Today, I turn 30.
Yesterday I celebrated it – at the urgent care center! My little man, Elijah, whacked his forehead on the corner of the television stand. It created a small laceration, and just might have needed stitches. My wife had prepared this great party and there we were sitting in an urgent care center, missing it all. Isn’t that just how life is sometimes?
Here are some lessons I’ve learned over the years. I think you will relate to a few, and others maybe you’ve never heard of before. I pretty much wrote this list in one fell-swoop and then added the commentary later. You’ll get a little deeper look into my life if you decide to read the commentary. As I wrote this, I thought it would be a great list to use for my children as they grow older.
This post was inspired by Adam Baker, who did this when he turned 26.
1. Life is short, so live for today. Working in the ICU and seeing death quite frequently, and watching close family pass, makes you treasure each moment you have. James compares life as a vapor saying: “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (Jas. 4:14).
2. Good is the enemy of the best. It was halfway thru college I determined good was no longer good enough. I decided to put every ounce of effort into being my best, and it has paid off. Fact is: Do a half-ass job and you get a half-ass result, pardon the language.
3. You don’t always get what you want. I wanted to be a doctor, write for a living, start my own company, become a successful web entrepreneur, and trade stocks. While I’m still working on some of these things, I realize you don’t always get what you want when you want, even if you work tirelessly on it and have great ambition. It’s a truth we sometimes don’t care to admit. But sometimes you will fail and you’ll have to quit. And that’s okay. Sometimes you will have to quit one thing to start another.
4. But whining sure helps sometimes. My whining has become much more refined compared to my two-year old. But it produces results. Being assertive with your wants and needs is important. I see so many passive people that don’t ask, don’t challenge, don’t complain about anything. And I think you end up only hurting yourself. Be assertive and you’ll gain so much more in life.
5. Seeking His Kingdom first is the secret to success. So many people try to find success the wrong way, including myself at times. But I have found joy and blessing when I put first things first.
6. Public school does more harm than good. While I see some benefit with the social aspect that you gain, I see more flaws than anything. It trains you to become like everyone else; that success happens by fitting in. They are seemingly bent on producing factory workers and promoting a future of consumerism, as Seth Godin has remarked on.
7. Prayer works but simply trusting God is better. It’s called selfish prayer. I used to do it a lot, and still do sometimes. It’s when you just go to God to fulfill your needs and desires. God wants us to trust Him with the details of our life. He has promised to do that even. I have found more life when I pray for others more than myself.
8. It really is better to give than to receive. I love the feeling of being able to give, whether it be my time, money, attention, or whatever. Giving has many benefits, but the primary one is growth. Living outside yourself allows you to experience more and grow in ways you wouldn’t otherwise. I frequently recall Oswald saying: “make me broken bread and poured-out wine in a special way.”
9. And that most are under the curse of recicprocity. I’m not perfect in this area by any means, but the benefit of giving only comes when you give with no thought of return. Giving to get will get you little, but giving just to give will help you live a more fulfilled, meaningful life.
10. Trust is a hard thing to gain back. I’m a person you can trust, but I have learned in past how easily it is to lose that trust and how hard it is to gain back.
11. Love is more a choice than a feeling. The initial feelings you have toward someone will fade. It’s a fact of life. You have to choose daily to love, even if it feels un-earned. True friends choose to love even if being disrespected or offended. Jesus teaches us that. It’s called agape love. My mom taught me this one.
12. Secret to contentment is wanting what you already have. This one my dad taught me. Of course I eye things up I want from time to time. Who doesn’t? But I found the secret to killing the resentment bug is to want more of what I got. It’s putting your eyes on what’s more valuable – your time, your family, your walk with God, and so forth.
13. Friends are fickle, but family are forever. Family has a deeper interest in your well-being, despite what you may think about them at times. Never disrespect your family. You can and will disagree with some of what they do. That is natural and expected. But come times of chaos and calamity in your life, it’s typically your family that will come through to help. They just care about you more than your friends would.
14. The road to destruction is wide. I remember being much more on fire for the Lord when I was single and just going to college. I was saved when much younger, but it was during these years my salvation was solidified. It’s a wonderful transcendent feeling to know that I am saved. But I realized then how many aren’t saved..and that coupled with a great sense of the brevity of life. So many are passive fans of Christ, but there are few real followers. It gives me a sense of urgency about evangelizing. It’s one reason I started this website, in hopes to snatch even one person from going to hell.
15. Private school is not much better than public school. I went to both public and private school. Here’s the facts: you’ll find more broken, messed up kids in private school than in public school. Some parents, not all, send their children to private school as a last resort. Public school wasn’t working for them. Life lesson: private school is not the answer to a bright and wonderful God-filled future. I still prefer private school over public any day, but don’t bank on it as a means to save your child. That’s the parent’s job to be a good role-model of Godly living.
