post written by: Marc Chernoff

25 Lessons I’ve Learned In 50 Years


Life Lessons

This is a guest post by Barrie Davenport of Live Bold and Bloom.

For anyone under 50 reading this, I have some good news for you.  50 is pretty darned good!

I even surprise myself by writing this, because believe me, I never thought the day would come when I would embrace being half a century.  But it has arrived, and it doesn’t stink.

Yes, yes — there are the inevitable physical changes that are quite unsettling.  Things do start to droop, wrinkle and expand.  Sometimes you will catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and wonder who that middle-aged person is.  On the outside, you may look like a grown-up, but on the inside it’s crazy how you still feel like you are 30.  Or younger.  (Ask my teenagers.  They hate that about me.)

When I was in my 30’s and 40’s, I took life much more seriously.

In fact, I think I was mysteriously older then than I am now.  Is that possible?  When you are busy building a career, raising children, accumulating stuff, and creating a lifestyle, you are defined by that busyness.  It’s serious work.  You have to make money to pay for the lifestyle.  Your kids need to be raised right lest they become a scourge on society and embarrass you by living in a trailer and eating bugs.

Those years are fulfilling and wonderful, but they also are fraught with upheaval and angst.  Things that once didn’t matter when you were younger, like having the right cocktail napkins or winning yard of the month, somehow matter so very much.  We struggle toward some kind of perfection and achievement that is ‘out there’ somewhere.

I don’t know about you, but I have spent a lot of time trying to create the self I thought I should be.  I cobbled together the perfect me made from pieces of this and that.  The clothes I wear, the neighborhood we live in, the car I drive, the friends I have.  It looks pretty nice from the outside.  And much of it is nice on the inside too.

But I spent way, way too much time in the work of crafting myself, and far too little time just being myself.

When you are spinning your wheels to maintain this beautifully crafted life, you miss out on a whole lot of real living.

If I were able to time travel and visit my twenty or thirty-year-old self, there are some things I would really like to teach me.  Since I can’t do that, hopefully you will benefit from some of the lessons I’ve learned over the last 50 years.

