32 Life Lessons Learned After 32 Years Lived

August 11, 2014

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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.

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 2.33.03 PM5. Take time to motivate yourself. It won’t come on its own.

Every morning I watch motivational videos while doing mobility work. Eric Thomas is my favorite. You have to cultivate and grow your level of motivation to achieve your dreams.

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.Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 2.29.54 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 2.36.30 PM14. 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.

17. Be intentional with family time.Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 2.34.10 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 2.39.48 PM24. 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.

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 2.43.14 PMDid 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.

-Todd

Show/Hide Comments (48 comments)
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48 Comments
  1. Midhun Rxme

    Hi Todd
    This great article. Definitely this is inspiring.
    Most of the day i read one or two article like these lots of good blogs i read this is one of them.

    Midhun Rxme
    Form India

    Reply
  2. buying a home timeline

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    I’ll be sure to bookmark it and return to learn extra of your helpful info.
    Thank you for the post. I will definitely comeback.

    Reply
  3. Paul

    Great post! Any chance you could tell us more about your friend in step #29? I’m curious what line of work he is in that a $75,000 self-investment is possible. Thanks!

    Reply
  4. Dave

    Shorter workouts when applied properly are far better than long workouts not applied correctly. I have made soooo much gain in one month over three months working out in the gym and I just can’t thank you enough at this point.

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Awesome Dave! So glad to have you apart of the SOA community!

      Reply
  5. Fernando

    You can’t be in two places at once so, put your whole beign in what you’re doing now. Total attention gives a new dimension to anything you do.

    Reply
  6. Rafael Knuth

    One more lessons to add (which I learned the very hard way after 43 years lived): Debts, both personal and financial, are the single biggest obstacle to your destiny. Get rid of all your debt, and nothing will stand between you and your dreams, hopes, goals and aspirations.

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Amen!! Rafael, this might be my favorite. I have a lot of student loan debt but have an aggressive plan for paying it off. So glad you mentioned this. I totally forgot about this lesson.

      Reply
  7. Dave

    I love the advice given to me by a lady in her 60’s, months before dying to cancer: “grow up? Not today. I’ve the rest of my life to grow up in”
    Dorothy was equally happy rolling on the floor playing with a child as she was healing and counselling others.

    Personally I like the “fk it, why not?” Approach that ensures my day always has some spontaneity and fun.

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Seize the day Dave! Right on!

      Reply
  8. Cris Furlong

    Life is like a box figth , you never know if you are going to the last round, but you better be ready to finish on your feet.
    Great lessons.
    Happy birthday!

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Love it Cris! Anyone of us could go at any round.

      Reply
  9. Timothy James

    Hi Todd,

    Wow.. what a great read. Inspired reading this. I’ve always thought that at 37, it’s already too late for me to chase for my dreams. Reading this open my eyes. The “shiny object syndrome” is what resonates to me the most. I tend to jump to the next one without even completing the ones I have in my hand. This, brings me no where near my full potential.

    Again, thanks man! God bless you. Keep inspiring 🙂

    Tim

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      I totally relate. Sometimes its helpful to remember that moving “slowly” is actually the fastest way to progress. And yes, never to late to reach for your dreams.

      Reply
  10. Jenn

    Great article. So well stated!
    You have learned a great many lessons in your 32 years of life.

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Thanks Jenn!

      Reply
  11. Abhijit

    Congratulations my friend! A very thought-provoking yet practical list. Having turned 50 this year I have a rather long list so I’ll leave you with a question – “How do YOU evaluate success?”
    All the best to you and the family.

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hmmmm….. very good question. On the simplest level success is achieving anything we set out to achieve. Yet, its goes way beyond that and enters into the realm of “Are we living by our values?”, “Are we serving our families, communities and world?”, etc. What is your definition?

      Reply
  12. Pablo Vera

    If you lose, don’t lose the lesson

    We have to learn about our mistakes, that’s the way to succeed

    Todd thank you for sharing your personal experiences

    Best regrads

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      You are very welcome Pablo!

      Reply
  13. Melanie

    Happy Birthday Todd!

    You have certainly learned a lot in your short time on the planet. Some of us never learn any of these lessons. Maybe we are not paying attention or we forget too easily. Anyway, thanks for your list. I am going to print it out, add a few of my own lessons and put it somewhere where I can be reminded on a daily basis. I forget too easily :-).

    Nike still says it best: “Just Do It!” I always tell my kids to not put off doing something that you really want to do in the present moment. The opportunity may never present itself again…. Have no regrets.

    God bless you and your beautiful family.

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Cool Melanie! Yeah, its important to be reminded of lessons like these. I think its human nature to forget and relearn.

