30 Life Lessons From My First 30 Years

Happy birthday to me!

I’m 30 today, and besides feeling completely depressed that my 20s are over, I think I’m handling it quite well. 😉

And with that, I want to share with you 30 life lessons from my first 30 years.

Here goes!

  1. Never stop learning and growing. I constantly listen to podcasts in the car and read books to get my learning fix in. I’ve learned more in the last three years from podcasts and books on my own than I learned in school.
  1. There is nothing in this world that you should be afraid to face. After feeling unhappy at my job last year, I had an epiphany that has since given me a fearlessness that I never had before. It’s extremely empowering.
  1. Feel the anxiety and do it anyway. Not sure if you know this, but everyone feels afraid and has anxiety. Some people are just good at managing it. Be one of those people. Feel the fear and anxiety and do it anyways. This is what the pros do, and what I’ve learned to get better at over the years. Haven’t regretted it since.
  1. Say no with confidence. Learning how to say no confidently is a priceless life skill because it will help you prioritize how you spend your time. It’s also a skill that I personally think my female friends are so bad at. So, ladies – it’s time. Just say no. Deal with your own guilt separately, but don’t say yes when you don’t want to. This has helped me prioritize and accomplish so much more.
  1. Stop saying sorry when you don’t mean it. Why is it that we have such a hard time with this? I notice it more with women. I hear women saying sorry all the time, especially in business, when they don’t actually mean sorry. It makes us sound self-conscious. So, cut the sorry out of your everyday language (unless of course you have something legitimate to apologize for). 
  1. Reflect and learn from your experiences. Experience alone teaches you nothing. It’s evaluated experience that teaches you something. I learned this from Andy Stanley. If you want to stop making the same mistakes from your past, evaluate what happened. Take time to learn what went wrong and to change. Just because something happened once doesn’t mean you won’t do it again.
  1. Fulfillment is better than happiness. Fulfillment is the feeling of contentment that you get from being lit up on fire, engaging in your purpose in life. Happiness is joy that leaves you itching for more (like how you feel when you are eating ice cream wanting more vs how you feel when you’ve accomplished something you’ve worked toward). Focus on long term fulfillment, not temporary happiness.
  1. Eat healthy food as much as possible. Take care of your body when you’re young by eating the right foods so that you don’t have a crisis when you’re older. Don’t underestimate the importance of your health – it’s what’s keeping you alive. This is one of those things that I’ve been able to see other people make mistakes with and thankfully, haven’t had to have many mistakes of my own. But there’s always room for improvement! 
  1. Exercise more often than you drink wine. I want the career, the social life, the hobbies, the down time, and oh – the perfect body! Yea, that’s about impossible, so something usually goes and it’s usually how much I exercise. But few things are as important as my health, so I’m constantly making sure I put exercise in my schedule.
  1. Read part of a book every day. I don’t know a better way to grow and learn in life than to read books. I never was a big reader growing up. I didn’t start reading for pleasure until after law school. Now, I prioritize reading at least one hour every day. It keeps me growing and learning. It’s part of my daily routine that keeps me living an intentional life.
  1. Put as much effort into your relationships as you put into your work. For a type-A, achievement-driven person, prioritizing relationships as much as work is so challenging. Work is calling. Work outright demands certain hours and attention. Relationships are flexible. But they matter the most. So, do whatever you have to do to make your actions reflect the fact that your relationships are more important than your work. And of course, I’m not good at this at all, but I’m working on it. 😉
  1. Be strong enough to be alone but wise enough to not want to be. It takes strength, confidence, and peace to be content with being alone. These are really good personal qualities to develop because they give you autonomy and help you to be your own best friend. But once you have that, be wise enough to know that relationships are what life is all about – friendships, romantic relationships, etc. (all of them!). Be OK being alone, but choose not to be. This is definitely something I’m feeling at 30. I’m content alone but enjoy life the most when I’m with other people.
  1. Choose who you spend your time with wisely. Surround yourself with people who you want to be like and who are smarter than you. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Don’t underestimate the power of your peer group.
  1. Pay off your debt. It will never be easier for you to get out of debt than it is now. As you get older, your responsibilities increase and so do your expenses. Take the time when you’re young to pay off your debt (learn how to pay off debt here). Every student loan repayment I make makes me feel one step closer to debt-free living. I cringe when I see people on the 25-30 year repayment plans.  
