40 things I’ve Learned Over 40 Years 

July is less than 90 minutes away. As a kid the beginning of July was like the countdown to the New Year at midnight. Every day until the twelfth I would get giddier, more excited, convinced that each year would make me smarter, prettier, more adept.

One year, I think it was when I turned five, I remember waking up and running to the easel standing in my bedroom and drawing a flower with crayons. Armed with the certainty that because I went to sleep a four-year-old and woke up a much savvier five, I would craft a more perfect, more precise flower. That drawing, framed and dated, would hang in my mothers’ hallway for years.

So now, on the cusp of 40, I am not going to wait until the morning of my birthday to feel older and wiser. I am in a reflective mood and decided to start to ponder what I have learned over the last four decades, and I chose (appropriately) 40 things. I wasn’t totally sure I could come up with that many things worthy of note–perhaps not all are to everyone–but they have special meaning to me.

So, for those who care to partake, the 40 most meaningful things I’ve learned in the last 40 years.  Maybe I’ll come up with a completely different set by 50.

  1. Opportunities are few but regrets are lasting
  2. The best way to predict the future is by looking at the past
  3. Something valuable is a combination of quality materials and an investment of time and money. When looking to cut corners, understand that either the quality, the time it takes or the financial investment / value will change in proportion.
  4. Know what you’re worth before negotiating a salary. Ask for slightly more than that.
  5. Books are an easy way to kill time anywhere, are a natural sleep-aid and don’t require wi-fi.
  6. Misunderstanding is the primary cause of an argument. Listen when having a discussion, don’t wait to speak.
  7. If your not failing, you’re not trying.
  8. There are no coincidences; accidents are the universes’ way of remaining anonymous.
  9. Feelings aren’t facts.
  10. Trust your gut, stay out of your head and follow your heart.
  11. If you are searching for your soulmate, look in the mirror.
  12. Many things did not turn out as I had planned…but most turned out even better than I ever imagined.
  13. Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional
  14. Forgiveness is not something given to another, it’s a burden relieved
  15. Helping someone keep their dignity is one of the most powerful acts of love I have ever witnessed.
  16. Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s acting in spite of it.
  17. A hot bath (or shower) and clean sheets can make the world feel right again.
  18. Everybody faces demons, deals with challenges and fights battles… Everyone.
  19. As trite as it sounds, anything worthwhile is worth fighting for… However, ‘fighting for’ and ‘fighting’ aren’t the same and people aren’t ‘things.’
  20. Love is a verb and a noun
  21. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is walk away.
  22. In summer, take two showers.
  23. Discussing religion, politics or sex have no business at work, in a waiting room or on the subway.
  24. There is always someone who is smarter than you, and always someone you are smarter than. Make friends with the former, because water also seeks it’s own level.
  25. Although it is quite easy and quick to reopen a wound, the healing time is twice as long.
  26. There is no easy way to leave a relationship (any relationship), the truth leaves everyone with their dignity.
  27. It’s good to know how to make your favorite dinner, breakfast and dessert.
  28. Someday it will be profoundly important where your grandparents and great-grandparents were born.
  29. Asking for forgiveness and saying “I’m sorry” are totally different.
  30. With freedom comes responsibility.
  31. Money is like space. The more there is, the more it is consumed. It needs to be contained. That’s what financial institutions are for.
  32. When you want to learn something/ aspire for something, find someone who knows/has that *thing* and ask them for guidance. Many people like sharing their expertise, and most people like talking about themselves.
  33. Always give your seat to a pregnant woman. Even if you never personally experience what she is going through, you were once inside a pregnant woman and would have wanted someone to do the same for you.
  34. You can love someone and be angry at them at the same time. In fact, you usually don’t get angry with someone you don’t give a shit about.
  35. Understanding your vulnerabilities and weaknesses does not make one vulnerable or weak.
  36. Seeing isn’t always believing: sometimes we fail to believe what we see; sometimes we can only believe what we feel.
  37. Using my phone in bed late at night makes it impossible to fall asleep.
  38. Say “please” and “thank you” to everyone. No one is invisible.
  39. When the pain of where you are exceeds the fear of where you’re going, you’ll move.
  40. Nothing is permanent. No rainy day, gloomy mood or tough time–know it will pass. Same is true for those perfect skies, pink clouds and moments of glory–savor them. Without one, we could not know the other.
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