  1. 50 doesn’t feel like 50.  It doesn’t feel like the age you imagined when you are in your 20’s or 30’s.  For the most part, it feels the way you feel right now.  But smarter and more confident.  You also have more time and resources to enjoy life.  So don’t fear it.  Look forward to it.
  2. Experience life before you settle down.  Whatever it is you want to do or experience, do as much of it as you can before you have children.  Especially travel.  Live in a hovel and drive a beat-up Dodge Dart if you have to.  But go have some really great, amazing, mind-blowing experiences.
  3. Money and stuff are not all that important.  Yes, you want enough to be comfortable and do the things you want to do.  But accumulating for the sake of accumulating is so boring and empty.  Feed the soul, not the ego.
  4. Don’t try to impress people.  That’s an act that brings nothing but a momentary ego boost.  Be real with people instead.  Connect with fewer people on a level that is deeper and more profound.
  5. Let your kids fail.  Your kids will be okay, even if you think they are headed for the juvie right now.  Don’t come to their rescue all the time.  Don’t manage every detail of their lives or over-schedule them with tao quan dao or viola lessons.  Give them some boundaries, and then relax about them.
  6. Bad things will happen.  Part of living and getting older is experiencing upheavals in life.  People lose jobs, get divorced, die.  When you are younger, and things have gone pretty well, this can be shocking.  The bad things won’t kill you.  You will learn from them if you allow it.
  7. Not much is worth fighting about.  If you can avoid it, don’t fight.  Step back from arguments with your spouse or family member or neighbor.  When you feel anger surging up and you want to say that snarky thing on the tip of your tongue, just close your mouth and walk away.  Let yourself calm down.  You don’t have to be right or win the argument.  It just doesn’t matter that much.
  8. Little things stick with you.  So pay attention to them.  Like watching your child sleep.  Preparing a meal with your family.  Sharing a great laugh with an old friend.  That is the real stuff life is made of.
  9. Keep having fun.  Fun is way underrated.  With all of our responsibilities, fun seems like an indulgence.  It shouldn’t be.  It should be a requirement.  Remember what you did to have fun when you were younger, and go do it again.  Leave the house messy and the yard un-mowed for the weekend.  You will remember the fun, not the clean house or yard.  Make time for fun.
  10. Make things simpler.  Pick the five most important things in your life now, and focus on those things.  Let the other stuff go.  Let go of the activities, the events, the commitments, the shopping, the to-do lists.  Stop the busyness and really enjoy the important things you have right now.
  11. Keep your brain active.  Don’t get into a mental rut.  Do new things, learn new things, explore new ideas in all areas of your life.  Keep challenging yourself and your mind.  Be curious and interested in the world around you.
  12. Hang out with younger people.  Stay connected with what the generation behind you is doing and thinking.  Establish friendships with them.  You will benefit and learn from each other.  Don’t act superior, because younger people may know a whole lot more than you do!
  13. Keep exercising and eating healthy.  You know this, but I’ll remind you anyway.  The older you get, the more important a healthy lifestyle is.  In my 20’s, I could shovel down a Wendy’s hamburger and fries every day and never see the difference.  Now I just look at a hamburger and my butt gets bigger.
  14. Manage aging, but why fight it?  You can spend a fortune on face creams, plastic surgery, hair growth formulas, and botox, but eventually you realize you are fighting an uphill battle.  Groom yourself nicely.  Stay fit.  Have unsightly things removed.  But accept the beauty of aging.  A striking mature man or woman is much more attractive than someone who looks overly taunt, tanned or top-heavy.
  15. Everyone doesn’t have to like you and vice versa.  One of my friends likes to say, “She’s not in my cluster.”  Sometimes there are people in your life who are just not the right fit or who drain you dry.  It is fine to back off from them or even let them go.
  16. Marriages evolve and change.  The feelings you had for the man or woman you married will mutate and evolve several times over the life of a marriage.  Hopefully you will evolve in the same direction or at least embrace and accept the changes in the other person.  It takes work, and sometimes it takes counseling.  Don’t gloss over those changes or you may wake up next to a stranger one day.
  17. Yes, you can still have great sex.  When I was in my 20’s, I thought you stopped doing it when you were in your early 40’s.  I assumed middle aged people would no longer want to disrobe in front of each other.  I’m happy to inform you that this is not the case.
  18. Tend to your friendships.  Especially your oldest friendships.  These are the people who know and love you best, in spite of your flaws.  Treat them like the precious gems they are.
  19. Stop worrying.  Worry does absolutely nothing productive.  In fact, it is counterproductive.  The more you worry, the more you reinforce the problem or concern in your brain.
  20. Everything is not always black or white.  Life is often very ambiguous.  Sometimes there isn’t a right or wrong decision or choice.  Things are not always completely clear.  You may not get THE answer, so you just have to wing it.
  21. Take action on your dreams.  If you’ve been putting things off — a new career, more education, the big trip — start taking action right now to make it happen.  Don’t dream about it anymore.  Start doing it.
  22. Don’t dwell on your wounds.  Everyone has something that has caused pain and has been limiting them in some way.  If you need help to deal with it, then get it right away.  Don’t let the past limit your future.
  23. Embrace change.  As uncomfortable as it is sometimes, change allows us to stretch and grow.  New things feel awkward and scary at first, but those feelings go away, and you are left with something bigger and bolder in your life.
  24. Be vulnerable.  Allow yourself to feel, to be open and authentic.  Tear down any emotional brick walls you have built around yourself and feel every exquisite emotion, both good and bad.  This is real life.  This is how you welcome new opportunities.
  25. Count your blessings every day.  I know, this is a refrigerator magnet line, but practice it daily anyway.  There is so much good, so much beauty, so much love in your life.  What more do you really need?  You have so much right now, you just need to pause long enough to appreciate it.

Barrie Davenport is a personal and career coach and the founder of Live Bold and Bloom, a blog about bold and fearless living.  Download her free ebook, How to Live a Meaningful Life.

Photo by: Pierre Pouliquin

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48 Comments

  • Thank you sir for sharing your wisdom. I especially like your tip 2, 3 and 4 as well as your comment at the beginning that you took life too seriously. Your article is a good reminder to focus on what’s important.

  • Great advice Barrie thanks. I really appreciate that you have reminded us to enjoy the moments and not just focus on achievement.

    I am 32 and the busiest I have ever been. I also run my own business which places incredible demand on my time and mind. This is the perfect article to help me find balance. I will not forget to enjoy a breakfast with my sons or some quiet time to talk to my wife this evening. Its like you said, these are the moments we remember anyways.

  • Hi Zach,
    I’m glad you liked it. I should disclose that even though I have a masculine name, I am very much a female! Thank you for commenting.

  • Wow what a wisdom wish list for non worry. I found myself shouting, ‘Yes, yes’ to all of them. My neighbours must wonder what I’m up to! It’s true that age can teach us to move from distressed to impressed and your tips help encourage that. The only thing that stays the same in life is that nothing stays the same. It’s an ongoing experience. Just let it come! You’ve made a forty something a happy someone with this post. Nice!

  • Yeees! hope my 50’s be that awesome
    best wisdom ever :)

  • Great wisdom here, Barrie!

    I’m not 50 yet, but I’m going to get there sooner or later :-)

    These are all great tips, especially the ones concerning not to worry so much, treat your friends better and appreciate what you have in life. I don’t have any children, but your advice to let them live their own lives and learn from their failures, is great advice for parents who are so concerned about their children’s futures that they are isolating them from making any sort of mistake. I also agree that you should be taking action on your dreams daily - you’re never too old to go and achive your dream!

