50 Lessons in 50 Years – A Birthday Reflection KDS: 051July 13, 2020 October 5, 2020 /
I have to admit that I thought this was going to be easier than it was. Coming up with 50 lessons didn’t seem that daunting to me, I thought I’d rattle them off in one sitting and get to writing. This was definitely one of those times where the process in and of itself was a gift. Since this is a longer than normal post, let’s jump right into it.
50 Lessons in 50 Years
1. Life is supposed to be fun.
Now more than ever most people are getting this. I’m writing this in July 2020 and we’re in the middle of the COVID pandemic as well as racial and political turmoil. I can’t imagine if I had spent the last 12 years working a job to pay bills instead of pursuing what I’m doing. Even with all the ups and downs it’s been fun and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Life isn’t supposed to be only about the highlight reels. Enjoy it all.
2. We’re all doing the best we can.
I got this directly from Brene’ Brown and her book, Daring Greatly. None of us have all the answers and we never know what someone else is going through. I’ve made plenty of mistakes and decisions that when I look back on I wish I had handled the situation differently. But that’s how we learn.
3. Your dreams are worth pursuing.
As kids our dreams are limitless. We don’t question or judge what we want, we make plans as if those dreams are going to come true. Why is it that when we grow up we stop dreaming? It’s bizarre that we can work hard in school and for someone else (someone else’s company) but when it comes to the risk and hard work for ourselves we talk ourselves out of it. Pursue your dreams whether it takes 2 years or 10.
4. We all mess up.
I am SO over holding myself hostage for mistakes I’ve made. Recently I had a call with my therapist and she reminded me: “Kim… you get to mess up, you get to make mistakes, you get to disappoint people.” It’s never my intention to disappoint people, hurt them, or let them down. But I’m human. I take responsibility, apologize if necessary, and then do whatever I can to let it go. How someone else handles that is up to them.
The same is true of things I’ve done that I felt ashamed of. I’m done with that. The kinder I am to myself the sooner the healing occurs.
5. Not everyone is worth it.
This is something that has taken me a while to really grasp. Not all relationships are supposed to be in our lives forever. This doesn’t have to be dramatic or mean. It’s so much easier when we learn to let go of people and relationships that no longer serve us. Usually, when it doesn’t serve you it doesn’t serve the other person either. Lovingly let them go and wish them well.
6. You’re not what you do.
Too often we define ourselves by our accomplishments. I know I did (and do at times, I’m a work in progress). As important as it is to do work you enjoy, you can’t let it define who you are. I remember listening to Dr. Wayne Dyer and he pointed out that if you are what you do, who are you when you stop doing that?
7. You’re not what you have.
The older I get, the less stuff I want. I’ve done my fair share of accumulating things that I thought would give me status and validation. I don’t have any regrets and am grateful for some of the things my husband and I did together, but it’s not what drives me. I like nice things as much as the next person, but I get more excited about my experiences.
8. What you think of me is none of my business.
This is another Wayne Dyer quote (at least it was the first time I came across it). Letting go of other people’s opinions, whether they’re good or bad, is complete freedom. I have a handful of people I still love hearing praise from, but I’m learning to appreciate it at that moment for what it is and not let it define me.
9. We rarely know what’s going on with other people.
More often than not, when people react in a way we don’t like or it doesn’t feel good it’s rarely about us. We all have our own stories and experiences that we carry with us. All of this shapes who we are and how we experience the world. Not to mention what may someone may currently be going through; family issues, sickness, money stress, relationship challenges, loss, you name it… life is hard. Be kind.
10. We always have a choice.
Man… this isn’t an easy one to swallow. It’s a lot easier to blame someone else than take responsibility for the conditions of our life. Of course, things happen in our lives that are beyond our control but we always have a choice in how we respond. We get to choose whether we want to heal or stay hurt. Once your ego gets over the initial bruising that self-responsibility can wield, you start to feel truly free.
