34 Things I’ve Learned About Life

Chris Guillebeau, world traveller, famous blogger and the author of The Art of Non-Conformity recently celebrated his 34th birthday with a post entitled “34 Things I’ve Learned About Life”.  He challenged bloggers to put together our own list of 34 Things.  Read Chris’ list by clicking on the link at the bottom of this post.

Wisdom is seldom learned in school.  As Chris celebrates his 34th birthday, I’m into the 50th round of my journey.  I should have 16 additional items to add to this post over what Chris did, but I’m sticking to 34.

1.  Everyone has something to teach you.  I just got off the treadmill at the gym where I met a couple who’d been married 58 years.  He was walking on the treadmill in his jeans, plaid shirt, straw hat and suspenders.  Within minutes he shared his love of Westerns and how “Lenore had saved him from sowing his wild oats when he cut the apron springs from his Mom at 16”.   He spent 30 years working at one company and then another 15 driving a schoolbus and still has junk he wants to get rid of in his garage.    He and Lenore traveled for 9 years in their 5th wheel before he had to have 5 stints put in last year.  All that from less than 20 minutes on the treadmill.

2.  Life is about people and experiences.    For Valentines Day I bought 6 tickets to Lady Antebellum for my husband and I, my daughter and her husband and my son and a date.  My 21-year old  son invited his Grandma.  We spent the evening with 3 generations jammin’ to the tunes of Thompson Squared, Darius Rucker and Lady Antebellum.    Watching everyone’s faces was priceless as Grandma rocked on.   People don’t need stuff, people need people.

3.  Traditions change.  My daughter Kelsey and her husband live in Texas and are no longer a regular part of our family get-togethers and celebrations.  I thought about blowing up a doll or having a life-size poster made of her, because my heart hurts when she’s not here.  I’ve resolved to stop crying (it’s been 5 years) and appreciate what I do have.  I wanted us to be the Walton’s.

4.  Evil exists.  I hate to think this is true and have spent the good majority of my life refuting it with my own quotes…people want to do the right thing, follow your heart, do good.  But, evil does exist.  So far Kansas City, Missouri has logged 33 murders in 2012 and it’s only 1/4 of the way into the year.

5.  Joy is simple.  Tag along with a 2-year old as he hunts for Easter eggs or notices the moon or follows a spider.  Today he (my grandson) saw ‘sunny clouds.’  Take note when the 300-pound man at Easter morning celebration service has tears streaming down his face because his Savior lives.

6.  If you think your life is bad, take an itty-bitty look around.  From my personal vantage point I see a child of 3 fighting cancer whose amazing parents were fostering 2 children and had to return them to the State when their 3-year old got sick, a friend whose son is in prison and a couple I know married half a century and she can’t remember his name because of Alzheimer’s.    Your life isn’t as bad as you think.

7.  Challenge nonsense.  Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers is charging for cheese you don’t get when you order a hamburger because they’ve bundled the cheese price in with the hamburger price.   It costs 40 cents.    I was outraged.   I called their Customer Feedback Line at 1-888-624-8140.  No resolution.  (If Wendy’s sells a million burgers a day and keeps 40 cents on a product that the customer doesn’t want but pays for, they earn $400,000.)  I went to Change.org and started a petition called WendysMilkstheCheese.  If 22-year old Molly Katchpole can start one and get Bank of America to repeal their $5 debit card charge, we all have the capability to effect change.    Start a movement.

8.  Babies need their Moms.  Raising children is a gift and being a Mom is one of the most important jobs you’ll ever have.    You can’t be a great Mom if you’re not there.  I rationalized this into my working girl mind the first 7 years I had kids.  It wasn’t until I was 32 with a $36,000 a year salary, a 9’x9′ cubicle, 2 weeks vacation and a life filled with chaos that I realized my babies aged 2, 4 and 7 deserved better.  They needed me.  They hadn’t ordered a screaming, irritated, rushed Mother who only had time for maintenance tasks like bathing and feeding at the McDonald’s drive-thru.     Without a plan, I fired my boss and ended up being rewarded by tripling my income and getting to eat mac and cheese with my kids for lunch.    My only regret…that it took me seven years to figure it out.

9.  Show up.  This is the number one requirement of true friendship.  I call this the Moving Day and Funerals rule.  The real friends you have (regardless of how many Facebook friends you have) are the ones who show up on moving day with their truck and blue jeans and who help you throw the dirt in at funerals.    Friendship requires face time.