    Karen

  • “Now I just look at a hamburger and my butt gets bigger.”

    Hahah! I feel the same way when I look at a vanilla shake. But I still love them. :)

    Great work, Barrie. My birthday is in a few days, so it’s a nice reminder that things get better with age.

  • Love this list! Number 3 (money and stuff - not that important) and Number 8 (little things stick with you) go hand in hand for me. I cannot remember what my bank balance was ten years ago, but I do remember when my daughter, who was 5 at the time saw a group of men from the army and asked if they were wearing “flamocauge”.

  • People think I’m nutty, but I LOVE getting older. It’s so freeing. There’s a clarity to life, a boiling down to the essential things, that I never could have imagined. These are the magic years. Then again, aren’t they all?

  • I am 25 …. half-way :)

  • “Feed the soul, not the ego.” This is my new favorite line!

    I’m turning 40 soon, and after rediscovering exercise, getting rid of almost everything I own, and preparing for a trip around the world, I feel more alive than I ever have. I agree with Jean - getting older has been a very positive experience in my book.

    I believe you find what you are looking for in this world, both on a daily basis and in the bigger scheme of things. If you think 50 is going to be awesome, it likely will be. If you think 30 is the end of all your fun, then it will be.

    It is really up to you. Thanks for a great post, Barrie.

  • Thank you all for you wonderful and kind comments. Every age has its beauty and surprises. I truly feel better at 50 than I ever have. That sounds like something you read quoted by an aging supermodel, but it’s truer than true for me. I hope you all age with enthusiasm for what’s around the next corner. It’s all good!

  • My mom turns fifty next year :) she’s really looking forward to it!

  • Great advice Barrie.

    I have learned a few of these lessons early in life and hope when I got to 50 I will have mastered the lessons you mentioned. Age is just a number. What matters is the experience. And obviously you’ve had wonderful and meaningful experiences. Thanks for sharing. Your wisdom and energy inspire me.

  • Loved the post. I’m not quite there yet, but getting there. I found myself nodding in agreement with all of your points.

    Avoiding the busyness of life, savoring time with your kids, traveling when you’re young. All really great advice. And the point about how you feel; so true. I don’t really feel any different today than I did in my twenties. Not like I imagined I would back then.

  • What a wonderful post. My hubby likes to send me nice emails about things he reads. This one really caught my eye. After a busy day with three kids it was nice to read and relate to each list. I am not fifty but sometimes feel 60 with all the worrying. My hubby reminds me each day to live as your list states. Each day we challenge ourselves to be better people and face adversities and somehow make it thru. Life is up and down but its nice when you have family and friends around you. Its refreshing to know that many of you are doing the same.

  • I love #17, it made me crack up laughing.

    I’ve never understood the whole “dreading getting older” thing. Life is such a great adventure I look forward to each step of the way. When I turned 30 I didn’t plan a party, and then on the day itself I was so jazzed about turning 30 that I regretted not throwing a party. So I planned a big “belated 30th birthday on my 31st birthday” the following year. Much better than getting all depressed about being another year older.

  • I love all 25 - I can’t pick one as my favorite!!
    :)

  • point number one made me feel real good, i am always afraid of growing up, thank you Marc:)

  • Thank you all for your wonderful and uplifting comments. It is so gratifying when readers are able to take something away from what you write. This is by far the most fun “working” I’ve ever had. Life really has begun again for me at 50!

  • Amen! I loved them all and am trying to embrace them all. Thanks for a great post.

  • I think having fun is the best out of all of them. I expect to keep having fun and live in the moment, till the day I die. Hopefully not too soon. I’m 22 and I’m glad to hear that sex isn’t overrated at that age. I was scared for a moment! ;)

  • I love this list. I’m not even half way there (I’m 20) but it doesn’t hurt to be 30 years ahead does it ;)

  • me too. turning 25, half way there. :) this article made me realize i need to accept and evolve through changes.

  • Murphy, Yu and Jonathan,
    Thank you for your nice comments. If you are under 50 and embracing these ideas, you are so ahead of most people. It takes most of us half a lifetime to figure this stuff out. I wish I had embraced these beliefs earlier, but sometimes you have to live life before you get there.

  • I went to the hospital last Thursday convinced I was having a heart attack. The doctor informed me it was an anxiety attack cause by tension and stress and it could have been a heart attack had i been 50 instead of a “healthy” 23 year old girl….

    That day I decided I hate my life. That day I looked up a book I had heard about “4 Hour Work Week”. Several days, a decision to change my life, and a million links later I read your post. Your post made me smile, thank you.

    Even in my “ideas” for a new life I was still guilty of some of the things you mentioned. I have a long way to go but I’m excited.

    :D

  • Having just turned 50 in May, I couldn’t agree more. 50 is fabulous!