  1. Always have an emergency fund set aside. Unexpected things will happen in life that you need to pay for. You know this ahead of time, so save money now so it’s there when you need it. When I was younger, if something happened, like my car broke down, I was immediately terrified and felt trapped. Now, it still stinks when something happens to my car, but I don’t feel scared or afraid — I know I have an emergency fund set aside for this.
  1. Understand that money is freedom but it won’t solve your problems. Money is freedom to choose. But money won’t solve any other problems that you have – remember that.
  1. Life will be very long and painful at a job you hate. There will always be a reason to stay at your current job, in your comfort zone. But if you hate your job, you are wasting your precious life doing something you don’t like. There’s just no reason to do that. Quitting practicing law was the best decision I ever made. Most attorneys tell me that, too. 🙂
  1. Choose the career where at the end of the day you still want to put up with the shit. No job is perfect. Every job will have challenges. But at the end of the day, if you still want to go to work and feel like you’re “on purpose” as I like to say, then it’s worth the times that aren’t so great (read my tips on how to choose the right career for you). The challenges of practicing law were not worth it for me. I didn’t like the hustle because I was off my purpose.
  1. Always hand write thank-you notes. When someone gives you a gift, hand write and mail them a thank you note. When you have an interview, hand write and mail a thank you note to each person. This gesture goes a long way. People love it, so just do it.
  1. Faith makes life better and pain more manageable. If you are spiritual or religious, hold on to that – grow in it. Your faith will make the tough times manageable. I love being Catholic.
  1. Having fun is just as important as work. Okay, for the over-achiever, this lesson is just about impossible to believe – but it’s true. If you are someone who is success-oriented, remember to schedule time for fun and play. It will relax you and make you better at what you do. The phrase “work hard play harder” only works if you actually take time off. I’m guilty of not doing this!
  1. If you master organization and time management, you will achieve your goals like a wizard. Organize your life and create processes and systems that set you up for success. Keep learning and refining these processes (you’re never done). People think I’m insanely organized and manage my time incredibly well, but I’m constantly reading and listening to more podcasts about how to improve in this space (I highly recommend reading Ruth Soukup’s Unstuffed!). It’s the best way I know how to live my life intentionally and to the fullest.
  1. Time is the ultimate finite resource – not money. It’s time that you can’t get more of. It’s time that will run out. You can always make more money (there’s plenty of it out there), but your time is limited. Recognize this and live intentionally so you have fewer regrets.
  1. It’s better to give than to receive. When you give, you get outside yourself and help another person. It’s good for the receiver who receives and it’s good for the giver who gives.
  1. Leaving the world a little bit better is the ultimate legacy. It’s not all about you. The world is really big and there’s so much going on outside your bubble. If you can help someone else and make the world just a little bit better, then you are leaving behind greatness.
  1. Expressing gratitude will make you feel better. Find a time during the day where you always express gratitude and say thank you for what you have. This can be every time you get into your car or every time you take a shower. Pick one routine and choose to express gratitude during it, daily. You will be amazed at how your attitude shifts and how much happier you are.
  1. Do the right thing even if it causes suffering because you will grow from it. Sometimes people are jerks. Don’t be a jerk back. Do the right thing even if you don’t want to and especially if they don’t deserve it. Make your choices based on what you want to do, not based on how you’re reacting to what someone else chose to do. You’ll grow and become wise from it.
  1. Be your own best friend. Love yourself and your life. If you’re not there yet, find a way to get there. You’re too awesome not to, and you deserve that kind of happiness that only comes from within.
  1. Take control of your life. Don’t believe, falsely, that you have to accept things the way they are. Find a way to take control and lead the life you want – not the life that you’re reacting to on a daily basis. Live intentionally. Set goals. Prioritize what you value most in life. This is one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned. From it, I’m empowered, inspired, motivated, and have fewer regrets.
  1. You only live once – make it count. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Be nicer than you were yesterday. Follow your heart. Use your head. Be responsible. Have fun. Love the life you live.

A Final Note!

The best email I received this year was from a reader and former colleague of mine who sent me this (which now is placed on my vision board):

“I have to tell you that I really admire what you’ve done – the blog, freelance writing, quitting your job, pursuing your dream…everything! It kind of helped me give myself permission to finally admit how I feel. So thank you for that!”

This email is the ultimate accomplishment for me. If I do nothing else in my next 30 years but inspire other women to build the life they always imagined for themselves, financial and otherwise, my work is done.

As always, thank you for reading, and I wish you a happy birthday whenever that is for you!