31 Life Lessons After 30 Years

By Brian McFadden

I’ve learned a few things along this journey called life. Following are in no order the 31 thoughts about life after three decades’ breath.

#1 — Consistency matters.

Today, we have access to more information than we can handle. On one hand, this luxury can provide convenience. However, it can also send us into paralyzation. Since we can learn how to do pretty much anything with a click of a blue link, we get overwhelmed. The result is that we end up doing nothing.
This cuts us off from the lifeblood of incremental progress – consistency. With so much info at our disposal, it’s creepily easy to consume without action.
Consistency matters, we need to act like it.

#2 — Happiness isn’t a place we arrive.

The pursuit of happiness seems to be a chase run by many. But let’s pretend for second that we get there – then what?
We set up outposts that temporarily serve as happiness destinations – the new car, the promotion, the house, the fancy – but the novelty of these collections or achievements soon wear off. Unless intervened, this cycle will run its course till our last breath. I’m not one to tell you how to live, but for me, I have to believe there is another way.

I think happiness is cultivated daily by the way we think and act – instead of something we arrive at via accolades and achievements.

#3 — We are all artists.

Growing up as kids, we all made stuff. But as we entered the walls of academia and soon thereafter sampled wage slavery, our spirit to create things slowly disappeared like the receding ocean tide.
Our crayons get replaced with scantrons. Our imaginations are dulled with deadlines. Our aims become linear. The book we dream of writing never gets written. The car never gets restored. The garden never gets tended.

You walk by an art boutique and always think, “I believe my work can be in there,” but you instead you’re suffocated by the life others have defined for you keeping you from working on your stuff.
We’re all artists – whether you get paid for your art is another story.

#4 — The ability to focus on demanding tasks is priceless.

Our ability to focus on important tasks is becoming more valuable and more rare at the same time. A lot of my work on this blog is aimed at this very concept.
Over the last few years, I’ve had to teach myself how to focus as a writer. However, the principles of focus expand beyond the medium of writing. In any vocation, your ability to focus is appreciating in value. Learn how to do it and you’ll not only be more valuable but you’ll get your work done in less time too.
Sounds like a win-win right?

#5 — You cultivate passion.

Following your passion assumes it already exists – it doesn’t.

#6 — Everyone doesn’t have to like you.

This is far easier said than done (at least for me). But, this doesn’t mean you make enemies intentionally. Just be unapologetically you and you’ll have enough of them.

#7 — Sometimes you gotta walk through the storm.

While in Miami Beach, I walked out from the gym to a sudden thunderstorm. On my way there, it wasn’t raining. When I got out the neighborhood was flooded – the water was up to my knees. At first, I had a mild panic come over me. I thought “what about my Nike fly knits or iphone?”
I wasn’t going to take an Uber to go 0.8 miles.

So, after looking straight into the flood zone in pouring rain acting like I could outrun or outwit the storm, I decided to walk nearly a mile in knee-high water (my fly knits are fine and my phone still works).
Sometimes, you gotta walk through the storm in life. Inconvenient? Yes. Uncomfortable? Probably? Life-threatening? Rarely.

#8 — Doing hard things is good for us.

The hack nation has claimed its real estate in our lives today. I’m all for doing less for the same result. However, this doesn’t mean that we don’t challenge ourselves with difficult tasks, projects or dreams.
Do you tell stories about the times you accomplished things that didn’t require you to stretch or persevere?
Probably not.
Everyone should attempt to get a boat over a mountain at least once in their lifetime.

#9 — We all worship something.

The only malleability is found in the choice of what we worship.

#10 — Time management is a joke.

Managing time implies we control it. But you and I both know that’s impossible. Whether we’re tirelessly working to finish the project or we’re binging on Bloodline over the weekend, time takes it’s course.
We can only manage energy.

#11 — Staying in the game is undervalued.

Because life is a test of endurance. There will be times when the academic advice or kosher recommendations will not provide enough horsepower to keep your head above water. During these times do what you must in order to stay in the game. It’s something like a lion who is surrounded by a pack of hyenas.
The lion is going to do what it needs to do to survive.