    Loved your list, especially “keep having fun”. Great advice for all ages.

  • Lucie,
    Thank you for sharing that. I have had those “heart attack” fears too. Stress and anxiety will do a number on your body. Nothing is worth that kind of stress. I am so glad you are doing something positive to re-frame your life. Keep exploring, reading, and working on positive thought. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself. Life is for living joyfully.

  • Great post… Really like these simple ideas and thoughts that we normally take for granted…

    Everybody should focus on this one…

    Stop worrying. Worry does absolutely nothing productive. In fact, it is counterproductive. The more you worry, the more you reinforce the problem or concern in your brain.

  • Wow, Barrie! Every last one of these lessons is priceless, but 2 stood out to me. The first one is that not much is worth fighting about and the second is to let your kids fail.

    I’ve slowly dropped my perfectionist mentality and come the realization that it is okay for mistakes to happen in my life and in my child’s life. I’m more careful these days to pick my battles wisely, especially with my teenage daughter. I want life to feel good–to be good. That means applying these very valuable lessons each day.

    Thanks so much for posting this. It was truly a great read.

  • I think a lot about these things, and about getting older. This is a really inspiring, thoughtful post Barrie, thanks for sharing your insights!

  • Brian, Nea and Cody,

    I am so glad you liked the post. One of the things that is most gratifying to me as I get older is realizing that I have something to share that might actually provide someone insight or inspiration. That is more meaningful than just about anything. Thank you for your kind comments.

  • I am so glad I stumbled back to your blog. I really love your posts and always forward them to my girlfriend who I think loves them even more. Thank you.

  • A beautiful post with so much candor and sincerity - thank you Barrie for sharing with us your journey and your lessons and knowing I have a few years to prepare for a life that only keeps getting better makes me very happy !!!!

  • A wisdom-filled post, that I will return to.
    Thanks.

  • Thanks is all i want to say!

  • Great! I turned 50 this year and, like many, I am going through some tough times. Thanks for the perspective.

  • Beautiful post. Couldn´t agree more. So glad that read till end. Thanks!

  • You my friend have live down to a science.

  • “21.Take action on your dreams. If you’ve been putting things off — a new career, more education, the big trip — start taking action right now to make it happen. Don’t dream about it anymore. Start doing it.”

    Thank you Barrie for this encouragement. I feel I have a very fufilled life so far- I’ve travelled, seen the world and am just starting a family. The only thing I’ve been putting off is going to University. I’ve been dreaming of doing this for what feels like an eternity but you’re right when you say I have to take action right now and make it happen, education is never a waste.

    Thanks again!!

  • Amazing article and site !!

  • Awesome, awesome post. Thanks for the great advice. As an 18 year old, I really appreciate it!

  • Count my blessings everyday is definitely what I should start work at really soon to improve my life.

  • Barrie,

    I’m not even 20 yet, and I may not have even learnt a single one of the lessons yet, but I want to. This is great knowledge you are sharing with everyone, and funny enough, it’s one of those things you just can’t read; you need to experience it! So off I am on my journey of discovery. I’m going to bookmark this page and always come back to it. haha

  • You have been gifted with a good aging experience. Count your blessings, many of us are not that fortunate.

  • thanks for sharing!

  • Unfortunately at the age of 39 I think most of the advice is a little too late for me and equally this seems to be something I have learnt already.

    I made the mistake of going to university, thinking it would lead to a life of being well paid having a nice house, car, clothes a social life, being able to go on holiday and generally live a little better than the ‘high school drop out’. I’m not convinced!

    It is only now that my parents have finally been able to stop helping with the rapidly expanding cost of living (in the UK), with gas/electricity bills that seem to have tripled in the last few years a mortgage that makes you want to cry and petrol seemingly becoming the most valuable asset on the market.

    I now have a 10 y/o son and a workaholic partner, I never go out never relax, never have money and never seem to have fun. It’s work bills, work bills, work bills and the raising of a child in-between.

    The single biggest piece of advice I saw in your blog is “Experience life before you settle down.” So true! I have never been to any of the places I wanted to go to, never own any of the things I wanted to own and haven’t done any of the things I wanted to do. Whilst I was busying wasting time at University, my friends were busying living their lives. Now I know I will never go to any of the places I wanted to go to, never own any of the things I wanted to own and never do any of the things I wanted to do.

    So yes this is probably the best piece of advice you can give someone - “Experience life before you settle down.”

    Because you wont after!

  • I’m going thru the whole “Experience life before you settle down”! As A young woman (31 yrs) the world would call me crazy for not marrying my current fiancé. He has everything A woman dreams of (financial wealth, handsome, Awesome personality) & he worships the ground I walk on. I just think forever is A looooong time & I don’t want to make that commitment yet. At least I can acknowledge that and he knows this so know I just take it one day at A time.

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