16. The secret to winning friends. It’s not by some sales tactic. It’s simply by giving, serving, and actively listening. People don’t care about you. They care about themselves. Feed that need or desire and you’ll have friends.
17. The secret to influencing people. While I still struggle with this, the secret is by winning friends (#16) and just being bold enough to ask. It’s by being assertive and having a generous mindset.
18. It’s smart to seek out constructive criticism. I had a big problem with “constructive criticism” back when I landed my first job as a restaurant ‘busboy.’ I remember being called out for “not smiling enough.” I quit the next day. It was stupid to quit. She was just trying to help me. I was angry I had to lessen my job title. I had too much pride and thought I deserved a better job. Now I know better. Now I embrace it and even seek out constructive advice. I need to know where I’ve gone wrong and how to improve.
19. Nothing in life comes easy. I currently have everything I could have ever imagined and then some. I have a wonderful wife, three children, a great house, an awesome church, great friends, great family, great job, great everything really. But don’t think success like this can come easily. It takes hard work. For me it took going back to school after I was married, going through grueling shift-work as an ICU nurse, working multiple jobs as needed, and many more sacrifices than I care to share here. The lesson: don’t expect to have it all once your married, finished college, and landed your first job.
20. That it would be foolish to marry a non-Christian. I have dated non-Christians and have seen “unequally-yoked” marriages end in ruin. It’s not worth it. Read your Bible. It warns about this quite clearly. While there are some great marriages that can happen this way, I would bet they are very few and far between.
21. The importance of living a regret-free life. I have regrets. Big regrets. It’s part of being sinful. But as I matured as a Christian, I began to live this so called “regret-free life.” I have learned that I make the best choices I could have given the circumstances and knowledge I had at the time. I rarely dwell on mistakes and bad choices made. But when I do, I actually regret more that I regret. It’s destructive and no one wants to be around someone like this.
22. God is faithful – even when we are faithless. I’m not perfect. I’m sure I said that before here. I get unsettled about life circumstances. I don’t like how things are turning out at times. I’m not always obedient. I lack trust and faith at times. But the great thing is He still loves me despite my shortcomings. ”If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful…” (2 Timothy 2:13). His love and faithfulness are unconditional. God is constant, we are fickle.
23. Ideas are good. Execution of ideas are better. I’m an idea-guy. I always have been. I have come up with so many different business ideas, book ideas, inventions even. I have half-executed some of them, but a lot remain just that – ideas. More recently I have been executing, and it has been very rewarding. It’s a long road, but it’s worth it. When I look back at my life, I want to be known not for my ideas, but for the actions I took. And it’s important to start today, not tomorrow!
24. Being a parent is incredibly hard. I love being a parent to my three children: Emma, Elijah, and Levi. It gets frustrating at times. Okay, it becomes very frustrating. There are some nights we want to send them to bed at 7pm..actually 6:30pm (right after dinner, because it would just be a little too cruel to not feed them, right?). But being a parent is also incredibly worth it. Seeing their smiling, cute faces light up. Hearing them run to the door screaming “daddy” as I walk in from work. It’s priceless.
25. Marriage is incredibly hard. Two gems I have to dispense here: 1) marriage is meant for your holiness not your happiness, and 2) expect marriage to be hard. Men, you have to fight for your marriage. Women, you have to respect your man, even when it’s impossible. Both have to be giving 110% to each other, and have Christ at the center. The honeymoon period will fade, and the newness feelings will flee. Love will then become a choice (see #11). You have to choose to love as Christ loves. Struggling with romance? Don’t wait for it to come to you, give and you shall receive.
26. Exercise is crucial. I feel like crap when I don’t exercise. I start becoming grumpy around people. I don’t think as clearly. My work suffers. I have low self-esteem. It’s something I still struggle with. I tend to put too much on my plate and let the most important thing go to the way-side.
27. The love of money is root of all evil. Finances are a touchy subject for a lot of people. It has caused more arguments in my marriage than I care to admit, and it has significantly taking me off the Path as I tried to pursue it. Now I don’t worry so much about money and it is indeed liberating. Now I’m living with the consequences of poor money management from my early days. Seeking His Kingdom first is the secret to success (see #5).
28. It’s necessary to do work you love. Find what your passionate about and pursue your passion part-time. For me, I like writing and feel most alive when I’m able to create. I find when I write and create that I am much less anxious about my job. Don’t get me wrong, I like my job. But is it my dream job? Heck no! I want to work for myself someday – via writing, blogging, creating, and stock trading.
29. The importance of focus. I tend to put too much on my plate, and then end up not really accomplishing anything well. Focus on one thing only and build upon successes and you will achieve much more in life.
30. That I’m a very blessed man. I didn’t wake up this morning in my crap and forgot my name. I have a great marriage and family, a great job, and I’m able to do the things I love. When I find myself complaining, I just have to stop and realize how fortunate I really am compared to many in the world.
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