#12 — You’re one fifth of the equation.

If you’ve read any type of self-edification book, blog or resource, you’ve heard this saying:
“You become the average of the 5 people you surround yourself with.”

There’s some validity in the statement to be sure. However, you can’t forget that you’re one fifth of that equation. Part of being able to surround yourself with people that add value to your life is your capacity to add to theirs.

Reading books is the most practical way to invest in yourself so that you can at the very least bring a substantive conversation to the table.

#13 — You (and me) don’t have to be Instagram famous to have influence.

I really like Instagram (and Facebook and Twitter for that matter) but I find myself getting caught up in the wrong metrics at times. Follower count, retweets and likes cloud my vision and I get off track. I lose sight of the influence I can or could have and worry over metrics that I have little control over.

It’s a constant fight for me: Keeping my energy channeled towards creating my best work to influence the people right in front of me instead of looking past them and concerning myself with potential influence.

The irony is that when I’m focused on the right stuff, my influence goes deeper. When I get caught up with the wrong metric my influence seems to be shallow, fabricated, and non-penetrating.
Maybe you can relate?

The reality is that you and I both have influence and our lives matter right where we lie. In fact, we probably have more influence on others than we think. Always remember that.

#14 — Getting comfortable in the waiting room makes our lives easier.

You can do everything right to get to the doctor’s office on time, but if they ask you to wait you have no choice but to do that – wait.
Life wears a similar coat.

Sometimes we’ll do everything right and yet, our desired timing and reality don’t match. The default response is akin to a child who is told “no.” But this invisible skill, the ability to wait patiently is painfully overlooked.
If you find a way to wait, the doctor will eventually see you.

#15 — Goals are overrated.

Behaviors and systems are way better.

#16 — You aren’t the logo.

Advertisements have come a long way. We often don’t even notice that we are being exposed to them. The swoosh on your shoes. The apple on your laptop. The letters on your sweatshirt.

After a while, the family of logos you support becomes your community—a place where you identify. For some, the logos become their identity.

The reality is that you don’t need shoes with a swoosh to be a better basketball player. You don’t need a recycled shopping bag to buy healthier groceries. You don’t need the little red badge on your jeans to dress well.

But what if you had a life of no logos?
You’d have to brand yourself from scratch. Write your own story per se.
Logos aren’t malicious. But they can invade your well-being and consume the real estate that is yours – brand YOU.

You’re great how you are, even without the logos.

#17 — Value experiences over stuff.

The value of an experience transcends a momentary shot of satisfaction that stuff can provide.
For my 32nd birthday, Charlie (my wife) planned a dinner at The Bazaar – a tapas style restaurant located in the SLS Hotel in Miami Beach, FL.
The meal was incredible. But the story and experience is something we’ll never forget.

The place is admittedly a little bougie, so we got dressed up. After we got suited and booted, we took an Uber to the restaurant. The driver had some trouble finding the place and ended up dropping us off at the back of the restaurant. Meaning we had to walk about 100 yards to get to the front. This normally wouldn’t have been a big deal. However, on the night of January the 28th, 2017, it was a slight hiccup.
Within 20 seconds of getting out of the car, a downpour of rain blasted us so hard that by the time we ran up to the entrance, we looked like drowned rats. Completely soaked, we walked up to the front desk while the whole place gazed at us with empathy.

The night didn’t start off the way we had planned – but it ended up being a great night. And, we have story that we’ll never forget.
Experiences carry their value long after they are over.

#18 — Embedding intermittent recovery is crucial.

Athletes do this well.
Everyone else seems to be searching for the magic pill that allows them to run through walls 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Building rest into your plan on a daily, weekly and monthly basis allows you to do better work more consistently.
Rest is the ironic ingredient to doing more.

#19 — Habits make your life.

I like what Gretchen Rubin says:
“What you do everyday is more important than what you do once in a while.”