10.  Marriage is sacred.    I’ve been married 30 years to my best friend, my soul mate and my Prince Charming.  He’s not perfect…he clips his toenails on my new couch and farts with the best of’em but he’s absolutely perfect for me.   Marriage is a covenant and a sacred institution.  No matter what the divorce rate is or how many people say marriage is outdated, I believe it’s the one true thing that every human being wants more than anything else.  Love is an amazing thing to watch grow and mature over time.  Celebrate marriage every chance you get.

11.   You don’t have to sort laundry into colors and whites.   I know.  Technology and fabrics have evolved.  I combine colors and whites and jeans and blankets and anything else that needs to be washed into my washer and throw in the detergent.  I wash everything on cold.  Quit wasting time sorting.  It’s kind of like the old adage of why Mom and Grandma and Great Grandma cut the end of the ham off.  When the 4th generation asked why you cut the end off, Mom and Grandma didn’t have the answer.   They just did what Great Grandma had done.  Great Grandma replied that she couldn’t afford a pan big enough for the ham when she was a young wife so she had to cut some off to make it fit.  So many of the things we do in life aren’t questioned simply because we’ve always done them this way.    Question things.

12.  It’s never to late to start.    I weighed 207.4 pounds on my 50th birthday and I’m only 5’6″ tall.    I was at least 7.4 pounds over the weight I said I’d never go over and at least 50 pounds over the height and weight charts.   (Why this magical 200 number was burned in my brain I’ll never know.)    I’d been battling my weight for 21 years, since I’d finished having kids always jokingly blaming it on the 50 pounds I’d gained 3 times while I’d been birthing my babies.    The fact is…I ate too much and moved too little.  I joined Weight Watchers and started walking on the treadmill 30 minutes a day.  5 months later I just weighed in at 184.0, 24 pounds lighter.    I feel amazing even though I still have 30 pounds to lose.  Starting was my biggest hurdle.

13.  Reading is essential to growth.  Reading is the reason I’m a writer.  I spent decades taking things in, so much so, that I had to start writing to clear what had accumulated in my brain.  Some of my favorite books include Timothy Ferris’ Four Hour Workweek, David Schwarz’ The Magic of Thinking Big and David Allen’s Getting Things Done.  My spiritual guidebook is the good ole’ Bible.

14.  Say e-nough.  Technology is good but there are times when you need to unplug, unhook and uncomplicate your life.  You know you’re addicted to the machines when you can’t get through the day without your phone or your anxiety level rises when you’re forced to turn it off.

15.   People will disappoint you.  I don’t share this one to be like Debbie Downer from Saturday Night Live but they will.  My own Mother sued me and disowned me.  Humans are human.  They make mistakes, speak too soon and fall short.

16.    Never grow old.  I’m not talking about staying young or botox or anti-aging.  I’m talking about living.  Each day should include sleep, work, play and learning.   Read Richard Bolles’ 3 Boxes of Life.  You shouldn’t have to wait for retirement to travel, you don’t have to graduate before you can play and working 16 hour days doesn’t make you a hero.   Getting less than 7-8 hours sleep every night will shorten your life.  Society has compartmentalized life into learning (school for 16 years), working fo the next 30-40, then playing the last 10-20.   The old model of life is broken.  Many don’t make it to retirement (the average age of a widow is 56).  Doing work you love isn’t really work.  Learning should be lifelong if you want to continue growing (check out Masterpiece Living).    Do a little bit of all 3 every day (work, play, learn) and your life will be rich and full.  Sleep is a necessity, not a luxury to be had when everything else is done.

17.  Read Dr. Seuss’ Oh! The Places You’ll Go when you’re struggling.  We all have dark places and dark times in our life.   It’s not a children’s book even though Dr. Seuss is a children’s author.   This book will give you hope.

18.  Make your home your sanctuary.  Your home should be your one safe place in the world.  It’s a place to relax, to make love, and to make amends.   It’s where you refuel your body, refurbish your spirit and launch your big dreams.   It should reflect  you.  Fill it with things you love…that make you smile when you look at them.  Light the candles.   Paint the walls.   Cuddle under cozy blankets.  Hang a chandalier.  Forget being practical.  Let your home be you.

