On Saturday, August 9th, 2014, I turned 32 years old.
My family lives in a townhouse in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The other day we were at the pool relaxing, and there was another young family there with a boy who was about ten years old. He was complaining that he was too fat.
The dad said, “Well, I’m sorry son. It’s only downhill from where you are.”
He was joking, but I thought, “How sad.”
Every year that passes we have an opportunity to grow, improve, and make this life better for ourselves and for others.
“It’s only downhill from here…”
I call BS on that.
Some people get depressed on their birthdays. They focus on how much of their lives they’ve already lived, and how they’ve already lived their “glory days”. But I don’t believe in doing that. I believe in counting one’s blessings and improving this world, no matter how much time you have left.
Over the past week, I’ve been reflecting on some lessons that I’ve learned over the last 32 years.
Some have dramatically shaped who I am today, and I’d like to share them with you.
1. Small incremental changes are better than large dramatic ones.
When we change slowly over time, we have the opportunity to instill habits. These habits snowball into greater and greater changes over time. On the other hand, when large dramatic changes occur we don’t have the ability to adjust, and often end up right back where we started. Aim for small but consistent changes in every area of your life: fitness, health, investments, debt reduction, relationships.
British Cycling have used this idea to dominate in the world of track cycling. They attribute their success to “accumulation of marginal gains over time.” Paying attention to the little details adds up and pays off.
2. Dreams need to be nurtured or they’ll die.
The world is good at pulling you in the direction it wants you to head. If you have a dream, you need to nurture it by working towards it every day. Don’t focus too much on your progress, just continue to work on it every day without fail.
3. Achieving a goal is less important than who you become during the process.
When I was younger, I thought this advice was a bunch of hooey. Now I realize how true it is. In order to achieve great things in your life, you have to change (for the better) who you are on the inside. This is a much better reward than anything external you could gain.
4. Don’t argue over the small things in life (most things are small things).
I still remember the day at the start of our marriage that I rebuked Allison for putting sugar in our bread. How silly. There are very few things in life that call for a heated argument. The problem you see today will be the smallest detail tomorrow.
6. Have a clear vision for your life.
For the past two years, one of my best friends and I have taken two days out to go up to my parents cottage. We take the time to establish a vision for our lives. This clarity helps steer our decisions during the following twelve months.
7. Having a day job to make ends meet is ok and often necessary. Work on your dream on the side. There is enough time.
For much of my life, I thought that if I had a day job I wouldn’t be able to pursue my dream of being a fitness entrepreneur. I was wrong. Over the last year and a half I’ve grown my business to the point where I’ve stepped away from my day job. There IS enough time. You just have to organize your priorities.
8. Find a trusted mentor and follow their advice.
If you don’t have a mentor, you’re probably wasting a lot of time. Mentors help shorten the learning curve because they’ve traveled the path before you. Find a mentor in the important areas of your life and you will progress much faster.
9. Join a mastermind.
I firmly believe the saying, “You are a combination of the five people you spend the most time with.” Choose your friends wisely. Just recently I joined a fitness mastermind and it has helped propel me faster towards my goals. If you’re looking for a calisthenics accountability group, I recommend our private FB Calisthenics Club.
10. It’s ok to be you.
God created you as completely unique, so it’s important to be who you really are. I’ve learned to allow myself to be me. I am naturally shy and I don’t need to “force” myself to be the life of the party. I can simply be who I am, with no regrets. Just be you.
11. Leave things gracefully.
There have been a few jobs that I didn’t leave very gracefully. This is silly. Leave blessings behind you as you move forward, not regret.
12. When you make a decision, don’t second guess yourself.
Stand firm in every decision you make. It’s ok to pray, think about and ponder over a decision before you make it, but when you do decide, step forward with confidence.
13. Trust yourself.
A few months ago, my dad paid me the biggest compliment I could get. You see, three years into my Nursing schooling, I dropped out. I had a year left and I knew it wasn’t right for me, so I left. At the time, everyone around me said it was the biggest mistake of my life. My dad was especially mad at me.