#20 — Walking is good.

Long walks are painfully undervalued. Friedrich Nietzsche has an opinion about walking that I agree with:
“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.”

#21 — Health needs to be a part of the success equation.

Over the next 10 to 20 years we’re going to see the largest shift in knowledge and responsibility. The baby boomers will be passing the baton to the millennials. Our health is the vehicle that will allow us to take this journey. Without it, we show up emotionally flatlined.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want the next generation of leaders to be operating in a constant state of brain fog and fatigue.
Without your health everything else suffers. This is more than six pack abs – this is the quality of your career, relationships, spirituality and everyone else around.

We’re depending on you to be healthy – we expect you to thrive so you can put your best foot forward and contribute in a way that matters to you.

#22 — Be mindful of your settlements.

A settlement is a resolution between disputing parties about a legal case that is agreed upon typically before court action begins.
In other words, you settled for less because you didn’t think you could win the case.

We do this in life too.
We have friction between where we are now and where we would like to be. When it feels to difficult or overwhelming, we settle for the easier route. The dangerous part about this situation is that it happens internally. Usually, only you know if you’ve settled or not. So you can pretend, and nobody will ever know.

In what areas have you settled, but deep down know you shouldn’t have done so? The good news is that unlike a legal cases, you can go back and undo your settlements with your personal aims.

#23 — Doing less allows you to do more.

Instead of going wide, aim to go deep. This can be applied in your work, art, relationships and edification.

#24 — Behavior and environment design offers an advantage.

Distraction isn’t the problem.
The ease of distraction is the issue. Unless you set your behaviors and environment up in a way that sets your daily tasks on autopilot, you’re going to fight through life on a fixed resource – willpower.

We try to do everything with conscious decision these days. There’s nothing wrong with thinking, but our society is so advanced that the amount of decisions we are forced to make each day surpass the amount of decision we can handle.
Our decision making capacity (willpower) gets drained before we retire for the day.

This is usually when the pizza wins. This is usually when you say “I’ll work on my side-hustle business tomorrow.” This is usually when the gambling starts. This is when the sixth whiskey gets poured. This is usually when adultery takes place.

Develop routines where low-level tasks get automated or completely remove them from your day. Design your home and workplace that supports the habits you want to practice daily.
By doing so, you’ll free up the mental bandwidth to make better decisions more consistently.

#25 — Define what is good enough.

“How much is enough? Just a little more.”
That’s the typical narrative. But that not only sounds exhausting, it is tiresome in real life too. If you don’t take the time define what is enough for you in the pillars of life, your existence will be one fast race to nowhere.

#26 — What’s easy for you is typically not easy for others.

“What should I do with my life?”
That’s a loaded question.
Heck, there’s an entire industry built on that one question alone. But if you look at the ones who seem to have found their lane, you’ll notice something fascinating. What they are good at is simple for them, yet incredibly complex for everyone else.
What do you practice often? And what are you good at?
Answering these questions may provide some insight on how you can provide value.
.
#27 — None of us are perfect.

Including myself.
It’s easy to be a Ken or Barbie on social media. To be fair, social media is an excellent tool for a lot of things. But it can provide a platform for a false reality too. Be careful not to compare your reality with someone else’s Instagram page. Believe it or not, they too are dealing with some battles.

#28 — Nobody is a lone ranger.

Even the most introverted peeps out there need other people to thrive.

#29 — Personality is important when it comes to diets.

Moderators need flexibility. Abstainers prefer to say “no” one time.

#30 — Accountability is more powerful than we think.

We think we’re strong enough, but we aren’t.

#31 — I’m still learning.

I’m still trying to figure this out. Even this list you just read is just a shot-gun list of thoughts birthed from my experiences and learning. I got a lot left to learn – and I absorb these life lessons a lot better when I share them in my writing.
I’m curious to see if the next 30 years offer a whole different set of lessons or if the connective tissue remains as time takes its course.
We’ll see.

Originally Published on The Good Men Project

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