It’s my birthday week! Let me know if you need my shipping address. I also accept Paypal. *wink wink*
Seriously, though, I’m getting ready to enjoy the last year of my thirties. How did that happen? I swear I was twenty four a minute ago!
Funny how sixty doesn’t really seem so old these days.
This coming birthday isn’t something I dread. I don’t feel old. I feel healthier and stronger and more full of purpose now than I ever have in my life. Great things are happening. I have a vision for the future. Which brings me to…
Ten Things I’ve Learned In The Last Ten Years
1. A man without vision will perish.
In my twenties I was full of dreams. I wrote them out in journals. I had so much hope I walked six inches above the ground. Somewhere around thirty all the people telling me, “that’s just not realistic,” wore me down. I was broke. Like… the kind of broke where you wonder where your next meal is coming from. I had a lot of people telling me that my circumstances were all because I’d failed to set my feet firmly on the ground and now it was time to give up on childish dreams and put my nose to the grindstone.
I gave up my dreams.
I was sad. I was sad all the time. I gained weight. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I plodded through my days. I hid from creditors. I yelled at my kids.
Then, God worked a miracle in my life. He sparked a dream in my best friend’s heart. Not long after, my husband got that little light in his eye again. Being with dreamers, you can’t help but dream. Soon, I had a vision again and, you know, it made the sun shine just a little brighter.
Life’s not perfect. We have our trials (most of them brought on by our own foolishness). But it sure is a lot easier to throw back the covers and face the day.
And that leads to…
2. You’ve got to be a little realistic.
Thirty year old me was mad because none of her dreams panned out. But thirty year old me wasn’t willing to lay a foundation under those castles in the sky. I wished and hoped and… well… that’s all I really did. I didn’t know how to do anything else. I love my people, but none of my people had done what I wanted to do. I could see a great vision, but I could see no path to achieving it and so I settled for mediocrity.
But then I learned…
3. Good mentors are more valuable than gold.
When the student is ready the teacher will appear. I didn’t come up with that on my own, but I agree wholeheartedly.
Somewhere along the line I figured out that if you want a specific result you need to seek out a person who has already achieved what you desire and then do what they did. They’re out there, and you may be surprised how willing most successful people are to share their wisdom.
Whether it’s in relationships, finances, creative enterprises, or parenting, there are people out there who have figured things out.
Beware, though. Just because someone speaks loudest doesn’t mean what they say is the best thing to listen to. Look at the fruit on the tree.
Another thing I learned is…
4. People who use hateful or degrading language are not debating. They are arguing. And you can’t win an argument.
My oldest sister and I don’t agree on everything. From household management to political candidates we are different people. But I ask her opinion all the time because she is a woman open to honest, beneficial debate. She will share her beliefs and the reasons behind them. She will challenge me, but she has never once said, “I can’t believe you would be stupid enough to vote for that bafoon!”
She has said, “Oh, no! I don’t think he’s a good choice at all.” And then she went on to explain why she felt that way. Calmly. Respectfully.
See the difference? (If you don’t, may I suggest reading, “How To Win Friends And Influence People.” It will rock your world.)
There are other people in my life who would say the first thing. I used to argue with them. Not one of them ever changed their mind. They don’t really want to discuss a thing. They just want to believe they’ve got it figured out and everyone else is a fool.
My life became happier and healthier when I learned to walk away from those people.
Another thing that added to my general mental well-being was realizing…
5. You can love someone and still have a spine.
I’ll just leave that there and move on to…
6. A year isn’t so long when you’re looking backward.
Eleven years ago my husband and I started a business. We looked into the future. We realized that it would be five to ten years before that business brought us the kind of success we desired. We quit. It seemed too far away.
A year ago we started the same business all over again. From square one. It will take five to ten years before we see the kind of success we desire. (Well, only four to nine years, now. See how that works?) I know that, five or ten years from now I’ll look back and say, “that was so worth it!”
I know that because it seems just a moment ago that we were quitting our first attempt. Sure do wish I’d stuck with it because…
7. Sometimes sheer perseverance is all you need.
In the ninth grade I got called in to a meeting with my mother and my algebra teacher. This is a meeting no ninth grader wants to attend. It was as bad as I expected and, at one point, my teacher made the comment, “You need to do your assignments, even if you already understand the work, because it teaches you to sticktoitivness.”
To this day that term annoys the crap out of me. That is not a real word! *sigh*
But, at nearly forty years old, I have to admit that he was right on one score. I lacked perseverance, and it was a virtue I dearly needed to learn. In the Bible, in the book of James, chapter one, it says:
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
A note from my experience. If you lack perseverance you will create trials for yourself. No outside influence needed.
The last ten years have been a testing of my faith, for sure. The result is that I’ve gone from being a quitter to being a freaky little pitbull when it comes to something I care about. And, funny thing, when I stopped quitting the hard stuff, the hard stuff got a little easier. When I quit quitting I found success. Or, at least the beginnings of success.
I’m not the best at anything I do. There are better writers, better business people, better parents, better wives – but I’ll quit when my cold body is in the grave and not a moment before and I am confident that, because of that, I’ll go much further than many who are more talented than me.
That ties in nicely to…
8. Single-mindedness is often resisted by others.
They mean well. Really, they do. Consider a runner in a marathon. They train and work for a very long time.
All the while, people are saying things to them like, “Aren’t you afraid you’ll get shin splints?” Or, “I’m not sure it’s healthy to be breathing that cold air outside.” Or even, “My goodness! You threw up while you were running? You’re pushing too hard. That’s just not healthy.”
After all that, the day of the race comes and their people are all there, cheering for them because they love that spunky little runner, goshdarnnit. That runner sure did push through some tough times to get to this big moment!
Then, at mile twenty one the runner starts to show signs of really, truly struggling.
At mile twenty five they collapse, their body trembling.
The people who love that person are loathe to see them hurting and so they run out to help. They want to pick up their fallen friend, comfort them, and ease their pain.
But the runner screams at them, “Don’t touch me!”
Then the wise coach (see #3) comes alongside and starts yelling at them to get up. It seems a little harsh, but this is the voice the runner focuses on.
The runner finds the will to stand and finish that last mile despite every muscle in their body screaming in protest.
Then all the people sing praises in honor of such a powerful spirit. They did it! They’re a champion! They’re a conqueror! They’re a true overcomer!
But do you realize that part of what they had to conquer and overcome was the love of those closest to them?
Those people did not intend harm. Quite the opposite! But they did not share the vision. They resisted the runner’s fierce single-mindedness.
That happens when you get fanatical about anything. You have to learn to love through it because…
9. Only fanatical people really get things done.
I’m talking big things. Do you want to change your family’s legacy? Do you want to change the world? Do you want to live the kind of life that will leave your great-great grandchildren bragging that they are descended from you?
Then you’ve got to be a bit of a fanatic.
All that said, I realize that…
10. Ten years from now I will probably look back at thirty nine year old me and think, “Man! That girl had a lot to learn!”
I kind of hope this one is true because, if that happens, it means I will have spent ten years learning and growing and, as much as anything, I desire always to be moving closer to the standard of excellence set forth by my creator.
Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?
If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!
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