But I knew I was making the right decision, because I knew I wanted to be a fitness entrepreneur. Now that things are going well, my dad (and others) are saying things like, “Wow, it looks like you DID make the right decision.”
Don’t let others direct your life for you. Trust yourself.
14. Eat the ugly frog first.
Days move fast. Write down your hardest and most important task for the day and do that first.
15. A leopard can change his spots.
Your past does not define your future. You have the ability to change into anything you want. Believe it and you can achieve it.
16. People think about you less than you think.
Growing up, I always thought people were staring at me or internally mocking me. Now that I’m older I realize how little people think about me. People are too involved in their own lives and pay far less attention to you than you think.
I am naturally “project-orientated” rather “people-orientated”. If you are too, make time for your family. They are far more important than completing a project.
18. Growth doesn’t occur in a straight line.
The path to success is filled with setbacks. Allow yourself to experience all the highs and the lows of the journey towards your goal. The only thing that matters is that you keep pushing onward.
19. It’s ok to change your goals but don’t do it too often.
As mentioned before, I have “shiny object syndrome“. Something new comes along and I immediately want to chase it. Over the past year, I’ve been working on sticking with one thing until I’ve accomplished that goal. I have my accountability partner to thank for helping me to keep my eye on the prize.
20. Stick to your values even when others disagree.
A couple of months ago, my brother and I got into a debate about education. I believe it’s ok for my children to not go to college, but he thinks that’s foolish. You know what? That’s ok. Establish your values and live by them. Don’t let other people dissuade you. Keep your values tightly guarded.
21. Avoid the acute angle when disagreeing.
People want to feel important, and they also see themselves as right most of the time. When you disagree with someone, make them feel important while you present your point. Don’t disagree with them forcefully, as this will only make them harder to win over. Accept their current view on the subject, then share your thoughts. You’ll win them over a lot faster.
22. Time is the greatest multiplier.
Start now. Whether you are investing, paying off debt, getting in shape, starting a business… don’t wait. Time will multiply your efforts greatly.
23. It’s ok to say no.
Don’t be wishy-washy when you want to say no. People will ask you to do all sorts of things. Politely decline and move on. They’ll move on too.
24. Be grateful in all circumstances.
The Word says, “There is a season for everything.” You’ll have many triumphs and failures in this life. Learn to be grateful in every situation you find yourself in and trust that it’s for your good.
25. Own your own emotions.
This is my favorite lesson. My nursing professor said this to my class after everyone complained about a particularly hard test. She said, “Own your own emotions.” You choose the emotions that you feel. Own your emotions because they are your own personalized reaction to the world around you.
26. Don’t be afraid of failure.
Failures are opportunities for growth. It’s become cliché now, but it’s true. Don’t get upset over the mistakes you make. Brush yourself off and press on.
27. Help others get what they want and you will get what you want.
After countless years of trying to get what I wanted out of life, I’ve now turned 180 degrees. You must first serve others, and in turn you’ll get back exactly what you want. This can be hard to practice, but it’s an amazingly powerful law to live by.
28. Plan your day the night before.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18) Have a vision for each individual day, as well as for your life as a whole. Take a few minutes each night to plan the following day. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish if you follow this rule.
29. Invest in yourself.
I have a buddy that spends about $75,000 a year on educating himself in business. Know how much he makes? Over $300K. He says that the ONLY reason he makes this much is because he invests in himself and continues to learn. Do that for yourself, whether it be in the area of relationships, fitness or business.
30. Habits are the engine to success.
Habits are the most powerful tool for success. That’s why I recommend people start small. Results in fitness are not necessarily immediately important. It’s creating the habit that is most important. Start with small habits in your life. Before you know it, they’ll snowball into amazing change.
31. Everyone is going through some type of struggle. Remember that when crossing their path and try to make their day a bit better.
Did you get cut off while driving today? Did you get a nasty customer service representative on the phone after being put on hold for twenty minutes? Don’t lash out. Everyone is struggling with something. Put your own struggles aside and try to brighten their day.
32. Back to YOU! What is a life lesson you have learned? Answer below in the comments…
Share one of your life lessons in the comments section. Feel free to share how you learned that lesson too. We all have wisdom to share.