss, the moisture? Being in AWEsome places reminds us that we are not the center of the universe regardless of the obsessing we put ourselves through. Being in nature puts everything in perspective and therefore causes us to live more peacefully and work more productively. A time for every season.
  16. Salt water heals most things- sweat, tears and the ocean.
  17. Be a weirdo in the way you want. Not everyone has to think like you and that’s okay.
  18. Much suffering comes from wanting your current moment to be different than it actually is and from wanting something impermanent to be permanent (and everything is impermanent). Learn to accept things as they actually are and not the fantasy you seek. Friends, jobs and lovers will come and go and that’s okay. People change, grow and honestly not everyone is meant to last your entire story. Your current moment is different than the one you had before, it makes sense that people and employers may change too… let it be.
  19. If a goal or desire stays top of mind for more than a passing season, take action on it! I’d been wanting to move back to my boyhood home for many years, close to a decade actually but I never summoned up the courage to do it- it took a major life change and it was the best decision I ever made. If a desire like living in a certain place, working overseas, taking a year off to travel, hosting a foreign exchange student or whatever uniquely speaks to you over many years- DO IT. There’s a reason it resonates in your heart, so have courage.
  20. Multitasking is the enemy of mindfulness and it makes you think you can do a lot well when in reality you can not. Focus on one task at a time to completion- be in the zone with it. It will give you better satisfaction and produce a finer end result.
  21. Be a dog’s human being at least once in your life. Dog owners are more social, get more exercise, are better able to fight depression and sadness. Being the caregiver for another life is special and will give you a sense of purpose greater than yourself. I can’t even begin to tell you how much joy my dogs have given me throughout my life. Take for example my 150lb Great Dane, Neo, he has been my loyal companion during my darkest times. He remained while those I considered best friends deserted me as I rebuilt my life. He witnessed my phoenix story firsthand, by my side, protecting and loving me. He has never betrayed, he is always down to have have fun and he is the best listener. This dog has been such a blessing to me and I am so honored to have been his person. Put yourself in a position to be found by the dog that is seeking you.
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