11. Vulnerability, with the right people, is life-changing.
There was a time in my life when I took a lot of pride in never asking for help. I was determined to do everything on my own. Talk about stubborn… When I lost my husband I had to ask for help and it was painful. It wasn’t until years later when I made a conscious decision to move through my life differently when I started opening up. Primarily with my therapist, but the more I learned to trust myself the more I learned to trust other people. Finding who can hold that vulnerable side of your heart is truly a gift and it has changed my life.
12. Recognize and enjoy the process.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve really started looking at and understanding my processes. Instead of judging my behavior or overreacting because of how I’ve handled something (a skill I’ve mastered), I recognize that most of the time it’s simply my process from moving from point A to B. The beauty of this is that I move through it much more quickly.
The other piece of this is learning to enjoy the process. As entrepreneurs, we’re often so focused on the end result that we forget to enjoy the journey. I’ve fallen in love with mastering my craft and getting better at what I do. In a way, this has allowed me to do less but produce much higher quality. And circling back to the first point of this list, I’m having more fun.
13. Grief won’t kill you (even though it feels unbearable).
As the year anniversary of my Mom’s passing nears I’m floored at where I am today. In no way was I prepared to say goodbye to my Mom, who was my rock and anchor all of my life, but I’m truly grateful to be on the other side of the intense grief. Every now and then it hits me that she’s gone and I haven’t spoken to her (well, heard her voice) in over a year and I almost can’t breathe, but I go back to my spiritual beliefs and trust in knowing that she’s still with me and I feel as close to her as ever.
The grief of losing my Mom and the grief of losing my husband were very different experiences. Not just because of my relationships with them but because of who I am. I truly allowed myself the sadness and heartache with my Mom from day 1. Anger got me through the first few years of losing my husband (which was a godsend in a way since anger is an easier emotion to feel and can support forward motion).
Loss is simply part of life, and again, it’s how we choose to move through it that makes all the difference in the world.
14. Therapy is one of the best investments I’ve ever made in myself.
If you had told me 20 years ago that I would have found a therapist I loved so much and that I would share the things I’ve shared… I would have thought you were delusional. I went to therapy after losing my husband because I was determined to process my grief like a to-do list and thought it was something I was supposed to do (and it was an acceptable reason to go to therapy). It took me about 6 or 7 years to really start digging in and doing therapy (as opposed to grief counseling)… and that was after she had retired and moved out of the area (I’m beyond grateful she’s continued to work with me).
In many ways, I believe the work I’ve done with her in the last 10 years is the greater purpose of our working together. I often say she’s more like a life mentor (I get therapy, spiritual, and life mentoring all from one person). She’s taught me so much more than I can share in this snippet, but learning to be kind to myself, trust in myself, and believe in myself has changed my life.
15. We can learn anything we want to learn.
I was not a technical person when I started my business in 2008, yet within a year I decided I was ‘The WordPress Chick’ and was building websites. What the actual bucket!
I knew I was 100% committed to creating an online business, even though I could barely attach something to an email. It just goes to show you that when your ‘why’ is big enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen. Ignorance, tenacity, and a love of learning can go a long way. I was so enthralled by internet marketing that I knew I would find a way to make it work, one way or another. Here I am 12 years later and still just as in love with what I do.
16. Everyone has doubts.
Trust me on this one, you’re not a special snowflake who is the only one who questions your abilities (or sanity). That might sound a little harsh, but it’s also freeing. Realizing that we all have doubts and question whether or no something is going to work. I’ve been going through this with the pricing of a course I’m about to release and it’s not even that pricey. I know the value is there but it took a conversation with my therapist and a commitment to her to raise the price. Fortunately, I don’t care what it takes to play a bigger game. I’ll take the nervous pit in my gut and #JustShowUP.
18. When in doubt, take a break (or a nap).
There’s a difference between holding yourself accountable and pushing yourself. The more I try to force something, the harder it is and the crappier the quality. When I take care of myself and allow a more natural process to unfold it’s effortless.
