Today I turn 37. Here’s what I have learned so far.
- After God, my family is the most important thing in my world. Subtract your money, house, career, health and “stuff” and tell me what you have left. I still have everything I need when you take those five things away. Actually, not much changes for me when you take all of those away.
- Your kids really don’t care one bit about that big promotion at work. Your kids don’t care about a $10,000 raise. Or a $20,000 raise. Or a $50,000 raise. I am 37. I have never met a person whose favorite childhood memory was their parents buying a bigger house. Or their parents getting a new Lexus. Or a vacation to Hawaii. I enjoy all of those things. But they do not matter at all to your kids.
- A college degree is no guarantee of career success in this world. A mere high school diploma is no guarantee of lower career success. One increases the odds of financial success. One increases the hours to reach financial success. I know a man who completed his four-year degree at age 37. I am 37. He spent 15 years completing that four-year degree. He took one class per semester. Slow and steady wins the race. He had a wife, three kids and a house on a large property to maintain. He did not complain. He was the lowest paid employee in his department. If you continually do more than you are paid to do, eventually you will be paid more for the work that you do. Where is my friend now? He is the boss of that same department. He has 20 people working for him. He says he is the most financially successful of his six other siblings. When the previous manager was asked who should replace him, he replied “Eric is my number one choice. Numbers two and three are so far down the list they should not even be considered for this promotion.” Eric didn’t care what people thought of him. He still doesn’t.
- Why is it that I have met near-genius-level people whose personal lives are in shambles? They cannot manage money, marriage, family or career. These people have IQs nearly twice mine. Are they smart? No, they are not smart. They know mountains of information about everything, yet they know nothing about life.
- At the end of the day and the end of your life, all that matters is your relationships with those you love. See item #1. Take away all the peripheral “stuff” in your life and who loves you? Do your kids love you? Does your spouse love you? If you and your family had to sleep on park benches at night, would your relationship change? Do you make your loved ones happy by buying them “stuff” or buying time with them? Quality time is a term created by those who have no time. It’s the quantity of time that matters.
- If you take parenting seriously, it’s hard work. If you have to bribe your kid to do something you have a problem. I do not believe in “choosing your battles” because that is a cop out. Consistent rules and consistent behavior get consistent attention from your kids. If you scold your child for lying about his homework, but then have that same child tell the phone caller you are not home, you have a real credibility problem.
- “When I was a boy of fourteen, I was embarrassed to have my father around. By the time I turned twenty-one I was amazed at how much the old man had learned.” – Mark Twain. I am still not smarter than my dad. I am 37. He is 62. Every time I think I know more about a topic in life, he proves me wrong. Just when I think I have him figured out, I learn what shaped him to think that way. It was not at all what I thought I knew. I would not change one thing about the childhood he gave me when I was growing up.
- My mom should be part of the Greatest Generation, but she’s stuck in Baby Boomer clothing. She is 60. She does not complain about anything to me, ever. She is not a whiner. She has held the two most important jobs on this planet. She ended one at 37 and began the other at 37. I am 37. My mom ended the job of stay-at-home Mom to begin the job of school teacher. My brother and I now realize that she chose to give us that life because it was important to us and important to her. I would not change one thing about the childhood she gave me when I was growing up.
- My brother had more major life experiences in a few years than most of us have in one life. I had originally typed all the up and downs of his life in his 20s, but I’ll let him share that with you should he choose. From his 20s to his 30s, he found a solid career. He found money. Plenty. He found religion. Plenty. He found himself. And best of all he found love. Now, that he’s found love he can see steps #1 and #5. And I need to find myself writing one amazing best-man speech for his wedding in eight months.
- The difference between optimism and looking through rose-colored glasses is that the latter becomes the former if you do it long enough. Whoever came up with the expression “rose-colored glasses” must have been a pessimist. People say that because they are frustrated that the person keeps seeing everything in life in a positive way.
- Breaking off an engagement is much easier than breaking off a marriage. Two of my childhood neighbors are each experiencing one of those right now. One got hurt before decades of marriage, one after.
- If you say someone’s name enough times while passing them, eventually they will learn yours. Sometimes they ask your name instantly. Sometimes it takes longer. I once said “Hi, Amy” to a woman in my office for three years before she finally said “Hi, Matt.” That is a lot of fun. I guess I can make people want to learn my name. It’s exactly like the first chapter of How to Win Friends and Influence People. Dale Carnegie was right. A person’s name is the most important thing in the world to them.
- Working for a bad boss can make your life a real pain. Of the bad bosses I’ve had, all were divorced and had very few friends. Is that a coincidence? Maybe, maybe not. If you don’t care about the careers of your employees, you should not be the boss. If you have never exercised compassion or care for your employees you should not be the boss. If you have lied to advance your career or to hurt your employees, see step #5. If you are stuck with a bad boss for more than 12 – 18 months, it’s time to change jobs or talk to the bad boss’s boss. Well-run companies let their managers spend 25-50% of their time developing the employees. I had one boss for three years who spent 0% of his time developing his employees. He has since been been demoted from manager back to employee.
- You are wasting your time if you are dating someone you would not marry. In a healthy dating relationship the ultimate plan would be to wed. I realize it can take months or years to learn if this person is the one, but as soon as you are sure either way make the move. Upon graduation, that’s why so many couples break up or get engaged.
- Extroverts have it much easier in life. I feel sorry for folks who are so shy that they cannot even say “hi” to someone in the grocery store, library or church. I am an extrovert. I use a person’s name every time I talk to them. I would rather get the name wrong than use no name at all.
- I spend around zero minutes per day worried about what you think of me. Life is easier when you don’t care what people think. That does not give you permission to be a jerk, but it allows you to make decisions based on your personal situation at that exact moment in your life. I made two major life decisions in the last several years that are not popular at all. Two major media outlets wrote up my story and millions of readers read those stories about my wife and I. You can read both of those life decisions under the “about Matt” part of this website. I am 37. During the next 37 years, I will probably make more decisions that are not very popular at all, but they are the best decisions for my family.
- I believe in personal responsibility. You are the result of how you’ve responded to the cards you’ve been dealt. Personal responsibility defines my views on finances, politics, health and a host of other things. Most of where you are today was your doing. It’s not your childhood’s fault. It’s not your parent’s fault. It’s not your spouse’s or children’s fault. It’s not your boss’s fault. It’s not your government’s fault. You are where you are today because you put yourself there. Good, bad and everything in between.
I hope you have learned something, too. Time for some birthday cake.