      Reply
  14. Matilda

    I love that you put “don’t be afraid of failure”. People think it’s not ok to fail. It’s like yoda saying “do or do not there is no try”. But if you never try you never know what you are capable of. Sometimes you need to fail to learn from it.
    Great post, thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      You are very welcome Matilda! May the force be with you.

      Reply
  15. Chris

    Great advice Tod and happy birthday! I hope to accomplish as much as you have by the time I am your age. 🙂

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      I’m sure you will Chris. Keep rocking it! 🙂

      Reply
  16. Dave R

    Don’t let age hold you back.

    People use age as an excuse not to try new things , I say try everything and anything that you can. Your only here once and life is for living.

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Totally agree Dave. I think the people that use age as an excuse are the same people that had other excuses when they were younger. Just now they can try to blame it on age. Remember Paul Bragg. He died in his high 90’s by flipping off a surf board and hitting his head on a reef. That’s how I would like to go. Age is certainly just a number.

      Reply
  17. Janel

    Todd, this is awesome, so much value (as all your posts), I really appreciate. Thank you.
    Question, as I hear this so often from numerous podcasts and entrepreneurs about #27 giving first. How can I do this while (seriously) broke?
    I give, be of service to my students in small ways as I can(typed up quotes at the end of class, (create) videos, gifts during the holidays, newsletter packed with information on specific poses, alignment, nutrition, always answering emails/textes asap etc); I’m hungry to share and inspire, but I feel it’s not enough….

    Happy Birthday!

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hi Janel,

      I think thats definitely enough. Money is only one resource. It sounds like you are utilizing a ton more resources than just financial… which have an even greater impact! I’m sure you are well loved by your students.

      Reply
  18. bodhi

    “Carpe Diem et Strangula Merdam Ex Eo!!” bodhi

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Carpe Diem was our senior quote in high school. It has stuck with me still.

      Reply
  19. Pastor Dave

    Todd–

    Great list–especially #24 bnased on the WORD– you could also add “In everything give thanks” which is also in His word and very true!

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      1 Thess 5:18. 😉

      Reply
  20. bodhi

    “People are just about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Abraham Lincoln

    “Seek freedom become captive to your desires. Seek discipline and find your liberty.” The Coda

    “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” Helen Keller

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Great quotes Bodhi. Lincoln was spot on. You can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven.

      Reply
  21. Richard Czerniawski

    Happy Birthday Todd! WOW, what a beautiful photo of you and your family. At 32-years of age you are a very young man. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with people like me who seek self-improvement in maximizing our potential.

    At 67-years of age, I have some lessons of my own that I’d like to gift you with:

    1) Life is a marathon – You need to be into life, step by step, for the long run;
    2) Reflect and grow – Ask yourself what have you learned from your experiences and what will you do as a result to improve your life and those of others;
    3) It’s not all about you – Care for others (and, yes, care for yourself too) and your care will make a positive difference on others which enhances your karma;
    4) Work around your obstacles – It’s not wise to force things – find away around them but, certainly, deal with them in all aspects of life whether it be an injury, problem, what ever;
    5) Another birthday beats the alternative any day!

    I’d like to share one other thing with you from Marianne Williamson from her book A RETURN TO LOVE:

    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear iix that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? … Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you… And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.’

    Again happy birthday and peace to you and your family.

    Richard

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      LOL! Love #5 Richard! Thanks for sharing.

      Also, super powerful quote. I find that so true. I sometimes get in my own way. I think there is an inherent fear of progressing too far. Though as soon as we get over it we realize that the other side is incredible.

      Reply
  22. Larry

    Life is an adventure that we experience with those we love and meet along the way. We enter and leave this life alone and leave those we love with memories of our passing. Let those you love know that you love them.

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      That’s great Larry! Life certainly is an adventure. I have been doing daddy/daughter dates with Emma and Allison dates once a month. Its a good way to tell them “I love you” in action form. 🙂

      Reply
  23. Douw-Steyn Lessing

    Good afternoon Todd.

    I’m Douw-Steyn from South Africa and I just started your 3 month program and very excited. Would it be fine doing the routine every morning and would it hurt to do some cardio? Sorry for asking in the comment box but didn’t know where else to get hold of you.

    Take care.
    God bless.

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hi Douw-Steyn,

      Of course you can add some cardio to the program. I’m guessing that you have something that you already enjoy. That’s totally fine. And this is a perfect place to ask. Happy to help! 🙂

      Reply
  24. Timothy Norris

    Trust GOD! He will direct your path if your willing to follow!

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Amen Timothy!

      Reply
  25. Anthony Alayon

    Nice blog post Todd.

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Thanks bro! I appreciate that!

      Reply
  26. Anne Schmidt

    Good things come to those who wait. Every inch is a success as it gets you closer to your goals and dreams.

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Totally agree Anne! Patience is definitely a virtue!

      Reply
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