If I go back in time to my great grandparents’ generation, they were doing everything they could to escape the chaos of what was happening in Europe. America meant freedom. And so, they came.
I was reminded of that these past few weeks as I connected with a distant cousin on 23andme.com. We had fun going back and forth trying to determine how we were connected. After a few messages, we discovered my grandmother and his great grandfather were sister and brother. Once that connection was made, we played the “do you know” game for a while.
Through it all, I started thinking about the lives each generation has had. What did they learn? What did they do? What did they teach their children? What did they hope for their grandchildren? The funny thing is, we’re not much different today.
Moving through my 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s, I’ve learned a few things about life. What I thought I’d be doing at 50 when I was a 20 year old, turns out I got it all wrong.
Having an average life is different than leading an extraordinary one. What would I be doing differently if I could go back and whisper a few secrets? What am I doing differently today knowing what I know?
Whatever you think is important today will change.
Every year you grow and change. What once was your most desperately big worry or concern will quickly fade away. Wherever you are today will change completely in ten years. So quit spending so much time dedicated to it. Quit worrying. Stop being complacent. Do something instead.
Jobs are anything but safe and secure.
I remember the day I quit my job to strike out on my own. My boss looked at me and said, “That’s risky, I wish you luck.” Even back then, I wondered where risk really lies. After watching my father reinterview for his position over and over again, until the stress killed him at the age of 54, I learned to look at jobs differently. Even then, I knew the world was changing. And even just this week, it continued to prove it once again. If you aren’t preparing for a different future, it will catch up with you eventually.
A million dollars will make you happy.
I remember a story my dad told me when I was going off to college. He said when he was in college, his biggest goal was to make $10,000 a year. If he could achieve that, he’d be set for life. Even by my new-to-college ear, I knew that wasn’t very much. Because times change and the value of money changes every day. If you assign your happiness to a certain dollar amount, whether in the form of a paycheck, a bank account number, or a deposit into savings, you’ll never achieve all you desire. It’s never about the money. It’s about what you want to experience that makes you who you are.
You’re running out of time.
Midlife isn’t a time for saying “it’s almost over”. Instead, it’s a time to realize how much time you have to do the things you really want to do. By midlife, we have a lot of experience behind us. We’ve discovered a lot of things we like – and don’t like – and have even more of an idea of what to put into place. What if you have ten years to do something you love? Twenty? Thirty? For most of us, our careers barely took off by our late 20s. What if you had equal time in front of you? 30 – 50 – 70 Suddenly it makes the future look very bright.
Going into your 20s, it was all about you. What will I do? Who will I be? Who will I meet? What life will I have? Then reality set in and life became about everyone else. Your spouse. Your kids. Your mortgage. What the boss wants. What your family wants. What the credit card company wants. Then things change. You’re left with quiet time. The kids move away. The job settles down. You have more “me” time. If you plan for your “me” time early, it can help you reach for the extraordinary life much sooner.
Experiment every day.
Somewhere along the way, adults have this notion they can’t continue to play. “You’re too big to do this.” “You’re too old to do that.” Where are those rules written in stone?
As we grow, we change. What we may have tried once before and hated may now become a best friend. We settle. We learn. We piece things together in this thing called life, and sometimes new things can become our new best friends. If you aren’t doing or trying something new each day, even if it’s just reading a new article, you’re settling for less.
Your reality is different than the world’s reality.
What is reported in the media or is listed on the Internet is not reality. According to news sources, our world may shortly come to an end. It’s filled with stories that will tell you the American Dream is no more, or jobs are being killed so quickly we’ll soon need a universal income just to survive. While small details, I’m willing to bet your daily life rarely does. You still have a house. You still have a job. You still sit down for dinner with your family. Our everyday lives change quite infrequently. It’s the rhetoric that makes us think things are worse than they really are. If you pay attention to only the things you can control, you’ll be happier with your surroundings every day.
Disconnecting from the liars, fakers, and negatives is empowering.
They are your best friends. They are your parents. They are your bosses. They are your neighbors. They are also the people that bring you down, hold you back, and make you less than you can be. Spending time with these people is killing you slowly. While it’s a giant step to walk away, the outcome can be extraordinary.
Have a plan B.
You’ve worked for years at the same job. You have lived in the same location forever. You have all your money at the same bank in town. What if it changes? What if it disappears? What will you do instead? There’s a time when you’re going to have change thrust upon you so fast, it’ll make your head spin. If you haven’t asked the important questions ahead of time, the only thing left could be devastation.
Your parent’s rules are out of date.
I remember growing up, my parents talked to me about the importance of giving it all to the job. Yet at the same time, I watched my father reinterview for his position.
It happens with everything we thought we once could count on. Pensions. Social security. Job security. Healthcare. Everything’s changed. And if you are holding out hope that today’s safety nets will be there for you, you’re in for a big surprise. What applies to today’s 70 year olds will never work for 50 somethings. Or 20 somethings. Just like you shouldn’t rely on advice from your parents, be careful about the advice you dish out to your kids. Let them learn. Let them grow. Let them discover.
Just like you.
We have expert advice at our fingertips.
The Internet changed everything. I think most of us would have little doubt that’s true. No matter what you want to do, be, accomplish, research, or discover, with just a few words into Google you can learn everything you desire. So ask better questions. Research more unknowns. Questions lead to new discoveries. And if you look a little harder, you’ll find a lot more opportunities. Fight for what we’ve been given. Stand up for what is right. And realize you have an important place right here, learning and discovering and sharing with the rest of us.
Chill the F out.
It’s hard to go anywhere these days without witnessing stressed out people. Stress kills us. It’s doing us in. And yet we all want the same things. Sure, a few of the details may vary. But overall, we want the same things. Living our versions of an extraordinary life doesn’t take a lot of hard work. It takes time to relax and enjoy what we have. Focus in on the things that bring pleasure. Blocking out the things that do us wrong. Quit arguing your point. Relax and live in the now instead.