My 20’s were a blast and unfortunately, I don’t remember a lot of it thanks to alcohol and a battle with mental illness which I avoided. Now I’m in my 30’s, I’ve vowed not to make this mistake again and find my version of the good life.
This week it’s my birthday and there is a yearly tradition where I share the most valuable lessons I learned since the last birthday. It’s a special time of the year where I hold up a mirror and reflect on the person I see (and more importantly) the lessons that have changed the way I see myself and life.
Below are the 11 lessons from the first couple of years of my 30’s that will help you find your own version of the good life:
1. Problems are a disguise for opportunity
The most crucial lesson of this article is that when you’re looking for your next opportunity, it will come disguised as a problem. The last 12 months have been a battle to completely change my career and there have been some wins and casualties in the process.
The problem of career change has ended up becoming an opportunity. It has taught me to forget the brand/company you work for and focus on the people you work with. It has also shown me that career change is a lot like startups; the first time you try it, the chance of failure is high.
If career change had been easy, I would never have met some of the people this year who have changed my thinking, and become unlikely mentors disguised as recruiters, hiring managers, LinkedIn followers and referrals to jobs.
The people who show up during a problem are often nowhere to be found when everything is going smoothly and you’re comfortable.
2. The gift of leadership
The last 12 months brought me a newborn baby called leadership. Learning about leadership and getting to try it again for myself has been incredibly valuable.
We’re often told that you are born a leader and now I’ve seen that you become a leader through:
- And giving it a go
Leadership is a battle arena where you are going to learn a lot about yourself in a short period of time and deal with many battle scars. It’s worth every bit of blood, sweat and tears you put into it.
3. Family first
Family always seems to make an appearance in a list of life lessons because it’s such a large part of why we exist and why we do what we do every single day. This last 12 months has been about reconnecting with family members I lost touch with and attempting to be a better son, brother and boyfriend.
Even when you mess up, your family still sees you for the good person you are and believes you will rise again.
These thoughts hold a lot of inspiration when you’re lying on the floor in a puddle of water and wondering what’s next.
4. The mystery of your heroic self
For the last five years, I’ve been utilizing a hidden skill that was unexplainable and had no name. This year has been the year that this skill finally has a name and a meaning behind it. The skill is called an ‘alter ego.’
An alter ego is the armor I’ve been wearing for the last five years when I’ve had to face a huge challenge in the battle arena and now I not only know what it is, but I’ve begun sharing its power with others.
5. Low points reveal people you’d never expect
There have been many high points of late including a significant amount of progress on the blogging side. Low points have also been a common theme again as you’d expect.
What has been strange over the last 12 months has been the people that have shown up during these times. A long lost family member, surprising mentors, helpers that I thought were enemies, and many, many strangers have all showed up during some of the tough times.
Being open to the good and bad of tough times will leave the door open to some of these people entering your own life.
6. People enter and leave your life for different reasons
Many characters that have played a role in my life have done their last dance and acted in their last scene out of choice. Whatever meaning they were supposed to help me uncover has been revealed and now they have ridden off into the sunset with my best wishes and often in silence.
People come and go and that includes good people. No one shows up in your life forever, so enjoy the people you have right now because they may not be there next year.
7. Poor leadership
Dictators still exist and are not confined to ancient times or TV shows such as Game of Thrones. As hard as you can try and avoid being around a poor leader, sometimes you have no choice.
Watching them live in fear and seeing their ego blind them from any glory they may have been able to claim is heartbreaking but it’s not your choice, it’s theirs.
Take the lessons from poor leadership and do your best never to replicate them in your own life. Avoid the pain that comes from being part of this process and try to find some good in it. Poor leadership is never intentional and unless you’ve been taught differently, you too can accidentally be consumed by its delightful, addictive power.
Don’t blame yourself for the failing of poor leaders. Learn, sympathize and move on.
The hardest lesson of all this year has been attempting to be compassionate for those who have wronged me. The idea came to me from a book called “Joy on Demand,” and I see it as one of the ultimate tests for humans.
Compassion is different from empathy because it involves you being action-orientated and it’s not easy to take positive action against people you see as having treated you poorly or badly. Finding compassion for these people is how you set them free and have them cease to take over your thoughts.
9. You can make a living from your art
This year has seen me make a decent living from my art which is writing. The paid opportunities have come from strange places and the last five years worth of hard work.
During the career change part of the last 12 months, I’ve been able to have this income stream relieve some of the stress which has been a blessing. People told me I could never make money from writing and I’ve seen this to be a lie.
You can make money from your art, but it takes patience and heaps of practice.
10. Loss can come at any moment — so can opportunity
During the death of a family member, I was given an opportunity that made a big difference to the last 12 months. Appreciating that gift while mourning a loved one is a strange juggling act. Being happy while being simultaneously sad feels weird and confusing on some days.
You can never predict when someone will pass away. It’s sad to see and sometimes all you can do is say this to yourself: “What would they want me to do going forward now that they are gone?”
This question gave me huge comfort and gave me permission to keep going with my goals and derive a new meaning for my life.
11. There will always be critics, haters and trolls. It’s what you do with them that counts
As my audience has grown this year, so have the people who dislike me or perhaps don’t agree with some or even all of what I have to say.
There have been parodies done of my work.
There have been hateful comments.
There have been opinion pieces written about me designed to make fun of me.
Through it all, the only option has been to find some good from it all. The critics are never 100% wrong and some of what they say can be valuable.
On the other hand, if you listen to everything the critics say, you’ll never get out of bed and pursue your goals. Many critics will become angry with you, not because you’ve done something wrong, but because they wish they were doing and achieving what you are.
It’s easy to sit on the couch and criticize than it is to be vulnerable and put your life’s work out into the world to be judged and commented on.
Keep going despite the critics and take their feedback in small doses if you can, so you don’t end up with a cocktail of shame and the resulting hangover.