However, that doesn’t mean I give myself the “out” of “not feeling” it as a way to not get the work done. You’re not always going to ‘feel like it’, but you show up and do the work anyway. This is the ultimate in self-responsibility. Learning the difference between these can be life-changing. And I don’t know about you, but I tend to get things done so much faster when I’ve taken care of myself. And I love an afternoon nap… something about that feels like a delicious gift I’ve given myself.
19. Crowdsourcing opinions shouldn’t be your default.
I’m talking specifically about running your business here, but we do this in our personal lives too. We have an idea or something we need to make a decision on and we post it for ‘feedback’. Doing this occasionally is fine, but when it becomes your default you’re betraying yourself. Stop asking everyone for feedback or opinions all the time. You’ve worked hard to get where you are, OWN it.
The same is true in your personal life. I make a conscious effort to stop repeating and telling the story of a situation to anyone who will listen. I have a few people who are my ‘go-to’s’ (yes, my therapist is one) and then I move on. This was SO not how I used to do things. It’s also the beauty of getting older… I just don’t care about everyone’s opinion the way I used to.
20. Self-responsibility makes life so much easier.
Clearly this is a theme in my life now. Anytime we operate from a place of being completely responsible for the conditions of our lives we empower ourselves. If it’s someone else’s fault then there’s very little we can do to change the situation, feeling, or outcome.
The moment you choose self-responsibility is the moment your life becomes YOURS. It also alleviates a lot of drama. #justsayin.
21. Enjoying the journey takes practice and is a conscious choice
I often refer to myself as Pollyanna (Google that if you don’t know who I’m referring to). The glass tends to be half full with me and from the time I was a little girl I’ve thought of life as an adventure. There is definitely an innate part of me that is a hard-wired optimist. I know it’s how I came into the world. I also know that I choose to listen to, read things, and watch things that inspire me, fill my heart, and motivate me. This is how I move through my life. My dominant intent is to feel good. When I’m in alignment with that everything else flows.
22. No is a complete sentence.
Also learned this from my therapist and for a long time had it taped to my monitor. Part of me feels like I should leave the headline to drive the point of this, but that would make too much sense (and I do appreciate a little irony).
Stop explaining yourself (this is absolutely a note to self here). We don’t explain when we say yes. Stop explaining when you say no.
23. Physical activity will clear your mind.
This is also one of my ‘go-to’ things to do when I’m feeling frustrated or stuck on something. This doesn’t have to be a workout or formal exercise. Get up and move your body. Vacuum the floor, take your dogs outside, go get the mail or run an errand you’ve been putting off. Do something that gets your blood flowing and a little more oxygen in your body. Of course, exercising will be that much more beneficial but sometimes the simple step and change of pace are all we need.
24. Clarity comes through doing.
Truth: this is a pet peeve of mine.
I’ve known way too many entrepreneurs who spend a ridiculous amount of time thinking, planning and strategizing. For the love of ALL that is good in the world, just friggin DO it already. You won’t know if something is going to work until you put it out there. Publish it, sell it, offer it! You overrate your nuisance factor here. Most people are too busy thinking of themselves to be worried about you.
25. Self-betrayal sucks. Take whatever time you need.
I honestly think this is one of the most painful things we can do to ourselves. A spiritual teacher I listen to has a perfect way of putting this in perspective. When someone else makes you feel bad for doing what is right for you they’re basically saying “do what I want you to do because it’s what would make me happy.”
Is that NOT the most ludicrous thing? Why on earth should someone else’s desires matter than your own? (I’m not referring to taking care of children, etc.). Sometimes this means taking your time to get clear. That’s O.K. Take whatever time you need to ensure you’re in alignment with what serves you.
26. Get it out of your body, but move on.
This ties into #14 and the power of therapy, but if you don’t have a good therapist make sure you have someone you trust with your heart that you can go to in order to get things out of your body. Someone who can hold your heart but be honest with you as well. I don’t get away with things with my therapist and the friends I trust to keep it real for me do the same. I don’t need yes people in my life.
Once you’ve gotten it out of your body, move on.
