Turning 35. What Have I Learned?

I will turn 35 tomorrow. That makes me older than most professional athletes and many of my children’s teachers. But it also means I’m finally old enough to run for president. Sure, I’d never actually do it because I want to stay married to Jenny, but it’s nice to have the option, you know?

We aren’t planning anything crazy (not my style), just a nice dinner with my immediate family and an extended family party on Sunday for a few October birthdays. But I thought it might be a good time to reflect on some of the lessons I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way.

You Define Your Own Success

I think each person has to define success for him- or herself. You can’t let someone else define it for you. As Bill Cosby said, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

For me, success is a matter of achieving the goals you set for yourself. My main goals are to love my family and take good care of them, enjoy the precious time I have on this earth, and leave it better off than it would’ve been without me. No doubt I could do better on all counts, but overall I think I’m doing okay.

Some Battles Are Worth Fighting…

…but most are not. Standing up for those who need help is a good thing. Teaching my sons to be responsible young men, though often difficult, is good thing. Getting riled up with people who cut me off, diss my favorite sports team, or are firmly entrenched on the other side of the political spectrum is a waste of time and energy. The Serenity Prayer is one of the wisest things I’ve ever heard: “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Money Isn’t Everything

I’ve worked for roughly minimum wage and far above it, and I am still convinced that money doesn’t buy happiness. Yes, it can help solve certain problems and make life easier in some ways. However, no matter how much money or stuff you get, you will always want more.

That being said, I am very grateful for what we have. Just as importantly, I am grateful that I worked hard to get it rather than inheriting a huge trust fund. It’s satisfying to have a job and provide for my family and share the fruit of my labor with others.

Attitude is Contagious

In interacting with probably thousands of people over my lifetime, one thing stands out: the people I’m around have a large influence over me, more than I want to admit. Attitude is contagious. The world is full of cynics who love to complain and criticize, and some of them don’t even realize it. The more time I spend around those people, the more I become cynical like them, which depresses me. On the other hand, the world is also full of people who look for the good in things. Whether you look for the good side or the bad side of life, you can always find it. Always.

Life is too short to waste time getting dragged down by negative people. I’m trying, with varying degrees of success, to be more positive and spend more time with positive people. That’s why I no longer waste much time posting political stuff or angry rants on here or on Facebook. I would rather stay positive and post things that will make you laugh, think, or appreciate the good things in life.

Balance is Key

I’ve been a religious wacko. I’ve been an academic workaholic egghead. I’ve been overly preoccupied with grades, girls, money, politics, exercise, the future, other people’s opinions of me, righteous indignation, unions, and my job. None of these things made a good foundation for life.

It’s not healthy to obsess over any one thing. Balance is one of the most important parts of my life. A good day for me includes some time with my family, some time working on something productive, some tasty food and drink, a full night’s rest, some time to think and learn, and some time just for me to relax with a movie or game. Except for the uncommon good night’s sleep, many of my days look like this, which is one of the main reasons I’m quite happy.

Thank You

Readers, thank you for sticking with me through the changes on my blog. Friends and family, thank you for loving me warts and all. I am grateful for you and grateful for 35 years on this remarkable journey.