Last week, I’d completed the first version of this blog post and when I went to insert a post image, WordPress ate it up like a tasty dish of hazelnut risotto. Well, my hazelnut risotto (I make a mean risotto). But I digress. The point being that I lost the entire post, sacrificed to the Blog Gods and here I sit a week later, crafting that which has been crafted before.
I’m writing this while standing on the ledge of my 40th year. While cliché, it’s a time for introspection. Who am I? What have I become? Who do I want to be? Where do I want to go? Never a fan of woo-woo-flavored advice (and of the thought that most things in the “self-help” vein do anything but help alleviate you of a specified amount of cash), I wondered what advice I could give myself as I embark on my next 40 years.
Things I know to be true, yet I might need reminding of as I gallop towards 80 and try to forget that actuarial tables would remind me that my life is statistically half over as of Monday.
So, in the spirit of brilliant risotto – which is always crafted with the simplest ingredients that join together to create the most complex of flavors – here are the promises I’m making to myself as my birthday gift for Year 40. They are simple, no doubt. But as I’ve found in the first 40 years, it’s often the simplest things that end up having the most impact in my life.
I will never again take work “because I need the money.” Needing the money is a Me Problem, and work taken on account of it makes it an Everyone Problem. I didn’t want it. I don’t like it. I deserve to do work that thrills me (clients deserve to have their work done by someone who is thrilled to be doing it). There is a difference between creating work that is rewarding and doing something to get paid.
I will never again be told I’m too much or not enough. Those who tell me I’m too loud, too harsh, too closed, not feminine enough, offensive, too curvy, too slow, too edgy, or too much or not enough of anything need to take a moment and look at their own lives. When they can show me a proof that they’ve achieved perfection, I still won’t listen – as my imperfections are the most beautiful things about me. I would rather live a life powered my Toos and others estimations of Nots than live anyone else’s life. Also, see pie chart.
I will never again offer unsolicited advice. The most annoying thing in the world (to me) is someone who knows, “Hey – you know what you should do…” The Inferno should be updated and circles of hell added to accommodate those who steal iPhones, eat anything other than blue cheese dressing with hot wings, and think that they have the solution to everything that ails everyone. No one knows what’s best for me except me. If you want my advice about something, I’m confident that you’ll ask for it or I’ll ask before offering it.
I will never again let that moment pass me by. As I’m slingshot ‘round the corner toward 40, I can think of so many moments in my life where my heart wanted one thing and my head, the other. While I know that sometimes the head must prevail (as its job is to keep me safe from some instances of passionate idiocy), my heart deserves a stronger voice. Knowing full well that life is short, I never want to think back with regret that I let another one of those moments pass me by again. Sometimes second chances don’t come (and sometimes you don’t deserve to get one, frankly). What’s the worst that could happen when I say or do what’s in my heart? Unless it’s murder. That’s rarely in my heart. But I do have cats.
I will never forget the reason I get to wake up every day and do what I love. It’s you. My friends, my readers, my family, my colleagues, my cohorts-in-crime. I think the reason businesses and relationships fail in many cases is that we forget that success is a partnership. I can’t write without readers (well, I can, but not successfully if my goal is to be heard, humble, and affect change). We can’t create a relationship destined to last through peaks and valleys without indulging in the arts of giving, sharing, and loving. We can’t build a business without honoring the only people who can make it a success – our audience. The most important part of this whole bit, though…is the “we.” Success is never an “I” or “you.” It’s plural by design.
I will never (ever) again plague myself with can’t. There’s only one instance where can’t is allowed to escape my lips: when I’ve tried and have proof to the contrary. And even then, it might not be a can’t. It might just be a not yet. I remember a day in October of 2009 when I took my first track cycling lesson. Exhilarated to start, I was convinced inside of 30 minutes that this whole one-gear-no-brakes NASCAR-for-people-with-college-degrees-and-shittier-sponsorships was death in an oval. On the drive home that afternoon, though, I told myself that I owed it to myself to give it one more try. So I took another lesson – and I realized that my can’t had turned into an “Well, I just might…” Which turned into three lessons a week, ordering a custom bike, and discovering a sport that makes me get up early in the morning with a smile on my face, excited for whatever bit of dirt (my latest passion) or pavement lies ahead. It’s hard – it always will be. But to think I almost missed out on something I love because I thought, “I can’t…” Fuck. That.
So I’ll turn it over to you – your nevers. The best thing I can ever hope to do is start a conversation, so I want to hear what your nevers might be. And like the can’ts, they’re all borne from having the audacity to try. I sure as hell like trying. Doing. Goddamn, I love trying and doing.
I think you might, too.