27. We all need hobbies and outside interests.
A lot of business owners and entrepreneurs struggle with this one. When you love what you do it’s easy to make it your everything. With an online business, there is always more you can do. However, we all need a different perspective at times. Art and creativity have always been a part of my life. When I got back into it a few years ago it was like opening the creative flood gates. I was a little rusty, but it ignited a spark in me that has influenced my business as well. Mixing things up is vital to living a rich and textured life.
28. I love having ‘white space’ in my life.
I go into massive resistance when I feel like I “have” to do something or when I feel over-scheduled (which is so polar opposite of how I was when I worked a job). I use the term ‘gentle structure’ for myself. I like having routines but I like chunks of time where I don’t feel like I have to be doing anything. This is a HUGE part of why I work for myself. I absolutely love the quality of my life. Creating white space in your day, your week, and your life is so healing.
29. Writing well is an essential skill for an entrepreneur.
I talked about this when I did a recent episode of the podcast (what I would do if I were starting my business today). I always felt like I was a decent writer but I had certain opinions about writing. I could write well enough to get an ‘A’ on a paper, but writing for your business is a completely different skill. It wasn’t until I launched my podcast that I started falling in love with the process and wanted to learn to write well. Copywriting and content writing are different beasts, but both can add to your bottom line. Even if you don’t do much writing in your business (you should and there are plenty of arguments for that but I’ll leave it for another time), writing well will help you produce better video and audio content as well.
30. Judgment and guilt serve no-one.
Also learned this from my therapist (see why I still talk to her?). I often joke about being a ‘recovering Catholic’ when it comes to guilt and judgment. Most Catholics I know do guilt very well.
The problem with both of these emotions is they don’t help you OR the person you feel guilty about or are judging.
Not to be a Debby Downer here, but life is hard. Why make it more difficult by carrying a useless emotion (guilt) or wasting energy making judgments? Of course, we all do this, we’re human. The magic happens when you start catching it and choosing another path.
30. Investing in coaching and mentoring is always worth it. Provided you do the work.
The same can be said for therapy. Coaching and therapy work when YOU do the work (provided your coach or therapist knows what they’re doing. For the sake of this point, we’ll assume they do).
If you just want to bitch and complain but not change your behavior, the best coach or therapist can’t help you.
You’ll have setbacks and challenges, but when you’re honest with yourself about doing the work you WILL get results.
31. Assumptions get you nowhere. Use your voice.
How many times has this gotten you into trouble? I don’t know about you, but expecting people to know what you want or assuming they understand what you meant is a recipe for disaster. My daughter said something recently that was brilliant. We were discussing something about someone “implying” something. Her response was “I don’t speak imply or assumption. Be an adult. Use your words.”
hahaha… enough said. No one is responsible for what is going on in someone else’s head.
32. It’s O.K. to be nervous. Launch it anyway.
Truth… this is a little pep talk for myself. I have a handful of things I’m working on that are ‘coming out’. Am I nervous? Yep. Totally. Then I remind myself of what I’ve accomplished and how far I’ve come. This basically keeps me moving forward, it doesn’t take away the nervousness (which I’m always trying to reframe to excitement, they’re very similar physical feelings in my body). I set up accountability for myself because it’s way too easy to let myself off the hook.
33. If it were easy, everyone would do it (although it is simple).
Building a business, pursuing your dreams, going all-in is HARD. This is why most people don’t do it. However, it’s not as complicated as you think. Keeping things simple ( or as Jodi says “what would easy look like?”) can get you there so much quicker. We tell ourselves all kinds of stories about needing things set up a certain way, we’re not ready, or claiming we’re perfectionists. I call bullshit. It doesn’t have to be Ready, Fire, Aim (which tends to be my M.O.), but it can be a minimum viable product. See lesson 32 about it being O.K. to be nervous.
34. Meditation works.
There are SO many ways to get started meditating yet most people won’t do it. They say they don’t know how or find some other excuse for not doing it (and hear my heart, I find excuses too), but how hard is it really to sit quietly and breathe?
There are plenty of guided meditations. It doesn’t matter what type of meditation you do, just do it. Meditation keeps me grounded and so much less reactive. Before you know it you’ll find yourself moving through the world in an easier manner. Learn to be comfortable with the discomfort while you’re creating your practice.
