It seems that everyone who hits a chronological milestone seems to inflict his or her life’s discoveries on the world. And now I’ll join the guilty.
I just turned fifty. And while this blog always aims to be about YOU ( helping you change your life at work for the better, for good), I’ll ask for your indulgence as I share a half century list of things I now know (but didn’t always). Hope you find something in this list to add to your knowledge bank, too.
The Fifty Best Things I Know at 50
- If you’re feeling stuck, the best first thing you can do is to get clear on what you want. Not what you’re supposed to want, or what others want for you, but what YOU want.
- Whatever you think you can or can’t do, you’re right. (I stole that from some famous person, but at my advanced age, can’t remember who. If you do, tell me in the comments).
- Discomfort is where the growth comes from. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.
- If you’re an avid reader, you don’t have to run to Amazon and download/order every hot book that interests you. Go to your local library’s website and put it on hold or even download it from there. Don’t have a library card? Get one and save yourself hundreds of dollars a year not to mention a smaller guilt stack of books at your bedside or in queue on your reader.
- When you’re feeling crappy, go do something for someone else.
- One of the best ways to connect more is to click less. An email in doesn’t necessarily mean there must be an email out.
- Don’t confuse confidence with arrogance. Confidence is when you know what you know; arrogance is when you’re pretending to know what you know.
- Sometimes the biggest risk you’re taking is doing nothing.
- If you want to learn more about a profession or industry you’re not currently in, join their local professional association or go to their primary conference.
- If you want to write, don’t wait for permission. If you want to speak, don’t wait for permission.
- Ditto for any kind of creative venture.
- You don’t have to be born with confidence. It can be learned. And just because it looks easy in others doesn’t always mean it was. Ask them for their tips.
- Stop worrying what others will think. The dirty little secret is that they’re not thinking about you.
- Most people like talking about themselves. It’s a topic where they’re always correct. Ask good questions if you want them to feel good about you—and themselves.
- We can teach people how to treat us. A different response generates a different result.
- Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.
- Even if you think you’re shy or introverted, don’t hold yourself back from meeting new people and building your personal and professional circle. The old style of power networking that’s overwhelming to the quieter person is dead; building relationships one-by-one will always be in fashion and is always more satisfying.
- I’d rather be busy than bored.
- The “neutral zone,” as William Bridges teaches, can be a time of great chaos between when something ends and something new isn’t quite beginning yet. Or, it can be a time of great creativity. Choose creativity.
- If you’re in a meeting and it’s all going to hell, spill something. (Seriously–it forces a break in the energy and lets everyone breathe and regroup. This is why you should always make sure your meeting attendees have beverages.)
- “No” is an acceptable answer.
- Emotion puts us in motion. Pay attention to emotions in yourself and in others.
- Handwritten thank yous and birthday cards still make people smile and think well of you.
- Being independent is nice, but don’t forget to ask for support. Others want to help but often don’t know how. Get specific in your ask.
- Acronyms and abbreviations steal the meaning away from important things. Words matter. Use the words.
- A smile is the simplest thing you can do to feel better and to help others feel better about you.
- If you haven’t invested in growing yourself since college, open up your wallet and hire a coach, take a class, or at least read a book. You’re not the same person you were at 20; why wouldn’t you need a tune-up now and then?
- If the email string has bounced back and forth three times and there’s still not a clear action or resolution, pick up the damn phone and talk about it.
- Trust = Truth/Time.
- You can learn to brag so that others don’t gag.
- Almost all negative behavior can be traced back to fear.
- Preparation is the antidote to fear.
- Don’t mumble through your voicemail recording. An upbeat outgoing message makes people wake up and listen. (Hear mine at 404.857.2738–and leave a message saying hello!)
- Sometimes finding the right question is more important than finding the right answer.
- The clock will take care of a lot of things. Sometimes it’s best to just wait it out.
- We spend a lot of time talking about what’s not done or what’s not working in our jobs and lives. Spending a little time acknowledging everything that’s going well really helps put it all in perspective. Find something to appreciate about yourself as well as others every day.
- Before you react (especially in anger or frustration), ask yourself “what else might be happening here?”
- There ain’t nothin’ wrong with taking a mental health day–or hour—if you need it.
- Don’t react immediately to an annoying email. Put your hands up and back slowly away from the keyboard.
- Good things (jobs, friends, ideas) don’t fall from the living room ceiling. Get out.
- There are only three things you can control in work and in life: everything you say, everything you do, and everything you think. And that’s a lot.
- Write down your values. Once you’re clear on what you value, it’s easier to see what’s working and what’s not at work. Life, too.
- Shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up.
- Followup, followup, followup.
- If you have more money than time, hire someone to get those annoying “I’ll-get-to-it” tasks off your list, especially the things you know how to do but they never get done. Hiring a professional organizer to realign my kitchen and office once saved me oodles of time over the years in finding and storing things.
- Show up. Even if it’s out of your way. Even if it takes more time than you like. Showing up matters.
- A dark room is easier to sleep in. That goes for phone and TV lights, too.
- It’s all figure-outable (thanks Marie Forleo).
- A few short days off allow people to save questions and projects for you until you come back. A longer, two-week or more break forces people to figure out how to handle things themselves. When you can, take a longer break. But no matter what, don’t be a martyr—take a vacation.
- And finally, as my grandmother used to say, birthdays are better than the alternative.
YOUR TURN: What’s the thing you now know best, no matter hold old you are? Share in the comments below!
Love this, Darcy! Lots of great, positive reminders. Thanks!
Hope the transition goes well!
Thanks, Katy–what’s on YOUR list? Take care!
Great list, Darcy! Here’s one I have learned:
When someone behaves like a jerk, allow yourself to feel mad/sad/whatever and know that those feelings are about YOU not the other person. Second, get very curious about that person — what’s up for them? And then, you can respond cleanly and with compassion.
Hope you are settling in well to the new digs!
Love it, Martha. In the end, our feelings are all about us anyway, right? Can’t control anyone but ourselves (much as we try!). Thanks for sharing this lesson and for reading!
Happy, Happy Birthday Darcy! What a great list–thank you for sharing it with all of us.
Thanks for reading, Joyce!
Hi, Darcy. Your second item (if you think you can do a thing…) is a quote from Henry Ford.
My favorite (learned in the school of hard knocks) is: Communicate what’s important to you and then ask enough questions to find out if others understand what you said.
Thanks for crediting the source of item #2, Samuel! And I love your learning, too (and join you as an alumni of that school). Thanks for reading and sharing!