7 Secrets of 40 Drama-Free Years

What you can teach 20-somethings about work, life, and relationships

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Credit: Shutterstock
Credit: Shutterstock

Earlier this week, I had a meeting with two women in their 20’s. We started talking about business but, as often happens in casual settings, the conversation evolved into discussions of life outside of work.

My own daughters sometimes listen to my advice and stories, but I find that strangers are generally more interested in my wit and wisdom. “My mom tells me that, but I don’t usually listen to her,” said one young woman recently when I was helping her with her post-college job search.

Although I am hardly an expert on career, life, and love, I realized as we were speaking that I have four decades of experiences — successes, heartbreaks, missteps, and resilience — that these women haven’t yet lived through. To quote the trademarked tagline from the Farmer’s Insurance commercial, “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.”

Just to clarify the title of this post, my life has hardly been drama-free. My goal is to reduce the angst for those who come after me.

If I needed to distill my “wisdom” into seven Tweet-size tidbits for young women everywhere, here’s what they’d be:

  1. Speak up. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want and need (and don’t uptalk while you’re doing it.)
  2. Always be kind, but be a little selfish too. Make time for self-care. Be fearless.
  3. Ease-up on yourself. Your flaws are no worse than anyone else’s.
  4. Don’t take business criticisms or fails personally. Put on those big girl pants and keep moving.
  5. Know your love language(s) and attachment style and choose relationships that fulfill your needs. Communicate.
  6. Be curious. Never stop learning.
  7. Life is definitely not a straight path. Don’t spend too much time obsessing over the “right” choices. Sometimes the road ahead or next key relationship just appears out of the fog.

Of course, every young woman will make her own mistakes — just as we did. They’ll have disappointments, losses, frustrations, and times of fear and confusion.

A fine line exists between being preachy and being entertaining and inspiring. Before you launch into a “back in the day” rant, feel out the mood and make sure your younger colleagues want to hear what you have to say. (Eye rolls, side-glances to peers, and text message checking are sure-fire signs that your audience has checked-out.)

I’m often inspired by the drive and fearlessness of younger women and men. Rather than complaining about the next generation, we can use our energy to mentor and engage with people who want to hear our stories and (most important) the learning that came out of our own failures and choices.

Just by listening, we can learn so much from these next generations too — beyond just how to create an Instagram story.

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