35. It’s not what we DO, but the motivation and consciousness behind what we do.
Talk about timing… this is literally from an email response I got back from my therapist yesterday. This was in reference to a question about something in my personal life, but it made me realize I wasn’t even remotely clear on my motivation.
The other thing she said was to “just be conscious because it’s so much easier to take responsibility when we are.”
Apply this to your business: If the motivation behind selling something or offering a service is because it provides value and solves a problem, then do it. If it’s for any other reason get real with yourself before putting it out there.
36. Staying curious keeps the magic alive.
As much as I wish this were Harry Potter magic, I’m referring to the wonder and magic that kees life interesting and fun. I distinctly remember when I “got” that by changing my thoughts I could change my life. I felt like I’d been given the keys to the kingdom. Learning to ask better questions of yourself (example: why is this happening FOR me instead of TO me) and reframe things really is magical. It makes me feel like a kid on Christmas morning. Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean life shouldn’t be magical. Stay curious.
37. Your body can’t lie
Learning to tap into how your body feels or responds to things is like having a personal GPS system in your body. This is also something I’ve learned from my therapist (you guys sick of hearing that yet? And no, she’s not taking on new clients). She’s taught me to pay attention to what I feel and where I feel it. If I feel something in my head it’s usually anger or frustration. When it’s in my stomach it’s excitement or nervousness. My heart tends to be love or sadness. Whether it’s muscle testing or deep breathing, I’ve learned that my body is a great indicator of what’s going on inside (and side note: I used to fight this because it didn’t feel like I was “doing” anything, so patience young Jedi. This stuff really works).
38. Change is good for you.
One of my life sayings tends to be ‘never dull.’ So much so that I’ve decided I should probably stop saying that because I don’t mind a little dull now and then. I’ve always loved a new challenge or opportunity, but I never really thought of myself who liked change. Which is funny considering all of the different things I’ve done or tried, but most of those felt relatively safe.
Making the move to Boise, Idaho earlier this year was a HUGE change for me. I’ve spent my entire life in Northern California and all my family and friends are there. Timing lined up and I felt a pull to do this for myself. I’ve only been here a few months and know this time in my life is precious. This is something I needed to do for myself. Whether or not I stay here is yet to be decided, but I’m so very glad I did it.
39. You regret the things you don’t do most.
I used to say that I only regretted the things I didn’t do, but that’s not entirely true. Of course, I regret some of the things I’ve done, I just try not to feed that regret or beat myself up over it. I always learn from those decisions.
More than what I’ve done though are the things I haven’t done that wish I had. A trip I wish I had taken, more time spent with people, taking a job, whatever. I also trust that things happen as they’re supposed to, so I don’t waste a ton of time regretting those things but they exist. I always come back to a line from the book ‘The Death of Ivan Ilyich”, which I haven’t read but remember Wayne Dyer sharing this line. On his death bed, Ivan Ilyich looks up at his wife and says “what if my life has been wrong?”
I NEVER want to have that thought or feeling.
40. Getting outside of your comfort zone is required for growth.
This feels like it should be obvious, yet I find myself in resistance more often than not. Of course, we’re going to feel nervous when we’re stepping into something new, different, or beyond where we are. See #33…. if it were easy everyone would do it.
Learning to embrace the discomfort as an indicator that you’re on the right path will totally shift your perspective. I’ve really started to look back at previous times in my life where I’ve successfully done this and it gives me the strength to do it again.
41. Travel and experiences will fill your soul.
If you haven’t done much travel or have decided you don’t like to travel, my guess is you haven’t done much of it. I only say that because that’s been my experience. I get it though, it’s not for everyone. I’m not here to judge you, you do you boo.
However, I have yet to take a trip or invest in an experience that didn’t fill my soul (with experiences think going somewhere, doing something like a concert or an adventure). I’m really feeling the pull to live outside of the U.S (when other countries will let us in) and immerse myself in another culture. I have no idea what that looks like yet but the idea makes me giddy. Who you become through these types of experiences is priceless.
