Today I turn 30. I remember thinking about this day when I was 18, and then again at 21, and again on and off after that. I wondered where I would be, what I would be doing, would I be successful? Would I have children? Would I own a home? Would I make enough money? And now, on my 30th birthday, I don’t have children, or own a home. I recently quit my corporate job of more than 5 years to start my own business. There’s a lot of unknowns in my life, but what I do know is that I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I love my life and the people in it. And as I look back on the last thirty years of my life I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned. These are not meant to be groundbreaking pieces of wisdom but more thoughts and lessons I’ve collected throughout my life so far. And whatever you’re age, feel free to share your favorite life lessons, sayings, mantras or whatever else gets you inspired. So here they are, in no particular order.
1. Be willing to make mistakes, and learn from them.
2. Find people who make you laugh.
3. Accept your flaws (physical or otherwise) and think hard before you decide to “fix” them. Growing up I HATED my nose. I was so self conscious of it’s size, the bump on the ridge, I thought if only I had a different nose I’d be so much prettier. I even thought about getting a nose job (though thinking is about as far as I’d go because the idea of actually getting surgery to change something on my body is horrifying). But it wasn’t until recently that I came to accept my nose. Is it perfect? No. But it makes me who I am, it defines me, and I’m happy with that.
4. Be a good listener.
5. Find a partner who loves you because of who you are, not who they want you to be. And love your partner for who they are, not who you want them to be.
6. Money doesn’t buy happiness. Duh, but I don’t think I actually believed it until recently. Does it mean I’m going to run off and live in a tent in the woods, no, but it has shaped my decisions and changed the way I live my life.
7. Only you can decide what makes you happy.
8. Find a good mentor. I would not be where I am today without my mentors, they taught me so much about myself, about how to be professional and how to be a good colleague, a good boss and a good friend. I’m so truly grateful to them for that.
9. Be confident and be humble. The two can go together.
10. Cherish your elders, learn from them, listen to them, appreciate them. I’m so blessed to have grandparents that have taught me so much about life, about hard work, family, love and being a good person.
11. Think before you speak or hit “send.” Words are powerful, and written words can be even more. Don’t send an angry email in the heat of the moment. Write it down somewhere, sleep on it, and then read it the next day. Then you can decide if it still needs to be said (or sent).
12. Family is everything. However you define who your family is should be up to you, but whoever they are, cherish them, tell them you love them, be thankful for them.
13. Salt water is good for the soul.
14. Cherish your friends, and be open to making new ones. I’ve always had a few close friends and they’ve been my friends for most of my life. But in the past year I’ve made new friends that I can’t imagine my life without.
15. Good manners will take you far. Hold the door, say please and thank you, write thank you notes.
16. Learn to respectfully argue. If it’s at work, learn how to make your point without being angry or defensive, and in life, stick to your beliefs but be willing to hear the other side, even if you don’t agree.
17. Travel. Do whatever you can to explore the world, it will give you the opportunity to have experiences that can change your life forever.
18. Don’t ask people how much money they make. This isn’t something I learned, it’s something I was taught as a child (and I thought common courtesy), but I’m amazed by how many people do it to me. It’s rude, and it’s none of your business.
19. Don’t sweat the small stuff. When I started my first job I stressed out over EVERYTHING. But in the end, none of it mattered. Work hard, make mistakes and learn from them.
20. Find what you love and do that. Over the summer I had this tattooed on my arm. It seems simple, but it can be really hard. Quitting my job was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, but also the most liberating. Once I realized I could make a living doing what I love, there was no stopping me. And it’s only just the beginning.
21. Be able to take criticism. When I started at my first job I found it really hard to accept criticism. I’m very self-critical as it is, so when someone else would give me feedback or constructive criticism I would obsess over it. But I learned that criticism can be helpful, and it can teach you things about yourself you might not otherwise learn. Take it for what it is, and move on, don’t obsess over it but don’t ignore it either.
22. Treat people with respect. In the world of social media and the internet this gets lost sometimes. It doesn’t matter if it’s to their face or online, respect others and they’ll respect you.
23. Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s a waste of time.
24. Read more books. I don’t do it enough, but when I do I always feel happy afterwards.
25. Admit when you are wrong.
26. Know what you’re worth. Particularly in your career, don’t be afraid to ask for more money or better benefits, but be prepared to say why you deserve it.
27. Don’t hold grudges. Forgive people. The only person you’re hurting when you hold a grudge is yourself.
28. Choose to be happy and positive. Attitude is everything.
29. Collect experiences, not things.
30. This was from my fortune cookie the other night at dinner and it couldn’t be more perfect: Your mind is like a parachute, it only works when open.