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51 Lessons I've Learned

Today marks the start of my 52nd year of life. l continued to be surprised by what each year has to teach me.

So this year I decided to see what - one for each full year - comes to mind when I think about this question:

What lessons has life taught me so far?

  1. Don't expect fairness and you will have less disappointment in your life.

  2. The world is full of loving people - always be looking for them and they will show up.

  3. If you wait long enough, your team will one day win "the big one". (Go Red Sox!)

  4. Learning a few key cooking skills provides a lifetime of enjoyment for you, and endless opportunities to connect with other people.

  5. Being a leader has a lot more to do with being than it does with doing.

  6. To quote the marvelous Oscar Wilde, "Everything in moderation, including moderation."

  7. Nature holds the answer to most every question we can think of.

  8. This, too, shall pass. (In which case "this" is everything: joy, sadness, boredom, peace, anger, fear, the chances we get, our worries.... all of it.)

  9. Replacing the words "have to" with the words "get to" serves to show us our good fortune and can make all the difference in our outlook.

  10. If you're working in a restaurant kitchen and one of those industrial sized boxes of plastic wrap - the kind with the serrated metal strip on the top edge - falls off a shelf, don't try to catch it. Just let it fall on the floor.

  11. Buy the more expensive tool and then take really good care of it.

  12. Drink more water.

  13. When struggling with something, seek out an expert and ask them to help. It's a path to dignity for both.

  14. The word "surrender" belongs to the bold.

  15. Never throw your third best pitch in a key situation, especially if you think you're outthinking the batter. You're probably not.

  16. Breathing is SO underrated.

  17. Scary + Interesting = Joy.

  18. It's entirely possible to feel warm in 38 degree water if you're in it with special people.

  19. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is hilarious. Sometimes we just need to look harder to see it.

  20. There are two types of business: 1) my business; 2) none of my business.

  21. Dark chocolate, when allowed to slowly melt on the tongue, can be a spiritual experience. (See also #6 above.)

  22. The English language is ridiculous.

  23. The best people in life care far less about what I think than about how I feel.

  24. Commitment opens us up to possibilities that we could never imagine.

  25. It's easy to stave off commitment by trying to imagine all the possibilities before we commit.

  26. Pay attention to the hidden message when you see one of those T-shirts that reads "Pobody's Nerfect".

  27. Sometimes to try is the only thing we need to do. (Sorry, Yoda.)

  28. The waiting, as it turns out, is the hardest part. (Thanks, Tom Petty.)

  29. When one door closes, another one opens -- and it can be Hell in the hallway.

  30. Within caring community we find the best place to work on some of our most difficult periods of growth.

  31. Love wants us. Commitment and surrender send us to her.

  32. Look back, but don't stare.

  33. The opposite of rejection is acceptance. Start by accepting yourself. That makes the rest of it way easier.

  34. Never cc: your boss's boss on an email in which you take shots at a decision that they made. (Do find a way tell them your feedback directly instead.)

  35. Expertise is a slippery notion in an ever-evolving world. Realize that you are always an expert at something, though: Yourself.

  36. Poetry contains many of the answers to our biggest problems.

  37. Maintaining connections with people takes a lot of energy. It's an entirely worthwhile use of it.

  38. Relationships don't have to end if you're willing to find ways to allow them to change into something new.

  39. When they tell you that your body will start feeling different at 40, they're right. And they don't mean it in a good way.

  40. "Someday" is the worst excuse. If it's important, start now.

  41. Looking or acting ridiculous is a great way to get laughed at. And laughter is among our greatest gifts. So get ridiculous.

  42. The truth will set you free ... and make you uncomfortable ... and help you build the life you've always wanted.

  43. When you're on a Zoom date with someone and they look at you in a way that makes you wonder if a wonderful new energy just entered the universe, ask them out on a date.

  44. The older we get, the more complicated we get. Look to children for answers.

  45. Play.

  46. Read more. The wisdom is already out there - feel free to steal and recycle it.

  47. Our capacity to change is only limited by fear.

  48. Fear is "false evidence appearing real". Don't believe the hype.

  49. We are all the same at our soft, tender core. Don't believe me? Watch the toughest tough guy with a puppy, or his daughter, sometime. So be kind.

  50. When they tell you that life starts at 50, they're right. (It also starts at 51 and 43 and 27 and this morning. Live it.)

  51. As ever, more will be revealed.


Jim Young is a Dad, an improviser, a writer, a reader, a friend, a learner, a recovering perfectionist, a tender soul (just like you), a work-in-progress, a men's burnout coach, a lover, and a tiny part of the natural world. You can reach him at


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