42. You can never say “I love you” too much.
I’m not someone who can really hide my emotions (ask my kids), even though I used to think it wasn’t that obvious. I’d also say I’m a touchy-feely person (people who give good hugs are my kinda people). I grew up with parents who said I love you frequently and do the same with my kids. All the time. I say it with friends and family whenever I can. Even though I lost my Mom before I was ready I can honestly say there was nothing left unsaid. She knew how much I loved her and how much I appreciated her. Tell the people in your life you love them. All the time.
43. We all need some playtime in our lives.
I have a pretty silly side to me and need people who get that. Define what playtime means for you and make sure you actively pursue it.
I appreciate good wit and sarcasm (provided it’s not mean), even when it’s at my expense (I’m probably my own best audience, so I can handle this). Find every reason you can to keep joy and laughter in your life.
44. Remove things that no longer serve you.
I have always loved getting rid of extra ‘stuff’ but this doesn’t only apply to the physical crap we acquire (which I’m a huge proponent of. Your life will feel SO much lighter when you have less stuff to take care of).
I’m also referring to things such as old beliefs, the way things ‘have always’ been done, old behaviors, and even people.
Example: I stopped watching the news probably 10 years ago. The sound of it literally feels like an assault on my ears and my soul. I’ve had a harder time adjusting to things that were traditions or expectations, but it’s a work in progress and I’m learning.
45. We need to get out in nature more.
As much as I love my technology, sometimes I miss when life was simpler. I also know since I’m creating my life it’s up to me to make it as simple or complex as I want.
Getting out in nature always makes me feel better. One of my goals is to live on the water. Being in or around water makes me ridiculously happy. I think I probably used my pool more than my kids did. I would often go float and read simply to disconnect and recharge. Find the thing that works for you and do it as often as you can.
46. You don’t need to defend your beliefs (and shouldn’t).
The second I start defending my beliefs to someone else I start betraying myself. We don’t have to agree and you’re as entitled to your beliefs as I am to mine. We don’t owe anyone an explanation for our beliefs.
In fact, more often than not we don’t owe an explanation for most things. This is something I’m working on all the time. I have a tendency to prequalify or explain things that are unnecessary. Own your truth and let that be enough.
47. Respond when it works for you.
My guess is that this is something that many young people don’t struggle with the way my generation does (or older). You don’t have to respond to the email, answer the text or phone call when it comes through (and how is it that a phone call now feels so intrusive? haha).
With so many ways for people to get in touch with us, it can be exhausting. As entrepreneurs, we have to learn to keep our focus. Close social media, turn your phone off, and stop looking at email.
It will all be there later.
48. We all have a story to tell, and it’s worth sharing.
Assuming of course that you want to share it. In this case, I’m speaking directly to my fellow entrepreneurs. You may think people know your story (or stories) because you’ve told them before, but I can guarantee you most people don’t know.
There are so much value and connection that happens when you share your story. Ideally, you share your stories when you’re on the other side of them and can be objective. A little perspective goes a long way.
It’s also invaluable to ask the people in your life to share their stories. I’ve asked my parents questions about things in their childhoods and it always increased my empathy and compassion. And of course, #everythingiscontent.
49. Kindness wins… all the time.
I have a new brand I’m starting around this (more on this later, it was an idea I came up with about 9 years ago and the pieces are all falling into place), but man does my life feel better when I’m kind. Compassion and empathy for other people make my life feel sweeter. It’s a feeling I wish I could give to everyone, but it’s something we all have to find for ourselves. So when in doubt, simply be kind.
50. It’s a good life.
As much as I’ve had my fair share of challenges, it’s a good life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve been blessed with amazing people, great experiences, and so much love. I have no doubt this next chapter of my life extraordinary.
I love your work! This is a great piece and especially resonated with me (also 50 :)) thank you. I have found the content planner a great help and look forward to continuing to follow and be inspired by your work.
Thanks again Debbie
Thank you so much, Debbie! Truly appreciate your listening & the comment 🙂 Here’s to a new decade for you too!