15 things it took me 40 years to figure out

My kids decided that last night would be the perfect night to challenge their mother.

Picture three elementary-aged minis, all lined up at on their barstools at the kitchen island, hammering (haaa-mmmerrr-innng) me with questions about what I know.

It was exhausting, especially when you consider that the goal of this game wasn't to see what I know. Rather, it aimed to get right to the heart of what I don't know.

Let me tell you, they were highly entertained by how little I know about Taylor Swift, Doodle Jump or Phineas and Ferb. 

So arguably, the turkeys won that one. But after they went to bed, I scratched out this list.

Here's what I DO know, kids. Sure, it may have of taken me 40 years to figure some of  these things out, but I insist these 15 lessons will serve me and the world at large far better than knowledge of where Taylor Swift was born, or who Phineas has a crush on.

  1. Grammar and spelling matter. In business, in life.
  2. You will run into a bunch of people who are marginally happy at best (I call them M-Habs). They will likely be either secretly or overtly irritated with you if you are happy in life. Ignore the M-Habs. And do whatever it takes to not be one.
  3. When someone begins a statement with "I don't mean to insult you ..." or "Not to be a jerk...," brace yourself. Because they're about to insult you, or be a jerk.
  4. No matter what career path you've chosen, if you hate where it's led you, it's time to pick a new path. There is no age cutoff for do-overs, and no reason you should continue to invest countless hours of your life in a job you despise.
  5. Technology keeps advancing. If you don't advance along with it, it will pass you by. As will the people who do keep up with it. You are not allowed to grumble about the whipper-snapper who stole your job if you've refused to keep yourself current.
  6. Don't believe everything you read on Facebook. Status updates are often modified versions of reality, or even purposefully exaggerated to make the author feel better, more popular, more affluent, more fit or just generally superior to you. If you view your Facebook feed like People magazine instead of Newsweek, you'll do just fine.
  7. Whoever coined the term "You are what you eat" was not bullshitting us. You may have dodged (or still be dodging) the consequences of crap eating in your 20s, but your body WILL start revolting on you if you keep stuffing garbage in as you cross over into your 40s.
  8. Life is not, and will never be, fair. Someone is always going to be prettier, skinnier, richer or luckier than you. They'll have smarter kids, better taste in clothing, more interesting friends or get picked for the job you wanted.  You will always lose when you try to make life a game of comparison. Do you and, no matter how the hand is dealt, do a fabulous version of you.
  9. Our culture pressures us to consume. Our culture pressures us to buy into certain norms and goals and activities and beliefs. Our culture kind of sucks in that regard. Do everything in your power to go counter-culture if you don't feel comfortable with the messages being imposed on you.
  10. The underdog needs you. You will always have an underdog in your life, or in your immediate vicinity. Keep an eye out for the underdogs, and make it your mission to lift them up.
  11. Meditation, reflection and deep breathing aren't just woo woo, touchy feely concepts. Study after study proves that they can reduce your stress, improve your focus and make you feel a hell of a lot happier.
  12. Nobody cares more about your happiness, fulfillment, career growth or general well-being than you do. Take absolute and total responsibility for making big things happen for yourself.
  13. You absolutely should have a point of view, articulate your opinions and participate in healthy debate ... unless you don't take the time to be well-informed. If you don't want to study all sides of the topics you plan to pontificate on (especially the controversial ones), it's usually best that you keep it zipped.
  14. If you have children, raise them to be leaders instead of followers. And for the love of God, teach them good table manners. Great business leaders have good table manners. Try and prove me wrong.
  15. Even the most successful people are, at least sometimes, scared of being "found out." The less time you spend dwelling on the notion that you're "not enough," the better. Rest in the comfort that we're ALL feeling the same way. And then press forward.

Got any more to share?  I'd love to hear about the life, business and personal lessons you've learned along the way. If you've got 'em, please post them in the comments below.

Photo: Flickr.com Creative Commons (Claus Rebler)