Happy Birthday to Me

I just turned 50, and in celebration, I wanted to collect 50 lessons about that I’ve learned over the years. Alas, I couldn’t make it all the way to 50, so maybe that’s lesson #1: don’t try to force cute symmetry.I just celebrated my 50th birthday!

Most of these ideas are related to careers, but on some of them, I’m asking you to indulge me as I stray off topic. It’s my birthday month after all.

  • None of us can do it alone. On occasion, we all lose sight of who we are, and we need our community to remind us of our best selves. I remember during my coach training, one of the instructors talked about her leadership tribe (it’s really called that!), and that she sometimes would call one of the people in her tribe and say, “Remind me of who I am!” because she’d lost sight of her best self. We all do that.
  • It might look like you’ve slid backwards to the same place you always settle, but it’s not true. We travel in an upward spiral, and while we may revisit patterns and see familiar scenery, we’ve evolved and shifted, even if it’s ever so slightly, and we tackle those same scenarios with sharper skills.
  • Accountability alone won’t change behavior. Behavior is driven by underlying, usually entrenched beliefs, and if you don’t delve into those parts of yourself, you might be able to make a temporary shift, but you won’t sustain it.
  • Make friends with your gremlins and saboteurs. Thank them for their presence in your life. They’re just trying to keep you safe. Integrate them, buckle them in for the ride, but don’t let them drive.
  • It’s trite, but true: self-care is paramount. If you don’t have your own oxygen mask on, you’re useless to anyone else.
  • Bumper sticker wisdom is usually true. Except when it’s not. Embrace paradox. (That’s my quintessential bumper sticker — it covers all bases.)
  • It’s so much easier to see how others can fix their lives. I often think if we just swapped advice (and then actually followed it), we’d make massive progress.
  • The outcome isn’t as important as making sure I’m in integrity with who I want to be along the way.
  • If I can answer the question, “What do I want?” with as much specificity as possible, my biggest hurdle has been tackled.
  • I had to recognize my own value before I started making it as an entrepreneur. Kate Northrup has a practice that I call a Value Journal. It’s similar to a Gratitude Journal where you write down what you’re grateful for each day except with this daily journalling, you record where you contributed value. It solidified for me what matters most to me, where I want to put my energy, and how what I do matters.
  • You can’t isolate your work life from the rest of your life. If you’re struggling at work/at finding your work, the same issue is showing up in other parts of your life.
  • Shifting gears has more to do with mindset than tactics.
  • I heard a writer attribute a quote to Maya Angelou, “In order to find your path, you must walk.” I haven’t been able to find where she said/wrote it, but it sounds like something she’d say, and I believe it.
  • Everyone wants answers, but we all shudder at the idea of slowing down, taking risks, and opening ourselves up to discovery.
  • This one is from Brooke Castillo, a coach I’ve worked with and followed like she’s my guru: be all in. Don’t cherry pick from people ahead of you on the path. Do everything, give everything for a specified period of time, and then pause and reflect, but don’t rip it apart while you’re in progress.
  • Selling (either a product or a service as an entrepreneur or yourself in an interview) is rooted much more in listening than it is in talking.
  • Put yourself in the sweet spot outside of your comfort zone but not into torture or pain.
  • Don’t look to a job or another person to guarantee security for you. Look within.
  • Here’s another one from the bumper sticker archives: if you’re not failing regularly, you’re not living up to your potential.
  • Sprinkle people’s first names into your conversation as you’re having a discussion with them. It’s like touching them, they perk up and feel an immediate connection to you.
  • Most change happens incrementally, not in leaps. Leaps are sexy, and they make for great stories, but those folks are usually outliers.
  • Make room for both reflection and action. They’re the yin and yang of progress.
  • Go with the wisdom of crowds, especially when it comes to your resume. Someone always has an opinion about how they can make it better, but if you run around and change everything in response to every comment, you’ll drive yourself crazy.
  • I used to apologize for my devotion to thought leaders I admire, but now I honor that part of myself. I listen regularly to Jonathan Fields’ podcast, Brooke Castillo’s podcast, and I also read blog posts from Brene Brown, I watch Tara Brach‘s YouTube channel, and I read Liz Gilbert and Anne Lamott on Facebook like it’s my religion.
  • I anchor myself in some quotes that I return to over and over, including:
    • We can do hard things. ~Glennon Melton Doyle
    • You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. ~Steve Jobs
    • Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am. ~Parker Palmer
    • I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. ~Maya Angelou
    • If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. ~John Wooden
    • Do one thing every day that scares you. ~Eleanor Roosevelt
    • This practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already. ~Pema Chodron
    • Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life? ~Mary Oliver