Thoughts, Feelings

Appreciating Life’s Lessons: 44 Things I Know

Today is my 44th birthday, and I’ve noticed that something unexpected has happened to me as I get older. I think more about stuff that happens to and around me. I consider my response to those things more thoughtfully. And I take more time to reflect on how my thinking, knowing, and being are impacted by my experiences in this world.

When I was young, I didn’t really have the time or focus to learn life’s lessons, but I’m slowing down and I’m finding more opportunity to actually think about what happens in my day-to-day. I suppose I wasn’t so different than many young people are today. It’s hard to slow down and notice the world when everything is so new and exciting. It’s hard to reflect when there’s so much unturned possibility waiting for you and your enthusiasm. It’s hard to take time to learn when everything electrifies at your fingertips.

But as things become less shiny and new, we have opportunity to find meaning in our life experiences. One of the great advantages of maturity and age is dedication to a new type of learning, and I’m happy to be at that station in my life journey. So, as I reflect on my time so far, here are some things I’ve learned. I hope you’ll forgive the self-indulgence and give this list a quick read. Some of it is serious and some is lighthearted. Finding that balance in perspective, I suppose, is helping me to appreciate the lessons life has to offer.

On my 44th birthday, here are 44 things I know. For sure.

  1. Nobody hears the stories that aren’t told. 
  2. Puppy kisses smell like coffee. 
  3. When someone really needs something from you, “no” is never the right answer, even when “yes” isn’t possible. 
  4. In the whole history of the entire world, you’re the only person who gets to be you. 
  5. Some days 10,000 steps are so easy. Other days, they’re just so damn hard.
  6. You’ll never run out of energy for things and people you’re really dedicated to.
  7. Always give people 3 chances. Unless they cause you irreparable harm the first or second time. 
  8. Dolly Parton just gets me. 
  9. We’re a lot more resilient than we think.
  10. Not everybody is or wants to be an entrepreneur. And that’s good. We need teachers, bus drivers, restaurant servers, and doctors.
  11. Bedbugs are horrible creatures. Ask anyone who’s ever worked in hotels or university housing.
  12. There will never be a better or more socially relevant television show than The Golden Girls. 
  13. I walk through this world with a great deal of privilege that I need to acknowledge, own, and use to break down oppressive systems and practices. 
  14. If you don’t like someone, it’s probably you. Get over it and move on. 
  15. Excuses suck. 
  16. Different is good. 
  17. Vulnerability is sexy. 
  18. Curiosity is a skill.
  19. Racism sucks. 
  20. Hugs are healing. 
  21. Patience is better. 
  22. I always need to drink more water. 
  23. If you eat well, food that is good for you will taste better. 
  24. Eight solid hours of sleep will fix a lot of things. 
  25. Smiles and yawns are contagious. 
  26. The person who thought being respected was more important than being liked probably wasn’t very likable. 
  27. It’s not really that hard to be likeable. 
  28. Our students aren’t as lazy and apathetic as many people might think they are. 
  29. Mornings after big, fun, celebratory nights are way more difficult now than they were when I was younger. I’ve heard this for years, but I never believed it. Now, I’m a believer.
  30. Truly great listeners are rare and under-appreciated. 
  31. You listen better with your mouth shut. 
  32. We’re trained from an early age to be deficit thinkers. We have to change this and help young people learn to appreciate and marvel the world around them.
  33. Taylor Swift is right. Shake it off.
  34. Sometimes, life is hard and disappointing.
  35. Be wary of someone who tells you how honest they are. 
  36. When faced with a problem that needs solving, it’s usually better to spend some time focusing on the cause of the problem before attempting to find a solution. 
  37. The subject of a gerund should always be in the possessive tense. (I learned that in 8th grade and it’s burned into my brain.)
  38. Your heart is a muscle, and muscles are strong. Heartbreak will always heal, if you let it. 
  39. Forgiveness can be difficult but, in the end, it’s easier than holding a grudge. Grudges are hard on the soul.
  40. Daylight Savings Time makes no sense. 
  41. Leadership is actually about self-actualization and has more to do with you rather than your relationship with others. 
  42. Everything Tina Fey and Amy Poehler do is funny. Women are funny. 
  43. Friendships require care. 
  44. Listen to your gut. When nurtured, intuition is a powerful decision-making tool. 

That’s it—the sum total of everything I’ve learned in 44 years. Well, at least the things worth sharing here. I appreciate your reading, and I’d love to hear your thoughts. What have you learned from this list or in your life? Tell me!

I’m excited to see what lessons my 45th year will bring. I’ll report back if it’s anything big!

  • Ian Crookshank

    Amazing List John, thanks for sharing. Now I know what a gerund is.

  • kel

    Love this! Happy Birthday and love and good health for at least 44 more!

  • Rachel Barreca

    Not being a dog person, I did not know that puppy kisses smell like coffee. Intriguing. 😛

  • Arif Abu

    Number 14 – tough to accept but once you get it – 90 percent unnecessary problems in life are gone. You shared this with me last year when I was going through a rough day. It will helped me to become better professional.

    • John Austin

      I learned that lesson some years ago when I continually went out of my way to try to get someone I worked with to demonstrate some sort of approving behavior towards me. It never happened, and I finally realized that it had nothing to do with them. It was all about them. Was a valuable thing for me to learn!

  • Katrina Persad

    Happy belated birthday, John! Wishing you lots of easy 10,000 step days 🙂