19.  Focus on the things you like about your body.  Everyone has something they don’t like.   I weigh too much.  My hands have age spots.  My neck looks like a turkey.  My legs are dry and prickly.  My feet itch.   But, the things I do like is longer.    I have a great smile.  My muscle tone is good.  I look like I weigh 30 pounds less than I actually do.    My skin is clear.    I don’t have stretch marks despite having 3 kids and gaining 150 pounds.    My body is strong and my mind is quick.  Be grateful for the good.

20.  Tell people how much you love them.  You may not get a second chance.  My friend’s Dad died  while he was sitting in the recliner watching Monday night football and reading the Wall Street journal.  Dinner that night had seemed normal for him and his wife.  2 hours later he was gone.

21.  Stand up for people who can’t stand up for themselves.   If you say nothing, you might as well be doing the ______________ (fill-in-the-blank…bullying, goading, teasing, hurting, hitting, conniving, backstabbing) yourself.

22.  Argue in person.  If at all possible, never fight over the phone or by email or text.  Over 55% of all communication is non-verbal…how you say it, not what you say.   And remember the phrase ‘keep calm and carry on.”  Most things won’t matter in a week or a month or a year.

23.   Your self-worth should not equal your net worth.  Money does not make you valuable.   Money is simply an exchange.

24.  Confidence is the inner faith that casts an outer glow.  Confidence is one of those “it” factor intangibles.  You know it when you see it but describing it is sometimes difficult.  A confident woman knows what she wants and makes the decision to go after it.  Confidence is sexy. 

25.  Expect miracles.  Miracles surround us but we rarely look up.  Albert Einstein said “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

26.  Take care of details, or they’ll take care of you.  When a bill arrives, pay it.  When you say you’ll do something, do it.  When the grass needs mowed, mow it.  Follow through.

27.  Never label anyone.  I have ADHD.  Rampant ADHD.  I was lucky.  When I was in school they didn’t medicate children and I was simply seen as an energetic and enthusiastic girl.   I even received the coveted Spirit Award from the high school pep club.   It wasn’t until I got much older (perhaps around 40) that I realized how bad my ADHD was and how many decisions it had affected in my life negatively.    I am NOT my ADHD and I consider having it one of my life’s greatest gifts.    Not knowing I had it saved me from being defined by it.

28.  Creativity grows the more you use it.    Just like your muscles get longer and leaner and stronger the more they’re used, your brain reacts in much the same way.    I always thought of myself as a singer.  I could sing.  I loved singing.  I believed that was the extent of my creative abilities.  Then I got older and started writing.  The more I wrote the better I got.  Now, I create art  or perhaps it could be better said that I produce art.  I’m not actually the artist but I see the vision and have others who help me create what I see in my head.   The more I do, the more that seems to flow out of me.

29.  Character is amplified during tragedy or failure.  How you act during the bad times is the truest reflection of your character, NOT how you handle success.  I had over 25 amazing years of success as an adult, before my one biggest failure that I almost let define me.  My husband Dennis and I lost nearly everything we owned, downsized our home 4 times and racked up debt of over $2.4 million.     Who I was in character and what I valued during this time was much more telling of who I was on the inside than my previous 25 years had.

30.  Choose adoption, not abortion.   Life begins at conception.  You can debate it, call it a fetus, protest, look the other way or intellectualize the abortion debate to your heart’s content but the fact is, we are killing babies when we choose abortion.  We women do have a choice.   The choice…say yes or no to sex.  When we decide to be sexually active, we are making the choice to choose life.    If you don’t want babies, don’t have unprotected sex.

31.  Say Yes!    Participate in life whenever possible.   The biggest part of saying yes is also knowing when to say no.  Say no to things and people that take you farther away from your dreams.  Say no when you’re too tired.  Say no when you immediately feel uncomfortable.  Trust your gut.

32.  Everyone needs at least one good friend.

33.  Music is an instant mood booster.    Play it.  My favorites are Adele, Cheryl Lyn (from the 60’s), Katy Perry and oldies like Frank Sinatra and retro from the 70’s.

34.  Every day is a do-over.  At the end of the day, you’re done.  You can put the “Today is Over” sign up on your bedroom door and look forward to a fresh start the next day.  The only requirement to make a change is action.  And that’s totally and completely all up to you.


Chris Guillebeau is the author of The Art of Non-Conformity.  You can link to his site to read his own prolific 34 Things simply by clicking here.  http://chrisguillebeau.com/3×5/34-things/?awt_l=LrZXF&awt_m=J6aCm5hVhsnt7W


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